Glennon Doyle Melton has this beautiful analogy comparing the mentally ill/addicts to canaries. She explains it much more eloquently than I can, but the short version is as follows: Long ago, canaries were taken into mines because of their sensitivities to toxins in the air. If they stopped singing, their carriers knew they needed to turn back because it would be dangerous to go on. Addicts and those who live with mental illness are the canaries who are extremely sensitive, more so than others, to all of the world’s bullshit.
I feel very much like a canary today. My emotions are running high and I am picking up on all the other vibes from people around me. My morning started well but then I walked into a room that was clearly filled with tension and negativity. Anxiety took over my body and mind almost immediately. I could not focus on anything except how awful I was feeling being in this environment. I wanted nothing more than to flee.
I looked around and I could see that most of the people in the room were oblivious to what was happening. There were two however who were clearly the ones I was picking up the vibes from. Scowls covered their faces, eyes were rolling and whispers about what a waste of time this was were rampant. My jaw clenched, my stomach did flips and I just felt so WRONG. I didn’t feel like the me I’ve started to get used to – calm, cautious, careful but doing my best to stay positive. I was being consumed by negativity.
I survived this experience but holy shit, was it ever hard. I left feeling angry and hurt that I’d let other people’s negative words and actions affect my attitude for the day. I was barely holding back from letting loose and giving the two people who were just downright RUDE a piece of my mind until finally I was able to leave. I literally BOLTED out of the room and on to my next meeting. Other people started texting me and asking where I was and I was in no position to be around others because I knew I would bring everyone else down. So I spent the afternoon working alone because I needed that time to refocus my energy and bring myself back to a place of positivity and peace.
The great news is – it worked. I just needed that time and space to refocus myself. The strange news is – some people got worried because I “isolated” myself and asked to be alone for awhile. It’s so weird how the world works sometimes. I was just so proud of myself for recognizing how angry and terrible I was feeling and coping by walking away and taking some time to myself to calm down instead of wallowing in it and letting it grow into something bigger. I was proud that I even asked for what I needed and took care of myself.
This is the thing though – people who are not canaries do not understand. Besides the fact that my moods seem to be easily affected by other people’s moods, I feel things so, terribly deeply. It’s literally indescribable. This is the sensitivity of the canary.
Perhaps someone who is not a canary would not have been as affected as me by the few negative people in the room this morning, so they didn’t get it. For me though, I stopped singing. I was entering dangerous territory and it HURT. I wanted to run, escape, make it STOP because when I feel, I feel SO MUCH that sometimes it feels like I might break.
This is both a curse and a blessing as I’m sure many of those who read my blog will certainly understand. The positive feelings are amplified just as much as the negative. When I love, I love with every part of my being. My joy and gratitude and contentment run just as deeply as my shame and guilt and anger.
I am a canary in this world and some days, like today, I sing alone.