– Jamie Tworkowski If You Feel Too Much
Last night I got dinner with two young men that I hadn’t spent quality time with in over a year. The last time I had hung out with either of them individually, neither was allowed to legally drink. Now the three of us sat around a table drinking beer and eating sliders. (OK, I had cider, but the cashier called it a beer when he handed it to me. SO. Counts.)
Anxiety became a topic of conversation between us, and the words coming from one of them echoed what I had been processing lately. Anxious thoughts, flashbacks, triggering moments… they need to exist in what they are. Pushing down the anxiety and trying to control it will make it worse.
When I was a teenager, a friend told me that she prefers telling her stories at the end. In the midst, she keeps it inside. Once there’s a pretty bow on it, she is able to tell the story. I think that’s what I did last week when I posted about the story behind my tattoo. Sure, I disclaimed that I still don’t always love myself. But what does that tell you? It sounds like a sentence thrown out in my wonderful story of healing so that no one thinks I’m too prideful. The story is over in some ways. Things are not like they were at 19. But it isn’t the full picture.
You know what it doesn’t tell you. It doesn’t tell you that when I got home last night, after some chaotic and stressful moments, I cried in my bed with my dog. I held myself long enough for my roommate to leave for work (she leaves for work at 11:30PM… yikes) and then I hurt. Words that I don’t like to admit still exist came flowing through my head.
You are so emotional. You get too angry. No one can be around you. You ruin everything. No one will want to hang out with you. And you’re mean. Why are you so mean? You have walls, but you make it seem like you have no walls. You have no mystery, but you push people away. You’ll never be happy. And, of course, no one will ever be able to live with you. No one will ever love you. You know those girls that guys say it’s too hard to “just be friends” with them? You’re like the opposite. You’re so gross that it would make guys sick to even think of you romantically. Guys can’t even be friends with you because you’re so emotional. No one will ever be able to do more.You’re too much. No one wants your ability to do this.
As I cried, it occurred to me that I’m not tired of crying. The actual crying doesn’t even bug me. But I’m tired of crying ALONE. I’m tired of feeling alone. Alone, alone, alone.
I did this tweet –
What I wanted to say was this: “I had rough emotions tonight. I screwed up. Sometimes I let people exhaust my emotions. I want to sleep for the next year. Or I want someone to ask me if I’m OK.” But you can’t tweet that. I tried to stay in my “lane” as a good-Christian-person. People will say you sound like a 16-year-old girl (as an insult!) if you’re honest about your emotions in public. Incredible. But I don’t need to launch into the sexism behind that right now, I just need to say: I am so flawed, and I’m afraid people won’t like me.
When one of my friends and I were on our own at a bar last night, I complained that the other guy doesn’t like me. My friend said he does and that the guy is just not easy to read. We actually ended up arguing about it and I ended up saying, “I’m used to people not liking me…” and then I corrected that very untrue statement, “No. I’m actually not. I’m used to people liking me. Most people like me. So I get really bugged when someone doesn’t.”
While that statement could be unpacked for days on the problems with it (missing tile syndrome, much?), it reminds me that acknowledging the (good) truth about who you are will do far more in helping you better yourself than believing the lies of a meltdown. Instead of thinking “no one likes me because I SUCK,” it’s far more helpful to realize, “Most people like me. I get a feeling that this particular person, whom I like overall as a person, does not like me. It really bugs me because I love to be liked. What do I do about that?”
A good amount of my anxiety stems from thinking people won’t like me. I worry people will think that I’m dumb because I have a stutter, so I get anxious and don’t talk to people. I worry people will think I’m too much of a doormat, so I get anxious and then bark insults and become mean. Then later I get anxious and cry because I was such a jerk. I worry people will think I’m too legalistic, so I get anxious and tell a story that makes me sound like I’m trying to be cool, and then feel like an idiot later. I still lose sleep over stupidly racist things I’ve said in an attempt to not sound racist.
If anyone has ever told me that something about me was “wrong,” it wraps itself around me in social situations. Posting this blog feels terrible because I’ve had people tell me that I’m way too open about my life. That I should be open, but not “on the windowsill for anyone walking by to see.”
But last night, during the moments I talked about anxiety to each of them, I knew it was better to talk about it. Talk about the haunting feelings. Talk about the tight chests or shooting heart pains. Talk about what triggers it. Don’t just tell the story when it’s all over. Tell it now. When it hurts. The things you feel now are the things so many others feel. Later on, you may forget the details of the pain. You may lose the details in the big picture. And I believe, with all I am as a storyteller, that people connect in the details.
What details have you connected on, if you’re willing to share?