“Ugly” Feelings and How to Deal

Worth Living Ambassador Michele King

Hi! My name is Michele and I am 28 years old. Living with both depression and anxiety, I want to be a positive force of change to help end the stigma associated with mental illness, with hopes that what I share will help at least one person who comes across it.

“Ugly” Feelings and How to Deal

Anger (noun): a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.

For me, anger has always been the hardest emotion to acknowledge, deal with, or express. This could be because growing up, I didn’t often see it shown or when I did see people confronting their anger, it was not done so in a healthy way.

So how did I cope with anger? That’s easy… I didn’t. I always felt “bad” for being angry, like I wasn’t allowed to feel that way or that it was never okay for me to just be angry- like I “shouldn’t” feel that. Feeling angry = BAD.

So, I would stuff it down and then often become sick or lash out inappropriately because I didn’t have the slightest clue of what was going on inside of me—I just knew it was too much to handle.

I would love to tell you all that the Michele I am writing about here was little Michele,  a tiny, little elementary schooler with a gap tooth, bangs and wavy hair but unfortunately it took me a little longer and a few more painful experiences to be able to appropriately address my anger.

To be fair, most of that time anger wasn’t the only feeling I would avoid. Nope, Michele Danielle did not discriminate when it came to feelings. I liked to ignore them all equally.

I often avoided sadness, disappointment, feeling tired (because, you know, I can just keep going, it’s fine), and happiness.

I was afraid to feel happy because well… what happens when the other shoe falls? I couldn’t possibly bear that disappointment. (Spoiler alert: I could. Over and over again, I could. We humans are pretty resilient)

This left me numb for a while. Contrary to what it sounds like, feeling numb actually had a feeling. When I was numb I was tired, not motivated, had a tight chest and my stomach felt like it was tied in a bunch of knots.

When you’re numb you aren’t enjoying things. You can put on a smile and pretend to be happy but deep down it still feels fake.
Because you are being fake, you aren’t dealing with the emotions that are longing to be let out into the open where they can be felt, heard, acknowledged, and lastly… loved.

One of the biggest things therapy has taught me is to face my feelings.

Anger as it turns out is one sly guy. He actually masks other feelings that can be even harder to admit to like sadness, hurt, or disappointment. So often we feel angry, but that anger serves to protect us from feeling and being more vulnerable. It can be easier to say “I’m angry” than it is to say “That hurt me.”

When we confront our feelings, even the “ugly” ones, we can begin to give them a voice, understand them, and let them go. #BYEFELICIA

Our feelings are there to tell us something and the longer we ignore what they have to say the more stress we put on ourselves physically and emotionally. We continue to lash out and cope in unhealthy ways to fill the void and ignore the pain.

So how do we start feeling our feelings? We face them and take away the power that we have been giving them by keeping them inside of us.
1.       Be kind with yourself. Don’t expect to be a pro at this right away.
2.       Breathe. Take some deep breaths and maybe even try to meditate or go for a walk/exercise before diving in to give yourself a clear mind.
3.       Make sure you are doing this at a time you won’t be distracted.
4.       Start by acknowledging what you are feeling in your body. This helps you trust yourself because you can’t lie to yourself about physical symptoms you’re having. (For example, my shoulders feel tight, my chest feels like there is an elephant sitting on it, and so forth) You might actually be surprised by this exercise because it allows you to feel lighter because you’re speaking your truth even if it is a simple one.
5.       When you are feeling a strong emotion, (whichever one you have a hard time expressing—for me that’s anger) acknowledge it. Say to yourself “I feel ______” (angry) Sit with it and get to know it. ***This can be uncomfortable because we usually want to ignore this feeling and do something right away to not feel so crappy. But resist that urge, remember the feeling will lessen once it’s felt and it won’t feel so powerful forever.
6.       Once you sit , start writing. Write down what you are feeling. Again, I start with physical symptoms then move along with emotional ones. (If you don’t like writing consider talking to someone you trust to listen and not judge you or try to change your feeling)
7.       Get creative and have some fun with it. At one point I was getting bored with writing the same stuff down so I decided to write a poem about what that feeling felt like for me in the moment. *I realize not everyone likes writing or poetry, so paint, draw, exercise—find a healthy outlet that suits your needs.
8.       Get HELP. If you feel like some feelings are too hard to even acknowledge or are too big for you to handle on your own reach out to someone you trust or a therapist. They will hopefully be able to help guide you through processing those difficult emotions in a safe place and healthy manner. They will also be able to help you confront others about your feelings.

The reality is that most of us were not taught how to manage or express our feelings, especially the more difficult ones. In fact, many of us were probably taught to ignore them and avoid confrontation. But it is never too late to try something new and become more self-aware.

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