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To talk or not to talk

I’ve never liked to talk about the deep stuff – the kinds of things that make me feel uncomfortable, the things I’d rather not think about.

So I’ve developed an ability to avoid it all.

This ability has extended beyond conversation alone. I found that I could avoid the deep stuff in my life by constantly being busy – occupying my mind with trivialities so that nothing I don’t want to face breaks through.

I’d only listen to super upbeat, happy pop music, read novels that had happy endings and refused to watch movies that made me cry….

So the idea of intentionally reopening old wounds seemed ludicrous to me. 

Everything I did, was done to drown out what was always there, just below the surface.

I think back and realise that every time I laughed hysterically, I was actually hiding the truth within, sometimes terrified that if I stopped laughing, I’d cry and just never stop. Of course, I didn’t want anyone to know about what I was going through beneath the surface.

I made myself believe that to be palatable to those around me, I had to be happy and chipper all the time.

I think a part of me hoped that I could magically outrun the pain, but I think I also inadvertently grew it and allowed it to eat at the life within. I learnt to love deeply because I knew how much it hurt to be rejected. In fact, I suspect it is this pain that shaped me without me even knowing it.

Avoiding the deep stuff meant that I became fluent in small talk. If anyone had told me that one day I’d be writing about all of this, I would never in a million years have believed them – but here I am.

I recall being in therapy for as long as I remember. Never continuously, because I don’t think I was ever in one place long enough for that… but on and off, this has been my life thus far. I have vague recollections of people asking me to draw pictures and participating in what I’ve come to know as ‘play therapy’. I was convinced that it was all useless. I didn’t understand how people thought speaking about things you’d rather not think about was even remotely helpful… but I kept going.

I did it because my mom asked me to, then later because I was told it was part of the treatment for someone battling with both generalised anxiety and depression. It didn’t help me.

I now know two things that could explain why it never helped.

The first is that perhaps it just wasn’t the right time.

I wasn’t ready to let go of certain things, or accept certain truths. There were memories I didn’t think I had the strength to dredge up. However, I soon learnt that like a septic wound, you have to clean it out properly. As cliché as it sounds, I had to dig deep. I had to speak about the things that made me sad until they lost some of their edge.

It was really tough, but I got to a point where I had to find the courage to confront these demons head-on. They were draining the life out of me and I just didn’t want them to keep their power.

The second is that the chemistry between you and your therapist makes ALL the difference.

I didn’t know how good it could get until I found a GREAT therapist – and I have never looked back.

So!

Find someone who will listen to your story – and not someone who thinks they’ve heard it all before.

You need to find someone who will leave you with an action plan at the end of a session. Anyone can rattle off theory, but a great therapist will help you apply it to your unique situation. 

A dear friend of mine is a firm believer in the power of journaling. It definitely got me through some rough patches and can be especially helpful in conjunction with therapy. It’s sometimes cathartic to write down how you’re feeling and rip the pages up once you are done.

Find what works for you, because something will!

The journey is hard, messy and filled with ups and downs. Sometimes it feels like there are a lot more downs than ups, but you owe it to yourself to keep going – you’ve made it this far.

Better days are on the horizon, and as they say, it’s always darkest before morning.

We truly are never as alone as we feel.

Shirley

 

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