I’m not a big drinker, but these days I suffer from hangovers fairly regularly. I’ve always had these – when sharing my fears and deep feelings with others – as if the part of my brain that doesn’t want to be vulnerable or wounded can’t accept that I am and so it fights back and tries to tell me that I’ve shared too much. That I’ve made myself look pathetic or silly or weak. That somehow I have diminished my self.
This is the part of my brain that separates. It’s the black and white part that doesn’t understand that power doesn’t come from resistance or rigidity or perfection. That it comes from softness.
I write personal stuff. I write about my life and my feelings and my experiences. And I don’t censor them – well – maybe just a little. I write about true things because this is what I know.
People tell me how brave I am to write about such personal things and share them in a public way. I am brave, yes. I can say this without feeling stupid. It has taken me a very long time to realise it – to give myself credit – but hell yeah, i'm brave.
But also, I am terrified. Being brave also scares the hell out of me. Really. Whenever I share an article about something personal there is this moment that feels like jumping off a cliff edge into the freezing water below. You want to, but also, you really, really don’t. And the only way you can do it is to just stop thinking for a moment and do it. Let your heart propel you forward in a motion that is necessary but petrifying.
Recently I have shared articles about depression and bulimia, and boy-oh-boy did the vulnerability hangover hit me hard. I read over what I have written and I recoil at its honesty – I want to read it through my fingers the way I watch scary scenes in films (I may be brave but I'm a total wimp).
Maybe one day I will be able to read them with open fingers, with no hand over my eyes at all. Without the faintest squint or squirm. Without the vulnerability hangovers.
This is possible, but not that probable. And actually I don’t know that I want it. Bravery relies on fear. What makes an act courageous is when one pushes past the fear, when someone does the right thing in the midst of being afraid. And the reason I share these things is because I feel its right. Because actually, although these stories are mine, it's actually not about me
It’s about healing and it's about oneness and it's about reality.
Writing about these things is healing for me, this is true. There is catharsis in it. But sharing these words – the tricky bit - is healing for others. It legitimises our human suffering and this is a good thing. A very good thing. Our brains play funny tricks on us that make us think there is something wrong with us and that others don’t struggle with the same difficulties that we do. That we are different. Messed up. less than. And this belief separates us. It isolates. It removes the support of deeply understanding the shared experience of our utterly human existence. We all have our darkness. We all struggle; self-esteem, fears, doubts. The minute details etched on the surface of our consciousness might be different, but the ground they lie on is not.
We are all breakable. We are all wounded. We are all delicate.
And we are all stronger than we could possibly imagine.
We are all the same. When you get down to the grit and blood and bones of it all.
We are all in this together.
And so really, I honor my vulnerability hangovers. I try to lean into them. To breathe them in. Because if they show me anything, they show me that I am human. And I know this means that I am just like you. That emotions are not black or white. That you can be strong and weak at the same time and still, you are strong. And that being brave is dependent on having fear. On overcoming.
I am brave. You are brave. We are all beautifully brave. And we are all in this together. I feel this. I hope you can too.
With love and courage,