Shared by Jen Gibson - Founder of SFTT & Content Author
I used to feel strong, invincible. Like I could take on the world at any moment. I was confident, bold, and mostly uncaring. My feelings were tucked away safe in a vault, and anger guarded it well—so well that I could make myself big and scary to make others back away. I never knew or felt anxiety, unease, or true uncomfortableness. Any hints of those feelings were pushed behind with the others so bold, brash, fearless anger could take over. I felt protected and safe from the world with anger as my bodyguard.
Then my son died. My world crashed, my soul shattered, and those locked-away feelings came out screaming at their anger bodyguard. It took a lot of coaching from my counselor to officially put anger down and let all those screaming feelings out. At first, I would peak behind the anger curtain just to see what was behind it and quickly come running back to my comfort zone. Two years of this curtain-peek-and-runaway dance, and one day I just did it. I said goodbye to anger and hello to those screaming feelings.
My first reaction to all these feelings: WHAT THE HELL?! Seriously, who lives like this? Adults are actually expected to process this many feelings at once? I spent a lifetime with one primary emotion: Anger. And now I felt like I was getting hit repeatedly with multiple daggers. Hurt, sadness, joy, love, frustration, irritation (those are just the ones I could actually name) all came at me at once. So many feelings that I had no idea how to name, let alone process. I felt stunted—and I felt this new feeling. Shame. I felt shame for being a fully functioning adult who could not name my feelings and actually process them. My counselor actually smirked when we had the session of “Jen Names her Feelings”. I’m pretty sure Anger flicked him off from the corner.
After the initial shock of a few months of feelings, I began to understand myself better, but I still felt raw and vulnerable. Again, these were totally new concepts for me. I was the woman who walked into a room and everyone took notice. Already vulnerable with grief, I was now the woman who walked into a room and wanted to hide. Once bold and brash, I found myself meek and mild. Definitely not who I thought I was, And I didn’t feel quite like me, either. The next part of the journey was figuring out who am I? Who am I without anger, and living with a piece of my soul missing?
Five years after losing Eli, and three years after putting anger down, here’s what I’ve found so far:
- Many feelings at once make me feel like I’m drowning, but its okay if it takes me days to name and process these feelings.
- Sometimes I do miss my bodyguard, and even though my first inclination is to reach for it, now I know better, I know how to to stop, breathe, and wait for the feelings to wash over me first.
- Being raw and vulnerable leaves me feeling edgy, so I have to give myself big pep talks before walking into new situations with new people.
- I do get panic attacks and anxiety. This one I still need to work on, since I get annoyed with myself and definitely need to have more patience with myself.
- Feelings have allowed me to have more compassion, more grace, and more mercy toward others.
Recently, my husband confronted me about a behavior of mine he was concerned with. Before, anger would have lashed out and it would have turned into a huge fight with no real outcome. This time, I curled up on the bed near him and shared the truth. The truth being, I was experiencing an onslaught of feelings that I did not know how to name or process, so I was using said behavior to escape from the onslaught. Not going to lie, I was frustrated that was my truth, but it is.
Hi, I’m Jen, and I’m recovering from a lifetime of anger and discovering what it means to live with real emotions.