I have always considered myself to be an open and honest person and never had any problems opening up to people.
Until a few years ago.
When I was a senior in high school, I lost my dad very suddenly. It left my life in a limbo full of questions, regrets, and feelings of intense guilt.
I took it upon myself to hold everyone together, too scared to show feelings or anything less than my usual positive self. So, normalcy ensued and instead of working through all of my spinning thoughts I went back to school that following Monday.
Somewhere along the way, my once-positive self began to falter and my need to hold others up became my own type of unhealthy self-care. Pretending to be strong and okay became -- and remains -- my new normal. I'm not like this 100% of the time: It comes in waves. Most days I am perfectly okay but then one wave hits, then another, and another. Before you know it I am drowning until the ocean has calmed once again.
As time has gone on it has only become harder for me to open up and share on my bad days. The weight of bottling up my emotions has led to nervousness and anxiety. My inability to open up has put a smokescreen around relationships I consider to be strong.
This past year, however, I have really tried to be more open than ever with the people I love. Though I am far from wearing my feelings on my sleeve, letting out a few little things at a time has allowed me to feel light enough to turn the page.
The truth of the matter is, no matter who you are or what you’ve been through, it is hard to be vulnerable. I am not a therapist nor am I an expert in any way, but here are 3 little things that have helped me to become more open and honest in my daily life:
Put Pen to Paper
Sometimes words are too hard to say out loud, and sometimes I just need to escape.
When I feel that way, I write.
Poetry, journal entries, letters, and articles. Sometimes it's about what I'm feeling and sometimes its just something to get my mind off of it all. Sometimes it's for me to look back on and think "boy, you are dramatic!"
Writing is often suggested as a form of therapy but maybe words aren't your thing. In that case, draw, scribble, paint, sculpt, sew; just do something to keep your hands busy!
I also like to write down things I would like to say to people. In the moment, standing in front of another person, it is scary to open up. But when you have time to yourself, sometimes the right words just flow.
Even if you're not ready to say the words out loud or to another person, write them down.
Let the Social Butterfly Free
I often struggle to tell people what I'm feeling because they usually haven't asked. So while I am not one to turn to social media to vent all of my problems, I have found it to be a great way to share in a lower-pressure manner and gain support I never knew I had.
Try it yourself: Send a tweet, a snap, or a post out into the world.
Your friends will hit it with a like, a snap back, or a comment.
Your close friends will text, call, or show up.
It's easier to open up when people know what and when to ask and it's even easier to open up when you feel like they genuinely want the answer. You don't want to over-use this, but it can be a great tool for when you feel like you can't open up in person.
Don't Fear the Tears
By now it should be clear that I'm not one to physically show emotion, especially if that emotion is anything other than my usual happy-go-lucky self.
But how can people know you need them if you don't give them a clue?
Embrace your own tears the same way you would embrace one of your friends for their tears. Instead of beating yourself up for crying, seek help from people who will put a smile back on your face.
You don't need an excuse for crying (like too much wine or a sad movie) so stop making them! Faking happiness is not doing you any good and it is not doing the people around you any good either.
Something to remember: If Kim can ugly cry, you can too!
This article is one that is not easy for me to write because it is so deeply personal but I feel so strongly that this message is so important to put out in the world: no matter how alone you feel, you are never alone.
If you're comfortable sharing your experiences I would love to hear them in the comments below! Do you sometimes feel the weight of bottling it all up? How do you release those feelings without blowing up? Are you doing it in a healthy way? Please tell me in the comments.