My roommate Emily gets home from work earlier than I expect and knocks gently on my door asking, “Are you ok?”.
“Don’t come in,” I try to sound as normal as possible, swallowing my tears before they escape me.
I’m thrown off balance. I intended to get all my feelings out before she got home—to make myself presentable again and act like I’m fine. My mind races as she stands outside the door. Any words I could say feel fleeting. As we sit in silence, I try to think of the quickest way to get her to leave. Her voice interrupts my spiral of shame.
“Hey Dev. I just want you to know that I see you, I love you, and I’m here if you need anything,” she speaks through my door and walks away into the living room.
I feel the fear rise inside of me. I want to cry out, “I’m fine,” though by all standards, I’m a wreck. If I’m honest, what I want more than anything is for someone to see me and be with me in my mess. I want someone to hold space for me, exactly as I am, without needing to change me.
She sees me? She loves me? She’s there for me? I don’t believe her kindness as I feel the lies swell inside my soul.
If you actually saw me you wouldn’t think those things. You’d tell me I was too much and leave. You’d be overwhelmed and not know what to do with me. You’d hurt me more, and I’d be embarrassed. Why can’t I grow up and get it together? What’s wrong with me?
As the lies grow louder, my feelings intensify. Like a child trying to fill a cup with their favorite drink, the swell inside my heart threatens to spill over. I choke on my own breath as I try to silence the sobs that pound on the door of my soul. My heart breaks down, begging for my attention.
As a little girl, I quickly learned that emotions were best kept hidden. In a world that felt like the best way to succeed was to ignore your pain, I spent little time learning how to share my emotions with others. I took to crying in my room when I was upset and learned to silence my tears. I internalized that my feelings were “too much” and struggled to let others in.
The walls I learned to encapsulate myself in still haunt me today, though I logically know I can now choose when I want to let someone I trust inside of them.
When Emily knocked on my door, I felt that little girl come alive inside of me to try to protect me. That little girl spent so many years keeping me safe from the hurt felt after hearing messages like, “Get over it,” or “Cheer up, it’ll be ok,”. For years I’ve felt like I hated that little girl who feels deeply. As I’ve grown older, every muffled tear, every held breath, every stifled cry was an effort to silence her. As a grown woman; however, silencing her doesn’t work anymore. She doesn’t need to be silent; she needs to be loved by people who are safe enough to sit with her in her sorrow so that she can heal.
This day, I find myself at a crossroads. Emily is one of my best friends. I know she is safe enough to sit with me, but I feel terrified. My old pattern of crying alone in my room feels much more familiar.
I have a choice: to choose isolation or to risk letting love in, to make room for the little girl I so often keep hidden inside of me.
I let out a sharp breath and tears stream down my face. I can’t catch my breath as I make room for the guttural sobs that remain locked inside of me. My room appears to distort into a subtle haze as I stumble toward my door and turn the handle.
“I’m not ok,” I cry out between quickened, uneven breaths.
Emily looks at me from the couch and her eyes flood with compassion. She says nothing as she walks toward me and embraces me in a hug. I sob harder as I risk being seen and held.
In this moment I breathe deep, relax my shoulders, and feel the little girl inside of me peer out from behind her fortress and whisper, “Thank you. Thank you for choosing to make room for me today.”
Devan Grayson is passionate about contemplating the beauty of this world as she finds it in her own story and in the lives of others. She works as a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern and is continually struck by the specific beauty woven into the seemingly raggedy details of our lives. She counts it a privilege to wonder with clients about their own stories. She loves the arts, good conversations, and large cups of tea.