I have given much though to this over many years and I am still surprised by how chronic illnesses and health struggles can make us so emotionally vulnerable.
I seem to feel everything so much more deeply since becoming ill that I have had to work hard to build up barriers in order to handle things better. It’s truly difficult to describe how this feels to most people, and sometimes it’s hard to accept myself. Conversely I am actually pleased by how being emotionally open has helped my marriage (and some of my closer friendships). It has given me the ability to offer so much more, and for those precious few, they are able to truly know and see me.
However it is not without its difficulties.
It feels as though my naturally empathic nature had been dialed up a million fold, bought on by the years of pain and struggle that I (and my husband) have had to endure. People’s actions and attitudes can leave deep impressions on my emotional skin now. Enough of these wounds and the skin becomes very inflamed. This is not easy to deal with when it becomes so pained so it is much wiser to try and protect the emotional sides of us more vigilantly.
Nowadays I am very careful who “I let in” and who I offer my precious resources to. I have to be because I know that I am weakened vessel now, with a very low battery life. So I want to give my best to those that appreciate my efforts and I also want to give some to myself; that’s always much harder.
It only takes approximately 10 minutes on social media or talking to some stranger on the phone to make me feel exhausted and depleted emotionally. I remember life twenty years ago and it seemed so completely different in my memory. I do miss some of those strengths of yesterday but today is a new day.
I believe that being ill and feeling so helpless physically has a huge toll on our emotional well being. More than I could have ever realized or thought possible. I reason that most people out there have no idea how they affect the ill or health challenged. They are oblivious to what they give off and the deep effect they can have.
For this reason many of the chronically ill retire from the world and have to cocoon themselves in a manner that they can feel stable again. Feel able again. As able as we can be.
My life now has to have a filter on people, events, social media, commercials and politics and anything that can disturb the precarious balance I try to reach each day. I have had to cut off contact or interaction with those energy feeders and provokers. Those that constantly feed off the fruits of happiness and self esteem that you have been carefully growing and tending. They can drain you entirely in a matter of moments or with an unthinking word.
Being emotionally vulnerable was something that was condemned growing up and where I grew up. It was preyed upon and used as sport by those I should have been able to trust and respect. We start out life emotionally vulnerable because we are young and inexperienced and we are trying to grow. It’s ironic that later in life I feel I have returned to this state as I try to find new growth whilst I am in these weakened legs again.
My list of friends and contacts dwindle each year as I have learned to weed out the meaningful from the superficial. Although I may know thousands of people (even related to a considerable amount) yet it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will ever really know anything about me or appreciate the things I contend with. So I let them go. I only have room for a select group of peace loving devotees.
I realize that my natural state, and the mood to which I am most at home, is a peaceful yet humorous and creative one. One were I can admire a loved garden, a little bird busying himself in a tree and the warm breeze blowing over me while I create in my mind or remember some humour and enjoyable events. That’s me and that is what I try to protect at all costs.
I have learned to let go of a lot! I have had to! I have let go of a lot of mistakes, wrong doing, regrets, dreams, goals, people, stereotypes, prejudices, judgements and needs that previously ruled my life. There is no easy way to do this but to buckle in for some extreme soul searching.
The fact is that as of today I realize that I still cry a lot about things I can’t control and I do still hurt deeply from the painful things people say and do, even if they don’t mean it. So I know I have a ways to go on my emotional journey but as I look back I am proud of some of the milestones I have achieved in this area and I have hope for what I may be able to achieve.