Suppressing emotions: we all do this, every day. Some things are okay to hide, like how you really feel about your friend’s new haircut. But then there are the big things. You know, those difficult subjects you just can’t get yourself to talk about. Instead of dealing with them, you put on a brave face, suppress what’s really going on inside, and pretend like everything is fine…until one day they burst out, and a meltdown ensues.
I’m here to talk about when this happened to me.
The Meltdown Moment
Shortly after my multiple sclerosis diagnosis, I was having two close friends over for dinner. I had recently revealed to them that I was, once again, taking time off from work due to my illness. During our meal, one friend made a passing remark about not feeling like going to work on Monday. In that moment, it struck a nerve. All I wanted was to remain busy and challenged, and here was my friend wishing for the opposite. I stormed out of the room and ran up the staircase, loudly slamming every door possible. I was in tears and absolutely furious, both at my friend for lacking ambition and drive, and at my situation, as I would have done anything to be at work on Monday.
Tears were everywhere, and I yelled, ‘Do you realise how lucky you are?! I would do anything, ANYTHING, to be able to go to work every single day, and you’re talking about just sitting there to goof off all day?!’
My two friends were as surprised as I was by my outburst, as I am usually thoughtful, peaceful and would never shout like this. But it happened, resulting in my two friends sitting on the floor with me, sobbing. At moments like this, I am grateful to have understanding friends. Not only did my friends forgive me, but they were also better able to understand what I was going through because I had been open and honest about the way I was feeling.
Lesson Learned: You Cannot Hide from Your Emotions
At the time, I needed to yell to get those emotions of my system, but I am not proud of my breakdown and know it wasn’t the ideal way to deal with what was going on. In hindsight, the combination of MS-related exhaustion and a highly sensitive, stressful subject primed me for an emotional disaster. However, I learned a great deal from it and have since come up with strategies—especially how to recognize and acknowledge to myself when I am struggling or slipping towards an emotional break.
• Label and acknowledge your emotions: I’ve found this to be an excellent exercise when I am caught up in emotional turmoil, as labeling and acknowledging it lowers the density of its effect.
• Stay busy: for me, being busy helps clear away cobwebs and prevents me from over-analysing whatever is going on.
• Learn your body’s warning signs: When I’m on emotional overload I feel burnt out, and get tension headaches, muscle aches, cold, clammy hands, and my pulse starts to race. All signs that something is very off. Listen to your signals!
Overall, what I’ve come to accept is you cannot run from your emotions. No matter how much you try to hide, they are going to come out - and sometimes you simply cannot control when, where, or what provokes them. In the end, my breakdown not only made me stronger, but I believe it saved a lot of friendships…and doors, too.
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