“Back in the old days” no one discussed their problems, you just hid them behind pretty, white picket fences. As a kid, I cultivated a bit of a stand-offish personality- not because I wasn’t naturally social, but because I felt people would pass judgement on my less than perfect family if I allowed them through the “gate” and into the reality of my life. As a result, (and as I got older) I became somewhat of a “fencing expert.” I took those skills with me when I left home, erecting a personal barrier in college and then later building an even bigger, better fortification around my own family.
To be honest, I was deeply uncomfortable without a customized barricade. I felt exposed, vulnerable – I just couldn’t let anyone “in.” Forget the fact that there was nothing to hide..I just felt more secure behind a wide perimeter of privacy. I was constantly trying to make my fence look more natural and beautiful but it kept getting thicker and taller and darker until I finally wound up being a prisoner behind this concrete monstrosity of my own creation. Suddenly the original fear of being judged was dwarfed by an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Depression, doubt, anxiety and self loathing all grow best in solitary confinement, in the lonely, dark shadows of the walls we build. I had no choice – I had to tear it down.
So here’s what I have learned after all these years..The barriers we build may keep certain varieties of pain at bay but they also cut us off from what we as humans need more than anything else: the love and support found in authentic, honest, close relationships, and the freedom that comes when we realize that no matter how messed up our lives may be, there are people on the other side of the wall who are just like us.