Very recently I’ve gotten into the habit of checking in with myself and my feelings. Whenever I am feeling inexplicably sad or anxious I try to examine why I am, and when I do things out of character I try to understand the reasons behind those actions. I do this because I believe it is important to feel your emotions and avoid the feelings of shame that come with internalizing them. I feel it is important to know where your mental status is, so that you can address your issues head on, and I firmly believe that when our life or mental health spirals out of control it is because of underlying issues that have gone unaddressed.
I have learned a lot about myself since beginning this process of self-reflection. I have learned that I am incredibly reliant on routine, and that I can hardly bring myself to do anything that diverges from my rigid set of expectations. I learned this when I was walking to work. Every day I take the same route, but a few days ago I decided I wanted to take the slightest detour, and in that moment I found myself unable to move. I could not bring myself to take a different route because I was afraid that it would be longer of a walk, or be a waste of time, so I took the typical path instead. This one example is proof of the reality that I am psychologically dependent on certainty and routine- most likely because I spent a good deal of my childhood afraid that that the world was going to come crashing down on me. I settle for routine, avoid change, and struggle to open myself up to new experiences.
Another thing I realized is that I abuse alcohol when I am feeling anxious or depressed. I drink to the point of drunkenness to escape my own insecurities and do the things I won’t allow myself to do while sober. I also drink because it makes me uninhibited enough to be open with my feelings. When I drink I subject people to long-winded rants about my anxiety, childhood issues, and depression. And I do this because I can’t bring myself to be open about these things while sober. I have internalized those issues to the point of shame, and I have become fearful that sharing my feelings will result in alienation.
I’m afraid that if I am honest about my depression that I’ll make people feel uncomfortable, disappointed, or guilty for a chemical imbalance no one can control. To an extent, I’ve convinced myself that all of the relationships in my life are conditional, and that if I don’t adhere to the character of goofy, bubbly Connor that people will no longer want anything to do with me. So I pretend to be happy all of the time, and allow all of my ugly thoughts to bombard me in secrecy. I go on long walks and try to blare out my thoughts with music, but I can’t bury them. Over and over the voices in my head tell me that I should apologize for taking up space, that life is meaningless, and that I’m a terrible person unworthy of love. This issue is something that has bled into every area of my life—I hide my true feelings, reject intimacy, and refuse to let people get close because I am afraid that if I allow myself to be vulnerable and introduce them to the real me that they will run away. I’m afraid that I’ll become dependent and reliant on their care and fall apart when they leave.
I am writing this article because I’m afraid that if I don’t acknowledge my feelings publicly that I’ll internalize them. I am of the opinion that when we don’t disclose our issues that we begin to feel ashamed of them, and I don’t want to feel that way. I’m unwell right now: I’m depressed, anxious, and suffocating under my irrational thoughts. But I want to be open about how I feel, and I want to fully embrace my feelings so that I can process them. I want to admit that I am unhappy so that I’ll be able to tell when I’m truly happy. I want to be open so that other people may feel compelled to be open as well. Because it truly sucks to suffer in secrecy and shame. We can’t be happy all the time, and we can’t pretend that we are healthy when we are not. The only thing we can do is try to own every part of ourselves—the good and the bad.