I said that to a woman, in a therapy session, a few weeks ago.
We don’t have feelings until we’re ready for them.
I believed it when I said it, too.
The woman told me she found this a useful phrase, since she’d been crying a lot lately. I could see her letting go of the fear of her own feelings, in that moment.
I remember, many years ago, somebody else explaining to me why she never cried, with this:
One of my tears would flood the world.
I’ve heard people say similar things, like this:
I fear if I start crying, I will never stop.
I’ve been crying a lot lately. I’ve been crying in my office. I’ve cried in a meeting with co-workers. I’ve cried walking down the hallway of the hospital where I work, talking to my manager.
People don’t seem to be worried about me, which is kind of amazing.
I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered if I — and they — should be worried about me.
Am I breaking down? Is doing work that is so important to me, in a place that triggers some painful childhood memories, too much for me right now?
Or am I just having some feelings that have been there for a long, long time, because I’m ready for them? Is it possible that for the first time in my life, I feel safe enough to have them?
Are my tears a sign of healing or a warning sign?
Today, I honestly don’t know.
Maybe it’s not an either/or question. Maybe my tears are a sign of healing AND a warning sign.
So where does that leave me, today, at the beginning of a three-day vacation, after a week at work where I felt so friggin’ overwhelmed, that at times I was like one of those archetypal Zombies that are appearing EVERYWHERE in the stories people are telling these days? (I’m throwing in a “Walking Dead” reference here, and not JUST to increase readership.)
Working at a hospital, being in a position to create real change — so that providers can be more present in the moment, with people who are in emotional pain — is an incredible opportunity for me. It’s a reparative experience, for what I did not get as a child in the hospital.
It also makes me sad — in a new way, on a deeper level — for what I didn’t get.
Being back in the hospital, in this new way, as an adult, triggers old memories and fears. These fears really don’t apply now. (I’m bolding that, in hopes it will help me to remember.)
Here’s another mantra, which I offered to somebody in a therapy session, many months ago:
Consider that you might be safer than you feel.
That is something I am trying to tell myself, every day that I am working in this hospital. But it’s hard to remember that. Especially when I am overwhelmed by feelings. And by too much work.
So I have felt particularly unsafe — scared — at the hospital, these days. When I feel unsafe, I tend to isolate. I tend to think that people don’t care.
But now that I’m crying more publicly, my co-workers — whom I might fear, out of old habits — are showing me all sorts of things about themselves, which are helping me feel safer.
While I feel some shame about showing my tears and my fears to my co-workers, this is how they are responding to me, in words and action:
- When you show us your feelings, we appreciate it.
- We think you are strong.
- We want to help you figure out how to get what you need, so you can stay and work with us.
I want to figure out how to to get what I need, too, so I can stay and work with them.
We’ll see if we can figure it out, together.
Feeling safe enough. Having deeper feelings. Doing — in the world — what feels valuable and true.
It’s all a work in progress, isn’t it?
Thanks for reading, on this amazing day (with lots of feelings).