This is the fifth part of a six part series called Finding #Fearless. It’s the story of my life, my journey and the struggles I’ve endured that have made me who I am today. All names and places have been changed to protect the people involved. To read the rest of the series, please click below:
Did you know that I can feel sadness?
I know it’s shocking that I, a sometimes functioning, occasionally awkward human, am capable of feeling the emotion of sadness. But it’s true, and it’s going to be a big headline news story, just you wait.
And if that wasn’t enough to totally set a nuke off in that brain of yours, well, let me blow it even further: you can actually be afraid of feeling human emotions.
Cue the synchronized mind blowing of every single person in this universe… all at one time.
Okay, it’s not actually that big of a deal, but personally I thought the dramatic overtones really helped set the stage for what’s to come.
So, let’s cut to the chase. I recently discovered I have a fear of feeling sadness, something that my therapist attributed to an extremely and highly technical psychological term: the shit baton.
What’s the shit baton, I hear you asking. Well, I’m glad you asked, but I feel the best way to explain it is by using my own personal story as an example.
In October 2016, I was going on month three of almost constant anxiety. I was starting to get tired, worn down, and began to wonder if it was ever going to go away. It didn’t seem like there was an end, and I started to worry I was doomed to always feeling an overwhelming amount of anxiety.
And for the first time in my entire life, I was 100% honest about how I was feeling. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but for me it was something completely out of character. For whatever reason, on that day I decided to be me, without the positivity filter.
I told my husband I was tired. I was sad, feeling defeated, and for the first time ever I was truly beginning to feel shaken that my anxiety was not fixable. I remember empathetically stating that it’s no wonder people who feel truly out of control self harm, because this was such a difficult experience.
That’s when it happened. Something broke.
While I was in my most negative moment in recent history, I had an image of myself dead and my family mourning me. I panicked, and it quickly spiraled out of control. I couldn’t eat, I could barely sleep, I was constantly panicking, and I spent the next 3 months in a vicious OCD cycle where I was obsessing about death.
It took a lot of talking with my therapist, but we finally came to the conclusion that I had discovered a new fear. That fear was the result of a rule book and the associated negative energies from those rules since childhood; and these were rules that I don’t think even the writer knew they had issued.
Enter the shit baton.
To understand how this happened, we have to go back. Way back, to a time I feel could appropriately be called the Dark Ages of Chelsie.
When I hit puberty, like most kids that age, I turned into Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Happy one moment, cursing the world the next. The downside to this was my family wasn’t equipped to handle that hormonal driven “free spirit” that spoke their mind (whether it was needed or not) and felt the only way to express themselves was listening to HIM and writing emo poetry.
This ultimately began the initiation of the rule book. At least, that’s when we assume it happened. Due to reasons far beyond their own understanding, my family was not internally equipped to handle a child who was completely out of control emotionally. When a parent is in that kind of situation, where they feel they can’t handle their children, they create rules that keep them in balance.
In my family, the rule was put into place that happiness was the only acceptable emotion. Whether it was out of fear, out of an inability to handle the emotion themselves, or simply because our sadness hurt them, the rule was created.
The result was a very black and white thought process: if I’m sad, I will die. So I suppressed my sadness, and put on a happy face 130% of the time.
It should come to no one’s surprise that if you go throughout life assuming you cannot feel sadness because it’s bad and it hurts people (like your closest family and friends), you feel the need to suppress that emotion. When you suppress anything, especially emotions, eventually it has to come out and when it does it’s usually much worse than it would have been if you had just let it happen naturally from the beginning.
The funny thing about the shit baton is that the person passing it to you doesn’t usually even know they are doing it. It started with their parents doing it to them, and their parents’ parents doing it to them. It was passed down like a genetic trait and that baton was always just accepted, no questions asked.
However, it’s important to remember that the power to give the baton back is always there, it just takes the courage and self awareness to make it happen.
So I’ve started working to give it back.
I’ve thrown out the rule book, and literally shredded them. I wrote down new rules, and I keep them in my bedside table whenever I need a reminder. They go as follows:
- My house, my rules.
- Being sad is okay.
- It’s okay to fail; it’s okay to be imperfect.
As I saw improvement from the ceremonial rule shredding, my therapist (and a wonderful woman in my emetophobia support group) challenged me to “ride the wave” of emotions; going with the current and resisting the urge to fight them off. Like most things in life, before you can truly accomplish any task (including surfing the wave of emotion), you have to take a couple falls. But now, I’m able to surf with minimal wipe outs, and it’s really starting to have a positive effect.
The first night I started really being able to apply my “Feel how you feel, no matter what it is, and don’t fight it” mindset, I spent many days feeling so uncomfortable. I felt anxiety, dread, discomfort, and like I was doing something really, really bad; but I’m already noticing how it’s starting to get better. It means I’m finally starting to heal.
This part of my story is still a work in progress. I’m still working tirelessly each day to not only flush out the distress and negative beliefs, but to accept that my sadness is normal and doesn’t make me flawed.
If I’m being completely honest, writing this was an extremely huge test. Consider it exposure therapy if you will, because being honest about my experiences and sharing it so publicly, especially the negative ones, is something that still makes me uncomfortable. But I’m striving to be the best me, and sometimes that means doing the very action that makes you the most uncomfortable.
Best of all, I’m finally starting to build a healthy relationship with my emotions, and while it’s been tough, I know it’ll make me a much stronger person in the end.
If you would like to email me, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will do my best to respond to you within 48 hours, but if for some reason I cannot get back to you in that time frame, I promise I will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!
Lastly, I run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle I am passionately engaged in. The group is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.