I grew up between two households that were filled with anger, where ugly words were rampant. I remember feeling scared a lot. I called it “feeling unsafe.” I would find out later in life that “feeling unsafe” was how 5-year-old Me articulated anxiety.
I am a highly emotional person, which is a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I wonder how I managed to remain such an emotional being when I wasn’t allowed much space to express myself as a child and why I felt so “unsafe” all the time. The fear of my mother was real. You didn’t cry or argue or talk back, as any attempts were dead on arrival. You didn’t raise your voice, because Mom’s voice was always louder and the words would turn petty and cruel. You didn’t slam the door, because if you did, there would be hell to pay. My mother isn’t and wasn’t a bad person. At the time and until I was out of high school, she was undiagnosed, unmedicated bipolar II. In my early twenties, I began experiencing my own symptoms of bipolar II, which included severe mood swings and fits of rage. I would see red over things that were so unworthy of violent anger that it almost seems comical to me now, but it certainly wasn’t at the time. My understanding of this mental illness has allowed me to forgive my mom for a lot. Not everything, but I’m working on that.
As an adult, I now recognize how damaging it can be to suppress emotions. I know that growing up without space to feel, I could have easily become emotionally stunted. It could have conditioned me to respond to emotional strain by shutting down, collapsing inward, and struggling through all of my relationships for the rest of my life.
Thankfully, what did happen was exactly the opposite. Because when I was sent to my bedroom, I did not force the emotions away, they were louder and clearer than ever and I needed to get them OUT. I learned the sacred arts of screaming into and punching the shit out of a pillow, of wringing towels until the palms of my hands were red and numb, of ripping a magazine to shreds so small I’d find specs in my bedroom carpet for weeks after.
What did happen is, I started writing. And I started talking. And I started sharing. And I found people who didn’t gaslight or silence me. And I found people who loved me with all of my emotions and who gave me the space to feel everything. And I shared with new people who knew where I’d been, and felt what I’d felt, and who needed someone to give them their own space to feel, too. And I was able to give them space and to tell them to never silence themselves for anyone.
I live by the tenet that honesty is the best policy. The people closest to me know that I would rather they share their feelings with me (even and especially if they’re upset with me) than to hold it. I don’t hold mine back, and I don’t want you to, either. Because holding it hurts you more than sharing it hurts either of us.
Simply being who you are, can mean the world to someone who may be afraid to be simply who they are. It’s an uncomplicated concept, yet so powerful. Sharing your story and being unapologetically you gives others the space to be unapologetically them. We’ve all seen some shit, been through some shit, know some shit, and feel a whole lotta shit. Let. That. Shit. Out.
Being vulnerable and sharing our stories helps us find where we fit and build connections with humans who understand us and who love us for who we are at our core. Humans are emotional creatures and we all just want to feel seen and heard, so let’s give each other the space we all need to get through this life one day at a time, together.