One of my favourite Manic Street Preachers lyrics is "do not listen to a word I say; just listen to what I can keep silent." I've written before about keeping things in and not being able to speak out when we want to, but it's really playing on my mind, lately.
Regular readers will know that six months ago, I fell out with a friend. And that in turn, led to two other friends taking sides, so that I basically lost all but one member of my closest friendship group and, with it, I lost my support network.
What kick-started that fallout, was me speaking my mind about something someone else had done that had upset me. I've read and reread the entire text conversation over and over and I can say, with my hand on my heart, that whilst I did sound frustrated and upset (because I was), I never sounded nasty or cruel (two things I was accused of being). I also apologised, if I'd made the friend feel bad. But there was no malice to anything I said. I was just being honest and trying to say "hey, this has upset me. I'm a bit cross about X and Y, and I want to talk about it."
Being open and honest has always been massively important to me. But then again, so has tactfulness and diplomacy. So, I've always tried, when I've spoken my mind, to do so in the nicest way possible. And, there have been times when I've kept things bottled up, just so that I don't run the risk of upsetting anyone. Why create nastiness, where none needs to exist, after all?
I was even so aware of my habit of keeping things inside in case I upset anyone, that last October, I made a promise to myself that I was going to be more honest about my feelings. And I really, genuinely believed that it was going to be a positive turning point in my life.
But, in the last six months, something has changed. I don't feel able to say how I feel, anymore. Not to any real degree.
See, the upshot of me speaking my mind six months ago, was that I lost... Well, almost everything. Some of my best friends. My regular trips away. My gig buddy. My girly days out. My support network.
Instead of it being a case of me saying "I'm upset because *reason*" and the person on the other side saying "it wasn't meant to upset you, sorry, let's sort this out," it descended into an argument. An argument which was taken onto social media to the point that I still detest Facebook all this time later.
The whole thing had a profound effect on me.
My whole life, I've cherished honesty. I would rather someone told me an upsetting truth, than allowed me to believe a pretty lie. I've always felt that if a relationship in my life was important to me, then I owed that person the respect of being honest with them. I've always worn my heart on my sleeve; it's never been difficult to tell how I feel about things, but I believed passionately in honesty and I was determined to fight my own habit of keeping things bottled up. Obviously, I knew there would be exceptions to this new rule - people who I wouldn't feel able to be so open with, or times when I'd doubt my own feelings and would inevitably end up keeping them to myself - but on the whole, I reasoned that the times when I had spoken up about how I felt about things had always led to situations getting better; arguments being resolved rather than created and relationships being strengthened.
Nowadays, I am literally terrified of the mere thought of telling someone how I feel, especially if I feel hurt or angry about something.
I live in fear of someone I care about upsetting me, even if it's not intentional. Because I know that I can't tell them how I feel. And that means that they might do it again. And again. Then, resentment might creep in and I'll feel angry as well as hurt, all because I don't have it within me to say "I'm actually a bit upset about *this*."
I would rather swallow my feelings for the rest of time, than ever have to go through a discussion about them. I'd prefer to talk to someone else about a problem, or try DIY methods to relieve any stress I feel because of a situation, than actually say to the person involved: "I'm angry/hurt/frustrated."
And the worst thing is, I know it's stupid. Because the reason I am terrified of telling anyone how I feel, is because of what happened six months ago.
Rationally, I know that I had every right to be annoyed with what happened. Deep down, I know I was right to say something, because it was an issue that had crept into our friendship before and I wanted to sort it out so it never happened again. In my heart of hearts, I know that the reaction to me being open about how I felt was not rational, nor was it the reaction of a friend who cared for me.
But it's changed everything.
Now, I live in terror of saying "I'm a bit upset," in case the person I'm saying it to, responds by calling me a bully, refusing to acknowledge any responsibility and going on a passive-aggressive social media status spree. I'm horrified by the mere idea of admitting that someone's behaviour has annoyed me, because they might decide they hate me and turn several other friends against me, as well.
Hilariously, I'm even terrified of clicking "publish" on this post, in case anyone reading it decides it's some kind of attack on them, for some reason.
And the fact is: if it's an attack on anyone, it's an attack on myself. I have to understand that if something happens and I feel pain because of it, I'm allowed to say so. At the age of 34, I ought to be aware enough to know that it shouldn't be the case that being open about my feelings leads to the entirely needless death of not just one, but several relationships in my life.
But, this is where I find myself. Sitting here, genuinely terrified of anything ever happening that makes me feel hurt or angry, because I know I will be too frightened of going through the same horrific experience ever again, to say anything.
I really hope I get past this. Because honesty is such an important aspect not just of my life, but of life in general. And I would like to get back on track with my whole "say how I feel" thing.
It's just right now, I feel like my lips are zipped. And I'm not sure if, or when, they'll ever open again.