Feelings & emotions that overwhelm – a personal reflection

September 7, 2012 · 22 comments

I never knew until very recently how often I hold onto my feelings/emotions until they overwhelm me.  I guess I must have been doing it all my life and just thought it was what it was.  Then, a few weeks ago I read something that woke up some long forgotten dormant part of my brain.  (Hello light bulb moment.)  Feelings, especially the icky ones aren’t supposed to fester around inside you for weeks on end.  They’re simply supposed to pass through you.  You experience them, let them tell you what they need to, (in essence process them)  and then they simply move on.  It might take a few hours or even a day or two – but once they’ve done their job they’re supposed to go away.

I think perhaps I missed the interoffice memo about that one (hang on showing my age, let’s make that email or even facebook update).   Somehow I’ve spent my life getting stuck in my feelings and then using all sorts of other ‘things’ to try to escape them.  You know (well maybe you don’t actually) but being stuck with feelings of insecurity, grief or simply not ‘feeling’ good enough is not a nice space to be in.  So I’ve had to put some effort into getting away from them.    My weapon of choice has always been food.    But there is a long list of other things you can  use to do the same job.  Something to dampen the intensity of emotions that make us feel uncomfortable – for whatever reason.

For me the reason has a lot to do with grief. Between my 15th  and 19th birthdays I swam in it daily. I lost firstly my sister and then both my father and grandfather.  The pain was intense and couldn’t be explained away or justified by my mind.  Over eating calmed me.  It somehow lessened the pain and gave me internal peace  – even if it was momentary.  It became my rock. My place to crawl away and seek comfort from the hard cold realities of life.  But what I didn’t understand was that by blocking out the pain I stopped myself from fully recovering and moving on.   To this day if someone is late home or not where I think they should be I start to feel the panic rising.  Perhaps the grief was so intense, for someone so young, that I couldn’t really process it?  I don’t know –  but the  outcome was the same.

So now, over twenty years later I’m seeing this. Isn’t life amazing?  I’m forty-one and still learning about myself. I’m learning that the emotions that move through my life are just passing vapours.  That I can feel and experience them, even allow them to show and teach me things, before letting the move away from me. And the amazing thing is that they do.  Once  you acknowledge and respect them they just go marching away and peace and calm restores itself.   Sounds simple. But it actually takes practice.  I’m having to train myself to be still and sit when I start to feel negative feelings building up. To listen and respond before I reach for a packet of TimTams.  To actually make it a daily practice to hear what’s going on inside my own mind.  Right now I don’t get it right all of the time.  When life gets stressful I have to be mindful or I’ll automatically turn to the pantry shelves for support.  Here’s hoping that as time goes on I’ll get better at catching the moments and processing the feelings. I can’t really ask for more than that.

End of post where I chatter on like a wanna be psychologist!

Linking this one up with Singular Insanity and Things I Know –  follow the link to check out what other people know 🙂

1 Lisa Wood September 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm

oH dear I think I missed that email as well! Why oh why do us women take too much to heart, yet men can shrug it off and dont even remember it the next day?
I carry my feelings around for years, and yep my way of dealing with it is by eating Chocolate!
Love that you are discovering what is happening within and how you are coping with your feelings. If you find a way to forget about what others say, can you please add me to the email list!!! Would love that Memo.
I reckon its a mumma thing – we are taught to respect others (and remember other peoples feelings), yet we forget to respect ourself!
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2 Lynda Coulson September 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm

You wrote this on my birthday, so its like you gave me a gift. You have certainly given me alot to think about how to deal with such overwhelming emotions which I tend to bottle up in a dark space. And to think I came over to your blog about Enjo! Will follow!
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3 Jude Jonathon September 11, 2012 at 2:03 am

You’re just like this excellent flower and i honor your lovely feelings.
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4 Caz September 17, 2012 at 8:24 am

Thank-you Judy 🙂
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5 Mumabulous September 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Some people never have this realization. However resisting Tim Tams is always bloody HARD, no matter how enlightened you are. 😉
Love Mumabulous
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6 Caz September 10, 2012 at 5:57 am

So very true mumabuous!!
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7 Grace September 7, 2012 at 10:14 pm

You’re an amazing person with incredible strength, Mama Caz. With great insight too!
It doesn’t matter what age we’re at, I think life is about constant growth and learning.
I’m 41 (too!) and I feel that my path to self-improvement is continuous, especially when it comes to controlling (and keeping at bay) those negative feelings.
Keeping still and just thinking about it means you’re heading in the right direction.
Take care of you x
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8 Caz September 8, 2012 at 5:10 am

Thanks Mama Grace. (Fancy that – we’re the same age 🙂 Yup – it seems to be a life long journey. Maybe its something about the point of life!! Thank-you for your lovely supportive comment 🙂
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9 Carly W September 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Thank you for sharing such a personal post … you have written it so well.

So many of us can relate to these feelings …. they have stemmed from different life experiences and attitudes but the end result is the same ….. the way you have written this makes me feel empowered.

We don’t have to ‘change’ but we do have to grow. And the funny thing is that when we allow ourselves to grow … by doing exactly what you have just written about … then the change occurs naturally and we become more comfortable and happier within ourselves.

I don’t think we ever stop ‘growing’ … once you start on that path then you open yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities, relationships and experiences.
Its the people who refuse to grow that get stuck in a life they don’t enjoy and wonder why they can’t ‘get a fair go’.

Ok .. I’ll get down off my soap box now. I guess what I’m trying to say is YOU GO GIRL! Thanks for being so open and honest!

xoxox Carly
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10 Caz September 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Stay up there I say 🙂 Love what you’re saying Carly.
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11 Lee September 7, 2012 at 8:54 pm

This is such a great post Caz. That is a lot of loss in such a short space of time AND at such a formative time of your life Caz! I would imagine that your mother and father would have been suffering terribly and it would have been pretty impossible for you to honour your emotions in that context…
I have been practicing mindfulness for quite a long time now (eesh, 12 years??) and I am still a complete novice. It’s hard to undo our early parenting and long time habits of avoidance or denial.
I often think about how I can parent in a way that my children’s emotions are respected and acknowledged, rather than silenced. It’s much harder than I ever imagined. x
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12 Caz September 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Thanks Lee 🙂 I hear you with the parenting. I try to do that too – but you’re never sure if you’re getting it right. I’m thinking it’s all about practising and hoping it gets easier with time. Thanks for you lovely supportive comments -they’re always so spot on 🙂
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13 Naturally Carol September 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Sounds like you and I may have to try a few roadblocks when it comes to the ‘feeling’ and ‘eating’ connection! I read of a lady who has made 33 quilts so far this year ‘cos she now sews instead of snacking..she is very dedicated I think.
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14 Caz September 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Lol – Really? Imagine that. I wonder if she sells them. What a creative approach – shall have to ponder that some more. Thanks Carol.
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15 Elisa {With Grace & Eve} September 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Love this post! And love the truths you have discovered Caz! So much strength and courage there. I agree, processing our emotions is so important and so nourishing, but stopping to do it is easier said than done. I have a few lingering that have been calling out for some processing too… xx
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16 Caz September 7, 2012 at 1:48 pm

So nice to know I’m not alone 🙂 You always wonder when you write something like this if you’re the only person in the world who feels these things. Thanks so much for your kind words xx
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17 Caz September 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Thanks Julie 🙂 I don’t often think of it as hardship these days – because it’s just my life. You grow and adapt and everyone has their own set of circumstances. It’s only when you have to readjust yourself and really look that I remember and see how it’s affected me. I think ‘us’ with the English heritage are all prone to the ‘stiff upper lip’ syndrome’. It’s funny watching my Dutch husband – who is exactly the opposite!!! He just lets it all out and then gets over it. Human beings are funny things.
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18 Mama of 2 boys September 7, 2012 at 11:24 am

Oh Caz, you have been through so much. Too much for anyone to have to process. I think you are incredibly brave & so honest with your feelings here. I think bottling up is something all of us are guilty of. I know for me, I was raised to be strong & fight through any weakness. Therefore now, I often shrug difficult times off & try to cope on my own. I think we could all stand to be a bit more in touch with our emotions at times. Thanks for the reminder xo

19 Aroha September 7, 2012 at 7:47 am

What an amazing post and an amazing journey you are on discovering yourself. I can’t imagine hard it must have been to suffer all that loss so close together. I was 32 when I lost my dad, then my uncle, then my boss (not that the boss and I were close, but it seemed death was all around) and I know what you mean about the panic that rises when someone is slightly late or not where they should be, etc. I am sure it’s been a long hard road, but I hear a lot of really positive things in this post and it is never too late to learn about yourself and learn to love yourself. Thanks for sharing. Just popped over from Things I Know.
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20 Caz September 7, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Hi Aroha and thanks for visiting 🙂 Will pop over the see what you know too. Thanks also for the support. So true – it’s never to late!!
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21 Kathy September 7, 2012 at 7:17 am

Those are some pretty big and important realisations there! I have struggled with honouring my emotions in the past – often I think I shouldn’t be feeling what I feel, or with a different intensity than I actually do, or expressed differently to the way I instinctively want to express myself. Allowing myself permission to feel what I feel, and express it in my own way, is something I’m still working on.
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22 Caz September 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm

So true Kathy. I guess it’s a lifes work type of thing hey 🙂
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