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Inside's Out

16 June 2024:

Yesterday my husband, Michael, and I watched, "Inside Out 2" which is the sequel to Pixar's original film sharing the same name. Michael has been looking forward to this film for some time now and between him and my animation enthused brother, I was both encouraged and well informed on when and where to go, to watch the film. I have officially been home now for a grand total of ten days after being admitted AGAIN in another mental health facility as an inpatient for treatment. However this time instead of being hospitalized for a suicidal crisis for four days followed by a month of outpatient treatment care, this time, I spent a grand total of nine-weeks at a recovery center following stress and trauma endured after reporting a sexual harassment incident by a fellow employee at work.

Yesterday morning I woke up from a nightmare. It was involving my case. In the dream, I observed the investigating official provide a verdict to the the perpetrator and said the words "You are exonerated". The perpetrator nodded his head and returned to work as if nothing had happened. In the dream, I chased down the investigating official and yelled at him for rushing and not taking my case seriously. How could he not see how the perpetrators actions harmed me? How can they just "exonerate" him? Treat it like it never happened?

When I woke up, I still felt the rage. I felt the hurt. I felt the weight of emotional turbulence. I then looked up the word "exonerate. " As I searched, I asked myself, do I even know what that word means?


  • Verb

"Absolve (someone) from blame or wrongdoing."

This was the result from my Google dictionary internet search. Apparently my subconscious mind does know what it means, even though my conscious mind had doubts.

I looked at Michael, still sleeping right next to me, nudged him, and said, "Michael, I had a nightmare." In his still predominantly sleeping-eyes still closed-but still caring state, took my hand in his and said, "I'm right here, it's ok." Then went back to sleep.

What I needed from him in that moment was for him to ask me about the dream so I could tell him about it. What I needed from him was to reassure me that the outcome in that dream was not real. That in real life, the outcome from my case was substantiated, but even with that outcome I still have every right to still feel upset about what happened to get that outcome and for the incident to have even happened in the first place. I had and have every right to feel what I was feeling and have fear about returning to work. I didn't press or ask Michael to give me what I need from him and instead gave myself the reassurance as he continued to sleep.

The rest of the morning was filled with light conversation as if the dream never happened, but the emotional rawness was still there. While alone, I chose to say some self-love affirmations in the mirror and dress up nicely to make myself feel better. When I joined Michael downstairs as we exited our home, he didn't seem to notice, but I did feel his anxiety for us running a little late from the time he would have liked us to leave for the film. I observed myself feeling annoyed, but I remained patient and positive as I knew this would subside once we arrived at the movie theater.

Once we arrived at the movie theater where there was no line in sight along with seven minutes to spare to the start of the film, Michael's anxiety almost instantly dissolved. He returned to his cheery self. He complemented my earrings and my entire look then gave me a kiss. "Oh now you compliment me," I said with a partly annoyed but at the same time understanding smile on my face. "Thank you," I replied, "are you feeling better?" I asked. "Yes" he answered, while jovially ordering our tickets. He stared at the promotions of upcoming movies then asked me, "Is there any movie up there that you would like to see?" "Not really." I replied.

"Not even Deadpool and Wolverine?"

I should have known he would inquire about that film. Watching Marvel and D.C. superhero movies and shows has been our thing since we first started dating back in 2016. Since we've been together, we have watched every film and television episode released by those franchises since then, together.

"Not really." I told him. I was still feeling the effects of this morning. Sharing dreams, or more so, me sharing my nightmares with him, has been one of our sore subjects. My nightmares became a source of conflict between us as they would inflict a pain in me, even if the events in them never happened per the dreams narration in real life, but me sharing them, while helpful to me, created anxiety in him which led to conflict. "I don't want to hear about your dreams!" He shouted at me in one of our arguments in Korea.

My emotional dreams and turbulent nightmares, although sometimes painful to process, were a part of my inner world. They were a part of me. It pained me to not be able to share that side of myself. That vulnerable side. It, like so many other things, made me feel like I could only show him the sides of me that are "palatable."

We've grown a lot in our relationship since our first two years of marriage days while living in South Korea. But the distance I felt from him in that time still leaves me feeling very cautious. I think twice about how much truth in me I share with him, especially when I am vulnerable. The nightmare this morning, was another vulnerability. And with him half asleep and me feeling so exposed, I decided sharing and asking him to meet my needs, wasn't worth the risk. I chose to nurture myself.

And while I was able to help myself in that moment, I was easily irritated by his visible expression of anxiety as we ran a little late to the film (but still arrived before the start of it). Him getting to not hide his emotions, while I was stuck taking calculated assessments on if I can reveal mine, seemed completely unfair in my eyes.

Within the first 10 minutes of "Inside Out 2" tears started to fall down my cheeks. I don't remember what caused it exactly but the very premise of the film was about feeling ones emotions and embracing the constant evolutionary human process of learning ones self. As the film continued, I enjoyed the storyline of bringing in new emotions as the protagonist, Riley, entered puberty while simultaneously encountering new challenging life events. Observing how each emotion encountered the events felt nostalgic, humorous, and very relatable. I thought to myself, "Most human beings could relate to this film because every human at some point likely encountered some range of emotions within themselves, even though the events in life that bring them out may differ. I would occasionally look over at Michael and see him eating his popcorn, smiling, laughing, and at times focused. It bothered me.

"He's enjoying himself." I thought. As the film progressed and my personal connection to the protagonist deepened I thought about how Michael and I have strayed away from deeper conversations. We used to love sharing our views on films even when they differ. Nowadays our commentary is often very surface level, limited, or nothing at all in order to avoid conflict. As Riley's emotions, demonstrated as individual characters within the film, continued to propagate a complex war within herself I thought to myself, "I don't want to share my feelings about this film with him. It's too personal. I don't want to deal with the pain that comes with feeling rejected, dismissed or not understood." I later thought about taking the train back by myself instead of riding back with him. The train would give me space to nurture my own war of emotions within me, that the film reminded me of.

Then something happened. Spoil Alert! When Riley had a panic attack, I contemplated walking out as once again, it felt so personal. But I first looked to the left of me and saw Michael sobbing. I mean I was tearing up too but he was really crying. I instinctively reached my hand out to him and put my hand in his to comfort him. He used his empty hand to hold his head and cry more. He's feeling this too, I thought.

After the movie we went to a restaurant nearby. I took the risk and asked him how he felt about the movie. While I anticipated a brief, cognitive response (which is common for him since we've been married) he instead jumped quickly into his emotions. He said something like, " I really liked the film. I think it's better than the first one...what got me during the movie..." his eyes and face briefly looked down but gradually brought back to me. "...was seeing how hard Anxiety (an emotion and character in the film) was working. I saw how hard she worked and I saw you. Then knowing what's on the other side of that, what happened with you I just... it got to me."

I opened up to him about relating to the emotional experiences in the film and how it made me consider taking the train back so I could be alone. I shared how seeing him cry made me feel for him but also feel comfort for me. It made me feel like I'm not alone in the range of emotional experiences I encounter, and that maybe the space in our marriage is safer now for me to emotionally express elements of my inner world.

We ate our not-as-good-as-Korea-Korean-BBQ. And just enjoyed ourselves. After we got an ice cream and enjoyed playfully chatting and eating it in the sunshine courtyard together before we went back home.

Later that night as I folded some of my laundry and made some progress on our home improvement projects I thought to myself, "I am living. I have an incredible life. I felt so much today. Fear, anger, distance, anxiety, sadness, joy, comfort, safety, laughter, playfulness, satisfaction, and love. All these emotions felt in a single day. All felt while both nurturing myself, and creating space for someone I trust, my husband, to learn how to nurture me as well, and I to do the same for him in return. We are both learning about ourselves and this marriage. Today was not a day of who was right versus who was wrong but an acknowledgement of the range of individual experiences we encountered independently as we both shared the day. We both get to make mistakes. We both get to figure it out. We both get to explore and make discoveries and we both get to be honest about what is true in us and not hide.

We both get to live each day lovingly and truthfully with our Inside's Out.

I'm still learning how to do all of these things while loving and accepting, and being true to all sides of myself in the process and not be so considerate of others that I abandon myself. Or take responsibility for the discomfort others may feel or behavior they demonstrate as a response to my truth. And while I don't know what tomorrow holds with returning to work, and the emotions that could come from it scare me, my intensive trauma, schema, and cognitive behavioral therapies have made me more aware of why I feel things so deeply and have equipped me to challenge unhealthy core beliefs when they surface while regulating the emotions that accompany them. It's going to be a lifetime process in exposing my triggers while learning and implementing these therapy strategies into my daily life. Empowering myself, without waiting for permission to do so from others, to be honest with, and pace, my own life. But I know I'm ready because I choose life. Living, while never giving up in the pursuit of fully accepting and loving all parts of yourself is a brave thing, even if your effort or energy in this pursuit radically fluctuates. I believe it can be a very good thing to be able to share that pursuit with others who love you and you love them in return. And I'm glad that in this moment, I get the chance to.

If you are looking for a good film this summer, I recommend "Inside Out 2" 😊


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