Putting Up Walls

As I write this, I feel crushed and drained.

For several months, I’ve wanted to start this blog. I’ve felt the need to have some outlet where I could express “stuff” that has been going on inside of me.  Countless times, I’ve found myself staring at the WordPress editing box. Sometimes as many as a dozen sentences will actually get typed. Then I end up backing up when I realize that I’m simply not comfortable putting myself out there to the extent that I feel the need to. A few days ago, the reason why I was having this difficulty clicked. Ironically, it is the reason why I wanted to start this blog to begin with. I’ve lived most of my life putting up walls. No, this isn’t uncommon. I suspect to some extent everyone does it. But I’m not so certain if the way I handle things is normal.

I’ve lived most of my life on the surface. I had some really bad things happen when I was young. That combined with an incredibly difficult relationship with my mother resulted in two things: recurring issues with eating disorders and letting myself live a surface happiness to avoid dealing with massive pain inside.

Most people put up walls of varying kinds. There’s the public me – who is sociable, outgoing, fun-loving, confident and not afraid to express herself. That is who I want to be.  But bubbling beneath the surface is a completely different person. Someone that never really dealt with issues that should have been dealt with..who goes through this continual cycle of feeling the need to deal with it then realizing the best way to deal is just to avoid. I rationalize it away by saying you can’t undo the past. I’m not into psychological mumbo-jumbo.

On September 11th, it will be 10 years since my mother died. More than an anniversary of a loss of a person, I identify with it as the anniversary of a loss of the ability to get closure on some very difficult things. After she died, I had to take care of my dad. He moved in with me not long after and had started to have health issues of his own.

I think it took probably a year for me to realize the pain associated with my mother’s death. I was too busy making sure my father was okay to deal with my own emotional issues.  For the second time in my life, I wasn’t able to cope on an emotional level. I couldn’t block out what I was dealing with.  I decided it was time to get professional help. (Note: the only time in my life I’d ever seen any kind of therapist was when I was very young because of my purported “genius” level IQ and concern by educators that I wasn’t maximizing my abilities.)

I went to see one psychologist. Since I was never one to talk about the things going on inside me, never mind doing so with a stranger, it was very difficult to get started. Once I did, everything just started coming out.  He didn’t say very much during the session. At the end of it, he said to me he didn’t feel I needed therapy. He thought what I needed was to get pregnant and start my own family. In his words: to create my own happiness to replace the bad. Say what? Needless to say this left me more than slightly disenchanted with the idea of seeing a therapist.

One of my good friends is a counselor. Although she knows a lot of what I’ve dealt with, in spite of our friendship, I’ve never been able to let her in the full way. Around 6 months after the failed session with the psychologist, she encouraged me to see someone else. She suggested it was failure on the part of the psychologist and at the very least, I could benefit from talking with a professional.

I saw my GP and talked to him. I wanted a referral to a psychiatrist. I felt myself slowly becoming unhinged. My GP’s initial solution was to put me on anti-depressants. He said he didn’t feel I needed them. He said I seemed like an incredibly strong person. I had the prescription filled, but never took one.

I saw the psychiatrist. I went through a couple of questionnaires. Diagnosis: perfectly “normal.”  After a brief discussion, he said most people would not have been able to cope with some of the things I have. Ergo, I am a strong person.

Just over a year ago, I decided to give a distance therapist a try. I spent a fair amount of time trying to find someone that I thought would be a good fit. The initial session went well. She had me do some follow-up work on my own. But instead of dealing with the emotional baggage inside of me, her focus in the next session was on helping me formulate a plan to change the exterior. I tried to explain to her – the reason everyone thinks I am strong is because the exterior seems to be mostly together. It’s the inside that is having issues.  I was frustrated. I saw we weren’t going to get anywhere so that was my last session.

I’ve worked hard lately at trying to let people in. There are probably a few dozen people that know bits and pieces. There are fewer than 10 that know more. Taking the walls down that I’ve worked so hard at putting up hasn’t been easy. I’m used to being the person there for people. I’m not used to letting others even get a glimpse of what is inside. It’s difficult. I am someone that thrives on logic. The cut and dry answers to things. But the minute emotional stuff comes up or I let myself open up, it becomes very difficult. People feel selectively “safe” for me. This isn’t a reflection on them as individuals but more about me. When you open up to someone, when you let the walls come down, along with it come expectations. I’ve always had a difficult time asking for what I need from people. This is part of what I struggle with. When expectations aren’t met from someone you’ve taken the walls down for, how do you react?

Part of me desperately wants to go back to the old me – the person that was fully functional on the outside, where I just didn’t think so damn much and over-analyze every relationship with the people in my life. It was easier. You have no expectations of receiving or worry about how people will perceive your shared vulnerability, there is no disappointment. But the other side of me realizes that if I ever want to find true happiness, I need to get myself to the point where the exterior is a true reflection of what is inside of me. I used to think if I kept the walls up, eventually I’d get there. Now I realize that it can only happen by taking them down.

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  • Thank you for sharing this Sharon!
    I'll spend the rest of the day thinking of starting to write my own blog again... may be just on my hard drive for now.
    Fortunately I had a much better experience with my therapist years ago. I was lucky to find someone that recognized my need for "hands on" help dealing with current issues that needed attention without too much focus on digging up stuff that wasn't needed.
    In the mean time he taught me coping skills that help me every day.
    Later a friend of mine who is a business coach did similar things on a different level.
    It depends on who me meet when in our life that shapes the way we go.

  • stuartoneill

    What unbelievably bad luck with counselors. I've been in counseling for sometime with the right person and have found it terribly useful in getting perspective and creating change. I hope, if you attempt again, you find someone who doesn't offer any solutions. The job, as I've come to understand it, is to reflect back on you your own words while occasionally asking a question or making a comment or offering an exercise right on the spot. It works if the chemistry is right.

    Taking down walls, once established, is so difficult I have no words. Once a person has learned how to be an effective 'actor' it's very hard to find the authentic self. Perhaps you can tell I'm still in the same quest. Hitting a balance between public and private faces is very hard.

    Finding one's own authentic self is perhaps our deepest quest. There are books that caused a leap forward for me. I wouldn't presume to know if they are right for you. Until you ask your audience for rec's I'll not impose.

    I know someone who compartimentalizes her inner self. Everything, including some real horrors as a child, has it's own little box....like a PO Box compartment. She's opened some of those doors and it helped. One allowed her to learn to create boundaries. That was a leap forward. There were, and are, others. Some opened, some not. All in good time with effort.

    It's a useful image for me; A wall of little boxes waiting to be opened or left closed. I use it myself when I find I'm resisting something.

    Thanks for the entry that caused such a long reply.

  • This is a very moving piece of writing Sharon. Congratulations on taking the initial steps to self-fulfilment. Thank you so much for sharing this part of yourself with us. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

    Much love
    Donnette

  • tpr2

    I just read the about page...we are twins....lol
    I started weight training in 1982 and won 2 body building shows in 1986 with a 4th place at the Mr New Zealand competition.
    Hmmmmm 20,000 miles... looking forward to the surfing lessons in 2010.
    arohanui

  • tpr2

    Hello Beautiful
    I am very impressed with your courage in sharing some of your journey with us.
    My Mum passed away 8 years ago now.
    She went unexpectedly into the coma on the 10th of December and only came too for a brief few minutes on my birthday to ask the people around her if someone had made my Cheesecake for my birthday (something she did every year), wish me happy birthday and slip back into the coma.
    She died on the third of January at age 54.
    Like you I was purported to be a genius and a possible photographic memory (that's how the teachers explained my ability to do so well in tests) 28 years of beer and wine has obliterated most of my memory now :)
    I have been to 3 marriage guidance counselors for the 3 failed marriages and found the experience to be farcical with me manipulating the counselors into talking about themselves instead of about me and the last one wanting to have sex with me in her office.
    Like you the world see's the shining armor that is presented as we go through our successful lives.
    Thank you for sharing so candidly, you are a fantastic writer and someone I am very pleased to call a friend.

  • Sharon,

    A simply amazing inspirational read. I am so proud of you for persisting with what you thought needed to be done. It is an amazing journey you are on, and I am so honoured to see even the tiny sliver of it that I am fortunate to see.

    You are an inspiration.

    Thomas (@TferThomas on twitter)

  • Johanna

    Thank you. I can't tell you how much I needed to here the words you just wrote. I too need to find a way to be myself both inside and outside and to find the courage to let other people in. Thank you again for reminding me what I need to focus on.

  • My mother passed away about 12 years ago and I went through a similar experience. Not one person knew that I was falling apart on the inside. Somehow I found a book by Mairanne Williamson called "A Return to Love". Perhaps her words will bring some clarity for you as well.

  • Sharon, this is very powerful writing, not because it was some literary work but because of how deep inside you it came from. That takes a lot of courage. Kudos to you. As an extrovert, highly social, Gemini, yet with a deep, even quiet, loner, side to me that the world does not see, I can totally empathize. I was fortunate that I did not have the challenging relationship with a parent as you did (my loss was losing my Mom at age 50-51 in 1992). A few words about it and a small clip at
    http://imran.com/media/blog//l... will be poignant to you, if you have a moment to take a look.

    I am sure your writing will help others who went through, or go through, the experience you did and do.

    Imran
    @imrananwar

  • Sharon, you are an amazing example to all of us. :)

    Self-honesty is such an important & empowering step, and you are a true leader and an inspiration to all of us. I am certain that the impact of your contribution will never be fully measured; I can see the ripples already...

    You are surrounded by people who love you.
    Thank you for being amazing,

    Joseph

  • henie

    Dear Sharon...

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I am certain this took tremendous courage for you to do...to share this publicly.

    I marvel at your ability and realization, that in order to release what's within, you truly have to take the wall down, stone by stone.

    I treasure you and the reason the outside you looks so brilliant is because you have illuminated what is within you!

    You are truly someone I adore and admire and I am very proud to be your friend...I am always here for you whenever you need!

  • Shauna

    I recently wrote a journal entry titled 'The Long Journey to Self-realization', which I was reminded of when I read this. Sometimes when we're feeling at our worst, moments of self-realization lead us to our best. They're often difficult, tiresome and completely drain one, as you've said; however, they are integral building blocks. They open up the possibility of something greater and more profound in life -- in this case, your happiness. You're a wonderful person who deserves only good, which is why I know the strength you've described will slowly empower you and free you from these impediments. I truly believe you've begun an important journey Sharon -- take down those walls!

    Thanks for sending this my way and always here to listen :)
    xo <3

  • Shauna, was this written in an online journal or your paper diary? Would like to read it if online. Pls @imrananwar me on Twitter. Thanks.

    Imran
    http://imran.com/media/blog/

  • Rose

    *hug* we're always here :)

  • Kelly

    My dearest friend, we've been in each other's lives for over 20 years now. In spite of knowing much of what you've gone through I really didn't comprehend how it was impacting you inside. I always saw you as a strong person and you seemed to blow off any sign of needing me - or anyone else. For anyone - exposing themselves this way and allowing themselves to be vulnerable is a huge step. I don't know if I could be so brave. Take this as a sign of how strong a person you truly are rather than coming from a place of weakness.

    Trusting people with what is going on inside of you is never easy for anyone. You aren't alone there. You aren't alone period. I know you are probably feeling burned right now, especially with recent events. You did the right thing in forcing yourself to open up with this. Remember many of us love you to pieces - for who you are, the joy, friendship and support you bring to us.

    Love you!

    Kels

  • I've been lucky to have known you for the past 2 and a half years and am glad that you're growing more willing to let people into some more of the inner workings of you. I know it's hard to open up especially with all the rough things you've had to go through in your life and this post is very brave...probably a lot more than most people who read this will truly know. You've had more to deal with in such a short period of time than anyone I know, and that on top of some of the things you mention in your post from before then that were unresolved issues in your life. It's hard enough to go through the pain from individual traumatic events but when they remain bottled up inside and thus pile onto each other, everything gets magnified and makes it that much more difficult to deal with. You've been incredibly brave in dealing with it all and managing to stay sane, not only keeping going in life but striving to continually improve your life and the lives of others. Your determination to stay strong is something that people can look at and get motivated from. It's especially tough when you feel like you have to keep it bottled up inside because you're the "strong" one and don't want to seem vulnerable at all to anyone. The truth is any of those others would probably be completely shattered from what you've experienced. As much as you may feel vulnerable or unequipped to deal with things on the inside or whatever, you've honestly held up much better than you could have ever been expected to, especially with mostly keeping it all inside.

    I AM definitely glad you're starting to find the benefit in opening up and letting others see more of you (and it's a benefit to everyone that gets to know you too!). I think it will help you get it out and release the inner tension and agony so that you don't have to bear it all alone. You've helped so many people on Twitter and are a continual sunshine on there and people knowing more about this side of you will only have them grow stronger bonds and friendships with you. I'm glad you've started this journey and hope I can help you in some way get through to the other side where you are living without the weight of your past experiences and traumatic events constantly burdening you and are as happy as you can be. You have the power to get there! :)

    -Steve

  • ShellyKramer

    Hello Sweet Friend,

    Thanks so much for allowing me into your life by sharing this post with me. I know very well how hard it was to write it and respect you so much for doing so. I think you're on the right path - to finding a place where the inner you and the outer you can truly be one and the same person - and if writing helps you on that journey, then do it often, sistah. I shall always be here to listen and wish I could give you a big, fat, REAL hug. Since I can't - at this particular moment anyway - know that my thoughts and prayers are with you, I'm honored to have been someone with whom you shared this very personal piece of yourself, and if you ever need a shoulder or a hug or a kick in the fanny, please know you can count on me.

    Big hugs and good juju vibes,

    xoxo

    Shelly

  • lacouvee

    Sharon, thank you for your bravery in sharing.

    I'm thankful for the connection to so many people (online) who are still reaching out, no matter how difficult it is for them.

    It's one of the biggest lies - that we are separate from one another. Twitter (and other online communities) allow us to touch one another's lives if we are open.

    Grateful to count you as a friend.

    Janis

  • Name

    Much love to you, Sharon...you're a WONDERFUL person who has so much to offer..I'm very proud of you for sharing your intimate thoughts and struggles...I cherish our friendship and pray you feel better soon..

  • Lori Moreno

    Sharon,

    Thank you for sending this to me and sharing. As you know, I've been on a healing journey after dealing with the tragic sudden loss of an Angel in my life.

    One way that's been amazing for me has been reaching out to people I love.

    Since reaching out, I've created an even larger circle of incredibly loving people in my life.

    I'm here for you anytime you need me to cry, to laugh, to love.

    Love you,

    @LoriMoreno ·**•.♥

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