I’ve always been one to write (or I guess type) out my thoughts since I was a teenager. I used to be so much better at expressing my feelings through words. I’m a little rusty. I went through a period of reawakening and finding myself a few years ago and felt empowered enough to share my feelings, let it all out there.
It’s hard to continue to deny it, but I feel like I’ve taken a step back in allowing myself to be vulnerable. Sometimes when I feel I’ve let out “too much” I feel an onslaught of anxiety and panic. What if I was just putting on a facade and this side of me is no longer acceptable or loveable?
Vulnerability is uncomfortable. I mean for myself, yes, very much so. But I generally feel like an uncomfortable person which is why I cherish having a safe comfortable place to hide in with my cat. But vulnerability makes other people uncomfortable too. When I was gathering my mental strength I’d often think, “well I don’t care if I make people feel uncomfortable. This is me, this is how I feel, this is who I am, and these are my emotions. If I’m too much for anyone, that’s fine and it’s on them, not me.”
But, I’ve built a mostly stable life in the last few years. I don’t like to rock the boat. I don’t want to stand out. And so I’ve gotten used to shoving my feelings down again and becoming numb after my initial emotional reactions to unexpected or upsetting events and actions. And if anyone tries to pull up that bucket of emotions in the well of my soul, it feels ugly to me. I hate hate hate crying but it comes all too easily for me. There are a couple insecurities about myself I harbor so deeply that I can’t even tolerate anyone mentioning anything about those insecurities because I think about them and are aware of them every single day.
I know vulnerability means courage, but I am so deeply aware and afraid of fully expressing what goes on in my heart. Even saying “I love you” feels rusty as the words stumble out of my mouth even though I genuinely mean it. I’m horrible with goodbyes. I hate them and I feel so awkward. I can write the sappiest expressions on paper but in person, I keep it all bottled up as a coping mechanism. And when you keep it all bottled up for a long time, it’s hard to let it out when someone actually genuinely wants to know how you are and how things are going. “Where do I start? What do I say? How much do I share? Will they still listen?”
I think it was at least easier to express myself in the college years because you could see your friends practically all day, every day and the conversation naturally evolved into something deeper. But now everyone lives far apart. Even if you live in the next town over, there is still planning and traveling involved and we all have lives and routines and responsibilities and most have significant others. It’s harder to continue the thread you left since the last time you were together. It becomes easier just to share the regular details of work, family, your daily commute, your cat’s diet, etc. “Oh and by the way, I feel lost and my anxiety has increased and I wake up every day feeling like my health just continues to deteriorate and it makes me feel alone and I’m tired of having to make up excuses for not dating and I’m annoyed that people even ask that at all, every single time that we get together.”
Is this just how it naturally goes? Or is that one reason people seem like their main goal is to have a significant other, so there’s a default person to dump all your emotions on? I can’t even think about getting close enough with someone again where it feels totally okay and natural to let my guard down and be the awkward vulnerable person that I am.
I feel like I’ve become defined by the things that I like. Which is how it generally works, but I’m more than just a passionate Giants fan who is a cat person and loves watermelon everything. I think, “is this really how people see me, do I not show depth, and what else is worth knowing about me and who I am as a person?” Is it mostly because when I’m passionate about something, I am all in and give it my all, so it comes across as an intense interest? Probably. Could it be that I am just more frustrated with myself for feeling disingenuous? Probably. Because I rarely show that vulnerability, I feel inauthentic.
But my fear of vulnerability coexists with my fear of abandonment which makes being vulnerable an immense challenge. I still carry scars from friendships and relationships gone awry. If I sense I’m growing distant with someone or vice versa, I start to withdraw and build a wall so I don’t have to think about the reality that nothing is permanent and circumstances and connections are always changing.
I’m grateful for the very small handful of people who I’ve developed deep relationships with, where they’ve already either seen me at some of my worst times, or it felt natural to open up to. But I never take any of it for granted.
I just know I can’t continue to stuff everything down and become numb so my heart won’t hurt. But it’s hard to not regret regurgitating those emotions out in front of others. There will always be a silent moment of panic as I share something that leaves me open to pain and embarrassment.