I’d like to think that those that know me well would say that I’m a strong individual. I’m independent, responsible and not overly emotional. They’d say that I’m caring but not mushy. Up until recently, the last statement would have been a compliment. I’ve spent so much of my life building this wall around me that telling me how high, impenetrable and what a protective structure it is would be one of the most flattering things I could hear.
Just a couple of days ago, I realized that I’m actually much more sensitive than I let myself admit. For so long showing any form of sensitivity was a sign of weakness and life had taught me there was no room for that. So I began putting up my wall block by block and with each block I laid, I began to shut the sensitivity out. Here I was thinking that if I made myself so strong and tough that I would shield myself from pain, life would be easier to go through and I was making things easier on myself. It reminds me of a clip I saw of one of Brene Brown’s talks. She talked about numbing pain and how when you numb it, you aren’t isolating the numbing effect to pain, you’re numbing it all.
So while I had the best of intentions to numb the pain of the past, shield myself from the pain of the present and protect myself from future pain, I was also reducing my capacity to feel loved, accepted, understood, and happy. What I didn’t realize is that with each block I laid for my wall I wasn’t just keeping things out, I was trapping myself in. Here I had been building this wall that later became a tower where I could see out of a window that would keep me safe but I was so far removed that I was just existing in a refuge of my own making that became a dungeon.
Then this unexpected thing happened, when I got pregnant my fortress experienced an earthquake. There was a huge hole in the wall that penetrated it in a way I wasn’t prepared to fix. I wasn’t able to lay the blocks quickly enough and while I did the best I could, there were moments that I just evaluated the situation. I began to feel and experience things that I hadn’t in a very long time. Of course hormones had a play so there were aftershocks and tremors but it was more than just hormones. I began to see the world in a different way and I began to connect in a way that I never had before in my adult life.
Most people I know have never seen me cry, they wouldn’t have believed their eyes while I was pregnant! I couldn’t watch the news, I had to stop watching some of my favorite shows (my husband had to make an international call to my mom at one point because of how badly a story on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition impacted me). This hole was a lot harder to fix than when I initially surveyed the damage and I needed to get an expert opinion to come in and help me. I started to see a counselor and we began to work on healing some past issues to help me move forward. It was emotionally exhausting! That’s when my healing journey began even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
As time went on, I began to change. I wasn’t able to fix the hole in my fortress. I started to patch it up but it didn’t look the same, and then other projects came up that needed my attention more and so the wall sat open and exposed for years. From this came a lot of healing but it also brought on an uncomfortable transition. Here my husband married this person that was so strong and emotionally guarded and out of nowhere started to become more emotionally available. Not only was I emotionally available but I started craving emotional attachment and connection. My needs had changed and I didn’t realize it or know how to communicate it. I felt like a different person and it put a lot of pressure on me to understand myself and what was going on as well as my husband to try and be supportive and be what I needed even when neither one of us knew what that was. It took a lot of work, communication, patience and sometimes even space for us to figure it out. I’m thankful that we had the love, devotion, and determination to figure it out because the easier thing to do would have been to go our separate ways.
In the not so distant past, I proudly wore my badge of strength and boasted of my fortress with it’s impenetrable walls and skyscraping tower. Today the tower no longer remains and the wall still stands but in ruins. There are pieces where the wall still remains in tact that you can climb over with a little effort or walk for a little while before getting to a part you can simply step over. I still feel protected but I don’t feel the need to be on guard. I’ve realized that being sensitive and allowing myself to feel pain, sadness, hurt, and disappointment allows me to appreciate their counterparts more intensely. I no longer measure strength by how much time passes between the times I cry. I no longer add row after row to my fortress to keep out the pain or the possibility of it. I’ve replaced my patch of emotional unavailability with a vest of sensitivity. I’m happy to be a better nurturer by leaning into my emotions and allowing myself to feel for others. I’m able to show love and express kindness more easily and in various ways. I’ve come to understand that strength isn’t measured by lack of sensitivity.
There are some excellent Brene Brown clips in this post! Honestly they are all good but the one on vulnerability is one I’d recommend if you have to pick just one. So bookmark this post and come back to the other two as soon as you can!
What are your thoughts on this post? Can you relate? I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you’d like to share your story, please feel free to do so in the comments!