It happened when I first started recovering: a tidal wave of suppressed emotion came rushing over me and I didn’t know what to do with it. I still have a low-quality web cam video of myself tearfully ranting about things I didn’t even know I was angry or upset about.
For me, the eating disorder was a numbing agent that enabled me to completely avoid feeling (let alone dealing with) any negative emotions. The downside to that, as Brené Brown points out in her research, is that we can’t selectively numb emotions. That means that we throw out the good with the bad and we don’t feel anything at all.
In the moment, this feels like a survival mechanism. It appears to be the most immediate and effective resolution when we’re going through something difficult that we don’t want to deal with.
Well… it happened again.
I think it’s safe to say that 2016 was officially a terrible year on a global scale. It was also a terrible year for me personally. Coincidentally, it was also an extremely productive year full of achievement for me.
Every time I was faced with a difficulty, I felt like I had to keep it under wraps so I could focus on being productive. Between work, school, and life transitions, I felt like I did not have time to deal with stuff that was bothering me. So for the great majority of 2016, I was acting under some degree of numbness.
Now school is out, I’m home for the holidays and I even get to work from home. Plenty of time to deal with all of that nasty stuff I’ve been hoarding under my skin. The procaine is wearing off and it hurts…bad.
I remember telling somebody else these exact words about a year ago:
“I know it sucks at first, but once you give up the ghost and let yourself feel, that’s when you realize life is worth living.”
Yeah. I’m glad I wrote that down when I said it. Somehow I knew I would need the reminder…
It hurts. It’s like when you start a new acne medication and at first it brings all the gunk to the surface but after a while it starts to clear up…that was a gross example but I bet you got the picture! 😉
I know it gets better because I’ve been here before. First you feel all the bad stuff really deeply, but once it’s out of the way, you start feeling the good stuff again, too–just as deeply. And…life is worth living again.
I’m gonna let this happen. I’m gonna let myself feel all the nasty, ugly, painful stuff that I don’t want to feel. I’m gonna free myself to feel it and then let it go–so I can be free to feel good…
…so I can be free to be myself again. I’ve missed her.
Image attribution: Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons