I’m that girl—the girl who had everything to say, but never uttered a word out loud. The one who smiled and laughed, for all to see, but also the one who was slowly dying inside. At some time or place, we’ve all been there before. Lost and confused and unaware of who we are. So, we put on our masks and act out the façade, just so the world can’t see our troublesome load.
But, just like you, I never appeared to be lost. What I allowed the world to see was different than the insecure little girl that screamed and cried inside, begging to be let out. Instead, I smiled when she cried and laughed when she screamed—for her hate was mine to carry and not for others to see.
I can’t pinpoint the exact night and how it all began. But what I can tell you is that deep within us all lies a shadow of the person we used to be. And each and every shadow is waiting to be set free.
Looking back today, I can remember the times I was most afraid. My mother would come home and, once again, she’d be upset. She’d scream and shout about things I knew nothing about. She was filled with fire. A burning hatred from within.
She wanted to know when my father would become a man and when he’d do all the right things. I remember thinking “I thought we were alright” and “what did we do wrong?” but in her eyes, I was just a kid and I didn’t know a thing.
With time, I can finally see what I couldn’t see then. It was never me, it was just him. A simple glimpse of my father reminded her of who she’d never be. Her hatred ran so deep inside that it confused and tormented me. What I learned was that feelings were scary and probably best to just let them be.
But that’s the scary part about anger—you can be sweet and kind and everything nice, but show the world you’re broken, and those are the pieces they’ll always see. Words are funny that way—when they’re said out loud, they can’t be taken back.
We often say words we don’t mean when we’re pushed into a corner and forced to face our ghosts. Anger manifests. Hatred breeds the same. Feelings bring more feelings, even when they’re shamed.
My mother carried her fire and often lit her torch. Another fit of rage, another storm I’d never understand. Every time she showed her anger, I began to retreat. And in the end, I learned the lesson—my feelings were mine to keep.
When she sobbed, screamed or even spoke, I watched as my spirit slowly became a ghost. It was in that moment where it all began, the decision that my feelings would continue to remain my own.
With time came more feelings and many that were harder to bear. They overwhelmed me, and as they caused me to unravel, I continued with the one thing I knew: I buried them all back inside. But there were so many—too many to count. And I still shoved them all back in again and hoped they’d never come back out.
But, how would I cope? I wondered what could help.
So, I turned to something that many of us seek comfort in: food. It was easy to get my hands on and it kept me full. It couldn’t yell or scream, or tell me that I was wrong for being me. Instead, it made me warm and all tingly inside. And when I was full, I couldn’t feel, so food felt perfect to me.
But with time, it wore off, and I’d have to eat again and again. Food was never what it was meant to be—nourishment for my growing body and mind—it was only meant to hide my feelings and keep them all inside.
I’d gorge on boxes of pasta, cakes and ice cream. I’d eat enough for a family of four, but it would never solve a thing. Soon enough came the day where I’d outgrown food. There was only so much I could eat and it would only last for so long. I craved more. I needed something in my life that could mask the pain longer than food ever could.
As my burden became heavier, my anger escalated, as did my need to hide. Food wasn’t enough, so I turned to the next thing. I picked up a drink and it tasted just right. So, I chugged it right down and ordered another three. But soon the buzz wore off and I realized that it wasn’t enough. It would never be enough.
Nothing would ever be enough, as I could still feel feelings and feelings were the least of what I wanted inside of me.
With every addiction, I added fuel to the fire. With every feeling, I added another level of shame. I had turned my feelings into shooting pains. As one came close, I would scream to mask the feeling that was begging to be set free.
But deep down inside, I knew that feelings weren’t bad. We all have them. Somehow, along the way, I had turned all of my feelings into pain. Light became darkness and saturated all that was good, but deep down inside it was all begging to be let out.
With time came wisdom, just enough to see, that no matter how far I had run, it was all still there, hiding deep inside of me. Layers and layers of disappointment and disgust had blanketed me tightly enough, that even I couldn’t see what was hiding underneath.
So much time had come and gone. So many protective layers had been formed. But eventually, they all wore off and I was forced to face them one by one.
Today, I look back and wonder why I ran so far. What was it about feelings that scared me the most? Feelings are just visitors. When we sit with them for a while and push through the discomfort, they’ll eventually go away. It’s when we run and hide that they stay and continue to haunt us during all of our days.
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