This is the part of a weekly column by Ashley Johnson surrounding the struggles she has faced in her own life and the concept of being human.
Warning: some entries will contain strong content regarding abuse, addiction, self-harm and eating disorders.
That feeling begins to well up inside me. The one that I can’t quite put my finger on but has me on the edge of tears. My heart starts to beat rapidly. My automatic internal reaction is to reach for something to block the uncomfortable emotion. Food, alcohol, a razor blade, or anything else to alter my current state. That used to be my solution. I choose not to use those today. I sit. My insides crawl with the utmost uncomfortability. I crave a solid sweat-filled workout, pushing my body to the max with hours at the gym. Unfortunately, that is not an option right now either. Thanks to my graceful fall down the stairs in Taylor Hall, my ankle has three torn ligaments and a broken fibula. I have been injured numerous times in the past and unable to exercise, but it wasn’t until now that I have realized how much I use exercise for reasons other than physical health benefits.
Earlier today I was overcome with feelings of inadequacy, fear, and insecurity, seemingly out of nowhere. Anxiety and doubt gripped my soul. I felt paralyzed, unmotivated, and worthless. In that moment I had the insatiable urge to run. Normally, I would listen to that, and run until I fell over or was in so much pain I was forced to stop. It is the kind of obsession that drives me to continue no matter what the consequences. This is an all too familiar feeling to me that resonates in many areas of my life, most of which I hope to share with you throughout the journey of this column.
Since deciding to embark on this endeavor, I have inevitably been contemplating what it truly means to be a human being. As the focus of this column, I found it becoming imperative to search my own soul and discover what being human means to me. Of course there are the physical characteristics that distinguish us from other mammals, such as our brain size, having the highest brain/body mass, and being bipedal (having two legs, that of which is our primary means of walking). Not to be morbid and point out the obvious, but we are all mortal and will die one day. What exactly happens when we physically leave this earth depends on your own personal belief and is a discussion I am choosing not to engage in. Not yet at least. We will save that for when you all get to know me a little better.
When I think “human,” I think of cognitive ability and emotions. While my sensitivity may make me aware (sometimes painfully) of emotions, I am a firm believer that we all experience them in one way or another. We have the privilege of being able to think introspectively, which I am grateful for in some ways and despise in others. It’s proven to be quite the useful tool for my academic goals and those grueling long nights of researching. My brain, however, tends to over-think and analyze when there is no need, creating chaos and unnecessary stress that otherwise would not exist.
Since I have been sober (stay tuned for more on that roller coaster ride), I have discovered a vast array of emotions that I didn’t realize were there. There’s a saying in the fellowship that I attend that goes: “The good news about getting sober is you get your emotions back, and the bad news about getting sober is you get your emotions back.” They were there all along, I just anesthetized them with anything that I could. I used to equate emotions with crying. This was a definite problem growing up, as I was told not to cry by many influential people in my life. I learned to keep secrets and not express feelings at an early age.
Whether you relate to that or not, the point is that these human emotions we have need to go somewhere. I am learning there are countless ways to release them, they do not just come in the form of tears. I encourage you to find your truth. Awareness is a beautiful thing that can prompt incredible growth. I have a tendency to go through my days, not checking in with where I am at mentally, emotionally, or even physically. Then eventually it will catch up to me and I will be flooded with emotions. I’m learning how to stay more present and have continual awareness of my overall health. Let me clarify that I am no therapist, nor am I trying to be. I am discovering the fullness of life, even when painful, and am compelled to get it out into the world. Some of you may have stopped reading at the very first line when I mentioned feelings. But to those of you who have stuck it out to the end of my rambling, thank you for taking the time to venture inside my brain a little. Stay tuned for more fun filled columns to come. I promise not every week will be about feelings!
Feel free to email me with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.