Emotionally vulnerable sticky notes

by Kat

"Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often, and Have Fun" by Kate Ter Haar (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/6245064592/), Creative Commons - Attribution

“Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often, and Have Fun” by Kate Ter Haar (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/6245064592/), Creative Commons license – Attribution

“I  wish I could leave all of my emotional vulnerabilities on sticky notes.” – Passing comment I made to a friend before handing her a sticky note thanking her for providing a safe place to process through my anxieties.

She has provided me endless cups of Earl Grey tea, a listening ear, and a dog to pet when I’m feeling distant — who never seems overwhelmed when I share bits of myself, the things about which I fear others’ judgement. “We like having you around,” she reminds me when I come to the cafe for lunch. I wonder if she knows how long it takes for me to feel comfortable in a space.

I leave myself post-its filled with reminders that everything is going to be okay, but I rarely share them because that would show people how much I worry and the effort it takes to cope with that ongoing inner dialogue (“What’s the worst thing that could happen? THAT. Yes, that’s a pretty scary thought, but how would you deal with that. I’d _____. And that would work, right? I suppose so… So you’ll be okay? Yeah, maybe.” And the day goes on.)

I just finished reading through Allie Brosh’s new book, adapted from her webcomic, Hyperbole and a Half, with some additional stories she added. There’s a scene in her chapter on her lengthy, arduous bouts of depression when she’s trying to figure out how to tell her closest friends that she doesn’t want to live anymore. She wonders if maybe she could just yell out how much she’s struggling and then just run away, so as she puts it, doesn’t “have to be there for the fallout,” but she does realize how “confusing and alarming” doing so would be (1). So how do you tell people you’re struggling, that sometimes the anxiety gets so bad that you feel like you’re slipping away. Other times, you can see the wave of worries coming for you, but can’t seem to make them stop.

My coping skills are considerably better than they used to be, but being emotionally vulnerable is still unbelievably difficult for me. So, as I mentioned in my first paragraph, sometimes I leave emotionally vulnerable sticky notes. I may not be able to verbalize what’s going on, but I can write it down and tell you about it. Sometimes doing so feels like engaging in a police informant negotiation in which one slides demands across the table. They look at them and acknowledge the statement; then the conversation continues. I find myself trying to establish a context for these sorts of conversations, but for those who know little about my backstory, this is challenging. I begin by writing a note and then trying to share it with the person across from me. Most of the time, they listen surprisingly well.

It’s funny; every time I’m open with someone about my social confusion or anxiety, even the troubled family background, I’m still surprised when people don’t go running for the hills. I picture the Killer Rabbit clip from Monty Python and I’m incredibly grateful, although a bit confused about why they’re still listening (2). No one has run yet, when I’ve revealed these parts of myself that were painful for me to experience and in a way this is reassuring (people are in fact good and kind), but it’s also befuddling.

These days when those sorts of conversations go well, in the moments following, I’ll find myself journaling about the experience. Maybe in this action, I remind myself that there are safe people who want to listen to my stories. These people welcome my studying in their cafes and petting their dogs as they pack up the days’ cookies and sweep the crumbs from the floor. In these places, I feel secure and loved.

  1. “Depression Part Two,” Hyperbole and a Half,  webcomic written and illustrated by Allie Brosh — http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html
  2. Killer Rabbit scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nvs5pqf-DMA