21 May 2015

Feeling the feels

Earlier this week I was lucky to spend almost two hours with somebody who regularly writes about 'the feels'. Sometimes she writes so rawly, so openly and so emotively that I find it difficult to read.  Not because the writing is bad - quite the opposite, it's sublime.  But there are a lot of feels in it.  And I'm particularly susceptible to other peoples feels.

Always have been.  I'm susceptible to my own too.

When cancer reared it's head in our family, we talked about it non-stop.  When it comes to talking about physical afflictions, we are unstoppable and with cast iron stomachs.  We are happy to talk about tangibles.  Yes, yes we are.

But we don't talk about mental health or feelings.  We ALL feel the feels. We even quite often can guess at the feels the others are feeling. Sometimes we have short sharp exchanges which dance around the edges of the feelings but then we return to not talking about the feelings.

And then when I thought about it.  Few do.

We're not the only family not talking about feelings. My husband's family don't talk feelings. My friends' families don't talk about feelings. My friends themselves, extended families, work colleagues, team mates, the guy you sit next to on the bus every single day that never says hello - there are a lot of people not talking about their feelings.

It's not a judgement.  Not even a little bit.

Everybody is feeling the feelings, nobody is talking about the feelings and then all of us are wondering why it is that people feel the feels so much they can't go on.

I shared a post about the UK's Mental Health Week just yesterday and a friend wrote to me and said she envied me the circle that allowed me to talk about my post natal depression, my PTSD and my ongoing 'blues' because she was really struggling at the moment and felt she couldn't talk about it to anybody because she didn't want to upset anybody.

I was pleased she could talk to me, and we did.  I was happy to talk to her (as I would you OR YOU or... well you get it).  But she is mistaken. My circle is not talking about my feelings.  Or their feelings. We are not talking about PND, PTSD, depression or mental health. We do not talk about the feeling of feels.

There is a lot of love. Just none of that 'talking about how we feel' stuff. I pay an extremely excellent Clinical Psychiatrist to talk about my feelings with me.  And how to manage them. We talk about ways of not dying.  We talk about ways of sweeping out the black and rediscovering the light.  We talk about the ways to find our way back up out of the overwhelming fog. We talk about how some days and weeks it actually takes an incredible amount of physical strength not to constantly weep while going about the business of living.

I'm not the only one that lives like this.  For me it's episodic. And still involves a healthy dose of denial (if I don't think about it, it'll go away right?) For others, it's irregular.  For others again, a constant.  It is absolutely not the kind of conversation people are comfortable having.  I don't like talking about it. It makes me feel vulnerable.  It discombobulates me. It makes me that in some way I'm doing the living thing wrong.

But even after all that excellent advice, all those lessons learned and shared, feeling the feels out loud does not come naturally.  Changing my own habit of not talking about feelings turns out to be harder than quitting smoking.

My man and I, we both KNOW about the importance of communication, but even now after all these years together, we still don't talk about our feelings enough, and then sometimes we feel the feels and then we bubble up and we FEEL ALL OVER THE BLOODY PLACE until we calm down again.

And the girls look at us oddly, feeling these every day feels from us because we, like so many others, are so practiced at not feeling the feels openly that they are surprised by us doing it.  And I've had enough conversations with people to know that we are not alone in this.

I feel wretched that we're not better at FEELING because these little people are learning from us how to feel, how to respond to feels, and yes, how to apologise when they feel the feels in such a way that they make other people feel badly.

Though they are luckily still young enough to feel with an openness and an honesty that is brilliant, but they will lose if they don't see us modelling even half way okay ways of resolving of the feelings occasionally or even sometimes. Though they are still pretty ace at resolving things by themselves and I often think "I wish I could do that."

And then I remember I am 40 and crawling up to my sibling and licking their arm until she started to smile again might be seen as incredibly weird.

So recently I started a self project where I try to be very articulate about feeling the feels around my girls (however unreasonable those feels are) so that they never feel that feeling the feels is wrong or inappropriate.  Emotional constipation is just not working for the adults of the world as far as I can see.  Not in the long run.

We have conversations like this some days. And other days we just feel the feels because I am human and I sometimes am just not in the mood to be the best version of myself.

"I'm sorry I snapped at you.  I was in a bad mood and I took it out on you because I'm silly."
"Am I cross at Daddy? Yes. Why? Because in my opinion he is being a bit of a muppet."
"Yes, like the movie."
"Why do Daddy and I argue? Because sometimes we forget we're on the same side and other times it's because he didn't put the coffee away and I kind of feel that after almost 11 years together he should notice that kind of thing bothers the shit out of me."
"Yes Daddy gets cross at me too. Sometimes I'm very annoying."
"You've never noticed me be annoying - aww thanks sweetheart."
"What? You've noticed me being annoying.  Really? Me? Your favourite mama?"
"Absolutely it's okay that you're cross at me sweetheart. I would be cross too if I wanted finger bun for dinner and somebody gave me sausages and corn."
"You can say your sister is annoying but you can not call her a poo-poo head.  No, not even if she is being one."
"Why are you mad at your sister? You don't know? That's okay, just remember to tell her that you're sorry you've been such a grumpy arse when you've finished."

And so far it's working. We do a lot of hugging. And we, the so-called adults, try not to be prize dicks to each other too often. And I'm hoping that in our own small way we're making a difference to the next generation. That they have the courage to feel their feelings. That they have the kindness to talk about other people's feelings. And that they have the confidence to say "I need some help here people because quite frankly, life sucks arse right now."

I try to do it myself.  I'm not great at it.  I like to think of it as a work in progress and of course, I am lucky enough to have a forum to write about it from time to time.  And a partner who walks the walk with me, even when I don't talk the talk.

But I've done so much thinking this week following that conversation with that gorgeous woman.  And I really want to thank that feisty, complicated, feeling the feels redhead for making peace with the contents of her own head and identifying that her feels are valid, EVEN if they make others feel uncomfortable when she expresses them in all their raging complexity, with her exemplary vocabulary and generous use of profanity.

She's given me some courage.  To talk.  And I bet you never knew I needed help to do that eh?

Feelings are never right or wrong.  They are never too strong or too much.  Feelings reflect our humanity.

And that my friends, is something we need to talk about.

So. Um. Well.

You first.

If you, or someone you know, is in crisis, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 
or get help from 7pm until 4am at www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help

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