“Fake it till you make it.” That’s what my friend told me! We were talking about something on a professional level. Fake it till you make it – Pretend you are confident, press on, act the part and soon you will be more confident.
I totally got it! Fake it till you make it. Google ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) and you’ll find a whole laundry list of things we have in common. Two of those things are Fear of Emotions or Feelings and Fear of losing control.
On a personal level, I had been faking it (or hiding my emotions) till I made it for most of my life. I had to. Otherwise I feared I’d crumble and might never get up. I had so many feelings I had avoided and pushed down deep. I never let myself get too emotional. I always tried to hold myself together no matter what. I was tough. Really tough or at least that’s what I had convinced myself of.
When I first went to live with my aunt, she started asking me questions about my feelings. Not “How are you feeling?” That’s easy….”I’m fine….or good.” That was always the standard reply. No, she asked much harder questions. “What emotion are you feeling right now?” Uh, what? How the heck could I answer that? All my feelings were jumbled up inside me like they had all been tossed in a blender and mixed together. Here’s a little sad, mad, happy, frustration, anger…toss in a little fear and disappointment…all mixed together. I couldn’t answer her. I literally had no idea how to differentiate one feeling from another.
I’m not talking about being frustrated when something isn’t right or is unjust. I have no problem standing up for what I believe in or standing up for others. What I have trouble with is dealing with my own sadness and disappointments. It was always too tough. I had to push it down deep and hide it. I have a hard time being around emotional people who openly display their emotions because I don’t know what to do with them. I have a hard time dealing with some of my own feelings, how can I deal with theirs? It’s like I need a shovel and want to walk behind them picking up all their emotions and give them back to them.
I had been through and felt so much because of Mother’s addiction….children’s shelter, instability, insecurity, numerous moves and changes in schools, numerous people in and out of my life, heartache and so much more. Because of her addiction, my mother pawned stuff, had multiple marriages and divorces, fought, went to jail and the penitentiary…just so much craziness. All of her life choices and consequences greatly affected me. I wasn’t immune to any of them. When she made poor choices which was often, it wasn’t just her who had to deal with the consequences – I had to as well. That’s hard on anyone but especially a child who can’t process all those things.
And to add to my already messed up feelings…just before I went to live with my aunt, my sweet Papa (Mother’s dad) died. He had been my everything…my mom, my dad, my friend, my protector. I had been living with him and my nanny when he died. I was devastated by his death. I couldn’t understand why God would take my Papa and leave my mother. It wasn’t that I wanted God to take my mother but I couldn’t understand the reason my Papa was taken. I needed him. He truly was my everything at that time in my life. All those feelings were too hard to deal with and they all ran together. I just had to keep pushing them down. I couldn’t allow myself to crumble. I had to be strong. Mother was weak and I had to be strong for both of us. I had to be in control. I couldn’t’ be controlled. Not by a substance, emotions or anything.
My aunt knew I had really messed up feelings so she drug me to counseling. I hated it. I thought it was the dumbest thing ever. All I would do was sit in the room with this lady I didn’t know and I’d cry. It was weird. As soon as I walked in the room, I’d just start crying. I tried to tell my aunt how dumb it was that she was paying someone to just sit and watch me cry. But she knew I needed it and every week she took me anyway, no matter how much I protested.
Secretly, my biggest fear was always that I’d end up just like my mother. I feared I’d be controlled by a substance and miss out on the sweet stuff. I was scared that history would repeat itself (it does you know) and my boys would lose their mom too. I didn’t really get a handle on that fear until I was in my mid thirty’s. Besides the craziness I participated in during high school, I really had never allowed myself to drink much after I had my first child. I was too scared. I wanted my boys to have the mom they deserved. Once, I was with my husband and a few friends at an OU/Texas football. They had had a few to many beers. I was their designated driver. It sent me into a panic. Like crazy irrational panic. I called one of my best and lifelong friends who knew me well. I was so mad, scared and crying. She knew how irrational I was being but talking to an irrational person is almost impossible. I was so upset that I seriously considered leaving those guys at the game and driving home. I hated being around drunk people. My feelings weren’t normal. It stirred up all kinds of feelings for me and I wasn’t sure how to handle them. By the time I was in my mid thirty’s I was more rational and started allowing myself to occasionally have some wine. I still don’t enjoy being around drunk people but I don’t have an irrational fear of being around people who occasionally drink.
Several years ago a wise man let me in on a little secret. He told me I (we) really have very little control of things. Sure there are certain things we can control but there is so much more that is completely beyond our control. As crazy and as simple as it sounds…it was very freeing. I understood and was able to allow myself to relax some and let go of some of my control issues and irrational fears. Besides I knew who was really in control and I trusted him with all my heart.
Scott jokes and says counseling worked to well because I don’t quit talking about feelings and emotions now. Counseling did help me. I was able to cry and get some of that ugly junk out. Crying is cleansing for your soul. Counseling taught me how to identify which emotion I was feeling. That’s important because you need to be able to identify the emotion to work through the feelings.
I still think I’m emotionally tougher than I am. I still fake it till I make it. I still push bad feelings down deep and deal with them as I’m able. I still have a very hard time being around really emotional people when they are openly displaying deep emotions. Back in the very back of my mind I still have a slight fear of ending up like my mother but I don’t let it control me.
Life is too short to focus on the junk but you can’t ignore it. You have to deal with it. Otherwise it festers and gets infected like a dirty nasty old wound.
I am blessed beyond anything I deserve. I am loved and I am strong. You can’t enjoy the sweetness until you’ve known the bitterness.
Finding the sweet side of crazy!