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The Lies I Tell About the Emotions We Aren't Taught About

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1. I say “I’m fine” because “I’m depressed” isn’t exactly one of the emotions they teach you to identify on those posters in kindergarten.

I think to myself it’s probably because it’s not something you can see on a face. That maybe “I’m sad” would be something people could understand, but the truth is, I’m not sad. I’m happy. And I’m thankful. The only problem is the distracting pain of this uninvited shadow that keeps digging its claws into my shoulders.

• What is PTSD?

2. I reply with “I’m not feeling well” because I feel like people wouldn’t understand my reason for not wanting to go is my anxiety makes my body feel like I’m about to go to war instead of a “get together.”

That when I get there, my brain will be constantly fighting my body in an exhausting battle no one can see.

My brain waving a white flag at my body that bears the words, “We are safe, this could be fun!”

And my body setting the flag on fire, screaming to my brain I won’t have anything to talk about.

That I am large.

And out of place.

Kind of like the elephant in the room.

The one crushing my chest.

3. I call with “I’m sorry I need to reschedule” because I feel like “insomnia is a cruel vampire, slowly sucking away my daylight, leaving me with more darkness and no energy” might not be an appropriate reason to cancel an appointment.

That some people might be scared of vampires.

Or that it might sound crazy to someone who has never met a vampire.

“Is Wednesday OK?”

“Sure, Wednesday is fine.”

I exhale the relief that today, I get to keep my monsters under my bed.

Maybe if I pretend they aren’t real, they will go away.

Or I can at least sleep.

4. I say “I don’t like crowded places” because “I absorb other people’s emotions like a sponge” feels as awkward on my tongue as it sounds when I put it into words..

I feel like people might not understand that I see the invisible bruises on that woman’s smiling face, that I feel his hatred radiating from the tight grip he has on her hand.

The one meant to look like love.

That all the loneliness, pain and rejection walking past me, dressed as people, taking my money at the register, are sometimes so overwhelming they are nearly debilitating.

But those things aren’t tangible.

So I will ignore it with a generalized label like social anxiety.

Because fear is something that everyone can understand.

5.) I tell him “I’m just tired” when I realize he can see it in my eyes.

I shut the door on his questions, and fill the tub with the hope that this time it will wash away what my therapist called “PTSD.”

The roar of the water is as familiar as the roar of my thoughts, fading into numbness.
A numbness I can’t control as reality slips slowly through my grip.

A reality that was too much for my mind to handle.

I try to make my eyes focus on something I can see, I search for something I can touch, try to remember what that smell is…


Lavender brings me back to the water spilling over the edge of the tub.

That wasn’t the sound of my thoughts being poured out…

To my husband banging on the locked door, asking if I’m OK.

That wasn’t the pounding memories in my ears….

I am here.

This is now.

I tell myself, “Others have been here.”

“There are people who understand.”

That “words can be a bridge from the ethereal mind to this physical paper, a place where people can feel this pain in black and white.

“Can touch the ink.”

My insecurity says no one will understand,

That no one feels the same,

That the emotions I feel are not the emotions taught in public schools because they are unsavory to society.

My insecurity says I should keep it all inside.

Keep it to myself.

It parades itself as smarter than me.

As better than me.

I tell my insecurity to shut up.

It looks shocked.

And it is silent.

For now.

Getty image via Olga_Z

Originally published: May 4, 2018
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