It occurred to me recently that allowing myself to be vulnerable has been my saving grace. Opening myself up and sharing with my fellows in recovery all my deep dark secrets is a major factor that allowed me to stay sober thus far. And it’s not just my deep dark secrets that were causing me problems but just the very fact that I had feelings and couldn’t identify them caused a whole lot of bother also.
I was ashamed of how I felt and how I behaved, because I believed that having feelings and making mistakes made me an innately unacceptable person. But where do we learn to have this twisted perception of ourselves? Well, this thinking is part of my disease of addiction and only by expressing what was going on inside me, did I even begin to realize that what I thought was real was not real at all, and my truth was very different than the truth society has about me and people like me.
As an addict I accepted these the lessons I learned about myself as fact; afraid to have an opinion of my own and feeling uncomfortable with these “facts”, I turned to mind altering substances and addictive behavior to try and cope with a life that didn’t feel right inside me. Eventually though I found recovery and not just from addiction. I am also in recovery from misperception and twisted logic. In turn, I learned a new way of thinking and my recovery from attempted slow suicide began.
Vulnerability has been created by the inhabitants of this world in an attempt to label our feelings and emotions as abnormal, and that feeling and experiencing any sort of emotional upheaval, either good or bad, is a sign of weakness. It seems that denying that we have feelings and struggle sometimes makes us somehow more powerful than our peers. If the outside world sees us as successful, wealthy and powerful haven’t we made it?
Not in my experience. I have found that it’s the people who have held their hands up and freely expressed their humanness that have conquered their adversity successfully. In fact nowadays we don’t even need adversity to feel less than. All we need is to feel emotional turmoil of any kind to become vulnerable. Our very humanness has become an enemy to some.
To be heard, understood and validated is one of the most powerful gifts you can receive from another or give to another human and not just in the recovery process but in all aspects of life. I’ve heard some experts say that all of us are recovering from something.
This thought process was triggered when I read a story which talked about the reaction of the press to actor, writer, comedian and hip hop recording artist Donald Glover’s online sharing of how sometimes he struggles with life just like the rest of us.
His open sharing with his fans prompted several headlines stating that his posts on instagram were “troublesome”, “worrisome” and “disturbing”. Celebrities have a huge influence on their fans and reading such a negative reaction to Glover’s pretty normal response to stress, may leave some ordinary person on the street viewing themselves as very abnormal if they too struggle at times. Our obsession with perfection is smothering us to such a degree that rather than seek help and admit we can’t cope, we say nothing and suffer devastating consequences.
We try to protect ourselves from judgement by hiding the battle that rages inside us. Ultimately though, we will be judged anyway. I know I have been judged ferociously for speaking about my issues. But perhaps what I talk about are not really issues but just normal human reactions to some intolerable situations that everybody goes through. It’s just some people chose to keep it inside and other put it out there. Ultimately though I had to choose which was more important to me; other people’s opinions of me, or my sobriety and my mental health.
Whatever chance there is of ordinary people seeking help for our addictions or mental health issues, this sort of irresponsible and pretty negative press will surely deter those in the public eye from seeking help when needed. After all they are human too and as fallible as any of us. Is it necessary to build these people up, just to tear them down to sell headlines and make ourselves feel better?
I’m sure, that the people who wrote those articles, being human themselves, surely have experienced the kind of emotional response to stress Glover has. In my opinion he is to be applauded for his expression and honesty. Condemnation of such expression only breeds isolation and disconnection instead of acceptance and tolerance which is lacking in our world today. For me having emotions and expressing them is not a sign of illness nor a sign of a “breakdown”. I know for sure though, that bottling them up and being dishonest about them will send me back to a very lonely place and quite possibly end my life altogether.