7 Struggles Only People Who Suppress Their Feelings Will Understand

Photo: Polina Zimmerman, Suwaree Tangbovornpichet, Karolina Grabowska | Canva
Woman cringing that her friend is crying in public

After a particularly rough patch several years ago, I went from being an open book in regard to my feelings and emotions to a finely tuned machine that could produce emotional barriers taller and stronger than anything made from concrete or stone.

I began stuffing my feelings and emotions down because disregarding them felt so much safer. If people didn't know where my weak spots were, they couldn't poke at them. What I didn't realize was that by stuffing all of my big feelings and emotions down, I began to solidify and crack from the inside out in the worst possible way.

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It simply wasn't me, but I didn't see any other way to protect myself from all the terrible things and people in the world. I learned a lot in regard to vulnerability, authenticity, trust, and shame in the years I spent running away from what came so naturally to me. And through plenty of counseling, therapy, and healthy relationships, I've learned how to open up again with a select few.

However, I'm still keenly aware of the effect suppressing my emotions had on my mental health and know all too well the struggles of being emotionally shut off.

Here are 7 struggles only people who suppress their feelings will understand:

1. The auto-response of "I'm fine" becomes a passive-aggressive art form

Furthermore, if you're unhappy with a situation, "It's fine" carries the weight of a hundred poison-tipped daggers. Those who know you well will know "fine" is code for "Go away, I do not want to talk about this now!" Whereas casual acquaintances have the option of probing further or taking your invitation to drop the subject. For the good of everyone, let us all hope they drop it.

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2. Suppressing your feelings for long enough will actually give you digestive problems

Some people feel it in their belly, others in their mind, but I feel it like a crushing weight on my chest. Like a rubber band wound so tight around my heart it brings to mind those exploding watermelon videos. Holding feelings in for too long will manifest in physical pain, from headaches to gut rot.

3. We can come up with a million ways not to let you see us cry

There are breathing tricks, escape methods, and furious subject changes. Heaven forbid an emotion should get through when we're least expecting it, so clearly cutting it off as quickly as possible is the only logical answer.

4. You become judgmental of people around you who cannot hold their feelings in

Sometimes it's a girl on reality TV who just can't stop talking about how hard everything is, or it's a coworker who insists on reacting to every bit of news or every development in their life on social media, or in casual conversation. You begin to avoid them because, in all honesty, you're embarrassed for them. "Look, bro, we all get it. But reign it in."

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5. When the feelings do manage to break through, they will not just seep — they will absolutely explode

Unfortunately, it's impossible to predict when these cracks in composure will occur; meaning that anyone, from your kids to the grocery store clerk, could be on the receiving end of your meltdown. Best way to avoid this? Avoid human interaction at all costs when you're feeling vulnerable.

6. Feeling happy and light becomes almost uncomfortable

You constantly listen for the other shoe, you're always on the lookout for the storm that's clearly coming after the calm. Feeling open and vulnerable, if you're not prepared for it or in the right situation, is absolutely terrifying. What's worse is if your vulnerability is somehow betrayed. It can quickly convince you that being open with anyone is a terrible idea.

7. You begin to lower your expectations of everyone and everything

If you don't get your hopes up, you can't be let down. If you don't invest yourself or your feelings and emotions into life events, you'll be pleasantly surprised when things don't go so bad. Alternately, if things do end up awful (which they usually do), you won't have to worry about rebounding because you barely cared to begin with.

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Casey Mullins is a vintage blogger, storyteller, and freelance writer. She has been featured in the Huffington Post, Women's Health, Alpha Mom, Read Unwritten, and more.