Source: John Hopkins University
My therapist has told me that my body language often doesn't match my words. While explaining how incredibly hopeless and sad I feel, but I'll be shrugging and laughing my way through it. "It's no big deeealll", my rolling, crinkled eyes say. I gesticulate, pushing the feelings away, "It's just these pesky thoughts that paralyze me and keep me from wanting to get out of bed. Silly, really." After my very first meeting with her, she asked me to sit with my feelings and unpleasant thoughts when they happened instead of shoving them down. She wanted me to take note of how I felt both emotionally, and physically, so that all my reactions were in sync. Apparently, it isn't healthy to consistently laugh away depressive thoughts and horrific anxiety - who knew?
I was at work the next day, feeling like I was going through the motions, when a coworker came by my desk and asked the usual "How are you doing today?" I snapped right up, a huge smile plastered on my face. "I am doing great!" I responded, in a voice that was louder and higher than it needed to be. "How are you?" I followed up with automatically, bringing the focus away from me as quickly as possible. In that moment, and in many moments following, I realized just how disjointed I had become. In order to survive and make others feel comfortable, I was suppressing my feelings, even when alone. I wasn't letting myself fully feel anything out of fear that others, or even myself, could not handle it.
So naturally, I was texting with my friend Melissa about this realization and how I was trying to ride out and let myself experience the hard stuff, when she remarked that my therapist was being very Mister Rogers about the whole thing. She then texted me an excerpt from a Mister Rogers book she owns that corresponded perfectly to what I was going through:
First of all, bless Mister Rogers (I sobbed the whole way through Won't You Be My Neighbor?) and also, I feel like this is a common problem. It's okay to have a bad day, and to tell a coworker or a friend that you're just not feeling like yourself. No one can, or has to be, 100% every day. With work, obligations, and dealing with other life stuff that does not let you take a time out, this is a difficult thing to do. It is something I have been practicing for months. And while I don't believe it is advisable to be stomping through puddles and emoting some serious Eeyore energy 24/7, experiencing emotions - no matter how sad or scary - is natural.
I'm going to continue concentrating on connecting with how I feel, and am hoping that you do the same if this is something that you struggle with as well. It will be challenging, and it will take some time, but hey - we got this.