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November 3, 2016

The Monster in the Box (Plus: 7 Bonus Tips for Coping).

Priscilla Westra/Unsplash

There’s a meme that’s floated around the internet for a while.

It strikes me to the core every time I read it:  

“You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before, and that, my love is bravery.” ~ Unknown

I hope so…

My monster is dark, harsh and cruel. It can creep around any corner, stalking me like prey. Sometimes I understand what unleashes it, other times there is no rhyme or reason. Echoes of unpleasantness rattle in my head, unleashing an attack upon my heart and sacral chakras. Sometimes these echoes come from inside me, and other times it happens as a result of witnessing pain in the world around me.

Only once I sit with this tar-like monster—that most would call anxiety, intermixed with depression—and tell it it’s okay and that I accept it, and only then does it start to release its grasp. I pet it, and for a while it’s tamed. Eventually, it brushes up against me like a black cat, purring in pleasure from acceptance. I scratch it under its chin and I peer into its eyes wondering what secrets it keeps. What makes it tick, anyway?

This depression and anxiety is a double-edged sword—the sword of lies that oscillates between feeling useless and generalized paranoia. The latter of which I usually laugh at eventually because the things which I’m paranoid about don’t make any sense. I know I’m not the only who struggles with the same monster of anxiety and depression. The empath in me weeps for my fellow souls who share this experience—or really, this perpetual cycle of hard experiences.

It wasn’t too long ago that I thought that feeling deeply was a bad thing. I’m a sensitive soul who wears my heart on my sleeve. At times, sadness sweeps me off my feet, knocking the ever-living breath out of me.

When I cry, I weep with my whole heart, but I’ve also learned that being an empath and feeling deeply is a beautiful thing. As I observe the unfolding life stories of my fellow beings, I build connections. I weep with them, I hold them in the dark places until they find that flicker of light to lead them out of their hole. I laugh with them when they find joy and celebrate when they find victory. I see mirrors of myself in their lives. I learn from these experiences of beholding another’s humanity, love and acceptance. I learn to hold myself in the dark places, laugh with myself when I find joy—and, yes, even celebrate my victories.

And when the monster comes back, there are those strategies that usually work for me:

1. Mindfulness in thought processes. When I feel harmful, negative thoughts arise, I look logically at ways to dispel them.
2. Yoga. Really it can be any form of exercise, but yoga has helped me most. The poses that help me the most open my heart and activate my sacral chakras.
3. Meditation and positive affirmations.
4. Spending time in nature.
5. Eating real food and drinking plenty of water.
6. Reaching out to trusted loved ones when needed.
7. A regular self-care practice. For me, it’s the yoga, making art and writing. These express parts of my soul and heart that I can’t get out any other way. They help me make sense of the wild world around me and heal, little by little.

Most of all, it helps me to know that I’m not alone. Many of us suffer from anxiety and depression every day in our own ways. There is a sweet society of super ninja anxiety-depression survivors, and we all find our own ways to deal with its existence.

In the box is darkness, I keep it hid away,
But often when I least expect it—it comes out to play.
It wears my soul to fight it when it torments my bright mind.
I know that if I don’t though, the wreckage it’ll leave behind.
So darkness sweet, I accept you
and sometimes love you too.
Because without your presence stark
I’d never know I could stand in the dark.
I know eventually you’ll leave me at least for a time
Before I know again you’ll lurk deep within my mind.
Light will shine in recesses deep
only then will darkness really seep.
Back into the box it will lay
until it comes out again to play.

~

Author: Lindsay Butler

Image: Priscilla Westra/Unsplash

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

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