On Vulnerability & Healing
If you know me, you know I hate feelings. If you don’t know me, well— now you know. I rarely talk about how I feel and 11/10 times, I choose to avoid emotions rather than process them. But when I woke up this morning, I figured it was time to throw caution to the wind and do the one thing that scares me shitless: feel.
Five years ago, I had my first encounter with losing someone I loved. Last year, a month short of her fourth death anniversary, I told my parents and best friend about how I silently battled with insomnia and depression for three years. And today, for the first time since she’s been gone, I feel strong. Strong enough to be vulnerable and vulnerable enough to share.
To start off, the person I lost wasn’t even a person to begin with (talk about a plot twist, am I right?). Sheba was the most beautiful springer spaniel you’d ever laid eyes on. While she wasn’t the most energetic dog around, she had a grace about her that was captivating. She was gentle, loving, and good. She was my friend, a part of our family, and a mother to her lone son aka my lil mutt.
Long story short, five years ago, my parents entrusted me with a choice— bring Sheba home from the vet’s clinic after her organs started failing OR go the clinic and end the pain she was in. In my attempt to be a logical adult and make the right choice, I ignored every voice in my head that said no and found myself walking into the clinic for what was Sheba’s last day with us.
September 17, 2011: it sucked.
Watching my dad cry for the first time sucked. Feeling her heartbeat and then feeling it stop forever sucked. For 15 year old Kimaya, it all just sucked.
But, it got better. I got better. And a few weeks later, we were back to living our lives. People did this all the time. Dogs have short lives. They come, they go, we move on.
Apparently I didn’t.
Because exactly a year later, I woke up in the middle of the night after an eerily realistic replay of Sheba’s death in my dreams. I thought it was a one time thing but the dreams kept coming. For the next three years, every time I closed my eyes, my mind would replay the moment I killed my dog. I watched it happen over and over and over again. So eventually, I expected the dream. I was prepared and when it would come, I could push through.
But my conscience was bitch. Instead of me killing Sheba, I then had nightmares about me stabbing my mom, taking golf clubs to my brother’s head, and running my friends over with a car. For a while, every night when I’d go to bed, I would kill someone I loved.
And every morning when I’d wake up, I’d pretend like I hadn’t.
It got bad my sophomore year. I stopped talking about my feelings. I even stopped feeling my feelings. I put on a facade and worked tirelessly to make it come off as real. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t sad all the time. I still had great days. I still had great friends. Heck, at my worst, I was the most outgoing I’d ever been. But they all only got so far before my walls went up. I became scared to love people. I became scared to hurt them and to hurt myself so eventually, I started living in a constant state of fear and numbness.
My priorities got skewed, I started lying to the people I loved, I was uninspired, and I was unhappy.
But last summer, after a fallout with my parents (two people who have done nothing but love me), I broke. I sat in my room and through my tears, typed a six page letter that I sent to them before I could stop myself.
I told them everything. I didn’t want to, not. one. bit. But in a fury of emotions and vulnerability, I let it all out— the fear of sleeping, the depression, the dreams, all of it. And just like that, it went from something I hid to something that was now very, very real.
In the days after I sent that email, I was a wreck. I had reached a point where I had no other option than to process four years of emotions I shelved away. I had to understand that there are things that no one will ever understand, and that’s okay. But just because someone else’s problems might seem worse than yours doesn’t mean that yours are any less valid. I spent four years telling myself that it was ridiculous to be upset over a dead dog when people around me lost parents, had their families torn apart, and worse. But the more I told myself that my problems weren’t real, the more real they became.
The point of this blogpost isn’t to fulfill a narcissistic tendency that most blogposts do. It isn’t to hear back from the people who read this. Hell, it isn’t even part of my healing process. It’s simply a hope that this reaches even just one person who’s hurting, hiding, or healing.
All of us today are under so much pressure to be happy. To put on a smile. To get over it and put our problems in the past. To move on without truly healing. Whether the pressure comes from the people you’re surrounded by or from yourself, it shouldn’t control the way you need to heal. It’s a process: one that takes some people a few days, some months, and some a lifetime.
But the only way you’re going to make it through is if you decide to stop killing yourself and start being gentle with yourself.
I realized that because of my past, I started compromising my future. So, the day after I sent that email, I woke up and decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted to feel the pain and the confusion and the joy and the vulnerability and every other emotion the world had to offer. I decided to spread love instead of being afraid of it (though let’s be real, still struggling with that one).
For months, it was absolute torture but I found that the dreams soon stopped. I found that the more I talked about it, the less I dreamt about it. I found that the things we don’t say tend to scream the loudest within and that the things we don’t get off our chests eventually just make it harder to breathe.
When I started typing this, I wasn’t sure where it was going. I told myself two things: I wasn’t going to use this as a tool to overshare and I wasn’t going to be preachy. But of course, I’m doing both. So, one last tidbit to leave you with:
Every morning, you get a chance to be different. You get a chance to move on, to change, to make people feel good, to start working out, to hit on the hottie in your class, to feel, to share, to chase adventure, and to do better.
So do it, take that chance.