I woke up on Tuesday night at 2.30am and couldn’t get back to sleep. The first thing that came into my mind was, ‘I wonder how Japan’s doing….’ I started thinking about all the people that had lost their homes and those that had lost their lives. I didn’t get back to sleep.
I told a friend yesterday that it was worries about Japan that had kept me up. “What? Oh come on, you’re not serious!” and I just thought, ‘since when has it been not ok to care about something and feel affected by tragedies elsewhere in the world?
Since when have we not been ok with feeling uncomfortable emotions. Why are we always running away from them?’ I think it’s because we’ve lost a feasible way of dealing with them.
It seems like the way to deal with things that upset us is to pay attention for about 2 minutes while it’s on our TV screens, express half heartedly that yes, it’s sad but try and not let it get to us too much, then just drop it and let it go.
My friend said, “Yeah, well what about the starving children out there, do you wake up at night and worry about them too?” and I just said, “I try not to focus on things that will upset me, I don’t generally watch the news and what not, it’s not like I’m purposefully dwelling on what’s happening in Japan, but when something does upset me, what’s wrong with acknowledging that you’ve been emotionally affected?”.
As a separate friend later said to me, “Camilla, it’s OK to feel what you feel. They’re your feelings and you’re absolutely entitled to feel them”. No one has ever told me that before and I was so grateful for it. That is true acceptance. What has the world come to when people don’t feel that it’s ok to feel what they feel?
I think this was a big problem in my depression. I didn’t talk about the thoughts that were in my head and so they just ran around and around like they did the other night at 2am. I didn’t feel it was safe to talk to other people because they might use what I said against me. I kept a stiff upper lip and people used to say to me, “Camilla you’re so strong.” I always felt like a fraud. If only they knew.
I didn’t feel ok crying in front of other people until I was in my mid-20’s, then I kind of got ok with it. Before I used to be really embarrassed because I thought people would think I was weak. I thought that only by being strong and keeping your heart and soul to yourself could you protect them from being damaged.
Thankfully I have people in my life now who demonstrate unconditional love to me. I don’t have to behave in a certain way for them to accept me. They love me at my worst and forgive me at the drop of a hat. (I call one of them ‘The Saint’).
I think pushing away what we feel is a major problem in things like depression and dysfunctional relationships these days. What’s more, I think it’s incredibly important to let people know that whatever they feel is ok and appropriate.
Acknowledgement is the only way you can start the recovery process and process your emotions in a way that’s appropriate for you. Your mode of expression might be talking to someone you trust, journaling about your feelings, writing a poem or painting. I didn’t like the idea of processing my emotions in this way initially because I thought, “I don’t want to focus on this thing anymore, I want to get it out of my mind.” But now I know that using self expression as a way to grow and reconcile your feelings is entirely appropriate, especially for example if you use it as a way to find peace with what happened.
Personally, I’d like to do a painting about what has happened. My way of turning it from a negative to a positive experience is that I’ll approach the process as a prayer for those who have suffered so much recently in Japan. Maybe you could acknowledge your sadness and send a prayer in your own way.
If you’re like me and have found it difficult to get clear, accurate information on the disaster unfolding in Japan and are worried about what has and could potentially happen (without the fear mongery), you’ll like the Q&A page of the New York Times. It’s informative, practical and answers all the questions you’re probably wondering about that other media outlets have failed to address thoroughly.