I was recently diagnosed with ESS. It’s a fairly common malady, as far as syndromes go. In my case, it started fairly early in life and it developed in my 20s, 30s, 40s and peaked at about 50. Though the syndrome can be crippling, it is rarely life-threatening.
What “illness” am I talking about? ESS is Emotional Suppression Syndrome! The symptoms aren’t always easy to spot, but once I realized there was something amiss I started to recognize the most common symptoms of ESS:
- Mistakenly allowing myself to be labeled as “too sensitive”
- Calling myself a “sap”
- Shame at how easily tears or laughter hits me
- Not admitting my emotions affect my day and my actions
- Apologizing for how deeply I feel emotions
I can laugh about it now. But for most of my life, I was under the impression that my emotions were at least an annoyance, if not a curse! I am not going to blame the influences that led me to hold my emotions in. My highs and lows would logically make some people uncomfortable. And some of those people were very vocal about that discomfort. And instead of observing and acknowledging their discomfort and moving on… I would apologize and try to squelch my emotions. I learned to suppress something that was innate to my very being! I even despised my depth of emotions. In essence, it was part of the foundation of my insecurity. It was part of being insecure in my place in the family of Jesus too! I guess I figured I wasn’t being controlled by the Holy Spirit. And, of course, that heaped more guilt into that cart of burdens I pushed around for years.
So, what brought the diagnosis?! Why did it take so long to come to light? It took a really hard weekend. My favorite Physician was available instantly, of course. And assisting Him was a certain “nurse” that often helps when I’m in need of consultation. I’m so thankful for a daughter that knows just what to say to remind me of truths that Jesus has been trying to teach me!
Jesus has been doing such a work in me in the past decade… but especially in the past 5 years. I have become much more comfortable with my emotions and have realized I spent the last 30 years stuffing. Stuffing my feelings and emotions. I felt guilty about expressing my feelings. I felt shame at the depth of my emotions!
I know that emotions can take control of situations and decisions. But that’s where Jesus comes in. As I become comfortable with the fact that God made me an emotional being, I can drop the guilt regarding those emotions and take them to Him. I know that He can use those emotions in healthy ways.
I’m not completely cured yet. There aren’t really any remedies that you can take for ESS. And I expect there will be some lingering symptoms… guilt and fear. But Jesus is doing an awesome job of curing me of those, I’ll let Him take care of my emotions too. After all, He is my creator, my protector, my provider, my shepherd… John 10:9-10 (AMP) I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever], and will go in and out [freely], and find pasture (spiritual security). The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
If you’re walking down the street and see someone uproariously laughing one minute then bawling over a kitten picture the next… yeah, that’s me. Don’t feel ashamed if you want to sit down next to me and laugh and weep as well. We’ll enjoy the good laugh, the good cry, share a box of tissues, look at each other and nod… knowing that it is good to feel LIFE so deeply, so abundantly!!
- Annie Nance