Tag Archives: feeling our feelings

Freedom to Feel Freely



“…you live with two calendars. One that keeps track of time, while the other stores emotional experiences.” Deborah Serani

Today marks the 8thanniversary of my blog. I posted my first post, a funny story about the common sense of getting exercise titled “The Sense of Walking,” on July 4, 2010.

My friend celebrates the anniversary of her birth every year on Independence Day. We joke that she’s “free” not to count the year as she ages closer to 60.

Another friend’s July 4thanniversary breaks my heart. Her young grandson died five years ago today from an allergic reaction to shellfish.

We remember anniversaries of births, marriages, and occasions like beginning my blog, and also deaths, divorces, and losses that haunt us.


Survivors share about getting past the “firsts” –the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday of a loved one after they’ve left – all anniversaries, of sorts. Dread escalates the closer we get to the first anniversary of whatever we’re grieving. We’re not sure how we’ll handle emotions we’ve hidden and hoarded for 12 months. We post on Facebook something like, “Once a year, I let myself stay in bed and eat cake and grieve.”

We remember where we were and how we felt when planes crashed into the twin towers on September 11, 2001. We feel it all over again every September 11th because we said, “We will never forget.” We need to know it’s okay to feel it all over again in the spring and in June too, but we seldom mention 9-11 other than on its anniversary.


An anniversary doesn’t have to be a specific date. It may end up being a month or a season when an event took place. The first bin of pumpkins I spot in the produce section reminds me of my daughter’s wedding. It still catches me off guard even though, for the past six years, reminiscing in the grocery store happens around the same time every fall. I forget what I’m shopping for while I remember how I felt helping her choose her dress. How I felt shopping with friends for my mother-of-the-bride outfit. How I felt picking through pumpkins and sunflowers we used to trim the tables for her reception. Why not feel happy like that in February and in the middle of summer?

Christmas and Easter are anniversaries in the church. Throughout the year we’re taught remembrance when we take communion, but there’s something more palpable about worship during anniversary services of Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection. I want to always worship with that intensity.

Today, July 4th, is the anniversary on which we celebrate our country’s freedom. We show off our patriotism by flying flags high and shooting off fireworks into the night. The other 364 days, though, we’re accustomed to containing our patriotism, but why? We could boast like my friend, Kathy, who posts weekly about how much she loves our country. Her dad moved here from Greece, so gratitude for their American citizenship runs deep.

Today, I’m grateful for this anniversary and others. There’s just something about anniversaries and feeling our feelings. They go together like hot dogs and the 4th. Deborah Serani, Psy.D., writer of the quote at the beginning of this post, named that “something” in an article in Psychology Today. She said, “’Anniversary Effect’, sometimes called Anniversary Reaction, is defined as a unique set of unsettling feelings, thoughts or memories that occur on the anniversary of a significant experience.”


Having a “date” with our emotions gives us permission to feel. Otherwise, we think no one wants to hear much about our delight, our sadness, our love, our loss, our success, our fear, our memories, our pain, or our patriotism.

The more manuscript I write about feeling our feelings, the more I want it to be okay to share my emotions beyond once a year. I hope my writing extends permission to you too.

In This Together,






The Benefit of an Emotional Meltdown



“Sometimes it takes a meltdown to cool down.” Evinda Lepins

A recent meltdown I had wasn’t a public scene or even a really big deal around our house. It was significant enough, though, that I realized how important something was to me that I’ve been ignoring. I try to be preventative about these sorts of things, but sometimes prevention doesn’t work because of others’ reactions. My solution sounds something like this until I calm down, “I can’t believe I’ve let this go on,” “Never again,” and “I’m done.”

By my final fit, I’m left with what I used to think was an unusual outcome, but now I’ve come to expect it – an emotional hangover and a spiritual awakening. Like what Terrell Owens said, “Instead of me having a breakdown, I’m focusing on me having a breakthrough.”

Since I grew up in a silent family who shut up about their emotions and shut down everyone else’s, meltdowns ended up being the only way to figure out how I felt. It shouldn’t come as a surprise I married into a family that did the same thing because we’re attracted to what we know. They’re screamers, so I hoped they’d scream about their emotions so I could finally talk about mine. As it turned out, their screaming was also about shutting up and shutting down.

Shy on role models, I eventually learned to appreciate emotional meltdowns for what they were – a gateway to my emotions. Even though I’m still shaken by their messiness and hung-over feelings, and I fear I’ve made things messier instead of mending them, meltdowns haven’t let me down as long as I handle them constructively. I stop looking at what everyone else needs to do and, instead, I look at my part in the meltdown. I get in touch with how I feel and I decide what changes I want to make.

So, what’s actually melting away?

I used to hate to cry in front of people. I still do, but it helped when a friend said, “I love when you cry. You’re melting.”

I knew what she meant. I relaxed a little each time I cried around her. She could see me softening and I could feel it. For years I tried keeping up a happy pretense and a façade of being distant from my emotions by laughing off how I felt and saying, “I’m fine. Really, I am.”

I’m like Elf, “Smiling’s my favorite.” However, weightiness surfaced when I recognized emotions have a life of their own if we ignore them. Instead of being happy like Elf, we numb out with food, zone out on Facebook, and distract ourselves with problems we can’t fix, disturbing news reports, and our own bad habits. Sometimes we want to die when we already feel emotionally dead or our emotions (the ones we think we’re not supposed to feel) feel too out of control. I dislike being called “too sensitive” and hearing I overreact, but I dislike even more not being true to who I am and what’s going on inside of me.


So, I melt.

I ask myself things like: What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What do I need? What do I want to change?

When I ignored the answers to these questions or didn’t bother to ask them at all, I ended up in a depression I almost didn’t survive. It’s like the anonymous quote, “I froze because frozen hearts don’t feel pain.”

I tried to give up feeling pain so I wouldn’t inconvenience others with my emotions. The result of freezing my pain was freezing almost all of my feelings. I was robotic. I went through the motions of life without emotion, or tried to. I felt like one of the walking dead and wondered what the point was of getting up each day.

This is when I had the meltdown of all meltdowns.

“On the other hand, I believe there’s hope, because the breakdown and the repair are happening simultaneously.” Kathryn Bigelow


I cried for two years, or so it seemed. I broke my silence and told a couple of trusted friends about my depression and not feeling anything except hopelessness. I let my family know I felt desperate even though they didn’t want to hear it, not because they didn’t care, but because it was scary to listen to. I contained my meltdowns to our living room and limited the best I could my accusations, name calling, and cuss words. The more I talked, the more I was able to share my emotions constructively by talking about myself and how I felt and my plan for feeling better.

I stopped trying to get a thicker skin and focused on being kind to myself and talking about my pain. I got in touch with what my heart longed for instead of the chaos in my head. I had less severe emotional hangovers and more startling spiritual awakenings. I started healing from my meltdowns because I saw their value and handled them right.

When you melt down, do you know why it’s happening? Do you see its value? Do you ask the right questions? Our emotions and handling them right are key to melting well.

In This Together,

On the Side: My manuscript is about emotions and the value of getting in touch with how we feel. I’d love feedback from you about what to include and about what you’d like to read more about.

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

We Need To Talk (depression, part 5 of 5)

“I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” Agatha Christie(Artwork by Bob Doster's Backstreet Studio)

“I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” Agatha Christie
(Artwork by Bob Doster’s Backstreet Studio)

I could see our story on the Six O’Clock News. Woman arrested for beating husband with a plastic food cover. While police dragged wife from the scene, she screamed over and over, “Spaghetti sauce stains.” Police are looking for clues into the crime.

And maybe you understand if you live with someone who

  • Has a propensity to downplay every issue,
  • Is afraid to confront the smallest problem because it might get bigger (and it does because of being ignored),
  • And who insists on having head conversations instead of talking about feelings, even if they’re only about spaghetti sauce stains.

This scene played out in my thoughts while I stood at the sink washing the plastic cover you put over food to keep it from splattering in the microwave. It was newly purchased the day before we heated leftover spaghetti.

“I just bought this cover. I hate that it’s already discolored,” I said.

“Well, it’s better than having sauce all over the microwave, right?” said my husband John.

Thankfully, I was turned away from him. If looks could kill, but come to think of it, instead of acknowledging my glare, he’d probably comment on the radiance of my eyes.

Which brings to mind how we “suffer from feelings,” a phrase I mentioned in The Cure (depression, part 4 of 5).

I wanted to screech, “Let me whine and have my frustrated feelings without you turning into Johnnyanna.”

He would’ve snapped back, “Why do you have to make such a big deal over a stain?”

We’ve had hurtful arguments over even less, and that’s because we’re not fighting about spaghetti sauce stains.

We’re fighting to have our feelings heard and to be okay.

We’re fighting about whether we matter to each other.

We’re fighting about wanting respect and cherishment.

What I’m trying to say, minus the sarcasm, is, “I want to whine, and I want you to care I’m upset.”

What he’s saying, minus the mean tone, is, “I’m the one who warmed the spaghetti and messed up the cover. I hate when I disappoint you.”

My husband and I grew up in homes where pouting, sarcasm and screaming were acceptable, but talking about feelings was not.

So, when he was afraid, angry or frustrated, he climbed a tree and numbed out by smoking cigarettes as early as age 12, then climbed down and acted out by shooting out streetlights with his BB gun.

When I was afraid, angry or frustrated, I cried. Or, rather, I did until the day Mom told me if I kept being weepy and looking miserable, she’d send me away to boarding school where maybe I’d be happier. Instead of acting out, I acted happy, all the while feeling hopeless.

What’s crazy is, we identified these patterns years ago, but knowledge alone can’t stop self-deprecating ways like smoking and depression. Maybe that’s why it was a bad idea in the Garden of Eden to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 2:17).

We can’t “smart” our way out of our messes. We have to “heart” our way out. In other words, we have to feel to heal.

These days, because I’m blogging through this series on depression, and because my husband is my editor, and he’s weeping while reading my posts, I’d like to think we’ll suffer less as a result of slowing down to feel more.

And suffer less because we’re talking about our feelings instead of trying to talk each other and ourselves out of them.

As we feel our way out, we may determine our feelings, as well as the feelings of others, to be acceptable, possibly inspirational, maybe even downright delightful.

However, to arrive there, we’ll likely have to also feel the feelings that are not acceptable (to us or them), not inspirational, maybe even downright dreadful.

Here’s a charge for us all to find the freedom to feel.

  • Get comfortable with our feelings. It takes practice.
  • Give others permission to feel by listening, not fighting or fixing.
  • Feel good even when we feel bad because we’re feeling at all.

What feelings do you need to let out?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Feel. Do it again. Never, ever stop, any more than you’d stop breathing. It’s that necessary.

On the side: The story about Harriet Dieson, a 65-year-old pastor’s wife, mom and grandmother who killed herself four days after Christmas 2012, kept me awake for nights. Although I don’t know Harriet’s story, I think this sort of thing happens when we are a witness to the feelings of others, but no one witnesses ours. May we learn from others’ pain to get in touch with our own and to find someone who will listen.

Click here to read a blog post about suicide by Donna Pyle.

Visit Bob Doster’s Backstreet Studio Facebook page to see more of his metal sculpting.

Related posts:

What’s Your Secret? (depression, part 1)

Stopping For Help (depression, part 2)

Depression: A Waste of Time? Or Worth the Time? (depression, part 3)

The Cure (depression, part 4)