In earlier blogs, I’ve talked about my conversion disorder, and how my brain doesn’t process emotions quite like most other people. Suffering from conversion disorder has been a really complicated journey for me, not just because it took forever to figure out what was really happening, and not just because I had excruciating seizures and consistent tremors that exhausted me and made writing notes in class difficult. Conversion disorder has been the most complicated because I have a lot of trouble labeling and understanding how certain situations make me feel. Sometimes when something really exciting happens, I just won’t get that excited, or something not that bothersome makes me very angry. I have to constantly reign my emotions in, or gauge if I’m responding to a situation appropriately while trying to understand what I’m really feeling.
I remember spending a lot of time with my psychiatrist trying to label my emotions for various situations, especially ones that bring about negative emotions. What I immediately noticed, was that my “go-to” emotion for most situations was annoyance. If a friend wouldn’t show up on time for something, I would say I felt annoyed.
Got a bad mark on a test? Annoyed.
Had an argument with a family member? Annoyed.
Ended up with a concussion because of a seizure? Annoyed.
Because most people say situations annoyed them when talking about it to other people, I learned that I must be feeling annoyed too. I couldn’t label what I was really feeling, so I just said I was annoyed. My emotional responses were learned, not felt properly, and it’s hard to interpret other people’s real feelings without being in their head, so naturally I didn’t get the whole picture when I looked to others for my emotions.
After realizing that I couldn’t label every situation as annoying, and discovering I had to actually think about what I was feeling, rather than settling on annoyed, I spent hours thinking about how various situations made me feel.
What I discovered was one underlying emotion, that crept into mind and piggybacked on other emotions like sadness, anger, hopelessness, and other negative emotions. That emotion was guilt. I felt guilty about almost everything, especially when it had to do with my health. I used to say my seizures made me annoyed, but I really felt guilty that I had them. This was an early sign of my impending depression, which is rooted deeply in feelings of guilt, shame, and of being a burden to others. Learning this emotion may not seem like much, but it was a huge breakthrough for me, and soon after I was able to understand sadness, anger, frustration, fear, and so many other emotions better.
Through my depression, guilt and shame have been two of the biggest emotions I’ve been overwhelmed by. Most people think that sadness is the strongest, which may be true, but sadness is only a surface level emotion, and there are often secondary or underlying emotions that are connected to it. I think guilt will always be one of the strongest emotions I have, and one that significantly impacts my life. With depression, I made myself feel more guilty than anyone else, and while most people did their best to not make me feel guilty, it was inevitable that something would happen to make me feel guilty or ashamed of my struggles. Most of the time, my guilt is irrational, or uncalled for, yet I can still feel it so strongly. I know depression isn’t my fault; it’s an illness that I got by chance and it has nothing to do with me having done something wrong. I know this, but I still feel so guilty about my depression sometimes. I hear about things happening in the world that are so sad, and unfair, and the people who have to endure them still find a way to get out of bed in the morning. I have nothing to be sad or upset about, yet I still struggle with getting out of bed. It isn’t my fault that I don’t have enough neurotransmitters, yet the guilt is so prevalent and can make coping difficult.
I’m grateful that now I know my emotions are hard to understand and label, and that I am more equipped to do my best to discover how I feel in order to process my emotions, and lessen the chance of seizures or other symptoms of my conversion disorder. I know that sometimes my emotions don’t make sense or aren’t rational, but I don’t think anyone can always make sense of their emotions. At the end of the day, as annoying or frustrating or disheartening or confusing as conversion disorder is, I’m learning how to live with it, and am thankful that I have people willing to be patient with me and understanding as I work through depression and conversion simultaneously.
Keep Surviving by Living.