I have a friend who talks about her “work” – the personal and emotional things we all have to work through and the deliberate way in which she works through it. Her work is messy, she says, in that when she’s going through something, it’s not a quiet, internal process. Those close to her know it. She talks about it openly and shares the physical side effects of her emotional stuff. She also explores a lot – different ways to get at the heart of the issue, alternative therapies, finding meaning in things most people wouldn’t even notice. She puts herself and her emotions and her struggles out into the world and gets a lot back in return.
I have been privy to some of her “work” over the last several months, and it has occurred to me on many occasions how much better she is at dealing with her crap than I am. As much as I have shared here, I otherwise keep my own “work” very quiet. It’s very internal, and I’ve realized it’s very shallow. I don’t think I do really deal with my crap, in fact. It gets in the way of my desire for everything to be ok.
But sometimes things aren’t ok. We all have stuff. And we all have different ways of dealing with that stuff, and some of us are better at it than others.
I think I used to be pretty good at it. I know I used to be much better about self-awareness. And I recall in the past letting emotions in that for many years now I have mostly tried to keep at bay.
When I revealed my latest struggle with some of the people I work with, the consistent comment was, “I had no idea.” I had no idea you were going through something, they said. I had no idea you were dealing with something shitty.
That’s because, over the last several years, I’ve become pretty damn good at hiding that shitty stuff in my day-to-day life. Which is not to say that it hasn’t spilled over in other unintended ways, but it’s certainly possible to have things appear completely fine when they’re not.
And that’s really the thing about mental health, isn’t it? For some people it’s messy. For others, it’s a tidy package that gets tucked away in a box with a closed lid and only opened when it’s convenient or, perhaps more accurately, when the box gets too full to stay properly closed.
This is not to say that I feel the need to put my mess on display, but I do need to mess it up a bit. I need to unpack that box for myself, and find out more about what’s in it.
I don’t entirely know what this “work” is going to look like for me, but that’s probably okay. I just know, more clearly than I’ve ever known before, that it’s time.
Self-actualization doesn’t just happen, you know.