Over the years I have had many feelings and opinions which I have kept to myself. By and large, in my family I was taught not to have feelings… and if I do certainly not to talk about them! Constantly being told not to feel that way, that my expression takes too long or better yet told how to better phrase my own feelings, that I’ve been talking too much, being punished and judged for having and expressing feelings, or simply diverted completely from even entering into a conversation about feelings with the all famous saying “Let’s not go there tonight, Jodie.”
In my family, I am the IP (identified patient). I’m the one who has gotten psychiatric help, therapy, and actually learned how to live a very functional, happy life with meaningful relationships. Yet I am the one who is always pointed to as the weak one. Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 25 after making some bad life choices and realizing things were going badly has kind of labeled my entire existence to a degree. Today, I identify with the diagnosis, but it is not who I am anymore. I will be the first one to admit that I had a lot of trouble managing my life, behavior, and choices for a while. Once I asked for help and got on the right meds, my life pretty much straightened out. It’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve really had big issues. I still cycle and have some minor mood abnormalities, but for the most part they are only a day or two in duration and easily controlled before creating any damage in my life. I have excellent insight into my symptoms and coping skills for keeping things on track. It irks me to no end that my brother still finds it necessary from time to time to comment on the fact that I’ve been doing well for “a while now” and remind me that I have some limitations and not to pressure myself too much or take on too much.
Let’s go back to the start here and talk a little more about not having feelings. There has been all sorts of crap in my family starting with the initial parental neglect and hurts. For my older siblings,they were physically neglected. As for me, I was emotionally neglected by my mom and abandoned by my dad. All of this pretty much spells a recipe for disaster! Then you bring in the dynamics between us kids and whatever hurts there have been between us. No where in any of this do we ever talk about our feelings, acknowledge our own hurts, or validate that we may have hurt someone else. The one time I did try to talk to one of my brothers about something he said which really hurt me I was criticized and then judged for having tears around my hurt and disappointment. The statement which followed will haunt me forever. He hit me below the belt for expressing emotion and being honest about how hard things were for me at that time. He told me he didn’t trust me to be alone with his children. He was afraid I would say or do something which might hurt them and he needed to always be present to protect them. Now there was no need to speak these words…unless the iintent was directly aimed at hurtnig me!
There are things brewing in my life outside of my biological family which triggered some of these feelings to come back up for me again.
The first is around work. I work with mentally ill adults. I’ve done this type of work for 10 years now. I have a lot of experience both professionally and personally. After learning not to speak up and express myself, I have tons of resentments around my co-workers which are at the breaking point for me. There are things ranging from personality differences to actual treatment of the clients. I would be willing to admit that most of these things are hitting me personally around not feeling respected, listened to, along with a need to protect those who can’t stand up for themselves (since no one ever stood up for me). I’m seeing that despite my personal feelings around these issues, they are troublesome and inappropriate nonetheless. Today I stood up for a decision I made which was countermanded by a fellow staff member. When I took the 2nd stand, my intent was to actually bring peace and understanding to all of us, so that there would be no question as to expectations from all involved and erradicate any possible disputes or hurt feelings. The end result of this situation was my boss taking a stand (quietly) for my position and shutting down the arguments of the other staff person. My first response was to feel self righteous about “winning.” The the guilt set in about how upset my co-worker appeared. Now that it’s been hours since the incident, I am feeling relieved and at peace with myself for taking a position. Whether it was right or wrong, I took a stand for something and followed through with asking for what I wanted and needed. The fact that the result was positive was just an added kudo.
The second areas lies in my relationship with Benneth. I know I talked yesterday about not asking for what I wanted and feeling left of center. The only times I’ve ever gotten angry with him are when I’ve felt distanced or unloved in some way. Asking for what I want and need instead of being angry would be so much more effective in rectifying that situation, don’tcha think?! lol I want you to love me, so I push you away. Benneth is the first relationship I’ve had since I got all of my meds totally straightened out and my life in order with no baggage… at least tangible! The strides I’ve made with him around communication, trust, expectations, forgiveness, etc. have been immense! In the process of being in this relationship, I have come up against a number of challenging things within myself. How do I tell the man I love I’ve been in a psychiatric hospital? That I have to take medication every day for the rest of my life to stay “normal” or my life gets out of control fast? How do I explain to him what “out of control” looks like? How can I ever be honest about all the things I’ve done in my past which will impact some areas of our future together? Over the years the answers have come to me. Not all at once. They seemed to come on God’s time…. when I was ready for the next level of trust and honesty. Just a week or so ago I finally told Benneth the last thing hanging over my head to deal with. I was soo afraid to even broach the subject! Once I told him there was silence for a minute (felt like 5!) and then he came back with the most loving response. It was outside my realm of imagination get a response like that! He came from the perspective of marriage, partnership, teamwork, respect, and helping each other with those things the other has a weakness in. The reality is that for the first time in my whole entire life….. I am loved, supported, and accepted EXACTLY AS I AM! What an amazing feeling! I had an awakening tonight where I realized that I trust him completely. I don’t mean that figuratively. I mean, there is absolutely no area of my life that I am afraid to share with him. Learning to talk about feelings easier will come in time with more practice.
There are so very many reasons for which I have regailed this epic tale to you. Most important to me in this moment is to support anyone in my boat who is afraid to speak up and express your feelings and opinions for whatever reason.
The reinforcement I got Monday was phenominal, to say the least! I went to my supervisor and asked to talk with him. Two hours later, I left with a sense of honor and validation. Not only did he see importance in my insights and view points, but he was willing to assist me with sharing them with everyone else.
He has been looking for my spirit name for the past four years. (He is a gestalt therapist… this speaks volumes to anyone who knows what gestalt is.) He found it Monday.
Touchstone: The one who centers the group and speaks out to what is right.
(Even if I’m terrified to do it!)
I am happy. Content. Filled with love. And so honored to be considered a touchstone!