The Discomfort and the Importance of Feeling

This last week has been challenging, inspiring and educational. I hope to write more about it but it takes me a while to process things before I can create a post about how I’m evolving and growing. In the meantime, I have something to offer and while most people might already understand it, I believe I’m not alone in being someone to whom feelings are scary and foreign experiences.

The man who was my boyfriend in high school came for a brief visit (socially distanced on my back patio) last weekend and he brought his girlfriend along. When my therapist and I discussed his visit beforehand, she asked me how I was planning to take care of myself during and after his visit. I knew it could trigger the emergence of memories from that time in my life, as well as deep feelings of sadness and loss. I told my therapist that I was planning on being very honest with everyone I live with about the possibility that I could have a lot of feelings around his visit. I didn’t want to do what I’ve done the other times he’s visited and pretend I wasn’t having any feelings about it. I also told my therapist I was planning on being honest with myself about whatever arose and allowing myself the opportunity to experience my feelings.

The day came for his visit and I was nervous about seeing him, being vulnerable and authentic. I wore what felt comfortable, accepted a hug from him when they arrived, and spent the visit being very honest about how much of my current life is wrapped up in the therapeutic process. It was a lovely visit, I felt connected to this person who’s been so very important to me for the last 30 years and when he left I did feel sad. I kept feeling waves of sadness for days afterwards, had some new memories come up and had a few dissociative episodes. What I didn’t do was try and push away the feelings or hang onto them. I listened to sad music when I felt sad and then moved onto the next part of my day. I gave the memories some space but didn’t get dragged down by them. I acknowledged the dissociation and took steps to ground myself in my body.

When I saw my therapist yesterday she asked how the week had gone and I told her all of the above things, as well as how uncomfortable it all felt. It wasn’t easy. Her response was that it was uncomfortable because I was never allowed to have feelings as a child and thus I wasn’t accustomed to feeling genuinely sad without trying to push it away or feeling ashamed of it. She explained that as I take the courageous step of choosing to allow myself to feel, I’m going to feel uncomfortable for a time. I have to get used to what it’s like to feel and to understand how feelings ebb and flow when they’re allowed space to do so.

Just one revelation from this past week and such an important and empowering one.