“Frank, to you ‘Feelings’ may be goddamn filet mignon, but to me, it’s parsley.”
Susie Diamond from the film, The Fabulous Baker Boys had a point.
Let me assure you, this is not a post about that awful song.
Nor is it a tribute to how much I love that movie but it could be because I love that movie – I’d gladly write 1200 words about 80s Jeff Bridges alone.
But no, this is a sort of follow-up from my previous blog about mental health.
Why do I need such a follow-up you ask?
Because people had a reaction to it.
That’s right, they had feelings about feelings.
Feelings aren’t for the faint of heart.
Ok, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the word ‘feelings’ is the focus keyword for this post. It isn’t because this is a free website and as such, I have no access to SEO tools. Still, I have crammed that word in (a ranking faux pas, btw) but it’s for comedic effect – it is kinda funny, no? No?! Well, screw you!
The hard-worn soldier battling mental ill-health is often skilled at internalising feelings. And as some of us know, depression can also make us numb to feelings.
(After this, you will never want to read the word or hear the song, feelings ever again.)
Mental illness wranglers manage the disease similar to functioning alcoholics.
They somehow live, what seems to others at least, a normal life.
Depression is on a spectrum and not everyone suffering is in constant arm-to-arm combat. Sometimes it’s a cold war. An ever-present background threat of mental disaster.
I was chatting to My Mate Dave…
We message every day, mostly to exchange insults, y’know like a proper British friendship.
In between him calling me a cunt, he offers words of encouragement.
I mentioned to him that the last post made some people uncomfortable.
Dave went on to make an interesting point (which is so unlike him). He reckoned people have a less than favourable response when you openly express negative emotions.
(He didn’t say that as eloquently as I wrote it, he’s kind of an imbecile.)
That was a fucking gong sounding in my brain – he was right, which again, is so unlike him.
Before we go any further…
I’d like to add that whilst I’m here telling you about what goes on in my head, I ironically dislike over-sharers.
(Yeah, I’m the proverbial walking contradiction.)
I’m talkin’ bout cryptic attention-seeking Facebook updates.
I also get pissy about those who document their entire divorce in what seems like a 20-part drama across all social media platforms.
For me, it’s like airing period stained pants in public.
To further assert my being a contradiction, I consider myself fairly open.
Well, I’m selectively open.
(Confused? Keep reading, it doesn’t get any clearer.)
Listen, being uninhibited is easy when I blog because it’s just like talking to myself.
(And let me tell you, I talk to myself far more than I talk to anyone else.)
I do sometimes forget that someone might read this shit.
To me, it doesn’t seem like I’m declaring a secret to the world so it comes as a mild shock when I get a concerned response to the writing.
The danger is to start questioning if I should be talking openly about this at all.
Should I be unabashed about my feelings?
Perhaps, like so many others, I ought to feel shame and embarrassment.
Thankfully the self-doubt is fleeting because I’m convinced those reactions, however valid, are much more about the person feeling awkward on my behalf.
Get ready for another assumption.
I think when we ask someone how they’re feeling, we rarely want an honest answer.
Most human interactions have a procedural nature to them.
And in this context we expect to hear that the person is doing well – we’re completely unprepared when someone goes off-script. Any talk about real feelings breaks the rules of small talk etiquette.
It’s not that we don’t care.
(Ok, some of us don’t care.)
The truth is we have no idea what to do when a person goes rogue and tells us they’re an emotional wreck.
Despite the enthusiastic encouragement to talk, we don’t know what the fuck to do when someone does.
Even our nearest and dearest struggle when we pull back the curtain on our hideous thoughts.
It reminds me of that scene in the 1945 film adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
You remember the story, Dorian remains youthful whilst his portrait grotesquely ages.
The film is in black and white (like all decent movies are) save for the last scene when it cuts to the portrait, which is revealed in terrifying Technicolor.
I know, it’s quite a striking image.
And that’s what I imagine every time I voice things I would otherwise hide.
I reckon I’m pretty well adjusted.
(Don’t laugh, I’m being fucking serious.)
And writing, being all open n’ shit, is, I think, part of the reason why.
But when you read my blog you’ll notice that I don’t go into detail about the circumstances that cause me to have feelings. Unless it’s relevant to a post, that stuff remains private.
During the festive season, I uncharacteristically lost my shit.
Christmas is a time for giving.
But often people get gifts they don’t want, like some harsh truths.
In general, I’m known for speaking my mind (yes, I’m one of those arseholes) but it’s not usual for me to speak candidly about personal stuff. Hey, that’s what blogging and talking to myself is for.
But when you keep a lid on feelings they have a tendency to make like an unsupervised pressure cooker – those bastards will blow eventually.
Full disclosure: I’d sunk a few beers – right or wrong – drinking always lubes up the ole honesty nut.
At the start, it felt pretty liberating.
It was freeing to release the rising steam, unfortunately, my perception of a lived experience wasn’t met with understanding. Oh no, instead, some malevolence was served.
(That makes you really wanna ‘speak your truth’, right?)
Keeping it realz about your feels will sometimes be as welcome as diarrhoea in a public swimming pool.
You won’t necessarily be bathed with love and understanding.
Be prepared to get some shitty water from the unlikeliest of places. As I said, we’re not always great at knowing what to do when this kind of thing happens.
One type of reaction might be to offer you a solution to what is perceived to be a problem.
Another common comeback is to relate your experience to a time they felt something similar.
I understand the need to do that, we mirror each others’ circumstances as a kind of bonding exercise but to the person bearing their soul, it comes across like the other person is a self-centred twat.
If you’re unlucky, the person you’re being all real with will have opinions about what you’re feeling.
Really insensitive types may decide your feelings aren’t right and judge you for them.
It’s irrelevant if people agree with what you’re going through, that’s not the point of sharing your thoughts.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
That’s why a good convo with someone you trust and who you’ll know will be kind really is special.
The act of speaking about your fears and anxieties will help you in ways you never thought possible.
But the human acting as the sounding board has to make an effort.
Sadly, some people struggle to shut the fuck up and listen.
When you pluck up the courage to chat, that’s all you want.
You’re not usually after advice, you don’t care if they think you’re right, you just want a friendly ear, some tea (hopefully gin) and the freedom to spill your guts.
Someone giving you their undivided attention goes a long fucking way.
Because I’m tired of hearing this after some poor bugger ends it all: “I wish he said something”.
Y’know, maybe he did but you were just terrible at listening.