It is an excruciatingly devastating sensation to be made aware of the disassociation between one's outward appearance and the reality of their state of feeling. There is such an external pressure to stifle the expression of negative emotions, especially the painfully overwhelming emotions that accompany mental illness. This constant internal struggle between the need to express one's emotions and the pressure to keep "composure" is achingly felt. I have been told countless times that I "don't look _________", whether it be "depressed", "anxious", "in pain" or any other form of emotional and physical suffering. It is a blatant, cutting delegitimization of a daily struggle that is such a big and domineering part of my life, and it is endlessly upsetting that I often find myself unable to fight against this.
Ultimately, a transformation is needed: there must be a metamorphosis not only in the way we express our emotions but also in the way that we perceive the feelings of others. There needs to be a change in conventional standards of emotional communication, because words are not enough. I speak two languages fluently, and I can confidently say that neither of them are fully capable of articulating the extent, complexity and depth of my feelings, no matter how elevated the diction.
I think constantly about the concept of being able to see into someone, or else of being able to physically show emotions on one's skin. I am searching to tangible equivalents to these abstract conceptions of clear emotional communication. The concept of the body literally being able to communicate images and symbols—like a billboard or neon sign—is a far-fetched notion, but its fantastic nature provides comfort.
Of course, there is a non-verbal language of the body that can be read almost universally. Still, the pressure to conceal and the internal dialogue that perpetuates self-invalidation of one's feelings can push us away from even communicating through physical cues and body language. It is a constantly frustrating and exhausting problem that I face every day. What do I need to transform in order for my emotions to be clearer? What mutations must occur to the space, the air, the people, the society around me in order for me to feel safe and accepted enough to be more open about the pain that I have? And even my surroundings someday become fully and wholly accommodating (which seems unlikely at the time being), will I ever fully be able to feel safe enough from myself to fully and truly open up?
The questions are endless, the answers abstract.
Ting Ting Chen