I have been unhappy lately. For a long time actually. Months now. On and off since I quit smoking in June. Pretty consistently since August. Generally blue. Occasionally in a lot of emotional pain. Occasionally just raw and irritable. And invariably thinking. Thinking and worrying and puzzling and solving and predicting and planning and scrapping and reformulating and worrying some more.
I am purging a lot of old pain. It’s hard to squeeze out of my chest and throat area. It burns. Letting it go is interesting. I’m not used to it. It’s the kind of thing I’ve been holding in since I was 4. For the most part, it comes in a huge wave and dissipates. It sneaks up on me and it suddenly occurs to me that I’m going to cry. And then it occurs to me that I am holding it in. Holding it back. And I don’t want to do that anymore. Hold it in. Deny that I’m an emotional, cry-baby, wussy-girl. I am. I am not cool. I am not too hip to care. I care. So I cry. And my face gets all red and blotchy for a minute. Maybe two. And my eyes get glassy and wet. And then it’s done, passed. And maybe a person or two on the street or subway noticed. Maybe.
I have been humiliated a few times recently too. I was the butt of the joke for an entire bus full of people during the snowstorm this week. With my train not running and taking an unfamiliar route home, I waited for an hour in the snow for the wrong bus. In retrospect, a few of the buses that would have taken me home passed by. When I realized I was on the wrong bus, and asked the driver to let me off, everyone began to laugh. Tell other passengers who hadn’t heard. The hardest was the little old lady in the front cackling about how stupid I was not to have asked. I was shocked by how delighted people were by my difficulty. How they thoroughly enjoyed my pain.
But there is something that I have given up. Not letting them see me cry. Not giving people the satisfaction of seeing that they got to me. I don’t care if they see. I don’t care if they enjoy it. I don’t care if they get off on my hurt heart. If I need to cry I will cry. I’ll do it with dignity too. Because I do not cry because I am weak. I do not cry because I am pathetic. I cry because nobody gets to tell me how to deal with my feelings. Nobody gets to tell me not to be so sensitive. And if someone enjoys my tears, that’s none of my business. But I can pity them for that. More than I pity myself for feeling the pain.
I do not enjoy other people’s pain. I feel it too easily. It seems too real. I actually have to work every day at not taking on other people’s pain. I have to remind myself that just because there is suffering in the world does not mean I cannot have peace and joy and love. That just because the world does not have peace does not mean that I cannot have peace. I have to remind myself that peace begins with me. Inside.
I love my empathy. I am honored to be a compassionate woman with a big sensitive heart. I don’t love everything that comes with it, but I don’t see it as a weakness. And I don’t need to hide it because some people are jerks.
Because I used to have a surefire way of not being affected by the sadism of jerks. I smoked it. Or ate it. Or somehow got high enough that it couldn’t scrape at me. But here I am, right on the ground. Well within reach to be scraped and scratched. Too available to get by unscathed. Though, really, getting by unscathed because I was too effed up to be available wasn’t exactly the cat’s pajamas either. Or I wouldn’t have gone through all the pain I have to get here. Present. Available. Hurtable.
The other thing that has me unhappy is trying to acclimate to a new level of confidence and self-love. I have a new understanding of what I deserve. What I am worth. And here I am in a life built by a woman who liked herself less.
It’s even funny to think about how I am in so much pain because I went from being a woman who liked herself a lot, to a woman who likes herself even more. I was already so impressed by my honesty, integrity, honor. Was already overjoyed to wake up every day with such dignity and self-respect. Had already done so much incredible work on myself. And yet the gap between this new understanding of myself and my life, and the (still pretty fantastic) life I was living six months ago makes for heartache. And sadness.
So I’m unhappy. But let me tell you what I am not. Depressed. And that’s important to note. Because when I was eating compulsively and addictively eating sugar, I was depressed. Always. The level of self-hatred I lived with was staggering. I hated myself so consistently for so long that I didn’t even know I hated myself until it stopped when I quit sugar. I felt crazy on sugar. I was crazy. I had no hope. I lived in the depths of despair.
But today I am not in despair. I know that this will pass. It’s just a difficult stretch. A very long, difficult stretch of unhappiness. And yes, I wish it would hurry along. Because I miss being fun and funny and easy to be around. But everything in its own time.
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