Expressing Yourself When You Don’t Know How

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Here’s a truth bomb: I’m a writer, but I can’t find words.

I’ll be honest, every teacher, mentor, boss, friend, and colleague would all agree on one thing: I’d talk to a doorknob if it would talk back. Words are kinda my thing. Self-expression, whether in the form of my clothes and shoes, artwork and poems, and most importantly in my writing, has always come easily to me.

Yet here I’ve stood for the better half of the last year with a lump in my throat, unable to truly express myself. What’s wrong with me? Does everyone else know? Do they also think something is wrong with me? Why can’t I just say what I mean, mean what I say? Why can’t I just ask for what I need? What do I really need anyway.

Welcome to the mind of someone with anxiety.

Lying would be to say that I’ve figured it out and I finally know how to express myself. Lying would be to say that I don’t wrongfully lash out on someone important to me at least once a week because I don’t know how to explain how I feel, or that I don’t unintentionally go weeks without responding to text messages, phone calls, and emails.

But here’s what I have figured out (so far) about expressing yourself when you don’t know how.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Cliche, I know. I cringed writing it. I hate cliches. But some days really are better than others.

The truth? Some days, I wake up and I get a great run in and work isn’t too stressful, dinner tastes great, I FaceTime with my nephews, I answer all of my texts as they come in and I go to bed feeling good. Then, I wake up the next day and for some unexplainable reason I feel overwhelmed (hi, anxiety, it’s me). I struggle to explain it at dinnertime, so I lash out on my boyfriend. Then, I cry in the bathroom at work the next day and it’s 2-weeks later and I have 67 unread texts... and I have no idea how to even begin to explain to anyone in my life why it happened.

So you start over. Couch to 5K. 5K to 10K. All over again.

Take the highs with the lows.

The worst part about being unable to express yourself is that you can quite literally beat yourself up over it. The courtroom inside your head is so loud. “But she’s entitled to take care of herself, even if that means she’s not as responsive for a while.” “It’s rude to ignore people.”

At the end of the day, you have to be willing to cut yourself some slack and take the highs with the lows. Otherwise, you’ll end up on the defensive all the time, which helps no one when you’re trying to express yourself later.

Confidence is your greatest line of defense.

Hey, girl… you’re doing the best you can.

Honesty gets you further than anything else.

Nothing I’ve learned has been more important than this: be honest. With yourself. With your loved ones. With the world.

You might not know what you need. That’s OK. You might know exactly what you need. That’s OK. But say it. And don’t be afraid to say “I have no idea why I feel this way, what will make it better, or how long I’ll feel this way. But I need you to bring me a unicorn and 6 tubs of Pinkberry.”

You’d be surprised how much further that will get you than beating yourself up (also, Pinkberry).

And finally, when searching for where to start, choose the people or places that make you smile. In life, we have a tendency to start our “to do list” with the task that is the most difficult so that we can feel a sense of serious accomplishment. When it comes to self love, self care, and self expression, throw that mindset out the window. Start with the person that makes your heart happy. Your heart always deserves to be happy.

I haven’t figured it out. But I’m trying.

Right now, I have 18 unread texts, and I am working on answering: “What is it you need me to do to help, because I am not so good at this stuff, I need you to tell me.”

Expressing yourself, it’s tricky, I guess.