Let it out
At the beginning of this year, I told myself it would be the worst year ever. I didnít have any expectations for 2018, besides hopefully seeing the end of it. Frankly, 2017 ended on a sour note and there was no way 2018 could be a new year. Itís mostly been a continuation of the same old stuff Ö heartbreak, existential crises and loneliness.
But Iím not pushing those negative feelings away. Not this time. In the past, Iíve lived like the bad things never happened, hoping to erase all that pain by ignoring it. It hasnít exactly worked. Bad thoughts donít disappear because you say so. Itís like tossing moldy fruit in the trash can and wondering what that gross smell is a few days later. The pain is still there. You canít hide it away.
Negative emotions will find you no matter how hard you insist everything is fine. The summer my papaw died, I cut through the horrible silence with jokes and small talk. I walked through life like a zombie for at least a year fearing everyone I loved was going to die and leave me all alone in the world. I couldnít say any of that aloud.
A lot of people donít know how to handle grief, or negative feelings in general. Theyíll ask why you arenít over something traumatic already, as if your pain inconveniences them. They donít know how to support you, so they do the opposite. They shut you down. They make you feel like a bummer. You probably already feel that way, so the validation doesnít feel great.
In late 2017, I experienced a few traumatic things all at once, including the death of a loved one. I spent most of December feeling dead inside Ö run-of-the-mill depression, Iím sure. All the Christmas parties were a blast. I slapped on a smile and did my best to be social, but I couldnít help but feel I made everyone miserable. One of my in-laws confirmed that when we were leaving. I smiled and hugged her anyway.
Then it was New Yearís Eve, and I had a choice to make. I could keep pretending everything was OK, or I could own all the negative feelings floating inside my head. Starting Jan. 1, I gave myself permission to cry. If I needed to talk about my feelings, I did. If I needed to be alone, I was. Iím not bouncing off the walls with happiness today, but Iím certainly in a better place than I was seven months ago.
Thatís because Iím letting myself feel everything when it happens instead of putting it off for a better time. There is no better time to sob and scream. It will always feel uncomfortable, but youíll keep feeling that way if you donít let it out. Itís OK to be sad.
Many people will tell you all they want in life is to be happy. You might feel that way yourself, and I can get behind that. Happiness is pretty sweet. That doesnít mean itís the only emotion youíre allowed to feel, though.
Sadness isnít a sign of weakness. Not allowing yourself to feel sadness is. Over the past few months, Iíve realized how much power lies in expressing your emotions. You have to be strong to be vulnerable. Itís not shameful to cry when you lose someone you love, whether itís the day, year or decade after it happened. Itís not wrong to express frustration when someone hurts you. Itís not demanding to ask others to treat you with respect.
Donít shove those feelings in a drawer hoping theyíll go away. Let it out, and you might encourage someone else to do the same.
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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.