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'The Cupboard': Opening Up About How You Feel

I always describe to my friends the terrifying notion of opening up to someone, like having a truly messy cupboard. As a child, I would tidy my room and I would secretly thrust all my clothes into my wardrobe. My mum would come in to inspect the job, she’d open the door and all my rubbish would spit out at her. I’d just be standing there, so ashamed at my own ineptitude. All those possessions I’d stuff away in the messy drawer, wardrobe or cupboard became the perfect metaphor for my bad memories and anxieties.

There is only so much you can fit in the cupboard. Everything you don’t want to remain in front of you and use, but what you still hold onto, gets chucked in. With every bad experience I had, I bagged it up and stuffed it into the cupboard and battered the door just enough to get it shut so that I could go on with life without ever thinking of it again. I tried my best to ignore the existence of the cupboard, and I would never dare to open it up again because I know as soon as I would – all of those things that I am secretly possessing would burst out in the most suffering and uncomfortable manner.

So many people will live their life never opening up that messy cupboard to another. It’s a very vulnerable feeling to tell someone all those inner insecurities and fears; all those bad experiences you can’t muster enough courage to discuss again through fear of reliving it, as you reticently walk someone else through those moments. People often persist that you should open up, but already you can see the humiliating visual of someone asking for something in your cupboard and the horrifying situation you’re faced with when you finally open it up to find it.

That’s the thing with the emotional cupboard too: not all the things in there are bad. Think back to when you were younger and you had that messy drawer or cupboard in your bedroom and unexpectedly, you realise you need something from it – that gift someone gave you at Christmas, or your favourite scarf you stored away because you didn’t need it through summer. You look at the cupboard and envision the impenetrable stress of it, and that perhaps it isn’t worth opening the door to hunt for it… you can always buy something else, you could always just go cold this winter. The fear of opening the cupboard always seems to outweigh the possible advantages. Anxiety is a black hole: it absorbs the good potential and emanates your fears.

My cupboard was a hoarder's mess. I flung my embarrassing memories there; I boxed up a string of my insecurities like tangled, hoary, ruined Christmas lights and chucked them in. You would even find a few ex-boyfriends in there. Sometimes I would lose things to the cupboard, like when I accidentally threw my faith in. I’d associate my faith with my hopelessness, and throw that in the cupboard too – never to be brought out again out of dread. My cheerful memories that were grouped with the bad, also live there. Yet even though I didn’t go near the cupboard, I always remembered it was there. Out of sight, is not always out of mind and the quiet insecurities grew loud and obnoxious until my cupboard was bursting off its hinge.

My anxieties manifested like painful cysts in my life, because I always remembered what I was illicitly harbouring. I struggled with relationships for a while because of fretfulness, so I just didn’t approach them. I never took anyone seriously because I hid from the hurt I had experienced before and rejected any position that brought me close to that. I never felt I could open up and see someone’s face as I stand above the damaged, messy contents that have burst out all over the floor. You know it is a burst too, when you finally release all your feelings. Your words just keep coming out and you’re crying hysterically, and all that you feel in that moment is vulnerability and damage. However, the lengthy panic and dread of not opening up gave me more pain than what any of the contents of the cupboard could ever give me.

Over time I built my relationships more with people, until finally it was time to just open that cupboard up. I felt so defenceless, but when I cracked it open I was shocked. I opened the door for nothing to fall out – but still fragile, like a tower of emotional Jenga. Cleaning out that cupboard was addressing my issues, and it took a lot of time. I’d spend hours with friends, relatives, anyone – just clearing out all that gave me a heavy mind. As I shifted out the bad things I found the good things too, the blissful memories I forgot about and the wonderful qualities about myself that I didn’t want to see before. After taking it all apart piece by piece, the cupboard was not a mess anymore. Everything in that cupboard had it’s own place. The cupboard isn’t empty now - there are still some things that get kept there, and still some things I need to take out – but it is manageable and I am not afraid to go into it. Every so often, it’s worth opening up that cupboard so it doesn’t build up again and when you realise that everything truly has it’s place. Like my mum always told me after she stood grinning at my tidy room: ‘Isn’t it so much easier and nicer like this?’.

It’s okay to have those fears and anxieties, but it’s about how you organise it in your life and deal with it. Some things, they belong in your cupboard – and only a few people will get to see them, but you should never be afraid to open up. If you spend so much of your time and effort avoiding that hurt by hiding it away, it will make you sick. It catches up to us all and you’ll realise that when you can no longer put things to the back of your mind, as you have so much built up inside your head already.

There is a lot of vulnerability involved in opening up, but it’s much more painful to be closed off than it is to be open. Being hurt and having negative times is part of the process of life. Each time someone or something disappoints you or hurts you, if there is a next time: it’ll be easier. You need to trust the process, and trust that the strength you will accumulate from facing your fears and opening up about the bad things will be a weight off your shoulders. Your mind is an elastic band, if you keep your mind healthy you can bounce back from things but if you build it up and put too much weight on it – it will snap.

Opening up feels impossible, please just try. I have had a tough time these past few months and when I spoke about it, that’s where things changed for the better for me. Speak to someone about it all: your partner, friends, family or doctor. Take care of yourself, we all have had that cupboard.