I was disconnected from my emotions for a very long time. I had no long-lasting friendships. I felt I had no friends. I had no family I felt entirely safe with. I didn’t feel safe in myself and distrusted people. I wouldn’t let anybody see the real me because the “me” I perceived was terrifying. I thought I was the worst human being alive and daren’t show it to anyone.
I had a formidable fragility that only I could see. If I opened up even slightly about how I felt, especially any “negative” or feared emotions, I would panic and immediately feel guilty for burdening the exposed individual and pretend I was OK 5 minutes later. I was terrified of anyone seeing my vulnerable self because vulnerability was traumatic. It was easier to keep up a persona of “ok-ness” instead of risking someone abandoning me because the deep sadness and raw emotion is too much for them to handle.
To be disconnected from people is a lonely place. I disconnected from the present moment and from engaging fully with life from about 7 years old and further retreated into myself through adolescence. Physical, emotional and verbal abuse and emotional neglect was status quo through my young life.
To have nobody in your life to talk to, be it about films, music, theories of existence, or the feelings of entrapment between 2 narcissistic caregivers who regularly made you feel like a burden merely for existing, is extremely painful. There is no escape from an inner prison of self-hate. I had such few experiences of love and compassion that I never learned what it meant or what it felt like.
I first met one of my favourite people in my world 4 years ago. She was someone who thought the same way that I did and conversations between us would last for hours. During our early friendship (and not long after the start of my recovery journey), I was experiencing a particularly harrowing period of distress. I nervously called my friend (who had said that I could call her anytime about anything) and cried, for the first time, over the phone. She held me in that space and let me express my pain. There was no hint of judgment and she fully accepted me for me. It was the first time I felt truly connected to another human being. She did something I had never experienced before then…she listened. She was the first person I felt showed me love, even when I wasn’t aware of it.
From that phone call, I knew she was a friend for life. She eased my distress just by listening and allowing me the space to feel and express freely and openly what I was thinking and feeling. She knew I could find my own way out. She asked me questions with curiosity to better understand my situation. Even when we are not in contact for months, I feel a strong connection to her. When we meet after long absences, it as if no time has passed. She openly cares for me and tells me she loves me and I believe her. I love her too and nothing will change that. The connection was not forced. It was natural and endured all this time.
The second person I felt genuinely showed me care and love was a counselor I met a year after my suicide attempt 5 years ago. She was the first person I expressed true anger with about my past. She was there when the hot tears of rage and disbelief poured down my face as I felt the pain of years of shaming, blaming and conditional love rise from the depths of my being. She supported me when there was no-one else. There was a net of safety I could fall to. She was someone I could talk to once a week. Sometimes I would update her on my week and the everyday activities I did; other times I cried because I felt safe. She didn’t tell me what to do. She was just…there for me.
When I feel connected, I feel like I am in the flow of life. When I connect with people, especially on a deep level, I feel understood and safe to explore my thoughts and feelings and talk about everything and anything. When I am connected, I am free. I am myself and I am seen. I feel alive. Life is colourful and there are no restraints around me.