When I Went Inside, Look Who I Found

November 22, 2017

Ever had a heart-to-heart convo with yourself? I mean, a talk with your real self? Imagine if you did. Your conversation might go something like this:

INNER BEING:
I just don't get no respect.

YOU:
What do you mean? I respect you.

INNER BEING
No you don’t.

YOU:
Ok, tell me one way I don’t respect you.

INNER BEING:
You undermine my feelings. You don’t care I’m hurting in here. You don’t let me say what I wanna say. You don’t let me do what I wanna do. You just keep me tucked away in here where I can hardly breathe. You just want me to keep quiet, follow your rules, and only feel good feelings.

YOU:
[silence]
I only asked for one reason. [sheepish grin]

INNER BEING:
You don’t want me to be seen, heard, or felt except somehow I’m supposed to send you an endless supply of joy.

YOU:
Well, that’s because joy feels good and the other stuff doesn’t.

INNER BEING:
Joy feels very good. But why do you think I send you the other stuff? Why do I send you the not-so-good feelings?

YOU:
I dunno.

INNER BEING:
Because I’m suffering in here. And it's the only way I can get your attention.

YOU:
[silence]
[thinking]

INNER BEING:
Because when I feed you only good feelings you ignore me even more. You don’t clue in that the happiness you’re experiencing is because you let me out for a moment. You just push me back down like I’m an escapee. I’m in prison here. Gagged. Lonely. And bored.

YOU:
[blush]
[shame]
That’s because I’m trying to keep you safe. Because it's a cruel world out here. People are mean. They’ll criticize you, judge you, make fun of you, reject you and break your heart. I don’t want you to be hurt. It’s my way of protecting you.

INNER BEING:
But you’re not protecting me. You’re killing me slowly. And it’s really painful.

YOU:
[misty eyes]
[more misty eyes]
[hard swallow]

INNER BEING:
What you don’t realize is how powerful I really am. You’ve never seen that side of me because locking me up keeps me weak. And vulnerable. Because it’s not my natural environment. It’s not home. I need to flow. I need to be free. To come and go as I please. To let my light shine.

The reason other people are so mean is they’ve got their inner beings on lock-down as well. And so the best thing you can do to help me AND them is to release me. Because when they see my light and my joy, they’ll aspire to see their own. At first, they might fight back because they want to keep things the same. Because they’re scared too. But they can only fight it for so long. And when their true essence sniffs out just a hint of mine, well, they’ll want to meet. For real.

You know I’m right cuz you know what truth feels like.

YOU:
Yes. I do. And you are. Right, I mean.
[another hard swallow]
I’m so sorry. I’m really sooooo sorry.

INNER BEING:
I know.

YOU:
I don’t know what to do.

INNER BEING:
You can start by acknowledging me. Realize your feelings aren’t meaningless or arbitrary. Or something to be ignored or used to cast hate upon yourself. They’re a message from me.

[Dialogue ends.]

If your inner being is tucked away in "safety", you can bet she's dying to have a conversation like this with you. Feelings get very little respect in our world. They’re often viewed as something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. They're seen as weak. Like they get in the way of getting things done. As if they have to be managed and controlled—or shut down altogether. But if we respect and listen to our emotions they can be our biggest ally and the most powerful guide we have.

In Hey, No Teasing the Ostrich—You May Have More in Common Than You Think, I talked about what hiding your real self may look like. In this post, I’m focusing on what hiding may feel like. Of course, I can’t know what hiding feels like to you but maybe there’ll be some pieces of my story that resonate with you.

At my lowest of low, hiding the real me left me wanting to die. Literally. I used to fantasize about it. Dying, that is. As crazy as it sounds, it’s the only thing that seemed to lift my spirits—knowing I wouldn’t have to suffer any longer. Thank goodness I didn’t follow through. It’s probably the one time in my life where NOT finishing something I started was actually a GOOD thing! Hee hee.

I didn’t understand why other people seemed happy and I didn’t. Not that I didn’t witness a lot of unhappy, miserable people as well. But the seemingly happy ones fascinated me because I didn’t get it. I didn’t get how they could be happy and I couldn’t. And I didn’t get the point of life. These were tough times for me.

When I was in the company of family and friends, I still felt lonely. And flat. And empty. I moved through life like a robot. Got up. Showered. Dressed. Went to school or work. Came home. Made dinner. Watched TV. Yadda yadda yadda. Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing those things. The problem is I did them while being numb as a cucumber. Ok, I don’t know if cucumbers are numb but that’s what I came up with. [smile]

Life held no meaning for me. Later on, I struggled with parenting. Especially the early years. And I struggled in my relationships. I struggled pretty much everywhere. And I was constantly dealing with emotional triggers. Over the years I came to realize my biggest trigger was when I felt I didn’t have a voice or I wasn’t feeling heard. Yup, that could take me from 0 to 100 in about 3 seconds flat. Like a rocket. Either instant anger or a trip down depression drive. Or sometimes both, in that sequence.

Today, I realize how crucial using my voice is for my health. It's like a pipeline between my authentic self and the world. And just like plumbing, if I shut down the line, stuff starts backin' up. Things collect, pressure builds, stuff begins to decay. And I start to feel unwell. Stifling my voice is like gagging my inner being and then expecting her to manufacture joy. I mean, how nuts is that?

I yearned for something more. Something that would awaken my passion and make me feel alive and purposeful. But this was a craving that wouldn't be satisfied with any cheap imitations. And I learned I couldn't drink it away, drug it away, diet it away, exercise it away, eat it away, read it away, intellectualize it away, vacation it away, socialize it away, wish it away, or ignore it away. It wouldn't go away. Sometimes I could choke it and stick it in the closet for a break but it wouldn't be quiet for long.

You know I ‘m still here, right? This broom handle cutting into my rib is a little uncomfortable but I’m still going to talk, ya know.

Haha.

I looked everywhere for answers and sometimes I’d feel hopeful. But nothing lasting ever remained. So then I’d feel frustrated. And irritable. Mad even.

How come everybody else gets to feel happy and not me? Why can I never figure out what I’m passionate about? Why does life always have to be so hard?

It's during this phase I’d emotionally lash-out at others. My spouse or boyfriend would usually take the brunt of it. Or I’d rant to my friends. Or sometimes it would show itself in my lack of patience in parenting. But I usually tried to avoid that one because it held the most guilt for me afterwards.

Before long, fear would make an appearance.

What if I never feel happy? What if this is all there is?

From there it was an easy slide into hopelessness. It was kinda like a grieving process where I was forced to accept reality. My distorted version of reality, that is.

This is it. I’m obviously not meant to feel happy in this lifetime. I give up.

And we all know where things go from there. Depression opened its arms and welcomed me into that familiar embrace. I didn’t care it was dark in there. In a weird way, it was comfortable. At least at the start. But once depression had me in its grasp, it started squeezing. Like a juicer. And I was the orange. And it just squeezed the life outa me.

I’d stay stuck in darkness for varying lengths of time throughout my life. Sometimes for days or weeks. Sometimes for months, without reprieve. During this time, I’d try all sorts of remedies to “fix” my depression. Sometimes I’d find something that helped give me a leg up. Other times nothing helped. But eventually, feelings of hope would slowly rise to the surface. Maybe there is something out there for me. Maybe I just have more healing to do. Maybe things will get better.

Then the yearning for more would slowly pick up steam and drive my search again. Rinse and repeat.

What I didn’t realize then was all this emotion and relentless yearning was my inner being trying to get my attention. Because the inside me didn’t match the outside me. And the inside wanted OUT! And when I didn’t answer the call, the suffering would begin again. You can read more about this mismatch between the inner and outer self in Come Out, Come Out, Whereverrrrrr You Arrrrrr.

In hindsight, it's simply not a surprise I’ve struggled with mental health for much of my life. Or that I developed physical health issues. Now, I’m not saying keeping the real me hidden is 100% responsible for these outcomes. Or that they’d never have manifest in me if I’d been more whole. I mean, if depression was that simple to understand in terms of causation and treatment I’d be a very rich woman today! Move over domesticity and bring on my personal chef, housekeeper, private beach house, and shiny new Tesla. Yeeeeee Haaaaaaw!!!

No, I don’t have all the answers. But I do know keeping my authentic self hidden takes a LOT of work. And work requires ENERGY. No two ways about it. Ignoring and pushing the inside stuff down all the while trying to control the outside stuff is e-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-n-g. And it doesn’t take a genius to imagine how this could manifest in mental, emotional, and physical symptoms/disease.

I also know this:

Hiding one’s true essence is like committing emotional suicide. It's the fastest way to kill peace and joy, and the best way to ensure they'll never return.

Nope, there just ain't no candy-coating it. Hiding is simply painful. The more room I give my inner being to play, create, express, and explore, the happier and freer I feel. And the more time I spend feeling happy, the less time I spend enduring all those painful emotions discussed above. It's win-win.

Well, it's time to wrap this puppy up and stick a bow on it. For reference, here’s a quick summary of clues from above. It's a snapshot of what hiding feels like to me. You probably have your own unique style of hiding and so your symptoms may manifest differently than mine. Or perhaps it's like lookin’ in a mirror. You be the judge.

Your inner being may be in hiding if you:

  • ignore and/or undermine your feelings
  • fantasize about calling it quits (on your life, that is)
  • have a history of feeling unhappy
  • often envy or resent seemingly happy people
  • frequently feel lonely
  • frequently feel numb
  • frequently feel flat
  • frequently feel empty
  • move through life like a robot
  • often feel life doesn't hold any meaning
  • struggle emotionally in most areas of your life (parenting, relationships, etc)
  • are constantly dealing with emotional triggers
  • lack passion and purpose
  • have a relentless yearning for more, to feel alive
  • frequently feel irritable
  • find yourself lashing out at others
  • find yourself asking why life has to be so hard, why you can never feel happy
  • have frequent emotional breakdowns and/or rants
  • fear this may be all there is to life
  • frequently feel hopeless
  • frequently feel depressed
  • frequently feel exhausted
  • have a history of mental health and/or physical health issues

So if lousy feeling emotions are controlling your life...

And you have this incessant yearning for more...

All the while peace and happiness are held just outside your grasp…then here’s my message to you:

Your real self may be imprisoned in some way. It’s likely on a short leash and using discomfort and dis-ease to talk you into releasing the chokehold.

No matter if you’re hiding a little or a lot, the path to feeling good lies in your hands. You were born to be free. And happy. And live a full rewarding life. You’ve got the goods and you can do this. Consider me your #1 cheerleader and keep your eye on the prize. Joy awaits.


Sparkle Brightly—
Vicki

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and I’m not a mental health professional. Obviously. I can’t possibly know your full situation so please consult a professional before acting upon information from yourpurpleswan.com. Should you decide to act of your own accord, you do so at your own risk. Kinda like skydiving.

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