The Fear of Feeling

As a child, I was terrified of my emotions.

When I was nine I started having anxiety and panic attacks. They were random panic feelings that seemed to come out of nowhere. I didn’t know there was a name for these events. All I knew was that suddenly I was terrified. I felt like I was going to die.

I couldn’t explain to my parents what I was feeling because I didn’t understand it myself. They didn’t know anything about it either. Thirty years ago, mental health was not as talked about as it is today.

What compounded my confusion was the fact that everyone around me was also afraid of their emotions. They never said so, but just being around them you could tell. Emotions were something to be feared and resisted. It was weak to feel your feelings. Consequently, as a child, I was left do deal with these terrifying emotions on my own.

My experience with emotions is not uncommon. We as a society are also afraid to feel. We like to feel happy and excited but we shun the darker, more fearful parts of ourselves. We are quick to take a pill when we feel sad or anxious.

The use of antidepressants is growing exponentially. We are so afraid of our emotions that we inadvertently numb ourselves to all of them, even the good ones. We label sadness, anxiety, and depression as abnormal and treat them as a disease. It seems like the definition of  normal is feeling happy all the time.

I am by no means excluded from this phenomenon. I’ve been on antidepressants twice in my life, for three years each time. I labeled my own more difficult, uncomfortable emotions as wrong, abnormal, and quickly worked to eliminate them.

The first time I medicated myself, I was twenty two years old. I was again experiencing anxiety. I immediately decided there was something wrong with me.

I thought that feeling scared couldn’t be normal so I researched anxiety online and went to the doctor. He diagnosed me with anxiety and depression and prescribed an SSRI.

I took it and felt better. I felt a lot less anxious but it felt artificial, like a drug-induced constant high. I didn’t feel like myself, but they helped me to function in my life so I continued to take them.

I stayed on them until I was so content and comfortable in my daily life that I thought I didn’t need them anymore. Something inside me felt like it was important to stop the drugs. I needed to see if I could be ok without them.

I was, for a short time.

The second time I was on antidepressants was six months after I had stopped the first ones. I was initially fine, but then everything fell apart.

All the emotions the antidepressants had been supressing came up, and with it, a physical illness. I was now facing many of the emotions and parts of myself that I had ignored, all the parts that I had previously been afraid to feel.

I was so overwhelmed by the enormity of my emotions and the physical illness that I felt the only way to survive was to go back on the antidepressants.

I stayed on them for three more years.  I don’t judge myself for this. It was appropriate for me at the time and what I needed to do to get through that really difficult period in my life.

After things calmed down a bit, I knew I needed to get off of them. That little voice inside me once again urged me to stop the drugs. I knew I couldn’t push away all these emotions forever. I needed to face them.

When I stopped taking the pills for the second time, I faced the darkest, most fearful, hopeless, angry parts of myself. At least by this point I had realized that I was going through a spiritual transformation so it made it somewhat easier, but by no means easy.

I knew these were parts of myself and emotions that I had pushed away for a long time, the ones I had deemed wrong and hadn’t let myself feel. They were all coming back now to be felt and accepted.

That was all they wanted and that was all they needed. They didn’t want to be changed, fixed or healed. They just wanted to be accepted and felt.

So that’s what I did. It was incredibly challenging. I had so much resistance to feeling these emotions. I was so afraid of them.

Over time, I learned that the more I accepted the emotions, felt them and let them be there, the quicker they would pass through. I saw that if I resisted them and tried to push them away, they would stick around a lot longer. It was becoming too much of an effort to continue resisting.

I was tired of fighting myself.

Many times I didn’t know if I would survive these emotions. The depth of the pain I felt was bone shattering.

Somehow, I always did. There was always a part of me that was untouched by these emotions, simply observing what was happening.

It was my soul, the conscious impartial observer. No matter how much I felt like my human self was being torn apart, that part of me could never be broken or shattered.

I am still healing parts of myself by accepting them and feeling them but now I have a much larger perspective.

That impartial observer is a reality in my life, not just a tiny part of me.

Now when a fearful, sad, or angry part of myself comes up, I have very little resistance to it and it passes through in a matter of hours, versus months when I was actively trying to resist my emotions.

I now know that I am not those parts. I am my soul, my consciousness and those emotions are just parts of me that are coming into my awareness for healing.

I don’t fear them anymore, and so they feel welcome to come back to me, to come back home.

Comments 4

  1. Wow Lindsay, this could have been written by me! Amazing. I also remember when I was little having anxiety attacks when I was little. Mine would center around thinking about when I died; how that would be the end of me. I’d go into a full blown panic attack. Now I know better :o) That there will never be an “end” to me.

    I too grew up in a family that was extremely uncomfortable with emotions of ANY kind. I was labeled “too sensitive”. Any kind of emotion in my family of origin was to swept under the rug. Its still that way, but not for me :o)

    I was bullimic in my 20’s, which was how I dealt with not feeling my emotions. When I stopped that, I too tried antidepressants. It numbed me. I too don’t regret using them, its what I needed to do at the time. It came to a point where it was more painful to be on them than to be off them. I think this was my soul’s way of alerting me that it was time to stop.

    Yes, for me too all the intense feelings I have came up. I too didn’t know if I’d survive them. Its nice to know that someone else understands this. To feel things so intensely; its nice to know someone else understands!

    I too have to remind myself that this too shall pass. Although sometimes it feels like the spigot will never turn off. My feelings can’t dissipate unless I let them up and give them space.

    Thanks so much for being so open about this.

  2. Hi Sherry, I share so openly about my experiences because I know that in difficult times it helps to know you’re not alone. A few years ago I was always wishing that someone would share the nitty gritty details of what awakening looked like, not just dancing around it. I’ve found a few others that are doing that through blogs and so I write that way myself. I write what I like to read.

    I think it’s a common experience in most families to suppress feelings. I have seen very few that are really ok with them. It’s so interesting that you had anxiety attacks when you were little too. I thought I was the only one!

    I also remember feeling overwhelmed by all the feelings I had and feeling like they were never-ending. It was exhausting. I’ve come to a point now where they have slowed down tremendously so I can tell you it definitely does get easier.

  3. I allow all my feelings to come up now, whether they’re intense or not, as I know they come up for a reason; to be felt and made space for. It is easier for me than it has been before. I go through periods where its more intense than others. I can see in my life that feeling all of these intense feelings has made me much deeper and more compassionate of others. I’m better able to hear their feelings and let them know I understand, without any judgement.

  4. Exactly, I’ve realized it’s so much easier to feel what I’m feeling in the moment rather than to push it away. Even if it means I have to take the day and be alone, I let that be ok and I take the time for myself.

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