Since I was thirteen years old (maybe younger, whose counting?) I became an expert at repressing my emotions. My hormones raged on around me as I entered the dreaded pubescent age and suddenly, my good days dropped off of a vicious cliff. I was surrounded by clouds of depression, and I had absolutely no idea where they came from.
My life was wonderful. I was receiving an education, had friends, family, a roof over my head, and good food to fill my stomach. But I couldn’t shake the lingering cold that constantly pressed its fingers against my temples and whispered deceitful things tactfully into my ears.
I began a long and dreadful journey, especially with body image and self-acceptance.
A counselor once told me that grief is like a ball that will always be there until you take it head on and go through it. The same goes for depression and other negative feelings. You have to confront the good, the bad, and the ugly no matter how difficult it may seem.
I continued down this path of feeling repression until about seventeen years old. But even then, I still tried to damper my thoughts and run from them by becoming obsessive with working out and avoiding the things that hurt.
I avoided romantic relationships or commitment in friendships at all cost, and I would run at the first sight of something headed downhill in a friendship or relationship. I would create excuses about why I stopped seeing friends or I would push away someone interested in me romantically by basically convincing them they did not want anything to do with me.
It was my natural human defense against feelings because to me, feelings always equated to deep bouts of depression.
When I finally allowed myself to be in a committed relationship at nineteen years old, I clung to it with every ounce of my being. I sought to control my partner and tried to observe their every action and move because if I could control them, in my mind they could never hurt me. I would always be one step ahead of them and never be “the one who got hurt.”
I thought it worked. I believed with every fiber in my body that control was the only option.
Until I spent countless nights crying and writhing in pain because I couldn’t know everything. I drove myself wild trying to play this one person game, but ultimately I wouldn’t change a thing.
I went through another deep ocean of depression my freshman year of college, and experienced anxiety like I never had before. It was shocking, and I spent day in and day out wondering why I had to keep living. I was constantly haunted by my own negative thoughts and had absolutely no idea if I could continue hitting rock bottom every day without giving up.
With the help of modern medicine and a therapist, I finally overcame my struggles and for the first time in my life I feel free from depression, and I am working on feeling the same way towards anxiety.
What I learned throughout these experiences though is that emotions have a funny way of demanding to be felt no matter how much you try to bury them. If you were bullied because of your appearance in grade school and thought that you buried the negative self-talk far enough away that it wouldn’t come up again, it will. It will pop up in the middle of one of the best times of your life and absolutely ruin it.
Moving forward, I give myself permission to feel the things I don’t always want to feel. When I feel something negative, sad, depressing, angering, or just generally crappy, I feel them. I embrace the thoughts that dampen my mood and I accept them for what they are: just thoughts.
When I was in line for lunch a few days ago, the line was extremely long and the wait afterward was even longer. Everyone around me started getting huffy and clearly agitated, and when I got to the counter the employee apologized to me.
“I still have a good life,” I told him. Because no matter what goes on, I still have my positivity and in turn, a beautiful and wonderful life.