I have always been one that’s had problems with hiding my emotions and feelings. Even before I had mental illness problems I’ve always felt deeply, loved deeply, had strong opinions about things I cared about, etc. This has often gotten me in trouble at school, in social situations, at jobs, and especially among family and friends. I have no idea how many friends I have lost, how many jobs I’ve been fired from, how many teachers and potential allies I’ve alienated, and how many arguments I had with family members over the years. This was all because I felt deeply, wasn’t afraid to go against popular opinions when I felt they made no sense, and was often too stubborn to back down from someone I felt was in the wrong. Sadly, as a result of these strong feelings, I never really developed strong social skills, learned how the games of socializing and workplace politics were played, or learned until I was well into my early 30s that people would rather a person be polite and wrong than be less than tactful and in the right. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I learned that when dealing with groups of neurotypical individuals, it was better to have a good image and weak emotions than it was to have strong character, strong emotions, but a less than good image. The smartest and most right man in the room is ignored in favor of the one who acts and looks the best without upsetting people. It is simply the way most humans are.
As a result of developing a mental illness, my emotions, feelings, and opinions are actually stronger than they were in my youth. I have learned, despite these stronger emotions, to keep my mouth shut the vast majority of time when in groups larger than two or three people. This is especially true when dealing with people I don’t know well. I never could figure out why, but most neurotypical people greatly fear strong shows of emotions. So I often find myself bottling up my emotions (whether its anger, anxiety, sadness, depression, or even happiness) for fear of upsetting others. Some would argue that I am a stoic, unfeeling person just by watching my interactions with others. This is far from the truth. I feel very deeply, so deeply I try to not show emotion at all when around those I don’t know. I imagine much of this comes from being raised in a family and rural farming community were strong displays of any emotions were strongly discouraged.
It is very tough for me to bottle up my emotions, especially with a mental illness. It wasn’t until a few years ago I realized just how threatened and fearful of strong emotions most people (at least here in USA) really were. I never considered myself a threat or intimidating to anyone. I was actually a long running joke growing up because I couldn’t physically defend myself from bullies (I never won a fight in my life despite being the biggest kid in my school) or knew when to shut up on issues when I knew I was right and everyone else was wrong. In my social interactions I am always picking my words and phrases very carefully so not to upset others. This leads to even more social and work problems because most people assume I’m either not genuine or am a complete liar. I’m not being a fraud, I’m just trying not to show emotion one way or another. I often feel like it would be better to be an emotionless robot as opposed to having as strong of emotions I do.
I would love to hear from others who have problems with strong emotions, socializing, and mental illness. Opinions and stories from readers are always welcomed.