Look at me, I’m finally getting around to answering more of the questions you guys posed when I said you could ask me anything you wanted in the comments section of the post “Here's Your Chance!”
I’m going to tackle two questions with one answer today, because I’m savvy like that. I’m also nerdy and a little bit odd, but today we are going to focus on my resourcefulness.
“How do you deal with the anxiety’s that come from your past traumas?”
(Imagine me taking a deep breath here, as I just did, before tackling this one)
Honestly, for a long time I didn’t deal with them. All the pain, the traumas, the anxieties, I just let them build up until I was a completely non-functional, disastrous, mess of a human being. There really is only so much heartache a person can handle before your brain just starts to shut down its emotions in an attempt to protect your overall well being. One day I realized that I felt….nothing.
I literally felt nothing. The pain, the heartache, the sadness, the horror, it was all still there and yet it felt like nothing. I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t sad, I simply felt like I had ceased to exist.
Every once in a while a painful emotion would break through and I wouldn’t know how to handle it. I had done such a great job of stuffing everything down into the basement of my soul and slamming the door shut, that when an emotion would seep out of the cracks in the floor and come rising to the surface, I felt out of control.
In high school I watched as my friends struggled the same way that I did, so many lost souls just looking for comfort. I watched them turn to drugs and sex to numb the pain, while I turned to cutting.
Cutting for me was the only way that I felt I could control my feelings. I cut because physical pain was so much easier to deal with, so much easier to tend to, and it was easier to let the physical pain mask the emotions that I simply did not know how to process.
I also cut on the days that I felt emotionally numb, when try as I might I just couldn’t feel alive. If you bleed, you are alive, and some days, bleeding felt like the only proof that I was still human.
It’s not something that I’m proud of and I don’t really like talking about it, but it is what it is and thankfully it didn’t extend far into my twenties.
I actually hesitated to answer this question when it was asked because I know that a lot of people aren’t going to agree with the way I’ve chosen to deal with my “mental health issues.” I am an out of the box thinker, no doubt. I feel the push back from society when I don’t allow my child to participate in standardized testing and I refuse to abide by the school districts homework policy. I feel it when I base my vaccination preferences off of my own research and when I send my kids to daycare with their GMO free, no artificial dyes, organically packed lunch in BPA free glass containers, forgoing the daycare provided meals. I’ve been balked at when I explain that I don’t allow Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network in my house because of the inappropriate jokes, yet at the same time I choose to expose my kids to things that are probably well beyond what typical society might deem appropriate. I often choose holistic healing and dietary changes over Western medicine and I know that tends to throw people up in arms. I’m not a jump on the bandwagon person. I feel strongly about the choices that I make, and I make them on what I consider to be my own well researched information, yet I am well aware that many an eyebrow has been raised in my direction. My life choices have caused more than a few debates and I hesitate to fire up a war zone over here, but what the hell, I said I’d answer anything!
**With that being said, please understand that this is what *I* chose to do. If this had not worked for me I would have moved on to something else, and I am in no way judging people who choose different treatment plans, I am simply answering the question as asked; "how do you deal with your anxieties?"**
When I got married and quickly realized that I was deemed the nonexistent human being in our relationship, I really struggled with staying in touch with my feelings, feelings that I was constantly told should not exist. Eventually, they truly did not exist. I was so detached from myself that in an effort to not go jumping off of a bridge somewhere, I would say that I fell into a fairly robotic state for most of my married years.
When my ex left and I suddenly had no one to inform me of how I was feeling, I was completely lost. I initially I went to go see a doctor, explaining that I felt like a shell of a person; no happiness, no sadness, no real human emotions whatsoever. She prescribed me an antidepressant, but when I filled the prescription I just sat there looking at the bottle. What I needed, was not a prescription. It felt like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound; cover it up and it won’t exist, yet all the while you are bleeding to death on the inside.
A pill wasn’t going to change the fact that my life was a complete wreck, it was only going to change the way that I felt about it, and to me, that wasn’t going to be solving much. I didn’t want to change my brain chemistry, I wanted to change the way that I dealt with my emotions. Now don’t get me wrong, some people truly are dealing with an internal chemical imbalance that affects their external life, in which case a medication might be great for that, but I was dealing with an external issue that was affecting me internally.
I quickly found that physically pushing myself kept my anxieties in check. My brain moves fast. I talk fast, I write fast, I move fast, everything I do just naturally tends to happen in fast forward. My unprofessional opinion believes that as a child I lived in such an adrenaline hyped atmosphere, that it caused my brain to wire itself to run a little bit faster than the norm, so remaining physically active allows me a healthy outlet for what otherwise would be pent up, frustrated, energy. I love to run. Running allows me time to think, time to just focus on me and I am reminded with every burning breath that I am alive. Toning and light weight training helps to fatigue and relax my otherwise tense body.
After all the trauma’s that I’ve had, after all the injustices against my body, dancing has been a great way for me to reconnect with something that I have tried so hard to disconnect from, my own skin. I know that I really only talk about my strip classes on here, but I actually dance everything from hip hop to lyrical. Ballet though is where my heart lies. Being able to fluidly move my body has had a very therapeutic reconnection effect, reinforcing the fact that I am in this body, that this body is me.
As an added bonus to my fitness routine, hello body after baby! (You see what I did there? I answered the second question of “how did you get your body back after two babies. Killing two birds with one stone here people.)
I chose not to take the medication because I didn’t want to numb away my feelings anymore than I already had. It is ok to feel anxious, to feel sad, to feel hurt. These are all emotions that are designed to alert us to the fact that something in our life is not functioning correctly. It is not a bad thing to have those emotion’s, it’s just a bad thing when you don’t deal with them. I make sure that I allow myself to be sad when I need to. I’ve been screwed over in a lot of ways and it’s ok for me to feel sad about that. Those feelings are not any less important just because they are unpleasant and I refuse to shove them down anymore. When I need to be sad, I allow myself the time to do it. I’ll take a bath, sit in the silence, and just allow myself to feel the emotions. It is ok to feel sad, the important thing is just to not dwell on it. Allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to acknowledge that you are hurting. Feel it, absorb it, and then put it into perspective.
I’ve also made the conscious choice to abstain from most food items that have a direct effect on your brain chemistry. Yes, I do like to go out and have a good time, drink with my friends, and have a glass of wine at home, but what it means is that I choose not to allow chemically altering items to be a part of my daily routine, like a daily caffeinated cup of coffee for example. I know that with the past that I’ve had, I really need to keep a close watch on how I am feeling, and I don’t want to allow my feelings and energy levels to be chemically altered on a daily basis or I’m not going to be able to accurately track my moods from day to day.
These days I have the skills to be able to understand how I’m feeling. When I feel sad or hurt, I don’t shove it down anymore. I let the feelings come as they are and I work through them, attempting to understand why I am feeling that way before the situation gets beyond the grasp of my control. I’ve continued to find that a regular fitness routine has helped enormously with my anxiety levels. I am, by nature, an anxious person, and making my workout a priority instead of a luxury benefits not only me, but my children and the people around me as well. When I feel my mood shifting to a less than pleasant place, I make the time to deal with it. I force myself to relax and allow myself to process what I’m feeling, and if I can’t get the feelings under control, then I know it’s time to check in with my therapist, who is a lot smarter than I am. I eat as healthy as I can and even though I will fully admit to the occasional candy binge, I live as cleanly as I can.
When dealing with any mental health issues, it is important to remember to make yourself a priority. You all know how much I struggle with making myself a priority, but I realized a long time ago that my kids are going to be a reflection of me. I want to be the best, healthiest, and most stable example that I can set for them. My mood is going to determine how I interact with them and I want them to feel nothing but love and security from me, so I’ve made it a priority to keep my mental health status in check.
Whatever you do, take care of yourself first, our lives are so busy. There are kids that need to be tended to, deadlines at work, projects at school, homes that need cleaning, and significant others that need attention, but your health is the foundation of your life. Each and every person that you interact with will be affected by the emotions that you put out. The examples that you set, the lessons that you teach, the work that you do, it all reflects back on the foundation of who you are. As corny as it sounds, you need to be the best that you can be. It is not selfish to need a nap when you are overtired. It is not lazy to want to relax in the tub when you have had a long day. You deserve to have some time with yourself! You deserve to give your feelings, your soul, the same attention that you give to the rest of the demands in your life.
We are not robots and so many of us function as if we are, going through the motions day after day, falling into habits and routines that we barely think about.
We are people. We are living, breathing, feeling, souls. Emotions incarnate that have the power to drastically change the world around us. The changes that you make, the examples that you set, they should be coming from a place of good. They should be coming from a healthy and stable foundation. You deserve to be the best that you can be and the people around you deserve to get the best that you have to offer.
Make time for yourself, everyone in the world deserves that you do.