Emotions have always been carefully controlled in my life. Growing up I was told not to be upset when bad things happened. This did not eliminate the issue I was facing but facilitated a pattern of suppressing what I was feeling and only revealing levels of emotional expression that would be considered acceptable.
As with all things in childhood, those patterns morphed into my adult life. I have a distrust of my own interpretation of emotions and continue to try and filter out negative feelings in order to only portray emotions that are easy for everyone else to handle. It doesn’t help that I deal with severe levels of anxiety.
Recently, I have made an attempt to let my emotional guard down in my longest running relationship, my marriage. I have talked openly with my husband about my experiences with anxiety, struggle to share what I’m feeling with him, and my need to talk through the goings on in my own mind.
The leap was too big. Going from a place of total emotional control to emotional openness has been about as therapeutic as a baseball bat to the head. My husband was overwhelmed.
I’m not going into specifics because (let’s be honest here) if emotional vulnerability didn’t work well with the one person I trust the most, it’s not going to work out great here. The only thing I accomplished was realizing that living a lifetime in an emotionally controlled climate has not allowed me to share who I really am inside with anyone close to me.
The end of this attempt culminated with a fight. It started as a stupid marital quarrel and ended with late night tears in the bathtub. At one point I was told “This isn’t who you are.” I was left completely speechless (that’s saying a lot for me).
All I could do is close my eyes and shut it all back down. I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream, “This is EXACTLY who I am, you just don’t know me the way you think you do.” But I didn’t. I kept quiet. I listened to the patronizing attempts at comfort. Blame was shifted to recent stressful events and I was even told to look into changing my anxiety medication. I came to a realization that my husband viewed his wife very differently than the woman that was actually sitting in front of him.
Since, I’ve resumed total emotional control. I’m not willing to share everything that is going on in my head because it’s, once again, unwanted and unacceptable emotional baggage. It’s baggage I’m going to carry alone for the foreseeable future.