“You’re not a burden, Kerry.”
That’s what I tell myself every time I even consider venting to a friend, family member, or even, my boyfriend. Everyone always tells me, “I’m here for you”, “Call me if you need me”, and “You can always open up to me”. But when an opportunity to vent presents itself, I have a hard doing actually doing so. It’s not that I don’t believe people when they tell me those things, it’s that when things are going great for my loved ones, I don’t want to be a buzzkill and start talking about how sad I am that my father and two friends died within two years. I don’t want to tell them how stressed I am because I have not solidified my post-graduation plans yet. I guess the psychology major in me is worried about transferring emotions onto others. That’s probably the number one reason why I hesitate with venting to friends and family. I can’t help but feel like I would be overwhelming them with my problems.
Another reason why I hesitate, is because I feel some people cannot relate, or understand why I feel the way I do. And it is difficult to explain your emotions to someone who does not understand. It gets frustrating because no matter how you put it, they can only sympathize and feel bad from a distance. But what you truly need is someone to meet you where you are, in the hole your feelings have created, and grab a shovel to help you dig. That’s the difference between sympathy and empathy—having someone who has gone through something similar helps you learn how to heal, especially if they have dealt with grief, or whatever the emotion is, for a longer period of time. It gives you this sense of hope.
Other times, I also hesitate venting to my loved ones because my mind overthinks and makes me feels like I am being judged. I wish that thought didn’t cross my mind, but honestly, it does. I sometimes feel like I will get judged for feeling the way I do and I try my best to avoid experiencing that at all costs. I feel like I will get judged for complaining too much, being sad too much, for not being strong enough, or for missing someone I have never met.
It has been difficult for me when it comes to properly addressing how I feel because, for me, my go-to coping mechanism is venting but when I am not sure if it is appropriate to vent, I shut down and ignore my emotions.
This was the case last week when it was the anniversary of my father’s death. I was afraid to really mention it to my friends and family because I felt like they would not know what to say. So I barely talked about it, even though I had loved ones tell me that they were here for me. I just did not want to talk about it because of the fears I experienced with opening up.
That’s why I went to the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) this week. It was my first time back since the semester started. I just knew I was bottling up my emotions, since I chose not to talk about it in depth with anyone. Granted, the appointment was a week after the grief resurfaced, following the anniversary of my father’s death, but, in retrospect, it was still nice to be able to talk about what I was feeling.
I will always be an advocate for CAPS because mental health is so important and I feel like it is not talked about enough. Having an unbiased person to be able to just vent to about anything you want for a full hour is such a great feeling. You can talk about whatever comes to mind, your stream of consciousness, anything. And they get paid just to listen—the one thing I personally feel hesitant about reaching out to loved ones for, to listen to me.
Your voice and your feelings matter. Let them be heard. You might be like me and have your doubts when it comes to opening up to loved ones, despite what they tell you. It is our own fears preventing us from being able to create a safe space for our emotions. But do not limit yourself from reaching out for help. There is always someone who will listen.