“It is okay to lose your sh!t sometimes because if you keep your sh!t, you’ll end up full of sh!t and then you’ll explode and there’ll be sh!t everywhere. A sh!t storm. And nobody wants that.” – Unknown
When was the last time you sat on the kitchen floor, curled up in the bathtub, or under the covers and just cried? I’m talking ugly cry. Face contorted like Mr. Potato head after ten minutes in the microwave. (Don’t try that at home kids.) Have you cried enough tears to rehydrate a desert? Have you reached deep, down to your toes, and wept until the well is empty and the soul is cleansed?
I’m not really a fan of cleansing. If it’s your thing, by all means, do what makes you feel healthier. This is a judgment-free zone. Me and my unqualified opinion? Nope, it’s just not my thing which is why I’ll probably die ten years earlier. That and a life-threatening chronic illness but I think the point has been clumsily made.
I very rarely cry so much that I become a dehydrated mummy, locked behind glass, in a museum. If I had it my way, I’d stuff my feelings so far down that it comes out of my toes like jam. Spread it on toast and….Ew no. No. No…Ew. What is wrong with me?
Oh, that list is way too long.
Would it be healthier to gradually, over time, release my emotions like a valve on a pressure cooker? Probably. Most assuredly. Without question. A resounding yes from the peanut gallery. Oo, and how satisfying is that hiss of steam? Tap the valve, jump back, and whoosh! Scolding hot steam explodes out the top like Old Faithful. It looks like it feels amazing. All that pent-up energy raging against its constraints and then….A long overdue sigh of relief.
Okay, even I can connect the dots, and I didn’t have to use the cheat codes. When it comes to emotions? A slow, periodic, release is better than waiting for the top to blow. It’s healthier, goop doesn’t stick the walls, and it might even lead to a more balanced life. If I let it out a bit more often than maybe I’d be happier? Maybe I wouldn’t have so many ulcers. Maybe I would actually get some sleep. Maybe I need to get a knob replaced?
So many possibilities! We may never know the truth.
I’m a little jealous of those rare birds who are able to express their emotions so openly. Crying when they need to cry. Laughing when the spirit moves them. Getting angry when it’s called for but in a safe, healthy, way. Being emotionally vulnerable, being vulnerable in any way, takes a great deal of courage and strength. Laying your heart out there for all to see and judge, is brave. When I witness such acts of heroism, I want to knit them a cape, write them a theme song, and give them a really cool superhero name.
Captain Feely Things to the rescue! No, that’s not going to work. It sounds a little too…Oh, what’s the word?
I’ve spent most of my life fighting to just see another day. I’ve watched too many people not get another day. I’ve been hurt, disappointed, and devastated more times than I can count. It all adds up, and over time I’ve developed a lot of thick scar tissue around my emotional parts. It’s supposed to protect me from getting hurt, but it doesn’t keep emotions out. I feel things with an acuity that’s physically painful. My emotions are often overwhelming and mind-numbing. They shut down my thoughts and I’m left with feelings that I can’t process or verbalize.
This scar tissue keeps these feelings locked inside because if I let them out? If I let you see them? I’m genuinely afraid of what that will mean or do. Would it be a volcanic eruption or more like spontaneous human combustion? That’s one hell of a mess and some stains don’t come out! Some damage can’t be repaired. Maybe it’s best if these feelings stay inside because, if I can’t handle the things I’m feeling, how can you?
Nope, it’s better for everyone if I keep the lid on which is why you won’t see me cry. I didn’t cry when I broke my hand. I didn’t cry at my grandfathers funeral. I didn’t cry when a doctor cut into me without anesthetic. I don’t cry in public and there aren’t a lot of people who’ve seen me in tears. The number of people I trust to see me like that is very, very, small. I keep it in and when I’m alone, when I feel safe, it comes out and I lose my sh!t.
I can’t sit still. It feels like my body is on fire. My heart feels like it’s moving faster than the speed of sound. I can’t catch my breath. I’m on fire, but I’m also drowning in a giant tidal wave. I don’t know how that’s possible but there it is. Time feels like it has come to a complete stop but, beneath my feet, I can feel the earth spinning faster. Fire and water. Speed and light. It all explodes, and I crumble under the weight.
No one ever sees me like that. It’s my own personal sh!t storm and I weather it alone because it’s too much to ask someone to ride it out with me. I feel safer riding it out alone because I feel freer to express my emotions. When I’m with people, I’m incredibly guarded but when I’m alone…Alone feels a hell of a lot safer.
It isn’t healthy or good for me in any way. I’m not a hero for keeping my feelings in check. I’m a broken, neurotic, mess. My fingernails are dug deep into the hardwood floor, and I’m holding on. There are a dozen healthier ways to cope but I haven’t found many that work for me. Some that do are off-limits during this pandemic. Others have worked for a while but have lost their effectiveness. There are more out there but I’m still searching for the thing that will stick.
If the roles are reversed and you totally lose it, I’ll understand. The ugly cry, fall to the floor, curse God and life and everything in between. Walls crumble, heart exposed, raw emotion everywhere. Life is hard, and it’s gotten to you so here you are on your last breath. You lose the great and power sh!t because you’re exhausted, overextended, and just can’t do it anymore.
That’s understandable because you’re right, life is hard. I get it, and I’m here for you. There’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed by what you’re feeling or how you responded to it in that moment because, again, life is hard. I get that. I respect you for sharing. I applaud you for tapping the pressure valve. Do you feel better after letting it out?
It’s easy for me to understand and empathize with what you’re going through. I accept it, and you, but when I look at my reflection in the mirror? I can’t do that for myself. I can’t drop my guard and let someone else empathize with me. When things slip out, I beat myself up for not keeping myself together because, heaven forbid, I let anyone see that side of me.
I’m lucky because I have people who would happily sit with me while I lose my composure. They wouldn’t be afraid or disgusted. They wouldn’t look at me any differently. They would help me or, if there was nothing else they could do, they would hold me. I have these people in my life but I still shove everything down to my toes until jam comes squishing out.
Again, let me say that this isn’t about bravado or courage. Keeping my sh!t together isn’t always something to brag about. There are times when it’s necessary. I’ve been in a few situations where this personality quirk has saved my life and the lives of people I love. But as a lifestyle? It’s a hindrance, not a saving grace.
We, as a species, connect by sharing experiences and emotions. That’s how we form bonds, relationships, and communities. Not being able to do that? Not being able to connect on such a basic human level is isolating and lonely. It feels like I’m watching the world go by, relationships forming, lives being lived but I can’t be a part of it. I’m standing on the wrong side of a two-way mirror, and that’s no way to live.
Let it out. Don’t hold it in. It is okay to lose your sh!t every once in a while. It’s natural. It’s healthy. It’s a lot better than trying to wash that toe jam off the walls. It’s okay to feel things and express how we feel. I don’t know how to do that but I know I want to figure it out because life is a lot nicer on the other side of the mirror.