It Really Does Work
Better out than in. An old saying but it holds so many truths in more ways than one.
You know when people ask "How are you?" there used to be only 3 ways I used to reply. "Good" "Fine" and "Okay" Nothing more, nothing less. I mean, when people ask how are you, its just another form of saying, "hello" really. The true meaning of how are you went out long ago so that it seems the only people who will listen are the psychologist during a session and the priest during the confession. One will listen and analyze you and maybe refer you to someone who can prescribe you pills to 'fix' the feeling you are having which most likely will be depression or bipolar...the other will make you say a few Hail Mary's to repent for you sins when all you said was "I felt very jealous of that other person..."
From an early age I was a bit of a chatterbox but at the age of 8 I began cutting myself. it was a night that my sister, who was 4 at the time, was snoring. We shared the same room and i could not sleep at all with her little snorts. to make myself feel better I cut myself with a small paper cutter that was in my stationary box. I found out then that cutting helped a lot when I was feeling angry.
It kept going for a really long time - I'm 31 now and don't cut much - maybe once or twice a year. It was to stop my feelings of anger and sadness and a little later it helped get through other feelings with things that were happening.
At school, I was known to be a really happy, loud and maybe sometimes aggressive person. I had plenty of friends and it was a good time. Until i reached high school. Things were really overwhelming by the time I reached year 8. I began drinking then and smoking and having sex with boys. I couldn't tell my parents what was wrong with me - maybe it was my feelings of being lost, not knowing my identity and feeling strange feelings that I'd never felt before and feeling embarassed about them. My mother was not a very emotional person and didn't put up with crying much. She and my father were academics and even though the life was good, there were things I didn't like my mother doing to me that made me feel ashamed and horrible and not liking myself.
Whenever i'd have a bad day at school and wasn't as smiley and friendly as per usual, my friends would comment on it and one friend used to ask, "what's wrong? Tell me! you're not you're usual self!" but its hard to tell someone what is wrong when you really can't pinpoint it in the first place - I was unable to describe the feeling or emotion and it didn't sound good saying "I feel bad". So my feelings were supressed and the only time they'd come out was when I drank alcohol. I would get drunk at school and be taken to hospital...I overdosed on heroin at school twice and was taken away, I'd cut up in the girls toilets and be taken away...I was a very messy messy girl who didn't know what was going except I didn't want to live and I couldn't say it aloud. I could not express it.
By the time I was 18 I'd been living in youth refuges since I was about 17 - I'd been the psychiatric unit the year before after cutting up badly at school. I lived with my boyfriend who had just gotten out of gaol and was dealing drugs. When I was 19 I went to a drug and alcohol rehab and that was the first time I think that I had to face my feelings head-on with no easy escape of cutting. In the rehab, from 8am onwards every 2 hours you had one of the senior residents with a position of authority coming round to every person asking "How do you feel?" And you could NOT answer with "Good" "Fine" and "Okay" - you had to answer with an actual feeling word and if you couldn't think of one, the person had a list of about 100 hundred 'Feelings' that you could look at. In groups, you had to talk about how you 'felt' about certain things and get support from peers if the feelings were really intense. Years of blocking up feelings and emotions came through and they came through hard and fast and about a thousand times stronger since I'd been using alcohol and drugs and cutting to supress them as hard as I could.
There's a lot in the saying that feelings flow with the tears, not by blood. I stopped cutting and started crying and talking about things that cut deep to the core of my feelings. It felt like my heart was breaking a millions times over every time I started talking about stuff because the feelings were so strong. It took a while though - I found that I was better at expressing about my feelings through writing. Yes that was another tool of the rehab - the 'Feelings Book' where EVERY night you had to write down the feelings you went through during the day, what was the situation, how you handled it etc etc. I hated talking about it during groups because I didn't want to cry in front of people but it eventually happened.
I think though there were a lot more things i was surpressing than I thought. I did the whole rehab, graduated but busted again because of my anxiety when I moved out of the halfway house. I began drinking again and went on a 4 year bender that got me to places much worse than before. Went back to cutting myself. Went back to the same rehab. This time though, your peers really put you in the hot seat during groups. I hardly talked at all. The whole cycle started again. I guess though, I knew it was time. I didn't want my life revolving around drinking and drugging and not allowing myself to feel, think, act or be who i wanted to be. I opened up about everything. I told people on the spot how I felt if they said something I didn't like or I did like, I told them how I felt about my ex and how I felt about killing myself. And it worked.
The more I talked, the less I felt doing it. The more I talked the less I had in my head. the more I talked the less the load on my shoulders. The more I talked the less the feelings that were dragging me down. The more I talked the more I knew who was there to support me. Opening up about your feelings is the only way that people will get to know the real you. You meet people on a superficial level a lot - well I do anyway. Those willing to lend an ear and support me but not fix me are true friends. My life is revolved around feelings feelings every day and they change so much during the day. One of the sayings i was taught and I hold onto a lot and live by is "Allow yourself the feelings but limit the actions" because feelings pass no matter how bad or how good they are. And if I need to open up about them, then I will. if more people did that and if children were taught from an early age to express their feelings more, i think that would be a good thing.
Do not protect your children from feeling their feelings. it starts when you say to your child who is crying, "Shush! Be quiet! What are you crying about? Its all good!" Let them express it. Let them open up about it in the way that they can.
It really does work.