Emotions are hard and talking about t... - Anxiety and Depre...

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Emotions are hard and talking about them is harder

Strebbs profile image

I've always cared obsessively about what's "right" for me to do/say. Like, am I talking for too long? Am I a bummer? Am I not listening well enough? And in general I've always felt very insecure about myself and relied on others for my sense of worth. I was also frequently scolded in school and at home for things that were and weren't my fault alike. My mom was pretty narcissistic, and usually anytime I wanted to express emotions like sadness, anger and fear, she would respond as though personally attacked. Which of course led to me resenting and fearing her so much more, and any expression of those emotions to her went over even worse.

Today, I still struggle. When I talk to my girlfriend at length about something that's upsetting me, like an unpleasant experience, I usually end up apologizing at some point for talking so long, or for simply being anxious. Often anxiety arises for me in the middle of talking to, simply from the fear of opening up and the expectations I have for her reactions. And of course, she's never given me cause to feel this way, she's always been very kind and supportive of me, but these projected fears are so strong that it's taken me a long while to get to this point with her, and I imagine it will be another long while before I can simply talk about my feelings candidly with her and not fear rejection.

And of course, it's hard enough talking about my anxiety when it's about something else; it hardly ever crosses my mind to say something to her when she's actually said or done something that upset or bothered me. That sort of "talk-back" simply doesn't compute with me, you know? I spent my whole life being taught that if my mom is hurtful to me, it's my own fault - and in any case, that telling her that will only bring me pain. I developed a very 'black and white' style of thinking, by which I judge my own actions and other people's reactions before they even happen. I'm either "wrong", or they are - and I don't do well with the thought that I'm within my rights to express myself, because I subconsciously expect everybody else to be as emotionally fragile as my mom was, and expressing myself = pain. I will jump through all sorts of mental hoops to come up with reasons why she is 'right' and I am 'wrong', anything to avoid talking about how I feel as a healthy and worthwhile adult in my own right.

It isn't so much a problem with new-ish friends or people I don't know very well, but when it comes to somebody whom I'm closer to (like my girlfriend, with whom I'm closest of all) without even knowing it, that's the dynamic I fall into: avoiding anything that makes me an individual and instead adopting an extremely dependent persona I learned from childhood.

My girlfriend very rarely hurts my feelings and never does so intentionally - but when she does, I really struggle with the notion that neither one of us has to be 'wrong', and I can simply tell her how it made me feel. Instead, I still usually stuff away any feelings of sadness and irritation, only being honest with her if she notices something's wrong and offers an apology - and even THEN I usually go "oh no it's fine!!! It's because I'm too sensitive, hahaha..." >o< Just the way I did with my mom, making myself responsible for HER emotional needs as well as my own. It's exhausting, and I hope one day I'll have truly gotten over these patterns and feel much more sure of myself.

8 Replies

Hi strebbs. So sorry to hear about the situation with your mom. That must’ve been really tough to deal with. I’m exactly like you when it comes to being way too concerned with what everyone else thinks of me and always trying to say/do the “right” thing like you said. I’ll go over and over a past conversation in my head for hours afterward just agonizing over every little thing I said and that I should’ve said something else and thinking what I said was stupid. Even before a conversation I’ll go over it a bunch of times in my head trying to figure out the exact right way to say it. I know I shouldn’t worry as much as I do, but I do. It’s like other people’s opinions feel more valid than my own, which sounds ridiculous but that’s what it feels like. So I can definitely relate to that. I guess we both have to work on not being so afraid to express ourselves and that it’s actually okay to disagree with people sometimes. Easier said than done though. It’s a work in progress.

Strebbs profile image
Strebbs in reply to melantha

Thanks for sharing <3 Yeah, it's real rough, and definitely easier said than done. I go over imaginary future conversations all the time too!! I gather that's pretty common for people with anxiety. When you always expect something painful/scary to happen you develop ways to "cushion" yourself in preparation :( I used to do it constantly and never question it. Or do it with other imaginary events I was afraid of, usually totally ridiculous things. I notice my conversation-prepping flares up the most when I'm more anxious and afraid to talk to my girlfriend about something. I'll totally zone out and just hold debates inside my head. Eventually I'll wrestle myself out, but there's also this sense of negativity telling me I've done a bad job, or that after all this effort I should be further along than I am at this point :(

Strebbs profile image
Strebbs in reply to melantha

I don't usually find much comfort in mantras, things like that, at least not consistently. But one helpful phrase I learned recently is "I'm not bad, I'm just sick." I dunno about you, but at my core I really struggle with feelings of guilt/shame, and overall "badness". I'm guessing you're the same, too? Telling myself stuff like that kinda helps support the belief that it isn't my fault, it's just a disease I have, and I'm working on it. And I'll just repeat it to myself. It's a nice thing to tell myself, anyway, and sometimes it really does help cheer me up!

melantha profile image
melantha in reply to Strebbs

Yes I definitely have excessive guilt about things too and say sorry way too often. Telling myself little positive things like that does kind of help. It feels a little ridiculous at times to pep talk yourself (my brain is so used to focusing on the negative all the time that focusing on the positive somehow seems so wrong!), but I know that’s what I have to do in order to hopefully eventually change my way of thinking. You’re right though, we’re not “bad”, just sick and struggling with this condition.

Strebbs profile image
Strebbs in reply to melantha

I'm sorry to hear that :( Yeah, I really get that. Telling myself I'm good or worth it or simply that I deserve to feel better feels "wrong" somehow too, so it doesn't usually do much of anything. I'm equally bad at receiving compliments from others, too. I guess there's this deeply buried sense of "I'm bad", and any act of being kind to myself comes across as selfish.

When I was little my dad took me out to buy Pokemon Silver, haha. I was so excited for it that I have a very clear memory of the trip. I remember the entire way, right up until it was in my hands, I had this profound bone-deep sense of acceptance that it couldn't possibly happen. I wanted it so badly, but it was too good to be true and there was no way I was going to get that game. I remember being so shocked when it happened so easily. Like, "what? Not even a condition? I just get this after all?" I think sometime a few years before that was when I began adopting the belief that I was just bad and undeserving. It's stayed with me all my life and I never even knew it :/

And you're right, it's really really not so simple. I spend a lot of time kicking myself for not listening to myself when I tell myself I deserve to cheer up, how ironic is that?? We really need to be patient with ourselves.... I know that loving yourself doesn't happen quickly, but my brain is like "you've been working on this for like a year now Karen, it's not rocket science so why aren't you better??"

It IS hard to know how much to share. I was in therapy for years and talked about everything but my emotions. Then I joined a small group where we were different, yet similar. This helped give me an outlet. No need to burden a friend. We studied codependency and shame. Both are great topics to research. Good luck.

You are doing well in reaching out for help! Most people just keep to themselves about their personal issues. Working on self isn't always easy and doesn't happen overnight. I've found that walking through life's issues with a trusted mentor, pastor or counselor really helps. Are any of these options possible?

Thanks for the reply! Yes, I’ve been in therapy for a while now and he’s helped me a lot. I probably talk with my partner about it the most, which is scary but helps me build that sense of trust and experience.

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