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Inside Out and Me

This popped up in a social media memory today, a piece I wrote seven years ago. As I say, I don’t usually post such personal pieces, but since this is still so relevant, y’all get to read it now.

My therapist assigned me Inside Out to watch, as part of some work I am doing about emotions, particularly sadness. I mentioned this on FB and a number of people chimed in, and opinions were all over the place. It was interesting to see the comments, and gave me a bit of insight as to why it might be homework.

I was completely unprepared for what happened next.

A little background, in case you don’t know me all that well: I do not cry. It’s not something I do, not because I think crying is weak or anything negative. I just don’t usually find myself need to express myself that way. I do get sad, but I find anger a more comfortable expression, and it usually fuels my ability to do something about whatever is making me angry. I’m not big on ‘positive thinking’ (quite the opposite) but I do like to try and make the best of not great situations. Which is why I’m rarely sad, at least from external causes. So I basically don’t cry.

Now, post chemo, I found myself far more inclined to suddenly get weepy. In the beginning I figured it was as much from, well, being basically 100% poisoned and surviving. Makes sense that it would leave behind chemicals that would eff me up for awhile. Then there was the chemically-induced menopause — eff’d up hormones there, too. But when years passed, and I was still getting suddenly (surprisingly) verklempt over little (meaningless) stuff, I did some Work to accept it, and moved on. “This is the new me,” I said. . . . and found that acceptance (as is so often the case) defused some of its strength and I got mellower again.

So I settled down on a Monday night, with a glass of water, prepared to watch a movie.

From the opening scene — when Joy manifests — I cried. No, I BAWLED, long past something as dignified as a cry. I sobbed, I wept, I nearly used up a full box of tissues blowing my nose. My *cats* came to comfort me, that’s how bad it was folks. I was *just* this side of hysterical . . . Inside Out ripped me apart. Since it was ‘homework’ I made a few notes along the way, knowing that I would be too flooded to really recall anything after the fact, and I’m so glad. I retain the memory of the aching sadness I was feeling, and of the movie itself, but they aren’t tied together very well.

Watching the ‘normal’ family was difficult. Seeing how a family bonds and develops closeness and affection, supporting one another in difficult times. This was not my childhood.

My ‘goofball island’ got shut down when I was very young. (Note: this was a part of the movie I disagreed with: I think the islands don’t crumble and fall away completely, I think it is far more likely they get completely encapsulated in titanium walls, closed off from the rest of the Self. I say this because an important part of my realization that I love John is because with him I have re-established my goofball island. I am now comfortable enough with it that I am even occasionally goofy with trusted friends.)

There came a point in my life when it was no longer safe for me to cry. I could only be quiet or mad.

There also came a point when there was no safe place for me to be, except what I created for myself. And I was not very good at that.

The only other time I’ve been as wrecked by a movie is when I watched What Dreams May Come in the theater. My homework now is to watch it again and see a) if I have such a strong reaction again; b) if so, are there any things that link them to one another. (Hey folks, this is how therapy works sometimes. The techniques they learn are road maps, they are not the terrain.)

I’m not usually so . . . public . . . about my private life, I know. But I feel moved to share this with you.

I thought Joy was obnoxious, always trying to keep sadness in her place (OMG, the chalk line was HORRIBLE). They did a beautiful job of imaging the brain and how it works, such lovely depth to how it was laid out. Simple enough for kids to enjoy, detailed enough for adults (especially those of us with some training) to enjoy the complexities. It was really important that every emotion had a crucial job to do. It was also very important to me to see how the ‘adult’ emotions were portrayed (although, really, did they have to be so sexist?) so you could see a path to evolution. (Y’all did notice that Sadness was in charge in the mom, right?)

There are, of course other emotions that haven’t shown up yet: Denial being one of them.

Let me end by saying something very important: sadness is not depression. It may be a piece of it, but depression is far more complicated and encompassing. You may cry when you are depressed, but more often you just live a disrupted life. Depression requires endurance, sadness can be processed. Inside Out touched on this a little bit, and it was well done.

P.S. Who else wants to see the sequel when Riley hits poo-bur-tee?

Inside Out and Me

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