Today's introspection revealed to me that I feel alone even when I am with other people. This is something that made me want to think about it just a little more deeply. We have talked about hurt, masks, defense mechanisms, the mind, the body, and a whole host of other things. But we really haven't discussed walls. Each of us builds up walls, protections to keep us from experiencing the pain associated with emotional hurts. In an earlier posting we talked a good deal about pain, and how it is the tool from which we learn and grow from. In that entry I talked about forgiveness, moving on, and how time can help heal these wounds. However, there are times when the healing process takes too long, the pain is still too fresh with us, so we construct emotional barriers, these barriers hold people at bay. In effect these walls tend to keep people at arms length, they cloak us in secrecy and hide us from exposing ourselves to situations which we perceive dangerous or hurtful.
Have you ever found yourself in a crowd of people that you know, they are all having a good time and you feel alone and forgotten? This could be a sign that you have built up barriers around yourself, that others find daunting and formidable, they have tried to get close, but you haven't let them or even given them a chance. You find it hard to open yourself up to others, you have a tendency to push people away when they start to get too close, and you refuse to open up about yourself and your past. You shy away from social interactions, you only like to participate in events when there are lots of other people being there. Exposing yourself and taking the chance to open your heart up to others may seem like such a frightening thing to you, but there are ways through this.
Now, I am not saying that emotional hurt and scarring are the only things that cause us to build up walls and barriers. There are other factors that can influence them as well, low self-esteem, low self-worth, mental abuse and ridicule, and so many more. Walls are mental defenses, they cannot be seen, but they can be felt by those that care about you. When you come to recognize them you will know that they are there and they are solid and impassible. They hide your feelings, thoughts, and most importantly they hide the real you. Dealing with issues of low self-worth, and self-esteem are probably the hardest, sometimes individuals seek counselling and other forms of outside help to find themselves. Introspection and honesty with yourself are the first steps toward understanding your need for these walls, and once you start to understand you can start to tear them down.
When I was growing up my mother and father kept telling me that I was useless, that I wasn't worth anything, that I had no talent, that I was going to amount to nothing and always be a nobody. After hearing these things for years, I started to believe them. Then I found myself in a relationship where someone cared about me, they showed me that I was beautiful on the inside, that I was attractive on the outside. They encouraged my writing and drawing, even singing and dancing. I was finally beginning to like myself, to realize that I had talents and that I could be important, and something happened. My friend contracted HIV in the early 90's and in 1996 he passed away. I was hurt, heart broken, I had friends that understood, they encouraged me and tried to help me through the hard times. Even my parents seemed to understand. But, in 1997 I met someone new, he helped me to leave my past, pulled me out of the loneliness that I was feeling. It was great at first, we moved to Atlanta and started a life, but after some time things in that relationship began to change. He too started telling me that I was nothing, even though I had gotten my Masters degree and landed a good job. He tore apart my self-esteem and my self-worth. It took me years to figure out why. But, in the process of this I lost myself, my direction and before I knew what had happened twelve years had gone by. I got sick myself, with cancer for the second time, I ended up losing most of my large intestines and had to have a colostomy bag. I even lost my job, my life started to spiral downward, I got lost in depression and despair. One day I looked in the mirror and really looked at the person that was staring back at me, and something amazing had happened, I noticed that I had lost weight, I looked almost like I did in high school, I was different.
It was on that day in June of 2008 that I realized that I wasn't ugly, that I was attractive, and I remembered that I had been someone important, that I had talents, and I had friends. It took a long time for me to rebuild my self-esteem, to actually come to like the person I had become, but it took even longer to find my self-worth. It wasn't till December of 2010 when my best friend from the 90's pulled me aside and actually confronted me and told me that he didn't know who I was anymore, that I had lost myself, lost my direction and that I was like a log just floating in the stream, going with the flow, no longer an individual. That I had become passive, and let people use me and take from me everything that I had built up. It wasn't until that very discussion that I realized that he was right. That I had stopped living my life, that I was merely existing, going with the flow, and that I had isolated myself from everyone with my walls and depression. It took me a long long time to fight my way back to the person I am today.
Walls are built when we refuse to let anyone close because we are afraid of getting hurt or let down, or because of how we have been treated in the past. Tearing them down can cause us to go to the opposite extreme. We have a tendency to overcompensate and when we do we fall into another pattern of behavior. In my case I went from being entirely closed off to way to open. My father jokes with me that I have never met a stranger, within five minutes of meeting a new person they know my entire life history. This of course isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, as some of you may know I am have a problem with my emotions and holding them in. When I am hurt I laugh it off, when I am aggravated with someone I make pointed jokes or comments. Most of which are funny and the person never gets the hint that they have done something. Now this is the core problem I have built up walls around my heart, I hold in my pain, frustration, anger and every other emotion behind my walls, and I have perfected my mask so well that most people never know until I explode that something is even building inside of me.
In most cases walls protect us, keep us from getting hurt, but in some cases like mine they are more detrimental because they keep us from ever truly getting close to another person. Hell it took me a full relationship of three years, to realize that I was really attractive again and that I could have someone interested in me. I really messed up that relationship because I didn't believe that he loved me, I couldn't open myself up to him like I should have, I kept my feelings and emotions bottled up inside, and I surrounded myself with a whole bunch of other people so that I didn't have to deal with the things that I was feeling. The relationship ended very badly, though today we are friends and hang out with each other, and we talk about serious things. I think that maybe one day we might even be able to pick up the pieces of our broken past and rebuild something. But I still have more to uncover about myself before that can happen.
Avoidance is another wall that can cause issues. Always looking the other way, avoiding conflict and confrontation, and when you do that you open yourself up to be taken advantage of. People take your kindness for weakness and they try to use you for whatever they can get out of you. If you don't stand up for yourself and stop the problem, you will soon find that no one else is going to either. You have to look out for yourself or expect to be used and hurt. Walls, can lead to isolation, loneliness, depression and despair. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and open yourself up. In other words, when you fall off the bike get back up and try again. Don't let a silly thing like fear keep you from loving and being loved. Tear down your walls, look deep within yourself and really understand what has hurt you, what are you protecting yourself from and work from there. Don't push people away and lose your chance for love.
Remember it is never too late to start this process. Look at me I am in my 40's and I am going through it. It took a long time to truly understand my hurts, to get myself back into a position that I can stand on my own, I am not dependent on someone else to make decisions for my life. I can do it all on my own. I am not saying that I am anywhere near finished tearing down all the walls around my heart and mind, but I have come a long way. It took me sitting down and writing and talking to everyone in my past, to tell them that I appreciated them and cared for them, that I have recognized the mistakes that I have made and that I saw the sacrifices they made for me. In other words, I attempted reconciliation with each and every friendship, relationship and family member in my life. I also searched deep within me to remember how I felt when I was in those hurt situations, and came to terms with them. I forgave, but didn't forget about the incidents. Now when I look in the mirror, I don't see the fat person staring back at me anymore. I see me!
If my walls could talk they would tell you that here you have a kind and sensitive man, who has a loving and huge heart that wants to help and love everyone, but he has been used and abused by so many people that he is scared and skeptical about opening himself up to anyone. Who isolates himself because he doesn't know how to tell people when he is hurting or angry, a person who wants to be everyone's friend and yet doesn't know how to move slowly. He is a person who goes from one extreme to the other, not knowing how to vary how open he is to those around him. A man who has a tendency to make himself from savior to victim, and helps those who victimize him do it. I know this about myself and I am working daily to tear down the obstructive walls and replace them with constructive walls, to learn moderation and above all express to others how he is feeling at all times. To show emotion, love, passion, and caring sensitivity to the ones he really loves and cares about.
So if your walls could talk what would they say about you? Working through the issues of your life may be beyond your ability to deal with, if you find that you cannot work them out for yourself, I suggest you talk to a pastor, counselor or even a life coach. Take back your life it is yours, and guess what you do deserve to be loved and be able to return that love. You are worth something, you are important, you are unique, and you can never ever be replaced.
God loves you, I love you, your family loves you and there are so many others out there that want to love you, you just got to give them a chance. It is time for you to make a change in your life. Don't let yourself be defeated by your defenses, don't let you past dictate how you are going to live your future. Above all else make sure that you are totally honest with yourself, and express your feelings to others. One last piece of advice here. No one has the power to make you feel anyway about yourself that you don't want to feel. You are your own individual with your own style and personality. If someone makes you feel guilty or makes you feel uncomfortable about how you dress, how you feel, anything at all, that person has too much power over you. Take your power back. You shouldn't care what other people think or feel, that is on them. I am not saying listen to what they have to say, but remember it is only their opinion. Which everyone has like assholes! You must be you and be comfortable with who you are. Live your life for you because no one else is going to live it for you. Watch your own back because despite everything no one truly has your interest at heart but you, and only you know what that is.
Each new day is brand new, a clean slate, there are no mistakes in it. You must wake up and be glad that you did, fight that depression and anxiety you feel. Put on your PMA (positive mental attitude) and march to your own drum, express yourself in your dress, you hair and attitude. Then go out and screw up your day anyway you can and have fun doing it, because guess what tomorrow is another new day and you can do something totally different and unexpected. Walls are made to protect us, not keep us captive, which is what ends up happening. Tear them down find someone to love and build something new and positive together.
As always my hopes and dreams are with you,