I’m the kind of person who has spent a lifetime avoiding emotions, without even realizing it. I’m the girl that, up until recently, most of my closest friends had never seen cry. Friends I’ve known for over 20 years may have only seen me cry once and that was a source of pride that I carried with me. I was so “strong”, so “tough”, so “even-tempered”. I grew up with boys and am still a self-proclaimed tomboy- we don’t show our feelings. Now I’m calling bullshit.
I started my journey of self-discovery and improvement about ten years ago, and I remember very vividly when things really started to change within me. I was in one of my first ever yoga classes and I don’t know what happened, but one minute I was moving into a pose and the next I was bawling. I cried through the majority of that class. I just broke. I completely fell apart. I had finally let myself relax and the dam burst open. I couldn’t even tell you what I was crying about, if anything specific really. It was just something that my body and mind clearly needed and I have to say- once it was over I felt amazing. It was the beginning of a very long journey trying to get back in touch with emotions that I had long suppressed. As fate would have it, that particular yoga instructor was also a counselor and she offered me her time and counsel in a way that I could afford, and I started seeing her regularly working through all the things I had been avoiding. I would still try not to cry in those sessions, embarrassed and feeling as if it was acid running down my cheeks, trying to make it stop before it started. Looking back I remember the physical pain I would experience trying to push all of that down, but I did it anyway. I would succeed every time. And while all of this was happening, not a soul in my world knew about it. I kept everyone out of the most intimate and most difficult moments of my life. What a disservice I was doing to myself, and honestly, to everyone I cared about. I wouldn’t let them in. Until a couple years ago.
A couple years ago I fell in love. For the first time I didn’t have one foot out as I had in all previous relationships. I was 100% invested and completely head over heels in love. As a result when it ended, I experienced true heartbreak. I had been heartbroken before, (at least I thought I had), but I know now that I hadn’t. Not like this. This was the first time I had been completely and utterly devastated. It amazed me that I could feel so much pain and survive it, and even more, that people did this more than once. (What?! They’re insane!) Regardless, the flood gates opened and I was inconsolable. I was crumpled on the floor, unable to get up and crying so hard I was afraid I wouldn’t make it through the night. And this was the most beautiful moment of my life.
Now most of you probably had to read that twice to see if you read it right and you did. Yes, it was absolutely awful, but in that moment I did something I had never done before- I called a friend (actually I text her because I was crying too hard to speak), and I asked her if she would be willing to come over and just sit with me. In an unprecedented act, I invited someone in to witness my pain and vulnerability. This amazing woman came over and let me slump down into her arms, and cry until I ran out of tears and breath. I learned two things in that moment:
One- that I have incredible friends, people that I can truly count on–
I don’t have to do it all alone.
It took falling apart to finally get it through my head that I was not meant to go through this world alone, trying to do everything myself.
And two- even more,
I don’t have to hide any part of myself from anyone to be loved.
Quite the opposite, it was in my most vulnerable position that I felt the most love I’ve ever felt, completely contrary to everything I had believed for the majority of my life. It was a turning point for me and I’ve spent the last two years experiencing continuous growth in my friendships, learning how to be vulnerable and let people in. I opened my heart again and allowed love in. I fell in love again and as it turns out, with someone even better matched to me than before, which of course at the time I didn’t think was possible and we remain the best of friends. I’m learning that living with an open heart and allowing myself to be vulnerable opens up a world of endless possibilities and beauty. My breakdowns have been the greatest teachers, teaching me what love really looks like, what true friendship looks like, and what I really want my life to look like.
I still struggle to show my feelings, as I really am a pretty unemotional person overall, but I continue to work on at least identifying the feelings that do come up and allowing myself to really feel them instead of pushing them down and out. It is only through feeling that we grow, I know that now, and I’m grateful for the breakdowns, for like a Phoenix I rise from them better than before.