I am not a good communicator. Without question, I am a work in progress when it comes to being even a decent communicator.
Reflecting back on my past, I learned that communication was a huge weakness of mine. In previous relationships I avoided the hard conversations. At times I didn’t always understand why I felt how I felt so I wouldn’t express it or bring it to anyone’s attention.
During my nine year relationship with my ex-wife, I didn’t do enough to express myself. Anxiety and depression made me feel numb more often than not and yet I didn’t tell anyone. I blame that on a lack of understanding of anxiety and depression. When you can’t explain how you feel, how do you tell somebody else about it? How do you explain that which you don’t understand yourself?
My answer to that is simple. You just tell them something isn’t right. In doing so, you stop coping alone. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to be able to explain everything perfectly. Your partner/family/friends really love and care about you, and they will be eager to help even if they do not understand.
I kept everything inside and tried to cope on my own. I kept telling myself that things would eventually change. My thought process was that I would start to feel “normal” again. Just put on the “happy” face and plug along. Instead, my relationship(s) got worse. Had I communicated that something wasn’t right sooner, I am confident that my relationship would have be saved. That is a tough pill to swallow when it all falls apart.
Fast forward several years later and I find myself in the opposite situation. After years of counselling and reflecting on mistakes I made in prior relationships, I find myself over communicating. The counselling made me see that communication was the key to all relationships. Without it, you can’t expect a relationship to thrive let alone survive.
As a result, I went from avoiding the difficult conversation and keeping my thoughts/feelings to myself, to expressing too much. For each little issue or situation, I would over communicate to the point that I come across as complicated or needy. I would try to express all my thoughts and feelings and then keep going. Instead of saying what I needed to say and then leaving it, I would keep stating my thoughts over and over.
My thought process was that I didn’t say what I wanted to say in a clear enough manner that the person would really understand so I kept trying. I realize now that it comes across as trying too hard and annoying. Sending long message after long message is exhausting to the other person. Hashing out issues over and over is also annoying.
I know I need to be a better communicator – finding that happy medium. If there is an issue that needs to be discussed, sit down, talk about it and then move on. If it requires further discussions, know when to stop. It can be hard when you don’t fully understand how you feel yourself and you are trying to explain it to somebody else. Some cases, it might not even be worth explaining. Knowing when to just shut up is also part of being a good communicator.
Mental health issues are complicated. They don’t always make sense and they can be difficult to express. The process to recovery can be difficult and at times confusing. Trying to explain that to somebody else is a challenge. Those that are worth having around are the ones willing to accept that you might be a bit confusing and complicated. They do their best to understand that you might have a hard time explaining yourself at times but you are trying.
I have a lot to learn when it comes to communication but I am trying. I have pushed people away because I didn’t communicate and I have pushed people away because I over communicated but I am learning as I go and I think I am figuring it out. Communicating is a skill. Realizing this and knowing I need to improve is half the battle. Recognize your weaknesses and acknowledge them. Then get to work to improve yourself!