The other day, my first grader came home from school crying.
She’d had a fight with her best friend. (Apparently, the best friend has other best friends—the horror!) “I don’t want to talk about it,” she told my husband. Same response when I got home.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
At bedtime, I tried to bring it up. “I don’t want to talk about it!” she maintained.
Finally I got her to tell me why she didn’t want to talk about it: “Because it makes me upset. And it’s confusing.” My heart melted. I was so proud of her for being able to identify and articulate the reason. Such a big breakthrough! That made it possible to get on with the work of talking through the situation at hand and how she might handle it.
For the last couple months I’ve been working my way through some upsetting and confusing things, which I’ve kept largely to myself. Part of my reluctance in opening up is that I’m a natural-born fixer, and it kills me to talk about a problem with no solution (yet). Or to have an action plan, but to know that I can’t be the one to implement it. So I talk less and think more.
In those times when I’ve turned to a trusted friend, though I’ve felt exponentially better.
Sometimes the act of getting it out is the medicine. Just like a cat with a hairball. Cough it up. Purge that shit.
Friends may not have magic answers, but they do have sympathetic ears and comforting hugs. And, more often than not, they can relate in some way to the fear, anger and bewilderment that have been at the root of my worries.
Admitting that feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty are unsettling—and then deciding to open up anyway—is such a brave thing to do. And effective, too, because that action takes away some of their power. So the next time you’re experiencing something upsetting and confusing, don’t hide it. That’s exactly the time to talk about it.
Put those feelings out there.
Aim a light on them.
Pick them up, one by one, turn them upside down and shake out what you can.
Call a friend. Get a therapist. Journal.
Opening up may be a scary proposition, but it’s absolutely worth it.
After all, as they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Author: Becky Volmer
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Giuseppe Milo at Flickr