a history of brooke and how she started learning about feelings


In high school, I quickly transitioned from trying to be a popular kid (in junior high, one year, I had all of these things working against that goal, simultaneously: I had braces, a rolling backpack….and my dad ran the school chess club), to pretty suddenly to trying to fit in with the punk crowd.

I went through other phases

But nothing ever felt


I just could never measure up



That fear mostly manifested, in me

in deciding that others didn’t measure up


Because if chose to leave, in whatever way that ended up occuring

well, that hurt less than being left


Hurt me less, anyway-

or so I thought

All of it stemmed from insecurities, fundamentally

I didn’t believe I could hurt other people in the way that I was so terrified that they would hurt me

didn’t even consider that as a possibility,

for a very long time


Because I didn’t have enough self-worth to even realize that it was possible that other people might care enough about what I thought about them, for my actions to potentially cause them pain.


I moved around to different schools pretty frequently, as a kid

I’ve lost count of how many I’ve attended, all total


High school was the first time I spent more than two years at one school

The way I adapted to this, as a child

was to get very good at making friends

and very, very bad at keeping them



I think what started happening

is that when I would start getting close enough to a person, as a friend, to where it would 

crush me

if they left

I headed off that process, or tried to, subconsciously

by leaving, first


Never realizing that at the heart of things, the whys of the whats of things

it was the loss of that person in my life that I was truly afraid of, had I been more self aware

and that I was, therefore

creating little self-fulfilling prophecies

little cycles of destruction

that I had lived


and over

and over, again


I was a ‘cutter,’ briefly, in high school

Never suicidal, then; but the first time that I intentionally cut myself

I was feeling overwhelmed by something, having to do, of course, with a desperate, unrequited crush

those feelings

combined with the internal struggle I had going on, in my mind –

to prevent me from feeling anything

as well as with the desperate need to feel something


Hah! Humans are complex.



I saw a pair of scissors

and just pressed the edge into my thumb

until the pain inside me became something I could allow myself to feel

until I could channel it through that pain in my thumb

until I could make it real, somehow


All of this was happening in a very detached sort of way, and it would be years before I could, in retrospect, put these kinds of words to what was going on in my head


But maybe it was kind of like the phenomenon of itching!

Did you know that itching

is a mild activation of pain receptors in our bodies?

And that our brains get signals indicating a place on the skin where we should scratch

to distract our conscious minds from the milder pain beneath it


I think large parts of my life can probably be pretty accurately understood within that framing



so, yeah

total mess in high school

I learned, to my surprise –

that I liked girls


Until around that time, I just assumed it was a thing that everyone knew

that boys were icky and girls were pretty


Like, that’s totally obvious to me

But I guess it’s not how some girls feel about the human form


Redding is…conservative. Heavily so.

I’m cool with that now, but was threatened by it, then

I was sure some of my closest friends were homophobic, whether or not that was true

Sure my mom would disown me, if she found out I liked both girls and boys

Which was not the case – she knows all this, now


But, at that time

my teenage brain

was terrified

that the love of her, the love of my friends

that all of it was conditional


Conditional upon me feeling things I did not feel

or not feeling things that I did


This whole topic

is one which I’ve only very recently come to some sort of awareness of, in my own mind


I think

that I’ve spent most of my life


that my very feelings




And that therefore,

on some level


so was I


as a person.


Just, somehow,



But other people can set rules for behavior


They cannot dictate to me how I feel about things. How I should feel about things.


And by internalizing these ideas

that all these things that I absolutely was feeling

should not be felt

I was effectively granting others that ability

But that never works, not really

not for me, anyway


I tried

and tried

and tried new ways

over and again

but I have never been able to make myself not feel certain things

just by telling myself I wasn’t supposed to


In high school, I became totally apathetic

Didn’t consider myself depressed, though; oh,no. I didn’t deserve to be depressed.

Had no right to it.


My parents are still together. No drugs, no physical violence in the home I grew up in.

We had a comfortable, middle class house in which we lived comfortable, middle class lives


There were children elsewhere, beaten and starving!


I could identify no red flags that I knew of

no external reasons to justify my unhappiness

So, I decided I should not feel that way

wasn’t supposed to

and therefore

that it must have been something was doing wrong

some way in which

I was Wrong, as a person


I saw a few mental health professionals around that time

but the closest I got to a diagnosis was a a psychiatrist

who told me that the symptoms that I’d described, that fit bipolar disorder in some ways

but in other ways, did not

were manifestations of anxiety

due to being disconnected from my emotions


I laughed.

Then, I cried


But I didn’t know why


It was at that session, when I was 18

that I first learned that emotions were more than just…words


“How did that make you feel?”

he would ask


I’d answer

“No, I mean – how did it make you feel?”

“Uh….mad? Frustrated?!”


And so on.


He then told me about how people feel physical things happen in their bodies, as part of the emotional response

Heightened pulse

tightness in the chest

or throat

heat in the face


I was stunned!


I’d never heard of such a thing!


I had spent so long

trying desperately to suffocate anything inside me that was Wrong

I was disconnected from my emotions

to the point where I did not realize they were not just words


and that is a dangerous way to live

It was only through beginning to pay more attention to the hurt I was feeling

that allowed me to begin realizing the kind of hurt I was causing others


but first

I had to acknowledge

my own hurt

my own feelings


acknowledge that they were real

and they were okay


and that there is no right or wrong way to feel

because feeling is not something rational


not irrational

but non-rational


we can’t just decide not to feel certain things

no matter how desperately we might want to


and trying

only leads to more failures

more feeling broken



as a person


I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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