A friend once told me, “Ashley, your house is always so immaculate. I don’t know how you keep it so neat and clean when you have 2 kids.” My response was, “I’m great at hiding things.” To my friend, that just meant I stuffed shit in closets and cabinets where no one could see. For me, it was my indirect way of admitting that my life was messed up. I’m one of those people that can smile through almost any pain. I’ve been told that I have a great poker face, and if something was ever wrong, no one would know. For years, I wore that “compliment” as a badge of honor.
I learned at a very young age that it was better to put on a “good face” than to show people that I was hurting. My step-father was a drug addict, and every time he would go missing, I would feel broken. The emotional impact that had on me was more than I could handle at my young age, and the only message I received from my mom was, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” She always put on a “good face” and pretended that everything was ok. She never discussed her feelings, nor did she encourage me to talk about mine. Because of this, I learned very quickly that emotions such as anger and sadness weren’t things that people liked to talk about. Not only did I have to pretend everything was fine in my house, but I had to pretend like I wasn’t suffering emotionally. Years of this forced me to develop the ability to disconnect from my feelings completely. Out in the world, I could present as if everything was perfectly harmonious while inside everything was burning to the ground. Disconnecting from my emotions began as a way for me to cope with the pain that I experienced in my childhood, and it eventually developed into a highly dysfunctional pattern.
Later in my life, it had serious implications on my relationship. I could have the most horrific argument with my partner, and 60 seconds later, I could walk into a room full of people with a smile on my face and no evidence of any turmoil. This created a traumatic cycle for us. We would argue, pretend everything was fine, be ok for a while…then argue, pretend everything was fine, be ok for a while….and on and on. This pattern was not only draining, but it was extremely damaging. At its worst point, I remember feeling paralyzed…with no understanding of how to break the vicious cycle. Because I was great at hiding my shit, no one was ever aware of what I was going through.
Disconnecting from myself emotionally wreaked the most havoc in my life. It was the underlying cause of most of my inner turmoil and misalignment, and it’s what I must work to change the most. I’ve been working on myself for years, and at times, I still find myself putting on a “good face.” The difference now is that I am aware of it. Now, I have the awareness and tools that it takes to break the pattern and reprogram my thoughts and behaviors. It takes time, and it’s ok to grow slow. The biggest lesson is to acknowledge your dysfunctions and be willing to take off the mask and ask for help.
Please understand that I’m not suggesting that you run and tell everyone about your innermost pain, but if you can identify with any of this, I want to let you know that you are not alone. I encourage you to acknowledge, embrace, and deal with your feelings head on. Find someone that you can trust that will show you compassion and understanding. If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, start writing. Writing helped me release the things that I couldn’t say out loud. It’s so important to get your feelings OUT. I’ve learned that in order to show up in my life FULLY and authentically, I must be connected to myself completely. That means embracing all the parts, emotions, imperfections, etc. that make me ME. It’s not easy, but it is better than living misaligned, disconnected, and in pain. Grace over perfection any day.