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I am discovering that a lot of my depression is rooted in toxic shame and fear of emotions.  Emotions can be difficult and painful and quite overwhelming when you have depression it is all you can do to get away from them.  Emotions, in an of themselves, however, are not so much the problem but rather how we respond to them that causes us trouble.  It can be hard to see this initially though.  I spent most of my life running from some darkness that was haunting me.  A dark feeling so intense it felt like death.  And so I spent most of my life trying to avoid it by denying it existed and I did Ok.  There were signs like random out of the blue urges to suicide, a dead spot somewhere inside me that was my constant companion and some reckless behavior that should have clued me in but I didn’t want to see it until I reached the point where the emotions started to spill out uncontrollably.    I spent two years in full on emotional meltdown and another couple of years pretty out of control but to my surprise I survived and learned that it wasn’t so much the emotions that harm but what we do in response to the emotions that put us in jeopardy. 

I had a dream early on during my severe depression phase that was quite upsetting.  Water in dreams symbolizes emotions.  I dreamed I was standing on a crane in the middle of an ocean and I jumped making a statement requesting help for my boyfriend to understand.  At the time I was pretty shaken up by the dream but I do a lot of dream work and knew logically it was symbolic in the sense that there would never be a single crane standing in the middle of an ocean for me to jump off so I tried to reflect on what the dream was trying to say and realized that the dream was saying that the act of jumping into water (emotions) felt like I was jumping to my death.  For those of us who have spent a lifetime with strong overwhelming emotions that we desperately try to run from it does indeed feel like the emotions themselves will do us in but the truth is it isn’t the emotions but how we respond to the emotions that is the danger. 

Emotions in and of themselves are simply our tool for regulating our life.  They are like a guidance system there to show us where there is harmony or discord in our life.  They can be strong and they can hurt but if we have impulse control and can regulate our physical responses then the emotions can be used to help us navigate our life as opposed to fear it.  I see now that emotions and physical restraint are not one in the same.  I just assumed that if I got angry or severely distressed that meant I was a danger to myself or others.  I don’t know that any of us can completely know how we are going to react in any given moment but what I realized is that having emotions doesn’t necessarily mean I will or have to respond physically and that helped me to liberate myself from my fear of my emotions.  I am now becoming empowered, mostly through mindfulness, to learn how to navigate my emotions and use them as a guide as opposed to a way to define my lack of worth or inherent badness because I had them. That doesn’t mean if a person is struggling with physical restraint they are bad, it simply means they may have one more task to tackle in gaining better life coping tools than just learning how to manage emotions but also need to learn how to refrain from getting physical as well.

In the end our reactions and behavior do not need define us.  For a long time I thought that having anger and depression meant I was a bad flawed person.  But at any given point in time I can stop being angry or stop doing whatever I am doing that goes against my values or well being.  I realize now I never had the tools to do so growing up.  My parents were never taught good coping skills so how could they even know to teach me.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn them now which means I am not my emotions or behaviors.  I don’t know what I am exactly but I am learning that emotions and depression are not who I am but merely what I am experiencing.      

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I read your compelling post and noticed near the end you mentioned "tools" you didn't have growing up.

This is so insightful. Of course the "tools" are metaphorical.

Metaphors are our best friends in attempting to understand our psyches.

I find metaphors so helpful, I now refer to them as "MEDaphors". 

"Tools" imply work and skills and safety precautions. With the right metaphorical tool for the right job we can do anything.

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