I am an intense person. I feel intensely, I get absolutely immersed in activities I enjoy, I become hyper-focused on areas of interest, I passionately express my beliefs and emotions. For a long time, I felt there was something wrong with that, with me. I bottled it up, I was quiet, I shrunk myself down. Expressing myself meant being vulnerable and opening myself up to rejection or worse. Being small meant avoiding confrontation and being accepted, even if that acceptance came at a price.
In my marriage, sometimes my intensity was appreciated and sometimes it was ridiculed. It was appreciated when it favored my husband; when I was standing up for or agreeing with him. My sense of humor was appreciated when he was in the mood to appreciate it, at other times it was met with anger or disdain. During sex, my passion was appreciated. But over the years and after the uncountable number of times my body was used solely for his pleasure without any care about how I felt about it, I lost that passion. Sex became an obligation and I watched as a bored, outside observer, patiently waiting for it to be over. Thankfully, I’m no longer in a relationship where it’s a requirement that I remain small and moldable.
I’ve been restricting myself for so long that I thought I had lost those parts of myself. I’d see glimpses every once in awhile, but my fear would cause me to reel the intensity back in and stick it back in its box. For the past year, I’ve been practicing authenticity. Gradually, I’ve been letting my intensity out and testing the reactions of those around me. I’m learning who I can be authentic around and who I can’t. Some people aren’t able to handle my intensity. I can feel the judgment. Instead of seeing their reactions as a fault of my own, I have begun to realize that it’s their loss.
I’ve begun seeing someone new and although we only met in person about a month ago, I feel a connection to him. I’ve expressed my fear of letting the intensity loose and he’s encouraged me not to hold back. I’m cautiously letting the full intensity of my feelings break through and he has been able to withstand them without running away. This is refreshing and incredibly empowering.
I’m weaning myself off of antidepressants and allowing myself to feel the feelings I was once numb to. Anxiety is something I’m feeling much more intensely. My anxiety feels like a motivator but it’s also incredibly draining to feel all these feelings and think all these thoughts. While yesterday I may have had the energy to go grocery shopping, today I only have to energy to write this blog post and make meals for myself and my children. I’m learning that this is not necessarily depression. I’m trying not put myself into a box either.
While I don’t know whether I will allow my intensity to shine through in all environments, I am learning to seek out the environments where my intensity is embraced and often reciprocated. I’m learning that the people who matter won’t expect me to shrink myself down to fit into some box. And though I thought authenticity meant being myself all the time, I have begun to wonder if perhaps being “myself” means quietly observing in situations I don’t yet feel safe yet loudly participating in situations where I do feel safe. The most important thing I’m learning is to enjoy each step of this process of learning who I am.