A friend recently said that brain meds don’t change your personality, and I had a knee-jerk response of “Yes they do!” but I was surprised at my own conviction and had to think on it awhile. It’s a completely philosophical, religious, or spiritual question. Who am I? What makes me me? When am I most me? When am I not me? Can I be something other than myself?
Browsing Tagmental health
I almost died yesterday.
Okay, I didn’t almost die, but I thought I was going to.
Well, I didn’t actually think that.
What I thought was, “Is everyone having a good time? Did that silence go on too long? Did I laugh too loud? Am I doing a good job?”
See, I was hosting a party, and I have anxiety.
Have you tried journaling as a coping strategy for stress? What are your main strategies? We’ve all got little strategies to work with for times when we’re emotionally distressed. Some of these are good for us or neutral, and some are not as healthy.
A few of my go-to coping mechanisms are eating, napping, and really hot showers. As a person with bipolar, depression, anxiety, yadayadayada, I need a lot of strategies!
I’m turning more and more to journaling as a coping strategy for stress. Journaling is almost always available, it doesn’t hurt anyone, and it’s not unhealthy for me. No one is ever mad at me if I turn to journaling, and it can’t make the problem worse.
It’s also practical: in addition to being soothing, over time it leads to real solutions to ongoing problems. Morning Pages, in particular, are a great way to reveal solutions to ongoing life problems. Morning Pages are 3 pages of longhand journaling every morning or 750 Words typed out.
Additional Reading: 5 Tips to Build Your Daily Journaling Habit
Whenever I feel my emotions get out of control, I turn to the page to write down what’s going on with me. I write my ugly words, my angry words, my confused words, my sad words. I’ve cried on journal pages before, and I’ve stabbed through some pages with angry jabs of my pen.
Sometimes I find that I literally only need to write one sentence. Today I wrote in my journal, “This morning I freaked out and cried over all my failed projects.” And just like that, I felt a little better. To name a problem and to express it out loud has value. Getting something out is the first step – sometimes the only step – to letting it go.
What kinds of coping mechanisms do you use? Is journaling one of them?
Get The Gear
Here’s some of the stuff I use in my journaling practices. (These are all affiliate links. Thanks for your support!)
“Get your shit together” is one of those things people say when they’re mad at you, disappointed in you, disgusted by you, and so forth.
“Get your shit together” usually means that once you perform this magical, ill-defined feat you will no longer have your shit.
The oft-implied message is that you will no longer be shit.
There’s a Rick and Morty quote that’s made it into online art. It goes like this:
The part about the shit store or shit museum fits with the idea that you’re not going to have your shit anymore.
I’m confident that pretty much never happens. Whatever your shit is, you get to keep it. It changes over time, gets bigger, gets smaller, plays off of other people’s shit in better or worse ways, and so on. But you always have your shit.
I had a panic attack in a bank once. I was standing in line waiting to pay my overdraft fees wondering if I was ever going to get my shit together. A vision of my whole life stretched out in front of me, one long string of overdraft fee after overdraft fee. The frustration, the humiliation, the tediousness of money and time and bureaucracy and failure. And I just lost it right there in the bank.
When you think your shit is always going to be your shit, it can get really depressing really fast.
But, I saw something inspirational at the beginning of that quote.
“Get your shit together. Get it all together, and put it in a backpack. All your shit. So it’s together.”
That’s a pretty damn good description of what I’ve done in the decade since I had the panic attack at the bank.
I got my shit together. Not in the sense that I don’t have it anymore. I still have basically all the same shit!
But it’s all together. Like in a backpack. I know where it is. I understand it. I know where it comes from when my shit gets out, and I know where to put it back when I’m done with my shit.
Additional reading: Positive Affirmations are one of the tools I use to keep my shit together.
I read a meditation technique of imagining your thoughts as a pile of new puppies. When your thoughts start to wander, you imagine the errant thought as an escaping puppy. You gently pick it back up and put it back in the pile. You don’t get mad at your scattered thought, any more than you would get mad at a puppy losing its way from the pile.
The shit backpack is kind of like that. If I’m walking along and a notebook falls out of my backpack, it’s not a big deal. The same with my shit. The ways that I suck, the ways that I struggle, the ways that I fail… oops! Sorry! Shit is falling out of my backpack. And I can let my shit happen, and then let it pass, and then stick it back in the backpack. Simple as that.
What do you think? Do you still have your shit scattered all over everywhere? Have you sort of got your shit together in a backpack? What kinds of shit are you carrying?
This is a post about mental health. But first, a Burning Man story.
The first year I went to Burning Man I started packing in January for an event that happens at the end of August. It’s such a massively different experience than anything else that months of planning for your first trip is not unusual. Plus I was just that excited! From the moment I bought my ticket I obsessed over the extraordinary event in my future.
As I packed and planned, I kept an ever-growing to-do list. This included things to buy, things to prepare, art projects to make, outfits to put together, research to do, etc. You can read my packing list advice if you’re planning a trip to Black Rock City yourself.
It seemed like every time I crossed something off my to-do list, three more things got added.
In the weeks right before the event, I started crossing things off that I knew I was never going to get done. I had to prioritize. Things of less importance or things that would take excessive effort started falling off the bottom of the list.
As a person prone to serious depressions, my brain works like this to-do list all the time.
My mind is regularly filled with a massive list of things that I’d like to do. There are day-to-day things like playing with Dylan, doing laundry, and cleaning the house. There are medium sized activities like keeping LoveLiveGrow going and keeping up with my garden. There are large projects like planning my art project for the next burn, new websites that I dream up, and making handmade cards.
But as a mentally ill person, my attention, motivation, and energy is limited and constantly in flux. Some days it’s all I can do to get out of bed and take minimal care of myself and Dylan. Some days I can stay on top of things and even start new projects.
I am continually knocking things off the bottom of my to-do list. There just isn’t going to be enough room to get everything done. Sometimes there isn’t room in my brain to get hardly anything done.
I have to prioritize. Brutally.
It would be easy for me to get down about all these things I’m not getting done. I have so many ideas and dreams and desires. Sometimes it hurts to realize that something from the list just has to go. I have to give it up.
But if I think of my life like I think of Burning Man preparation, something different arises.
The to-do list for Burning Man grows and grows because the passionate excitement causes a swirl of ideas and possibilities and imaginings. Eventually it’s time to go and you’re ready or you’re not, but either way this thing is happening. And it’s going to be awesome.
My life is the same way. The ideas I have about what I could be doing are built out of a passion for my life, however dim that light may seem sometimes. Eventually, it’s time to live. I’m ready or I’m not – things on the list are happening or they’re not.
Either way, life is happening.
And the things that do make it into my days are pretty damn good.