I've typically felt the need to keep my problems to myself. There was so much happening in the lives of others, things that seemed more important, or, at least, seemed more like an emergency to them, and I felt I could just deal with whatever was going on with me; I could handle it; I was going to be fine; whatever was going on with me would be resolved in some way. And when I did feel the need to speak to someone about some of my thoughts or feelings, I did. Until I felt I was the one who wasn't being heard. That my opinion didn't matter.
I had had the experience where someone thought he was always right. Speaking louder at me didn't work; that had already been tried during a prior relationship and had proven to be unsuccessful. I wasn't hard of hearing. I did understand. I simply did not agree. End of story.
And then I found myself in a position where I was being nodded at. That doesn't sound so bad, really. Even writing it down, just thinking those words; it doesn't seem like it could have been so horrible. But it was.
No matter what I said, a group of about 5-6 people with whom I worked on a daily basis looked at me when I spoke, nodded, said nothing, then turned their heads and continued with their conversation.
The impact that experience began to have on me after months of the exact same scene occurring over, and over, and over again took a toll that I didn't even realize until almost a full year later. Was this what people who had been bullied felt when they said "I felt like I was invisible"?
I wasn't invisible; they had looked my direction. They just acted like my input held no value at all. Combine this experience with being a person who was intensely private anyway, and who tended to minimize the problems in her life, or at least put them on the back burner to pretty much anything going on in the lives of others, and you have quite a situation. Kind of like a bomb ready to explode.
When I finally realized the situation in which I found myself, I knew I had to let it go. I had to start expressing my feelings and thoughts, even if they were thoughts or feelings from so long ago. How I had felt as a middle child. How I had felt in the parent-child-sibling triangle. How I had felt in college relationships, a first marriage, current relationships at work and with my contemporaries.
It might have been easier if I had just taken myself to weekly sessions with a therapist, but that wasn't my way. Am I a believer in therapy? Actually, I am a HUGE believer of what a gift it can be. But, somehow, I felt I had to be the one to figure things out for myself in order for the changes I needed to have the impact I wanted.
I started taking classes in mindfulness, exploring new avenues of thought, and joining a variety of programs, mindfulness programs along with others. I began expressing myself in ways I had never done before. My children and husband were the biggest receivers of what I had to say, and I don't think they knew what hit them. Who is this crazy lady and what has she done with our mother? What happened to the wife I married just a few short years ago?
First, the words and thoughts came out with tears. Sometimes they came with yelling and tears. Then, with a quivering voice and just a few drops of tears. And now, much more often, quietly, with an occasional quiver, an occasional tear, and with a slower, more thoughtful demeanor, those words come out.
And if I find myself in a situation where I don't think my voice is valued, where I don't think they care? It depends. Sometimes, if I don't feel safe, I clam up and say nothing. If I feel safe, even if I think someone may not value what I have to say, I persevere.
It is important to me to let others know how I feel. Not about every little thing. But if a situation makes me feel a certain way, if I think I'm going to look back and regret not having spoken up, if I think I will walk away feeling minimized, those words concerning my thoughts and feeling will come out of my mouth.
I will say "it" and, having released my thoughts, can go forward with peace in my heart.
I have learned to let it go. It was hard work, it took a long time, I continue to get better at it, and I am grateful for this journey.
If you need to begin expressing yourself, make it happen. I am here to help you in any way I can.
Dr. Wolbe can be contacted via her website at www.drsusiewolbe.com.