I grew up in a family of seven kids. I have two older biological brothers and four adopted siblings. I was seven when my family grew immediately with the adoption of three children from Korea, 2 girls and a boy. That story needs it’s own day, but to put it simply they had been through hell and brought a lot of emotional baggage with them, understandably so. The damage from all they had been through brought chaos and confusion to our home life and turned it into one gigantic emotional roller coaster ride. Therefore I realized emotions were a bad thing and to be avoided at all costs. I found my solace with my dad who was pretty even keeled. He was a mechanic and I discovered at a young age I enjoyed working on cars, or anything else he was doing. It gave me one on one time with my dad in a non-chaotic emotional free (except when he couldn’t find a tool) zone. I spent my childhood building fences, stalls, and shoveling manure, mowing fields, fixing cars, lawn mowers or anything that was mechanical, working with the animals, and anything else I could do to get out of the house.
I associated emotions with chaos and a lack of control, also with pain. If you care, then the hurt is that much more painful. I decided that emotions were unnecessary and that life would be better off without them. Plus they were messy and made you look weak. I mean my dad was a strong, unemotional man and there was order whenever I was with him so it only stood to reason that emotions were for wimps. I knew he loved me, he told me all the time so love (whatever that meant) was ok. But no mushy stuff. Unfortunately I came to hate emotions. I began to deaden any and all emotions in order to be strong and no one could hurt me. I figured out that you can’t just numb the bad emotions, it’s all or none. When I realized this I was too afraid of being out of control to change anything. So over the years I continued to suppress my emotions as much as possible.
At some point your lifestyle because so automatic you don’t even realize what you’re doing anymore. I had actually convinced myself that my lack of emotion was a good thing and something to be proud of. After all I wasn’t like all the other girls who cried over every little thing, or would blow up at their friends, family or spouse. I was better than all of that. I was level headed, cool in any circumstance, and…well to put it more plainly I was as cold as ice. Sure I didn’t have any lows but I didn’t have any highs either. Just numbingly even keeled.
Then God gave me an emotional little girl and to my disbelief I found myself envying her ability to fully respond to circumstances. A beautiful bird? Well, that calls for a song and dance! Nemo not being able to find his dad? Heart wrenching tears but then the joy on her face when the two were re-united was all that much sweeter due to the sorrow of observed loss. She would stop in the middle of a walk to marvel at the ants and didn’t care who was looking or what others may think of her. My parents would tell me that she reminded them of me when I was little, and I became even more jealous of her. She enjoyed life to it’s fullest. I realized that without tears, joy isn’t as sweet. With out anger, forgiveness isn’t as refreshing. With out vulnerability, love isn’t as priceless. For every negative emotion there is a positive one that is only truly realized after the full weight of the negative emotion is felt. I was broken. I realized that I had given up and numbed my feelings so well that I had missed out on life. For what is life but our experiences, and what are our experiences if not truly felt.
At 30 years old I slowly started taking steps to learn what emotions were and how to feel them and handle them. And then my health took a turn for the worse. I ended up with “daily persistent headaches and chronic migraines”, meaning headaches all day every day and migraines 2-5 times a week. Along with that my pain went from a mostly functioning level of pain to survival mode. For those of you who haven’t lived with chronic pain it is literally all consuming. It takes everything you have just to make it through a day. So my emotions got shoved back to the bottom of the barrel. That’s where they remained until the barrel was overflowing and then I’d have to deal with them just enough to make some room and then shove them back down again.
Two years ago through some crazy circumstances we realized that where we were living was actually a huge contributing factor to my pain. Through a series of events we ended up moving 2500 miles away from where both my husband and I were born and raised so that I could have a better quality of life. I’ll have to write more about that answer to prayer later, but let’s just say it’s been a true life changing event. Because I’m no longer in survival mode my emotions have decided they would like some attention. I can’t tell you how weird it is at 40 years old to be learning how to handle emotions. Not just handle them, but what they feel like. I have conversations in my head like I did with my daughter when she was a toddler. What are you feeling and why? Is this the proper way to respond to this situation? Not to mention my eyes keep leaking. I was watching a commercial the other day and the next thing you know I have water leaking out of my eyes! It was a happy commercial too, I guess it’s called “tears of joy” or something crazy like that. I feel the losses greater than I ever have, but I also feel joy and happiness at a deeper level than ever before. I know I have a long ways to go, and at times I find all these new feelings terrifying. The numbness I clung to for most of my life thinking it was protecting me was really preventing me from truly experiencing life. Maybe numbness isn’t what you use to hide from the world, but what ever it is I would encourage you to put it aside. What you’re hiding from may not be as scary as you thought. It could be the very thing you’ve been longing for and missing in your life.
As always I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.