The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. It’s the beginning of the tried and true 12-step program. “But I’m not an addict!” you protest, wondering where exactly I am going with this. Well, maybe you’re not an addict in the traditional sense; maybe you’re not addicted to drugs or alcohol or cigarettes, but you are addicted all the same. You go through life searching out ways to avoid the fact that something isn’t right in your life. Maybe you are one of those people who go to the extreme of turning to drugs or alcohol or sex to give themselves a few minutes reprieve, or maybe you just lie to yourself every day like an alcoholic refusing to acknowledge that he has a drinking problem. Either way, you and I have something in common.
Denial- It’s a beautiful thing. If ignorance is bliss, then denial is the enabler. Denial doesn’t discriminate against grief, insecurities, or loneliness. It doesn’t care if you were picked on in school, if your parents are getting divorced, or if your boyfriend just left you for your best friend. Denial is that security blanket we wrap ourselves up with in order to protect our hearts. It’s what allows you to turn a blind eye to the neon signs pointing out your problems and insecurities. It’s what encourages you to tell yourself, “I’m fine” so many times that you almost start to believe it (almost). It’s what convinces you that ignoring your feelings long enough will make them go away.
But there is still that tiny voice that whispers to you at night as you try to fall asleep. It reminds you all about your heartbreak and frustration, and keeps you up until the wee hours worrying about how you will possibly face tomorrow.
I know. I used to see each morning as the start of a brand new struggle. There were times when I was so depressed that getting out of bed felt like a real accomplishment. Getting through the day was exhausting, but at least school gave me the opportunity to hide my crippling pain under complex layers of my fragile pride, fear of embarrassment and implied social expectations. I hated myself, and I hated that I was too insecure to let anyone else know how much I was hurting. For two years I felt like my life was a charade, and if I could keep it up long enough, I would convince myself that I was fine like I had already convinced everyone else. And you know what? It almost worked. After a while I had forgotten what had caused my depression, anxiety and self-loathing. I had pushed those overwhelming feelings down so deep and had locked them up so tight that eventually all that remained was a cold numbness. I had essentially shut myself off from all feelings- good or bad.
Then one morning I was talking to a friend of mine. He suddenly stopped mid-sentence and looked me square in the eyes. “What’s wrong?” he asked. Naturally I denied any problem, but he continued to study my face. “You’re acting happy, but your eyes are so sad,” he told me. I felt like he had looked straight through me to the blackness that plagued my heart. He had somehow seen through all the lies and the misdirection that I used to keep my secrets safely tucked away. His words were like a knife, and they cut deep. They cut so deep that they freed all those negative feelings that I had tried so hard to ignore, and brought them rushing right back to the surface. I was back to square one. I went home that day and cried. It had been a long time since I had allowed myself to acknowledge how I felt.
That was the turning point for me. It’s when I accepted that I had a problem, that I was carrying a burden that had exhausted my body, mind, and soul. I got the help I needed & was eventually able to face the cause of my depression instead of just pretending I wasn’t depressed. Now I realize how much simpler it is to address feelings before they manifest themselves into other demons. Simpler, but not necessarily easier. It’s definitely difficult to not hide behind a wall of self delusion, and it takes effort to confront and accept situations as they come.
My struggles, pains, and embarrassments are not a sign of weakness. They are proof that I have lived.
“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”
― Oscar Wilde, De Profundis