Becoming Visible: Breaking the Illusion of Feeling Invisible
It seems I’m going to continue to break the rules of the counseling profession that say I shouldn’t share “too much” personal information. But I don’t believe that staying “objective” and “distant” as a counselor serves anyone. As humans we aren’t wired for objective and distant – we seek connection and genuineness.
I’m very good at what I do as a counselor (despite my rule-breaking tendencies…or perhaps because of them!). Part of the reason I’m good at it is because I know the dark and lonely and sometimes scary places loss and pain and grief can take a person. I’ve been there. More than I wish. And while I now live a beautiful and blessed and happy life, I still experience that loneliness and pain and grief more than I want to admit.
Recently what has been coming up for me is the sense of being invisible.
This feeling has come up at different times in my life – with doctors and hospitals, teachers and friends. It’s come up the most being the mother of two children who died before they were born.
This holiday season has been challenging for me. Grief has come in waves, unexpectedly and much stronger than usual, washing through me seemingly out of nowhere. I miss my grandpa and his humor and brightness. And I find myself profoundly missing my girls this year in a way that feel somehow sharper and deeper than in years past.
Yet, much of the time, I feel invisible in this.
More often than not, I don’t talk about it. I feel I can’t or I shouldn’t. I hesitate to share with friends, some because I feel like they’re tired of hearing about my grief and others because they’ve expressed frustration that I’m “not over that” yet. I’m reluctant to talk with family because I feel guilty for upsetting them and don’t want them to feel more pain.
And so when the grief rises up, I pull within and hide. Then hiding makes me feel invisible. Feeling invisible makes me want to hide.
It’s a never-ending cycle.
It’s also all bullshit.
I’m not invisible. No one can make me invisible – or feel invisible – except for me.
It’s true, no one can see my children. I am a mother without living children and sometimes I can feel like an “invisible mother.” No one speaks my children’s names to me or remembers their birthdays. Very rarely does anyone ask me about them or what it’s like to be their mother.
Except that it’s not anyone’s responsibility to do those things. It’s mine – and mine alone.
If I feel like an invisible mother, perhaps it’s because sometimes I still don’t acknowledge myself as a “real” mother. If no one speaks my children’s names or asks about them or remembers them, perhaps it’s only because I hesitate to talk about them or to share them with others. If I feel alone or overwhelmed by unexpected grief this year, perhaps it’s because I haven’t allowed anyone to support me – because I haven’t let them know that I need it.
If I’m feeling invisible, it’s not because others aren’t seeing me. It’s because I’m not seeing me.
If I’ve jumped over into the business of managing the feelings of my friends and family – their “tired of hearing-ness” or “frustration” or “upset” or “pain” – who’s taking care of my feelings?
No one. Especially not me.
Their feelings are their responsibility.
My feelings are my responsibility. If I’m worried about theirs, I’m not seeing or acknowledging my own.
Then I become invisible to myself.
I become visible by seeing myself. The whole of me – the joy and the pain, the laughter and the grief, the mother and the solitary one, the caregiver and the cared for.
When I see me, others see me.
When I see me, it doesn’t matter if others see me.