Finding Yourself After a Lifetime of Hiding

I had become an expert at hiding. It’s what I did best. I was actually proud of it. Who wants to deal with all of those bothersome feelings that get in the way of getting shit done? I was under the illusion that I could live life unaffected by my baser human emotions like empathy and sympathy. Strangely enough, I’ve always been very compassionate and kind but that was easy because I didn’t have to be vulnerable to show compassion to others. In fact, I learned, the kinder I was, the more liked I was while never having to reveal the real me.

Heaven forbid I had to share my feelings. That was my kryptonite. Whether to friends or therapists, the relationship was not long lived once I had spilled my beans. Emotional closeness felt like stepping on a slug barefoot, it was yucky. It was also scary. The facade I had created of a successful, strong, capable and functioning member of society was at risk if I let on to what was really going on inside. A tangled mess of confusion, loneliness, anxiety, depression and disconnection.

Watching 3 Mics yesterday on Netflix brought this all back up. The memories of my 20-something-year-old self desperately seeking help for the emotionally broken child within me sobbing uncontrollably as I repeated over and over the story of my childhood in therapists’ office while at the same time running as far away from the pain as I could in the arms of lovers, both foreign and domestic.

3 Mics is a comedy special, a one-man show by Neal Brennan. His one liners were funny but what left an indelible impression on me was his candid revelations of his own journey through depression as a result of growing up with a violent, alcoholic, and narcissistic father. I envy people who can string together minimal words into impactful sentences. Listening to him describe his story and reading comments on his page from his fans sharing how they felt like he was telling their story reinforces a truth that while our stories may be unique, our pain is the same.

He recalls growing up as the youngest of his parent’s 10 children, with a father that took up all the physical and emotional space in a room learning to stifle his feelings so that eventually they atrophied and in order to feel anything, in essence, became addicted to achievement and adrenaline and yet the rush of his successes never quite satisfying his core needs, to which I can wholeheartedly relate.

I used achievement and adrenaline to feel as well. Growing up I didn’t feel seen or appreciated so in school and work, I worked hard to be recognized as talented and dedicated, which was made easy by being an INTJ. Adrenaline came in the form of drama, relationship drama specifically. If I wasn’t having one-night stands with strange men then I was stirring up havoc in my relationships as a result of my love addiction and intimacy avoidance.

Unlike Neal, I’ve never been medicated. I never got far enough with any therapist to have that topic come up. I just learned to cope and hide when things got too real. Until I had had enough of the turmoil. I was fed up with spinning my wheels in life, love, and career. There is no one path to emotional freedom but the result I believe is universal, reconnecting with your true self, your forgotten self, learning to help the broken child within you become whole again.

This is the journey I began about 5 years ago and one I continue on, with compassion and love for myself.

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