One of my favorite games as a child was "kick the can." All the kids in my neighborhood would gather at night and we would put an empty can in the middle of our cul de sac (we called it the circle). One of us would be "it" and would start counting while the others would run and hide in the darkness. As the game would go on you could hear the attempts of others running from the darkness to try and kick the can before getting caught. Eventually, you would hear the sound of the can getting kicked and falling on the road and it would all begin again.
Hiding has it's moments, like in kick the can, but as an adult it hasn't helped me much. For years, hiding emotionally was how I survived. To tell you the truth, I didn't really even realize I was doing it until I started therapy a few years ago. "Hidden" is the name of one of my therapy boxes because I know that hiding is one of my unhealthy emotional habits. I have hidden physically as well, especially when I first started dealing with a lot of these emotions, I withdrew and hid from my life in many ways. When I was young I would often hide behind the couch and I would lay as still as I could and wait, wait to hear my name, wait to see if I was important enough for anyone to notice I was missing. It is sad to say, but in those moments of hiding, I never did hear my name.
I didn't really think about the hiding that was going on at home, I guess because it didn't seem like hiding. I always knew where to find my mom, in her room on her bed reading. When my dad was home from work, I knew where to find him too, in his room on his bed reading. It occurred to me the other day that even my older sister did this, in her room on her bed reading.
In my early 20's I had gone to a therapist once and talked about a relationship that hadn't gone well. She encouraged me to share my pain with those closest to me. I couldn't do it. I couldn't even tell my best friend how badly this guy had hurt me. I didn't see the therapist again, I just couldn't bring myself to tell her that I couldn't face my own pain, let alone share it with others (little did I know at the time how much more pain was yet inside me needing to come out).
When I started dating my husband he would ask me what I was thinking and so often I couldn't tell him. We laugh about it now, but one night he literally sat on me until I finally shared the pain from that relationship. Once I let it out, I cried and cried and he just held me. He has been my best advocate for letting out my emotions, but even with him I hid so much. Often, rolling away from him at night pretending I was fine, but would wait until he was asleep and silently cry. My therapist encouraged me to "roll toward" him and not away from him when I had the urge to hide what I was feeling. It felt so unnatural and vulnerable, but I learned how to do it.
I have to admit that when I started my second attempt at therapy, I knew I was talking to her in a very logical manner, but it was all I could do. It took months before my emotions started to come out of hiding. It was really scary for me, I would make sure I was home alone first before I would let anything out, then years of suppressed emotions would suddenly explode from me and I would have a panic attack or cry and cry (sometimes both). At therapy I would only let a little out at a time and my therapist would breathe through the emotions with me.
Sometimes life seemed too much and withdrawing and hiding felt like the only way to survive, but I know better now. Once I was aware of what I was doing, I could physically feel it when I would start to lock down my emotions inside. The funny thing is that the more I let them out, the harder it is to hide them. My therapist had told me once that there are four main emotions which are fear, sad, mad and glad. Over the past few years, I have learned how to feel joy, share my sadness, express my fears and have made a few attempts at letting out the anger (this one truly scares me). I still have a ways to go, but now I know that I feel better as I allow myself and others to see my emotions. I have learned how to let them out, breathe through them and survive.