On Processing Internally, Sinking Into Discomfort And Reaching Out

. 4 min read

In the past few weeks, I've found myself surrounded by therapists, spiritual coaches, and mindfulness workers. No, I didn't check into a facility. These are the people that make up my work space—be them the entrepreneurs behind brands I've partnered with, or collaborators on projects I'm working on, or inspirations that I've interviewed for articles/videos.

For them, I feel extremely grateful. I don't know about you guys, but I tend to be the caretaker in most of my relationships. It's natural, and I'm most definitly not complaining, because I really feel honoured to hold space for people to share in ways that they historically haven't felt comfortable to. If I can offer any advice, great, but if I can just listen, I know this tends to be the biggest of helps.

All that said, when you hold the role of caretaker, the murkier flip side is that you don't often feel heard yourself. I recognize it's my own fault. Whereas I can create safe spaces for others, I still struggle to tell my own friends about what's going on, what's eating at me, etc. The reason for this is that I can feel how heavy things tend to sit inside of me, and the idea of burdening someone else with that is often worse than letting it choke me to death.

(Now you see why I'm having to work on being totally honest with the people in my life. This "keep it all down" automation has been running for a long time.)

The result of this is that I tend to peel way back from my friends when things are hard. I talk to my mom instead, who is the best of the best with listening to me. And I'll talk to my older sister, too, usually. But my poor friends get left in the dark, unsure why I'm being so unreponsive. "Are you mad at me?" I regret to say that I hear this a lot. Too much.

Lately I went through another wave of this. I just voicenoted my bestest of friends last night after nearly 2 months of my being silent. It sounded a bit like this, "I'm so, so sorry. Here's what's been happening... So, yeah, I've been stressed, and you know I don't tend to process aloud" (I'm an introverted thinker in friend and family relationships) "but still, I'm sorry because I wish I could've told you earlier and shown up better for you." Etc. Etc.

I share this especially for anyone who has someone in their life that tends to go quiet now and then. I know it can be hard to deal with. But this is what happens in many of our minds. It's almost like they're spinning so fast because of whatever anxiety has cropped up that there is no energy left for communication, which of course is the only medicine that calms it all down.

And so we come back to these lovely healers I've found encircling me lately. I bring them up to share the fact that, much as people like me would like to believe otherwise, we really do need other people to get us through rough patches. And more than just our mothers, because, poor things, I worry sometimes they get far too weighed down with their kids' pain.

What these therapists and coaches asked me, specifically, that really helped is, "What does your intuition say?" That question was hard to receive, because I was hearing the need to address things I didn't want to, things I was actively avoiding, which was causing a lot of internal strain. I don't need to get into that here, because that's private. And I think, for you reading, it's best if you insert here whatever may be going on in your own life, whatever you may be be avoiding looking at for fear of pain.

Because, here's the thing, much as it may feel tempting to sweep things under the carpet, the act of sweeping does nothing but encourage anxious thoughts to swell and take over. By contrast, when you reach out to whoever you need to, addressing whatever you need to, little by little things can begin to resolve. Maybe not right away. It's possible that, first, you may actually feel pain. But unlike the pain of avoidance, this is the sort of pain that is worth its daggers, because it's reality-based versus imaginary. And when you're sitting in reality, you can come up with grounded solutions. Whereas if you're up in your head, you can't do much at all.

So if there's something to take away from this all, it's 1) know that you're not the only one, if you tend to pull back from others when you're processing. But then, 2) know, as well, that there will come a point where you need to reintegrate, have the tough, honest conversations. I can't promise this will lead to results you want, but I can promise that you will feel, at the least, more respect flood toward yourself, and the people in your life will appreciate your return.

You should do it for you though. Because, cheesy as it may sound, you deserve to have people in your life supporting you. And you don't deserve to feel like you must walk through it all alone. Love exists for a reason. It is the greatest healer. And, when given the opportunity, it forms the building blocks for what I happen to think is the meaning of life: deep human connection.

Big hugs, and as my new friend Stacey always says: deep breaths. xo