Can’t get mad and can’t cry, stuck in emotional limbo.

AnxietyChildhood Sexual Abuse

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This came up in a recent therapy session, the topic kind of came up accidentally as we were working through an exercise in the Courage to Heal workbook, and it triggered some thoughts in my head.

Most people, and I say that based only on my own experience only, don’t find it difficult to be angry about their past abuse. They have no problems feeling resentment, frustration, and anger because of what their abuser did to them, and took from them.  Of course we have every right to be angry and upset about what happened. After all it’s a horrific, evil, despicable thing to do no matter what type of abuse you suffered at the hands of the perpetrator.

I read stories in self help books, I do exercises in therapy, talk about it in sessions about how it’s OK to be angry and in being a healthy response. The problem is, I just can’t.

Case in point – Late last fall, we did a two hour session at my request, after I talked about how I just wish I could cry and be seriously upset, let it all out, and then maybe I’d feel a little better. She, my therapist said, “oh I can make you cry and get angry if that’s what you think you’re ready for”.  I was like, “Yes, let’s do it”. To this day I’m not sure she believed me but we had to try it sooner or later so we gave it a shot. I’m not sure even I believed me, but me being the impatient person I am, I wanted to try and pull out all the stops.

Long story short, it didn’t work. We spent two hours finishing up my previously started trauma narrative, and thenbeing-in-emotional-limbo-trying-to-connect-with-your-feelings-300x200 Can't get mad and can't cry, stuck in emotional limbo. we tore it up and did other various activities to try and bring out the emotion but none of it worked. I tried to cry, and only managed to shed a tear or two. I wanted that epic, cleansing, cry if you know what I mean. The kind that you can’t stop until you’re completely exhausted and then you somehow feel a little better.

What I found out for me is, healing and recovery from childhood sexual abuse is not about 1 good cry and I’m all of the sudden feeling better. It’s not even about 1 good cry and then you have some type of breakthrough and you’re ready to move on to the next step. At least it’s not for me.

It ended up just making me totally frustrated because I couldn’t feel the emotion that I wanted too. I couldn’t connect on the level I felt like I needed to. That in turn did get me slightly angry, but really more just frustrated. So while the session did make me start to connect and feel more of my past, it was a delayed reaction that is still going on today. For 3 decades it barely entered my conscious mind, and now t’s always in my head. A feeling of depression, sadness, and ongoing flashbacks that just won’t quit.

I would love to just get so unbelievably pissed off that I’d really be able to blow off steam, vent in an epic manner, and feel the rage inside for what he stole from me so long ago. But of course, no such luck. You imagine how frustrating that is.

That doesn’t mean that I’m happy about it or I’m content that it happened; not by a long shot! I just have a serious issue trying to connect with my feelings and understand them. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do that in the manner that I seek, and again that’s frustrating.

So I’m sad, get depressed, feel overwhelmed, and totally discouraged at times. All of that is perfectly understandable and I get that I feel that way but I’m so tired of being in emotional limbo.  I’m supposed to be angry but I can’t. I’m supposed to be able to cry and I can’t. So I spend my days waiting for flashbacks, depression, random sadness out of nowhere for no reason, mixed in with the occasional good few hours here and there.

I’m up, then I’m down, but never fully up as much as I’m totally down. I can go from happy to sad in a hot second, but certainly can’t go from sad to happy that quickly. Of course that brings the Anxiety level up too, and just adds tot he whole ordeal.

Hopefully you didn’t mind too much that I wanted to vent about, well…not being able to vent.



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Blogger-Podcaster-Author-Advocate for Mental Health.

Matt is survivor of childhood sexual abuse & narcissistic abuse, living with Dissociation, Anxiety, & PTSD.

This blog exists to inspire all who have survived the trauma of abuse. All posts, podcasts, and videos are my life as a survivor shared openly and honestly to help inspire as many as possible to speak up, speak out, and not be ashamed.

4 Responses to " Can’t get mad and can’t cry, stuck in emotional limbo. "

  1. Don says:

    Anger has been the most difficult thing for me to deal with. For a long time I never got angry outwardly. Inwardly, I stuffed it all in. Then I started working on it and now it seems like I have angry outbursts more than I wish I did. I’m trying to modulate all of that so its in the appropriate way for the situation I am in.

    Some have told me that I’m just supposed to think happy thoughts and I am like, but t his anger rages within me (and I’ve done a ton of healing work). Now, I’m just trying to recognize when I get angry and attempt to get myself to take a time out and breathe, connect, and know that everything in this moment is okay. That’s not easy.

    Crying – that one was never difficult for me. I cried (and still do) all the time at just about everything. I”m very sensitive and always have been. Its sometimes shutting the crying off that is hard for me to do.

    • Lyric says:

      Hi Don, thanks so much for the reply! I appreciate you sharing some of what you struggle with so we can all continue to bring awareness to the struggles that we face. I envy you in some ways, being able to be angry about what happened. As I said I have a real problem trying to express healthy anger. That 2 hour session I talked about, apparently most people get raging mad at their abuser and the abuse and really let loose. Not me, I could barely do more than get frustrated. Just ugh…

      I hate that, “just think happy thoughts”, to me that’s like..seriously? That’s not going to cut it and will only either make me suppress my past again or just drive me nuts trying to think that I’m happy inside when I’m really not. I’m glad you are able to work on recognizing when the anger starts and try to deal with it constructively. That’s awesome! Keep it up man!

      I can probably count on just both hands the number of times that I actually cried in my lifetime, that I can remember. Outside of deaths in the family, it doesn’t happen very often. I’m glad you can connect with that part of yourself, and one day maybe I can too.

      Keep rocking that recovery journey, one day, one step, at a time.

      • Don says:

        Took me forever to get in touch with the anger even though it was eating me from the inside-out. When I did, now I wish I could shut it back off. I’m still trying to learn how to modulate that and its not easy.

        Just keep at it and keep writing like you’re doing. Writing is what got me through so much. Its how I sort out my thoughts when they seem like a jumbled up mess.

        I’ll go back and read more of your site. Busy writing today myself and some of what you wrote, kind of inspired me to write / share stuff for upcoming blog posts. So – thank you! 🙂

        • Lyric says:

          It’s taken me a long time to get in touch with my feelings, and honestly realize that I even had any feelings in regards to the past abuse. Then when you throw in the problems with the marriages, it’s a perfect storm of trauma. Now that I’ve opened up the vault in my mind that housed all of this, emotions are flowing like crazy and I can’t get a grip on them sometimes. I’m a thinker and analyzer so trying to figure all of this out, make sense of how the abuse is intertwined into every bit of my existence is frustrating at times to say the least. That’s a lot of what we talk about in therapy sessions. I’ve been trying to shut off the feelings, as you mentioned with anger, but that’s pretty much not happening. I’m trying to do so, so that I can live my life and enjoy the good things instead of focusing on my past all the time. That’s where the compartmentalizing comes in. I’m such an all or nothing type of person though, I can’t just shut off the feelings like I’d like too for just a bit. Maybe in time I guess.

          I’m glad you’re doing more writing man, I look forward to reading anything you put out on your site.

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