Minimising, denying.. and other tricks
Updated: May 24
Why the guilt over a nothing tweet?
Why do I feel guilty when I write this?
One tweet and so much feeling. Self – indulgence. I’m unreasonable. How dare I not smile and say ‘everything’s ok?’
Not feeling worthy
Someone very smart said ‘it’s always darkest before the dawn’, whether it be (the awesome) Florence and the Machine, or somebody else.
I always hope for an awakening, transformational dawn, where suddenly (instantly, almost), I am privy to a new wisdom and it settles in me as calmness and joy. Now, wouldn’t that be beautiful!?
Well, in truth, these things take time. There might be lots of mini – realisations
(*or moments that punch you in the gut, in my case!)
Thoughts, feelings of hope, and changes, I think, settle slowly over weeks, months and years.
I am a person who has got so good at automatically putting a positive spin on things, that my head rejects painful realities much of the time, and settles for a sort – of comfortable numbness.
Not great overall happiness or contentment, but appreciating and loving the little things, while not grieving... and denying things that hurt.
When I thought about writing one, tiny tweet, I felt bad. This is ridiculous. I read social media posts and get messages from people talking honestly about their day – and I think this is fantastic. Somehow, though, implying (even jokingly) that my day might have been shit, I’m bombarded with argue-back language of ‘well, it wasn’t really’. How dare I take up space with my silly day, internal dialogue or opinions?
I think much of this stems from me never being able to ask for, and receive, what I want emotionally. I need to cry and have people comfort me.
That never happens.
It’s always Darkest before the Dawn
Florence and the Machine
And I need to be comfortable enough around those people to even go there.
I can joke about ‘my issues’ and can feel intense shame and self – hatred around my intimacy and trust issues, in particular, but I want to feel that these are reasonable feelings. Even if I want to explore them , question when they are more valid, and move forward in healthier relationships. I could even have the better boundaries that, maybe, I am slowly starting to create.
I don’t feel seen always. And because I wasn’t seen for so long, it’s not something I can just ‘feel’ overnight! As if I’m just supposed to appreciate that people are changing and base where my head’s at only on recent moments, that are more dubiously understanding.. but understanding nonetheless.
I try and write with diplomacy and kindness (and will chastise myself for the above statement).. but, perhaps, in not wanting to hurt others, I’m not fully expressing myself. That is restrictive as well!
Maybe I am just choosing the wrong times and places.
‘Done is better than perfect’ is something I want to resonate with more.. or, all of the time, ideally!
Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about ‘Whoa moments*’ and about denial of my own emotions.
I have wanted to write about all of these feelings for ages. Instead, I will probably write about them once, now, in a couple of hours, and then abandon the idea again.
Procrastination stops me, convincing me that it’s ‘pointless’.
As it’s ‘meaningless’, I never start!!
Sometimes I just want to kick myself into beginning... and worrying about the quality afterwards (or not at all).
Of course, I always have ‘other things’ that I ‘should be’ doing, particularly due to the pandemic and various lockdowns that we have had. Many of these ‘other things’, of course, I don’t end up doing either (!), but truly prioritising my head, mental health and what will feel rewarding to me, always gets pushed to the back of the queue. Passions, writing, feelings that I want to voice.. these matter.
I know that, to some extent, I’m supposed to be a ‘responsible’ adult (paying bills etc.) but abandonment of the self feels really, really crappy.
There has to be a better balance than this.
Done is better than perfect
Wanting to be liked
When I am in counselling, I tell myself off internally. I find it hard to believe in, and trust in, the validity of my own experiences.
For me, wanting someone to define and validate my experiences (although, completely natural and reasonable) can shame me. The desire to be validated and held emotionally, feels wrong, greedy and ‘too much’.
Why am I not strong enough to be who I am and know what I struggle with? Why do I, sometimes, want someone to ‘label me’ (in the way that I resented feeling placed in certain boxes as a younger person) and why does that matter? Why do I need someone to ‘diagnose me’ and tell me that it’s natural for me to be in pain?
Because I doubt myself and my internal reality.
Questioning myself, well that feels completely natural.
I can be a drama queen! A note in my phone reads:
‘Things I find difficult.
The ability to keep the dream alive’
(which does make me laugh slightly)
I have been viewed as ‘dramatic’, but that doesn’t mean that my feelings aren’t valid.
At times it might sounds dramatic (in comparison to not showing emotions), but there’s still a huge part of me internally screaming to have her voice heard! What’s wrong with who I am?!
Neglect is lack of doing and I abandon myself through not caring enough. I am now frustrated, though, with my outer- self presenting one thing, and waiting to have people tell me what I already know!
I wish I didn’t care so much about people thinking I’m a ‘good person’ but I do. Even the people that aren’t significant in my current day -to-day life.
Nobody wants to know how you feel, yet, they want you to do what they feel
Michael Bassey Johnson
I literally want every person I’ve ever met to know that I’m a ‘good person’. Which sounds desperate... and it’s a desperate desire, that is hard to admit to. It’s also completely unrealistic! I'm not always 'good'. I'm a flawed person.
But I figure, if I can convince others I’m worthwhile, then maybe it’ll rub off on me.
I wrote and never posted this in March of this year:
Over the last year I have felt lonely at times, have felt depressed and physically exhausted, have missed work and people! I felt much of this prior to the pandemic and have been attempting to work on lots of things I have been going through.
It has given me time to pause and take stock.
It has given me time for the changes I want to make to my life to settle in my brain.
In my twenties I work, work, worked and, maybe I needed more time for fun. I don’t know.
I found it hard to truly relax and let go sometimes. Being too ‘in my head’.
In 2020 and 2021, money and work has been a worse worry (as it always has been) and, at times, I haven’t felt, physically or mentally, my best.
I have loved writing, have wanted to re – connect with old friends that meant a lot to me and connect with new people (on zoom). It took me a long time to want to use zoom, or similar, because of shame around how I look.
What I feel, above all else, is grateful. Grateful for family, grateful for people who see things in a different way to me.. grateful for people.
There are days of going on a lovely walk, of the weather warming up slightly, of a nice breeze and picking up a drink.
Being outside matters. It’s lovely.
I could say ‘what a load of shit that is’ but it isn’t completely! I do have grateful moments and peaceful, reflective moments. Feeling ‘my’ emotional and wanting to express that.
Mostly though, it was the denial part of my brain wanting.. hoping that this was it! No work in progress! I'm there!
Trying to put a very positive slant on pain. Trying to sweeten it, like wanting to be nice and liked, rather than raw, real and vulnerable.
Feeling my communication is ‘ok’
The BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ focused on the awkward pauses and analytical, yet not – so – analytical, aspects of Connell and Marianne’s relationship. Sometimes, it took a while for them to be open about their true feelings, as it does in many film, book and TV narratives. You were always left hoping that.. ‘if they could just talk’
However, more recently, classic lockdown activities were being reviewed and I saw a post on social media, or on a website, referring to ‘Normal People’ and the couple that were awful at communicating! This has been a popular thread in relation to the series.
Despite my above explanation, my first thought was that they did communicate!!
I’m not sure if I viewed it in quite the same way as others. Perhaps I did.
With Connell and Marianne, their eyes said it all. And they did verbally speak.
They were honest about their personal struggles with each other. They tried.
I wasn’t holding up ‘Normal People’ as an example of top class communication, but, because I didn’t think the communication was bad either, I questioned my own perception of what that is!
I wasn’t raised in an environment where feelings were always openly discussed, as I know many weren’t. So, I wonder, if I put my feelings across effectively in life to those I want to understand?
There was an element of guess – work, learning from others and teaching myself, in the past.
With some, wonderful people, I do express myself, feel understood and find it more natural. But, I have thought about clearly stating what I need (and want) from people more. They cannot read minds!
With all of that said, when I compare modern-day me with me five years ago, I realise how much I’ve changed. It’s happening slowly and I must learn to be more appreciative of what has already been achieved.
Over the last few years, I’ve had moments that have connected with me deeply and reminded me that developing a better relationship with myself is important.
I call these ‘Whoa moments*’ looking back and even though I struggle with saying ‘I’m not ok’, I have come so far..
‘I should make myself smaller’
Yes, I ACTUALLY THOUGHT THAT!
This was when I felt I’d pushed myself forward too much. I reflected that I’d dared to momentarily feel proud of myself (or like I had something useful to say) and, being unkind to myself, I wanted to retreat, feel shame and put my walls up.
There are times when I do need to listen more effectively, but I also need to appreciate and congratulate myself as I would someone else. I need to talk to myself more gently and not re-play every mistake or wrong thing I have done since birth!
Talk to yourself like you would someone you love
‘Perhaps, I’m just collateral damage for other people being happy’
NO, NO, NO!
As if everything should feel like this forever and I should just accept it.
This idea had to go and still needs to be booted out when it finds it’s way back.
I know and believe that it’s ok to speak about struggling with mental health or mental illness. In fact, I think it’s incredible and amazing, when it’s other people.
We all need to be kinder to ourselves.
Remember that progress is not linear (either). Sometimes you make great progress for a while and then you slide back a little. That’s ok.
This is my (rough and imperfect) poem on trying to fill the void, on denial and dealing with my mental health:
I’m running from pain
I kid myself that I don’t run
From being separate, uncertain, estranged
I chastise myself for not doing enough exercise
But my energy goes into running
Disconnecting from me,
Running from pain
I avoid at all costs
Fuelled with more resources than you’d think
I’m separate, uncertain, no longer estranged
Deny I’m sinking
I don t even realise I’m doing it
That’s how much I push to deny
But it’s built in - like breathing, sleeping
Other ways the vessel voices the cry
I wanted something in the denial
That I needed to give to myself
Soothing, calm, living a chaotic mind
Never present to deal with hell
All these years to be at the beginning, again
Feeling phony and like I pretend
Jigsaw piece of connection missing
It goes in stages and gets there
Ebbs and flows with different outlets
There’s no one end
(Otherwise known as ‘don’t overthink, just post’)
I hate thinking that I'm back at the beginning, but progress has been made.
I get frustrated with myself for writing, as I'm not 'there' yet.. wherever 'there' is!
Maybe it can be validating for one person who has had some of the same feelings.
When it comes to mental health we are all just doing the best we can.
Image credits: Canva Twitter photograph: my own
Image credit: Canva
Tara Talks mental health blog and poems