Let’s talk about “The Onion”; no I don’t mean the satire news site (though I do really love it). I’m talking about the layers of emotions we all tend to experience from time to time. The moments where it feels like we can crawl out of our skin, the itchy, sinking feeling of being overwhelmed. Angry, confused, scared and quite honestly, crazy.
I like to refer to these moments as “The Onion effect”, because it’s so easy to get lost in this idea that we are only feeling one thing, which tends to be anger (it’s an easy emotion to get stuck in). When in reality, so many things are going on. Have you ever watched a TV show and had a moment where you we’re just so lost, you think you missed a part or something is just off?
This is how these moments feel to me. As if something doesn’t make sense, why the hell do I feel like this right now? It’s as if a twister has just ravaged any sort of stable thinking you have left. I recently just experienced a moment like this that I would like to share with you (give you some frame of reference, hopefully).
A friend of mine who I am attracted too recently picked me up to go to the grocery store, we were preparing to be beach bums for the day. Always a nice time. At this moment in my life, I am currently on food stamps (nothing wrong with this), but that’s not to say there isn’t a stigma about this. So we do our little grocery shopping and as we approach the register, I feel that thing in my gut. The shame, the embarrassment. I don’t want her to see me using food stamps because it makes me feel “less than”. I don’t feel like an adult, I feel like a child.
God forbid I let this woman know what kind of position in my life I am in. So I use cash that I was meant to be used for gas and other things to avoid that feeling of shame and embarrassment. Funny enough though, now I feel more shame because I just put myself in a rather bad spot.
That’s Layer 1
Now we arrive at the beach, now I don’t know about you good folks reading this, but I have always struggled with body issues, I was the young fat kid who was teased a lot. I never took my shirt off at the beach, I never wanted too and I was terrified. Luckily I’ve grown a bit since those days and have a little bit more confidence and body positivity towards myself. That’s not to say I don’t struggle with it still. So, we lay down our blankets and a mutual friend of ours joins us. I love this guy, but this guy is what I would consider much better shape than I am. He does Yoga, he bikes thirty miles a day. He’s skinny, defined muscles. You get the picture I’m painting.
So now we lay down and my friend gets in her bathing suit and my buddy takes off his shirt. I follow suit. Yet, that feeling rises up for me again. The shame, the awkwardness. She’s checking him out, not me. I look dumb laying next to him. I’m the ugly friend meant to make him look good. I should also mention that I bought a brand new pair of swim trunks that we’re not big enough for me, so add that little condiment on top of this.
This is Layer 2
Now as we lay in the sun, eating some food, enjoying drinks and each other’s company. Something happened, the conversation went from being all inclusive to specific topics. Topics I honestly could not be apart of. My friend is a yoga instructor and like I said before, my buddy does Yoga. So, just do some basic math on that one. Now on top of feeling annoyed with myself for spending money I don’t have, feeling fat and insecure next to my friend in front of a woman I like.
Now, I feel left out. I feel isolated, alone and like the outcast. Yet again, going back to my childhood, this is something I experienced as many other people had. The Layers have been properly built to make me feel like that eleven year old boy again. I was no longer a twenty-eight year old man laying next to my friends. I was a child who spent his money poorly, wasn’t in good enough shape to attract a woman and not even interesting enough to be part of a conversation.
I was alone, scared and angry.
This is the final Layer.
Now “The Onion Effect” has fully taken place. I am a mess of emotions, so I do what I used to do as a child. I run away. I abruptly tell my friends I have to leave with no explanation or reason. I just leave, they seem surprised, but I don’t care. I’m angry and annoyed. So, I pack up my shit. Leave my food and beer behind that I purchased with the cash I shouldn’t have spent (because why not add insult to injury)
I proceed to head back home a ball of rage and sadness. I am a recovering addict and when ever I feel this way, I want to go out and use. I don’t want to feel, I want to feel nothing. As much as I hate being a zombie when I’m using, I prefer sometimes over this. Feeling emotional and irrational. Thankfully I have a twelve step program to lean on and I called a friend.
This is where I began to peel the layers back. For the first time in my life, I was able to look at this situation objectively and rationally. I wasn’t just a child lost in his emotions, swinging his fists around destroying the home around me in a sea of rage. I was processing everything. I was peeling it layer by layer.
Did it make me cry? Of course it did. Was it uncomfortable? Absolutely. Nevertheless, I persisted. I was determined to not let my emotions run my life.
Once I peeled away all the layers of the onion, I came out the other end with a much better understanding of myself, my life and what triggered all these emotions. Even better, I am now able to take precautions in the future for situations like this and keep myself protected. Many of us have these “Onion effect moments”, yet we struggle to understand how many layers are actually there.
We get lost in only one layer and never quite see the painting for it is. We are not being of rage or sadness or even joy. We are a delicate and complicated strings of moving parts that need to be recognized for their beauty and for their flaws. Only then can we truly come to a place of loving ourselves inside and out and letting go of the self shaming abuse we have taught ourselves over the years.
Recognize the “onion” moments in your life and peel them away, gently and slowly.