How do you communicate with yourself?

About a week ago, I got stuck in my head. Recently, I’ve been having that happen a lot. It comes with the territory-depressed, anxious, etc. The way you perceive the world and how things are is different than the reality of it. Sometimes what I think is the issue isn’t actually what’s bothering me, but it’s what seems like it’s bothering me. I wanted to insert a metaphor here, but couldn’t think of a good one, so too bad for you. I know so many of you that get stuck in your heads in one way or another and it feels like a trap, like a cycle that you can’t get out of. Breaking this cycle is difficult and it played perfectly into my eating disorder: I get stuck in my head, worried about something and food soothes. It was a terrible cycle. And when I first went into therapy, my therapist introduced the concept of healthy coping mechanisms. There are many of them, so many more than I could list in this one blog post. But the ones that I learned and leaned on both in the beginning and now: pausing for a minute (delaying the unhealthy coping mechanism), meditations, going for a walk, and journaling. Another that she told me about and I ignored: creating signs to visually deter me from eating and process my emotions.

In the beginning, these tactics were all about addressing the negative behaviors I had developed (ED) in response to the mental health I was experiencing (Depression & anxiety). As time passed and I managed to reign in the behaviors (eating a jar of peanut butter), we transitioned more into addressing the mental health. Here is where journalling for me has become transformative. I have always been more of a writer than a speaker as a communicator. Writing helps me straighten out my own thoughts, allows me to dig past the surface thoughts to the kernel of discontent that is causing the waves of anxiety and paralysis in whatever I’m facing.

When I find that kernel, even if I can’t make it go away, identifying it is powerful. When I’m conscious of an issue, I can address it. When I’m avoiding it, I feel anxious for indiscernible reasons, I feel physically weird. It’s harder to resist the unhealthy coping mechanisms of eating (stuffing my feelings down) and avoiding.

Journalling is the clearest way for me to get to the truth of what is the cause of what I”m dealing with. Sometimes, I can journal out solutions as well, but even if I can’t, the identification is the most important part. It’s a way for me to communicate with myself, to take myself out of being stuck in my head and examine the world I’m living in. Kind of like in a video game where you scroll back and are looking at yourself from farther away or above you. That neutral landscape of you allows you to have a healthier analysis of what’s going on, makes it easier to assess and address.

Journalling isn’t for everyone, but it is well worth a try when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. If that doesn’t work, think about how you best communicate and try using that. Talking to a friend. Drawing. Movement. Whatever way shapes your words so that you can actually listen to yourself. Try it when you feel as if your mind is caged, banging and bruising against the bars. Good luck!

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Published online and unknowns

First, I had a personal story published on xojane today, which was a very pleasant surprise in a very doldrum day!

I can’t talk about it much in specifics, but I’m facing the possibility of semi-significant work choices that could shift my career direction. Each way the penny falls, though, has some downsides.

When I’m faced with a choice that has an equal number of downsides to the it’s upsides, it throws me into a bit of an emotional turmoil. I did well yesterday but today, a day after, I have a low level anxiety headache. I’ve felt distracted and unable to complete tasks. I’ve been stuffing the emotions down in the face of this lack of clarity, trying to focus and it hasn’t worked.

These kind of complex set of emotions are where my coping skills can both shine and, simultaneously, not be enough. Even when I do my self-care, I find myself struggling. I’m unsure of the next step, unsure of what else I could do.

Mostly, I’m unsure of how to sit with hard emotions, when you get down to it. I hate the uncomfortability of them and the inability of my coping mechanisms to make them go away. I know they make me stronger and that my coping mechanisms are to help me cope with those feelings but part of me wishes that the coping mechanisms would cure me of these hard feelings, that I would feel them for five minutes, use a coping mechanism and be back to my normal friendly empathetic self.

Coffee makes me anxious

I think I’m going to do a little series of things in my life that make me anxious! This time, it’s coffee. Unlike my last post, Crowds Makes me Anxious, this is more of a body chemistry thing than psychological. It’s been shown that anxiety is increased or aggravated by caffeine. There are days where it feels like I can’t get through the day without it, even though I know that the side of anxiety will come swiftly afterwards.

It’s become a habit, one that I’m not yet willing to put aside. I’ve done it before and I know that if I dump coffee, the physical anxieties I experience abate in equal measure. I continue to practice the skills my therapist has taught me in handling these moments of anxiety: deep breathing, thinking through a worst case scenario, journalling, walking, using fidget devices and re-directing my thoughts.

I’ve tried coloring, but it’s not for me. Meditation sometimes works, but I often find myself distracted quickly and easily. It has taken several years of trial and experimentation to figure out tricks and strategies for managing both the physical and mental sides of anxiety for me. When it’s physical, usually the more tactile skills I have work better. So using the fidget, distracting myself, walking, they all work. Journalling, thought re-direction, worst case scenario building, etc, they all work much better when I’m stuck in my head, worried about the future or worried about something that has happened and how people are judging me.

If you feel anxious, you might try getting off caffeine or at the very least reducing intake. It’s hard, it’s annoying, it’s a pain in the ass. But the benefits are pretty phenomenal!

Crowds make me anxious

Tomorrow, I am taking the Northeast Regional train down to Philadelphia, to go to the Wizardworld Con with a dear friend of mine who is flying all the way in from England. It means spending 6-7 hours on a train, finding my hotel, checking in and then having probably 4-5 hours to spend in Center City Philadelphia. And I am calm about it. Actually, I’m looking forward to it. While part of the train ride will certainly be boring, I am looking forward to a significant amount of time where I can do whatever I want-finish up that fanfic piece I promised for last month (oops), re-watch the second movie of HP & the Deathly Hallows or another movie I own on my computer. Read one of the many books I have out from the library. While the time away on the internet. Take a nap. Wander around Center City Philadelphia.

But Sunday, when my friend and I will be attending the convention, I am already nervous. I have to share my time and space with my dear friend and now I’ll be anxious about making sure we get wherever we need to go in time. After all, we have the Chris’s to ogle. When I have to adhere to other people’s schedules, anxiety worms its way into my life.

I know why this is and it still happens. It’s about control. I almost said power there, but that’s definitely not it (although those two are often paired together for good reason). It’s about managing expectations and controlling expectations. It’s worrying that by the actions of someone else I won’t get where we need to. (Or that by my actions it won’t happen). There are twice as many ways to fail when you add two people together.

I know how irrational I’m being and how much of a control freak I can be and yet this knowledge? Does nothing in the face of these behaviors. I have to breathe through and remind myself that I can accept this as it is right now. That no matter what, life will not end (hello, catastrophic thinking, you’re not my friend), I will still have a good time. And, in all honesty, things will probably work out pretty well no matter what. We’re not facing huge stakes here, just us, hundreds or thousands of other people and some famous people. Sight seeing of the crowds, looking at booths and lots of geeky pop culture. I’m looking forward to spending time with my dear friend and I’m looking forward to being in the same room (ish) as the Chris’s. I know that I can manage my travel anxiety and schedule anxiety but it would help a whole lot if I were able to head it off before or as it began rather than struggling through the mud in the middle. But I’m not there yet. So for now, I’ll use the coping mechanisms my therapist has given me for anxiety and keep working on it.