We’ve been conditioned to believe that sensitivity is a sign of weakness. This is why so many of us learn to hide our truest desires and deepest feelings. When I talk about “sensitivity” I don’t mean “taking things too personally.” The sensitivity I’m referring to is having the courage to enter into both pain and joy; sorrow and gladness.
As one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, says, we cannot numb out pain without also dulling our capacity to experience joy. They go together. I believe this is also why sensitivity and strength go together. Although I’m still on my journey of healing (I’m not sure there’s an endpoint?), what I’ve learned from my experience is that the healing is in the feeling – not escaping it, not drowning it out with something else, not suppressing it. Healing is inside the feeling. This takes both sensitivity and strength. The question is:
How do we re-learn to sensitize ourselves, when we’ve been so conditioned to desensitize from our own selves and others?
I know the struggle of having deeply embedded pain suppressed so far down into the pit of my heart. I know the struggle of not even knowing it’s there, but feeling the consequences of it spewing out – in depression, self-doubt, food addiction, anxiety. I know the struggle of expressing my feelings in the studio and talking it out in therapy and feeling as though the pain doesn’t end and every layer of my heart is being stripped, one layer at a time. (Hint: vulnerability is a muscle. We must challenge our comfort in order to get better at delving deeper inside).
I recently met up with a dietician because my food issues started to creep up again. Food has always been an external manifestation of something that needs my attention. It started as a little kid. As young as age five, I would go days at a time hardly eating anything, afraid I would throw up if I swallowed anything down.
As my dietician asked questions to get to know me better, I realized I still have a lot of healing and work to do. There was no way around talking to her without telling her about my anorexia. As she explored my eating disorder with me, she asked questions like, “What lead to your eating disorder?” “Were you hospitalized?” “What was your lowest weight?”
In that moment, my mind went back to the seventeen-year-old girl who still lives inside me – her body emaciated, and starving, and hollow. She’s aware her bones are sticking out in all of the wrong places. What she doesn’t know is the long haul of struggle that is ahead of her.
Talking with my dietician, I knew I couldn’t run away from the pain that was resurfacing as I spoke with her about my anorexia. There’s no healing without honesty. Truly, we can only heal as deeply as we are willing to be honest. This has everything to do with sensitizing ourselves again and learning to feel our experience. Athough it’s something I’ve had to learn and practice, I’m getting pretty used to this whole “being raw” thing.
I used to run away from feelings of shame and guilt –I rarely ever cried–because I thought entering those emotions would unleash the monster hiding inside me. But as I’ve begun to explore and get curious about the struggle, I’ve learned that — layer by layer, as I uncover the real me, underneath it all — there isn’t a monster. There’s a heart. One that beats for love, but struggles to find it in herself.
I left the office with tears buckling my throat. “Will this ever end?” I found myself whispering to God. Everyday I try to hold my head high. Everyday I seek the light of hope even when it appears to be hidden behind the clouds. Everyday I wake up determined to keep going. Today my strength looked a little different.
Today strength meant allowing my eyes to well up with discouragement because I’m (very) human, and my heart does grow weary. But a quiet whisper answered me back: Yes, dear one. Keep going.
Dear reader, if you are in struggle and feeling discouraged, know this: discouragement merely means you had the strength to climb high enough to fall. Discouragement doesn’t know defeat without resignation. Don’t give up. You don’t need to run away from yourself to hide from pain. Only when you become sensitive to yourself can you access the limitless strength you already have inside.
Check out my song, “Strong” for some more encouragement!