Masking Emotions

I think as children a majority of us were taught to just “suck it up”. To keep a “stiff upper lip” and all that

Sorrow
My art. Available for purchase in my shop links located in my bio.

instead of learning how to express with and deal with our emotions in a healthy manner. I think it’s important even as an adult to be able to sit for a moment or two and cry. It’s not a bad thing to cry or to be sad. I think anger can also be healthy. Bottling up your feelings can lead to even physical problems from stuffing it in. I should know.

People seem scared to feel. They think there’s something wrong with them. Now people are scared to punish their children. So they run around thinking they can get away with anything and have no consequences except maybe no TV for a while. Most of the books I read as a kid in school are now banned books. Books that have a hard lesson of some sort, or maybe something not politically correct. I can’t even imagine kids nowadays reading books where a character dies but then recently I have seen movies based on books that have more depth in them than the previous years. Although I can appreciate such books and movies my emotional heart usually doesn’t watch/read them more than once. Haha. But I like to know that they’re making a comeback and are out there in the world. I just wish we could be a bit more open again to reading books that are banned. I think if you don’t learn about the past, you’re doomed to repeat it. Looking at the world right now, some old lessons are needed. I had a family member who didn’t even allow her children to see movies where a parent dies in the beginning. I mean, how many cartoons have that now? Especially ones by a certain mouse company. One reason I preferred Pixar movies when they first came out is because they had some sort of moral to them. Not necessarily a death, but just overcoming something. Life isn’t always happy, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t go on and you’ll never be happy again. I think that’s important.

Some people are over-sensitive to everything now or like I’ve described my two cousins when they were little, devoid of emotions. Everything is a “trigger now”. Me personally, I can sit and watch something that has a scene in it that I’m not comfortable with and just turn it off without having an anxiety attack. I loved the CSI shows and have always had a bad habit of eating when came across a gory part. I closed my eyes and if it was also accompanied by a noise, turned down the volume. I love scary movies and whatnot. But the gore can get to me. Also because I’ve been through what I refer to before as a mugging, I have a hard time sometimes watching certain types of violence. There are two new shows out, one that has to do with let’s just say forced intercourse and one that has to do with suicide. Although these shows are getting rave reviews, for me watching Law & Order: SVU is more than enough. I also am avoiding getting into new shows. Haha. But I will probably never watch them. Simple as that. I’m not going to tell someone to watch/not watch. My feelings are my own.

And as I’ve stated before, I haven’t been to therapy or anything for my anxiety/PTSD. It was something I had to suffer through alone and do the whole “deal with it” thing. I didn’t tell people about it because I didn’t want to be seen as damaged or be pitied. My mom wasn’t a fan of doctors. No one even really considered it PTSD 15 years ago. I read a lot and figured out what I could. Doing that helped and also what I heard from other people who had been through anxiety, PTSD, depression etc. I can’t imagine how someone would just sit and suffer and not try to figure out what’s going on in their head. But I was sixteen and I didn’t know what I was feeling/experiencing until way later after other trials in my life. And most of them I had to deal with on my own. Sometimes even when you open up with people they say they won’t look at you/treat you differently, but it’s there. Other people may tell their stories for attention but I do it to help them understand where I’m coming from. When telling them to back off doesn’t work at all and I don’t want to destroy the friendship.  People should do what they’re comfortable with. But stuffing it in can lead to them doing things to cover over the feelings. To deny that stuff happened. Sex, drugs, explosive anger. It’s not healthy.

My little cousins as beautiful and intelligent as they were as children put me off. I had babysat kids before at maybe thirteen/fourteen, but around the time my older of the two cousins was two or three—I was nineteen or twenty–I just started to notice things. I had sat a kid before who just couldn’t seem to stop making trouble for himself and getting his little sister to do things that would get them both in trouble. I didn’t know what made a kid think that the only way he could behave was to create problems for himself and therefore make himself and everyone else unhappy. For attention maybe. But I hated having to leave him at the end of the night, and he’d end up getting spanked by his father because several time-outs did nothing. Then years later I ran into them after hearing their father passed–and they just looked so lost and broken. They were happy to see me and hugged me, but I could tell it impacted them immensely. It’s not the way I want to see kids grow up. Sometimes it can’t be helped. No matter how you try to protect them.

Then here I was sitting for my first of the little cousins and she was fine for the most part. Demanded all your attention and tried to get a dessert after every meal by batting her eyelashes at me. Dude, you had a sweet cereal for breakfast and you want a dessert? You’re parents aren’t here to charm right now. Haha. Then one day we were playing with playdoh and she gets the little snail I made and cut it in half with the safety scissors. “Why did you do that?” I asked. Her reply, “The truth is: I. Don’t. Know.” She’s like three! “From the mouths of babes” and whatnot. Then we were painting with watercolors out on the back porch and I was just making circles that ended up being a crude waterfall. She made five or six big circles trying to imitate me I suppose. Again I guess she thought what I was doing was better, so she gets her brush and paints a huge line across my waterfall. I knowing full well it was washable paint, got my brush and made a line on her face. She was surprised and went to go look at her reflection in the sliding glass doors and only then did she get upset and screeched. I’d never seen such a vain little child who stared at herself in the mirror so much. Her mother, my mom’s sister, came out hearing the crying and my cousin told her what happened and I told her what happened. I wasn’t sure how my aunt would react because she tended to be uptight. She asked her daughter, “Well do you draw on other children’s papers at school?” “No.” “Then why did you draw on hers?” I can’t tell you how much I loved my aunt at that moment. She didn’t spank and putting that girl in a time out lasted only two seconds with my aunt around so it was nice that she stuck up for me. But this tiny little girl was always doing stuff like that to me. I was the only cousin she treated this way out of the dozens she had.

I taught her really quick there can be a reaction at least from me to her being brat. I didn’t sit there with her and let her get away with murder. When she was older she laughed when I told her these stories. I had to beg her parents to get her and her sister off my feet because they were giving me ingrown toenails. They put makeup on me during family functions. Which would have been fine if they were doing it to other cousins. But nope. I was not considered a grownup in that house. I was a plaything. I made it fun for her and later her sister by drawing monsters instead of princesses. I lectured then joked later about the time the older one blew her nose on a tissue and left it in someone’s mailbox as I walked her to school. So embarrassing. But it was a way to get her away from the princess mentality and have fun with her without me losing my mind.

It was hard because with it being her first child, my aunt had read a lot of books and though we were all babysitters for her, she didn’t really believe in the “it takes a village to raise a child” thing. So it was hard to give her any advice, especially since I didn’t have kids. The older little cousin kept wandering off at about two years old when the family and I were on a day trip at Catalina. My mom and I told my aunt who wasn’t really paying attention, she should either watch her or you strap her into that stroller. The kid wasn’t going to listen to her cousin or aunt. As a kid my mom told me I’d get spanked if I didn’t at least hold on to the shopping cart at the store. She also told me who I could go to if I was lost. Not sure how old I was but I’m guessing it doesn’t hurt to start saying that stuff to kids early. So my aunt strapped the kid in the stroller and she screamed bloody murder. We said to let her scream, she was being disobedient. Obviously wasn’t going to listen if you tried to speak to her. She was a toddler. She didn’t stay where she was supposed to be and anyone could just take off with her. Ten minutes of screaming later she was quiet, and we stopped for lunch and she hopped out of the stroller. She was happy as a clam singing songs from Annie.

Her little sister seemed to be the more sensitive one when she was around that age. Strong willed like the older one but she would get upset if she saw another kid cry. She was more like me I could say honestly. I was also the sensitive one who’d cry at the drop of a hat. She was more laid back, she didn’t demand as much attention as her sister. But of all the kids I’ve babysat or even lived with over the years, I’ve never seen kids more self-centered or apathetic. Really not willing to be taught, would argue with my mom which she hated. It could be because of the parents. Especially the father of my cousins wasn’t one to coddle let alone focus on the kids and my aunt obviously felt the opposite. Again I grew up technically as the only child and even now can be quite content and keep myself entertained alone even sans social media or tv. As a kid I loved sitting with the adults even and just listening to them talk. I preferred that than being at the kids table. Haha.

With my ex’s niece and nephew I could explain things to them like why they shouldn’t draw on the walls, or to ask for help when the gallon of milk is too full and therefor too heavy instead of it getting spilled all over grandpa and the floor. We could literally say, “If you guys don’t behave, we’re turning this car around” and they’d listen. It took a little while to get to that point, they were two and four and didn’t speak a lot of English at first. Their mom believed in spanking, and said we could also spank them. But only once did a talking to not work when the kids were barely getting to know me and the boy was doing something very inappropriate that he saw someone do to another woman to me. I even tried smacking his hand. I felt completely uncomfortable with disciplining them and I barely struck him. He was sad for like two seconds, and later went back to doing it. So my ex took him and spanked him. I was not okay with it, especially spanking when you’re angry. But the boy came out and apologized to me and he never did it again. After that if they decided to torture me by tossing a ball at my face for instance, I just locked up the ball. Haha. They eventually grew to love and respect me and vice versa. I’m not sure I could say the same for my cousins, which makes me incredibly sad. They look so much like me, my mom and of course my aunt, I could imagine through them what my kids might look like on day.

As a kid and even an adult my mom told me the whole, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Since she tended to lack the mothering skills and empathy so I’m kind of glad for that kernel of wisdom. She was the opposite of who and what I wanted to become. I hated that she felt that way about herself though, and that she didn’t care about if what she said/did affected me. I hated that she grew up with a family like that and let it stay that way when she was raising me. But then again as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, my parents wished they hadn’t had a kid so well there you go. One of the reasons I told myself I didn’t want to have kids just to have kids. I wanted to be financially stable. Though yah at times I thought if there was ever an “accident”, I’d love to have a child. I just don’t want them to go through what I went through.

Kids pick up on things like sponges. They’re looking and listening to everything you say and do. All the time. I was reading an article that though kids usually don’t retain memories before age five, that there can be trauma from infancy that can carry on when they’re older though they don’t remember why they’re scared. Something to think about. I kept having to tell my ex not to kiss me more than a friendly kiss in front of his niece and nephew. The niece, maybe four at the time, kept kissing her baby brother when we kissed. We kept having to explain to her that we were dating and not siblings. That it was sweet to give her brother a kiss but yah know, not like more than a peck on the cheek. Kids also pick up on anger and tension parents or family members have even if it’s not intended towards them. You try to protect them but when they don’t understand what’s going on it can still make them feel hurt. They could be upset simply because they love you and see you’re upset.

People tell me to “keep fighting”. And I’m thinking why should I? “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. But what if you feel like you’re dying? Am I fighting for me? Or for someone else? If you’ve read my other blogs you can see I’ve been though some things. And yes, I know there are people who have been through way, way worse. I have friends who have stories that are so scary and heartbreaking that I could never imagine going through it. I’m grateful they’re still here and hearing their stories makes me grateful in a way as well. I think maybe sometimes when I get a chance to tell my stories that maybe it helps others. I read tons of inspiring stories about people who have overcome limitations, beat the odds etc.,  and I’m happy for them. They’re inspiring. But they’re not me. They possibly had other factors that could have contributed to their success besides optimism and gumption, you know? Maybe I’m just doing it wrong, I don’t know.

There had been times before my mugging where I thought that maybe my life wasn’t worth living. Wanted to hurt myself. Saw once even how easy it was for someone to maim themselves in the name of “love”. My spiritual background told me suicide was a sin, akin to a murderer. Even when that mugger threatened to kill me I thought, well at least I’m not killing myself. I was still trying to talk him out of hurting me but I also told him at least my soul was saved, how was his? Which I’d never recommend doing just because you never know what a crazy person is going to do.

I think the first time I lost someone to suicide I could see why he did it. But at the time all I felt was how could he leave his sister and her kids? I knew he felt he wasn’t good enough for them but he was loved. I remember how sweet and funny he was and how much he loved those kids and Dr Pepper by the 2 liter. I had also around that time lost someone to illness and another in a car accident. I hadn’t seen any of them from maybe two months up to a year I think, but it still tore me up inside like nothing else ever had. It was one of those life-changing times where I was so lost I had no idea what was wrong with me and no one knew how to help.

More recently losing someone who battled with depression among other things she suffered from, and was also apparently being bullied was very hard. I’d known her about three years. She lived in a different country, but like our other friends in that group, we shared a deep friendship through letters and social media. She must have hid what she was going through because it surprised us all. She was getting her life together and seemed to be doing better. I was angry that someone could have triggered it by being cruel and I’ll probably never know if the family found out who it was or tried to do something about that person. I had hoped I’d meet my friend  in person one day. She even offered for me to come live with her. I knew that it probably wasn’t a good idea as we’d possibly gaslight each other’s issues but it was sweet that she liked me that much. Besides apparently getting permission or whatever to live there was hard. Haha.

Sometimes I think it’s selfish to ask someone who’s so unhappy to stay. Even if they have everything in the world you think a person could possibly want. It doesn’t mean they’re happy. And I wonder if people think it’s selfish to want to die when so many want you to stay. I’m not sure there’s any right answer to these questions. Suffering from mental illness is a constant battle. It doesn’t really go away in most cases. It’s like an alcoholic saying their “in recovery” even if it’s been twenty years. It’s something that you take charge of and keep watch over forever usually. I also think that sometimes because of the way we grew up, that people think life isn’t okay or worth living if you’re not happy. If things aren’t going your way. Yet I mean I see people living on the street eating garbage. None are necessarily bad people. I’ve even known friends who’ve lived on the streets or bounced from hotel to hotel. Just down on their luck, had underpaying jobs etc. If they thought their lives weren’t worth living or were too miserable…I’m pretty sure the suicide rate would be much higher for people in those situations. Most statistics in those cases I’ve read are because they’re suffering from mental illness and not being medicated or sick because of exposure to the elements.

And as I’ve been close to being homeless more than once over the last few years and now possibly again I’m having issues thinking that my life is worth continuing. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard for me to accept help. I still am not really letting my friends know about this blog. One friend is already starting to get worried about me. The government doesn’t consider me down enough to help unless I have a kid. I don’t really want that kind of help. I want to stand on my own two feet. I may have some issues but again I’ve never abused anything like alcohol or drugs. I just seem to have bad luck and as hard as I try there doesn’t seem to be a way out of this vicious cycle. I don’t have anyone to live for. Even if there was someone, it would be like them asking a person with cancer and who’s in pain to stay. I’m not going to do that. As much as I want to live, as much as I want to grow old and all that–I’m more scared of being alone in the dark and the possibility of being mugged again or worse. I’m more scared of the continued failing at life.

What pains me is when someone, especially after the loss of famous people from suicide, is how someone can just post something basically saying, “I wish I was dead”. Do you? Do you really? Because most people who are really thinking about it don’t just post it. It seems more like attention seeking and again I can say what about your kids and family? What is so horrible that you’d leave them? Especially since I’ve never seen them post anything that dark before. But things can change and make a person do or say something they may never have before. So sometimes even if you think they’re just being dramatic, it’s good to check in on them just in case.

Another friend is having an anxiety attack so bad she took herself to the hospital because she’s in love with someone who seems too good to be true. I can understand because she’s been through some god awful things with relationships in the past. I can see how getting serious can be a trigger for her. I relate it to like when I had to go every six months to get tested for Leukemia. I was a wreck from the time I had to call to make the appointment to the time I got the negative results–usually a period spanning almost a month. That was me for three years. Then even after a doctor told me we could slow it down to once a year, six months later for some unknown reason I was a wreck. It took an old manager coming to say hello to me who was my manager when I was going through that scare at first to realize what was going on. I had pre-programmed myself to get scared around that month for three years! My friend’s body/mind has been programmed to be terrified like this for I don’t even know how long–maybe a decade. Sure the person could turn out to be another nut, and it could be her early warning signal going off. But it could also be because of her past trauma and therefore nonsensical for the most part. Though I can’t say that I wouldn’t be scared too if I was in the same position, it’s hard to see someone as talented and amazing as her be scared of something that should be so beautiful like love.

Sometimes to get past these things it’s like becoming a child and learning all over again. Learning how to accept that it’s okay to have these emotions and express them in healthy ways. Also how to deal with it when it becomes too much and get help if needed. I think my writing with Shalimar has helped immensely. (Links to our work are in my bio) I wouldn’t have posted such dark poetry three years ago, afraid of what people would think of me. The responses have been very nice, not hateful. People seem to like it and even find it relatable. Recently a girl contacted us, wanting to learn and share writing and life tips with each other. To maybe be friends. Calling us brilliant. Believe me when I feel like my life is a dumpster fire I certainly don’t feel brilliant. Then a second person said the same thing about our writing. I’m still not good at taking complements. I’m finding it hard to believe.

I recently was watching an actor being interviewed and he was telling a story about his darker characters and how he was told by another actor how people like actors/musicians/artists go to those dark places and these characters become favorites because people are attracted to the darkness. They don’t necessarily want to be in it themselves. To be evil or around other people like that. They just like having a window into it. Sometimes they can relate to it, and therefore feel that they’re not alone if they are in it. I had thought about our writing in that way before, and this helped to see it in that light again. I’m still having trouble feeling like it’s enough. Like people learned from a recent celebrity death, you can relate to someone but not really know them and their struggles. But it becomes a weary task feeling like I am still wearing a mask and no one really knows me.

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