Controlling Emotions

As someone who suffers from Major Depression and General Anxiety, I know well how difficult controlling emotions are. Emotions are powerful. You feel them but they’re hard to control because they’re inside of you. Here’s a question I ask myself regularly: Why do you want to control your emotions?

Emotions exist inside of you for a reason. Even the ones that feel over dramatic. Those ones are typically a trauma response. For example, if you’re in love with someone and they take a bit too long to text you back. The normal response would be to be patient and not over think it. However, for someone who’d been cheated on in the past, or someone who has abandonment issues, this can feel like the end of the world. I’m someone with abandonment issues and I have to regularly remind myself that their life doesn’t revolve around me. I need to be patient. I need to stop trying so hard to read between the lines when there’s nothing there and I need to take things as they are.

That doesn’t mean those emotions need to be bottled up and pushed away. If you have trauma in your past and are susceptible to these over reactive emotions in response to little things, I recommend discussing this with the important people in your life so that they know where your emotions are coming from. Instead of acting on emotions, just feel them. Don’t make them stronger, but don’t push them away. Just sit with them. Meditate on them. Meditation is a difficult practice to get in to, especially for someone who’s thoughts are constantly racing, but it really is an incredible tool to utilize. There are many guided meditations on YouTube as well as tons of apps for guided meditation. If you don’t want a voice in your ear while you meditate, Google meditation frequencies and things to help you stay focused.

Why sit with your emotions? It’s important to remember that emotions are temporary. They come and go. Allow them to exist. Pushing them back only makes them come back stronger. What is the worst thing that can happen if you sit with your intense sadness or anxiety or anger? Don’t act on these emotions, or you’ll typically dig yourself into a hole. Sit and don’t question the emotions. Don’t ruminate on them. Just feel them. Describe to yourself what it feels like in your chest. Is your anger red hot like a fire? Is your sadness dark and cold? Does your anxiety make you feel like there are bees buzzing in your chest? Notice them. Imagine the emotion spreading from your chest to all parts of your body. The emotion will spread over you and it will become more and more intense and eventually peak. As you come down from the emotion, you might learn something about yourself.

This is something that’ll take practice. It’s not something that will be easy to master but when you do, you will be in control of your emotions, rather than allowing them to control you. There are no good or bad emotions. They are simply emotions. Just as happiness comes and goes, so does sadness or anger.

Don’t allow your ego to get in the way of relationships. Assuming everything is a slight towards you will only ruin things. I’ve been guilty of doing this. Many times, actually. But it’s something to work out of.

I’m thinking about doing spooky Friday blogs. Let me know if that’s something of interest.

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Why I still have hope

Hope can be a dangerous thing. Being hopeful can lead to heartbreaks and disappointments. However, not having any hope at all can throw away your chances at something great.

I have hope because every day, I get up and I get to see my baby girl and her sweet smile. I have hope because she calls “mommy” when she needs me. I have hope because after a month of being away from her, she still ran and hugged me the second she saw me. I have hope because, even though she’s not even two years old yet, I can tell she loves me.

Being hopeful can be an extremely difficult thing to do. I’m currently unemployed. A ton of my bills and my rent are late. My phone bill is on a payment arrangement and I’m worried I won’t be able to pay it because I don’t have any income. However, during this time I’ve been unemployed, I got set up with a therapist. It was hard saying goodbye to my last therapist. She was really great. My new therapist specializes in trauma and separation, depression and anxiety. She’s a good fit for me and I’m looking forward to the work we will do together. I also got set up with WIC, and an EBT card. I wasn’t able to get unemployment insurance due to not living in this state long enough, but I may be able to apply for Minnesota. I have hope because when I ask for help, there are people and resources out there for me.

Despite being unemployed, my daughter and I haven’t lost any weight and we don’t have to go hungry. It’s a blessing. I apply for tons of jobs and the only ones who reach out to me are either scams or door-to-door sales, which lord knows I can’t handle. It’s so easy for me to become depressed. It’s so easy for me to put my daughter to bed at night and then spend my time crying until I go to sleep. It’s so easy for me to hit up random guys and invite them over to keep me company, and it’s so easy for me to get high so I can sleep without crying. It’s easy to fall into these bad habits.

It’s a lot harder to stay sober. It’s harder to let myself cry and experience these painful feelings. Even though it’s harder, in the end, I don’t have that feeling of regret and disgust with myself. I don’t feel like a shitty mom after I spend the night crying. I wake up to my baby’s smiling face and it gets me through another long day.

So every day, I find odd jobs here and there to make a little bit of extra money. I ask for help from family. I apply to dozens of jobs every day. And it’s still hard, but I’m still trying. I want my daughter to grow up and be strong. I want her to have a good role model to look up to. I know I didn’t have that growing up. I know that even if I have no reason to live besides for my daughter, that’s the only reason I really need.

I’m doing everything I can right now. I need to remind myself of that, and that my daughter is clean and fed and has a bed to sleep in. I need to remind myself that we are safe and comfortable and that we will be okay. It’s been hard for me to post a blog because I don’t know what to say. How do I talk about mental health when I can’t even practice what I preach? But you know what? A mentally stable person can sit here and preach all day long about how great meds, therapy, and a changed mindset are and it can go in one ear and out the other. I’m a mess and if you are too, I’m here in solidarity with you.

I want to post more frequently. I will do my best to do so. It’s good for me and I would really love it if I helped anyone else even a little bit.

Thank you for reading.

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The Deep Trenches of Depressive Episodes

A large portion of the world is in quarantine with covid-19 wreaking havoc on the human population. Quarantine can be difficult in a lot of ways. For people experiencing a depressive episode, being stuck at home can feel awful. There isn’t any distractions and sometimes the people you live with are your stressors. So what do you do in a crisis? What do you do when you’re having a panic attack?

It’s important to learn your personal signs that you’re in the warning zone. In one of my therapy groups, we talked about the “window of tolerance”, where we identified how we feel when we are in our comfort zone, how we feel when we are in the warning zone, or the “shutters”, and how we feel when we hit the wall. For me, personally, in my comfort zone I am calm, not tense or on edge, and my body is a normal temperature. When I get into my warning zone, which you also may have heard it as fight or flight, I feel hotter and I might sweat. My heart beats really fast and I’m easily startled. I might tremble and feel restless. When I hit the wall, I tend to shut down, dissociate, cry, ruminate, isolate. I feel cold. This is my own window of tolerance signs and everyone is different.

These different phases of a crisis that we go through are activated in different parts of the brain. The only was humans can control their nervous system is through breathing. When you get into that warning zone and you know you’re nearing the wall, that’s when you can most easily stop it. It’s important to know that the advice I’m going to give you isn’t going to take the pain away. The road to recovery requires you to feel your pain. There are ways to make it easier as I will describe, however they won’t completely take it away.

When you’re in the warning zone, this is when you should take action. You can use a weighted blanket or a weighted ball (cheaper than a weighted blanket, I got mine for 5 dollars at 5 below). The pressure gives your brain something to focus on and it can actually feel good. Weight can keep you grounded. Distracting is a great way to bring you back down to your comfort zone. Playing a game, watching TV, browsing the internet are all useful ways to bring you from your warning zone back to your comfort zone. Mindfulness is great! There are guided meditations everywhere online, including on YouTube. Doing a puzzle or coloring, or anything else you enjoy doing that you can stay present while doing it are good ways to distract.

When you’ve already hit the wall, there are still ways to bring you back. Something I was unaware of until I learned about it in group is that daydreaming and getting lost in your thoughts is dissociation. Dissociation is the brain’s way of protecting itself in dangerous situations and can happen when you hit the wall. If you’re someone whose experienced a lot of trauma, especially as a young child, the pathway between comfortable and hitting the wall will be well paved and much smaller. For as long as I can remember, daydreaming has been almost euphoric. It’s been my go-to in any uncomfortable situation. I didn’t even realize I was hitting the wall. I never felt fight or flight because that path was so well paved. So why do you want to stop daydreaming if it keeps you from your situation and it makes your body release endorphins? Because it keeps you from recovery. When you daydream, you fly high off the curve and when you come back from it, you drop steeply back down to comfort. Doing this, you don’t process at all what you’re going through.

Connecting with people is an incredibly powerful tool. If you have hit the wall, connecting is a very good way to bring you back. By connection, I mean genuine vulnerability. Don’t be embarrassed to be vulnerable with others. People respect you more. Everyone is vulnerable inside, and it’s easy to relate to someone who expresses vulnerability. Be honest about what you’re going through.

Intense exercise is another way to bring you back to your comfort zone, or at least the warning zone. Sometimes when you’re having a panic attack and can’t sit still, all you need to do is stand and do jumping jacks or run in place. Another way is temperature. Using ice or a cold pack on your hands, wrists, face, or back of your neck can calm you down.

There is no way to cure the pain. The only way to recover from a trauma is the hard way; feeling it. It’s so hard to feel the pain and accept it. I repressed the pain of my childhood traumas because I convinced myself it was normal. In my brain, I was somehow less than all my classmates. They were better than me and that’s why they didn’t have to experience those things. I know now that I was wrong and that no child in the world deserves what I went through. I was my beautiful daughter’s age when my mother started physically abusing me. I could never imagine hurting my baby girl. Sometimes I cry when she and I bond just because I feel robbed of a mother. I wish that my mother could have loved me the way I love my baby.

But I can’t change the past. That’s why I’m doing trauma work. I’m struggling to accept that it happened and I’m grieving for my child self. When you feel sad or angry or anything in regards to your trauma, just sit with it. Don’t question it or judge it. There are no bad feelings. All feelings are valid and don’t deserve to be pushed away. You feel those things for a reason. You don’t need to wonder why or how or when, or try to make it worse, or try to make it better. Just accept that it is. Focus on the feeling. You might be able to uncover some truth behind it and why it’s there.