Often in therapy and by family/friends I have been told how articulate I am and how well I describe and relate experiences and feelings. This is highly confusing to hear and difficult to understand as finding words and putting them together with the right feelings is one of my biggest challenges on a daily basis. For many days now I have had overwhelming feelings but have been unable to put words to them, and still can’t. It is arguably one of the most frustrating aspects of this disorder.
Words have a way of making things seem smaller, more tangible and less significant somehow. Use your words wisely and you can paint vivid images in someone’s mind, inspire hope or fear in equal measure, close the distance between lost friends or even resurrect loved ones in our memories. Words are powerful, and yet….
After living so many years without any words to describe my past, or to explain what was happening in my head, suddenly nothing seems to fit. The whole English language before me and not a word in it describes how I feel. Angry seems too tame, frightened so small, hurt and pain both sound so understated. None of the words available make sense; they under-mime the significance of past events and present mental/emotional experiences
I think that’s why as a teenager I wrote so much, poetry and songs and diaries, all in an attempt to express the feelings, to find the words to explain and share my experiences. That is the ultimate purpose of words after all is it not? To share experiences, to communicate concepts and discuss ideas, to connect with other people on an intellectual and emotional level that can’t be achieved through any other means than language. A problem shared is a problem halved. A problem hidden is a problem magnified. An emotion bottled is a time bomb, regardless of the nature of the emotion in question.
In the past I have resorted to extreme methods of expression in the absence of words, methods which were neither healthy nor communicative beyond the basic concept of “help”. Years upon years of therapy passed without me uttering 10 words that were accurate of my feelings or experiences.
But even having the words is not enough, it’s connecting them to the right emotion at the right time that is the ultimate goal. Something most people take for granted I think. You feel something, you say it. Simple. In difficult situations such as bereavement or a friendship betrayal, you may experience a lack of words to express the overwhelming emotions in your heart and mind, but these are rare occasions and your mind works through them naturally with time. I can say the words, but they do not mean anything to me. All I can hope is that they mean something to other people, and that the images and pictures they paint in others’ minds are enough to inspire that connection and create a gateway to empathy. The words I use may not have the right meaning or emphatic connection with my feelings or memories but maybe I don’t need them to, maybe I just need them to reach others on a level they can understand and relate to from their own experiences. Is that the point? I hope so because that’s what I’ve based the last few years of therapy on.
I used to think that integration would be like a putting together a mental jigsaw puzzle, it might take a while but the biggest challenge was not knowing what the picture was. Now I see that not only do I not know what the picture is, many of the pieces need to re-cut and shaped to fit together, words+feelings is a prime example. They belong together, they just don’t fit yet.