9.5
May 8, 2020

We all Need to Stop Pretending we’re “Fine” & Just Feel our F*cking Feelings.

Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon

~

Is it just me, or has social media become a competition for lockdown achievements?

The place for everyone to prove how well-adjusted they are to the pandemic lifestyle?

I noticed that Karen baked bread from scratch today and Claudia is teaching her children how to speak Mandarin. Meanwhile, in the real world, most of us are just trying to keep our heads above water.

Can we please stop saying that everything is “good” and that we are doing “fine”? I know that when I live in that mental space, I have a tendency to seek out distractions that really only create more issues in the long run—the consequences of which are ultimately worse than just letting myself experience my emotions in the first place.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I’m great at displacing my hopelessness and directing it outward. Most recently, my husband has been shouldering the blame for my unhappiness. I could be wrong, but I think a lot of us are probably doing that to our partners right now. Being cooped up together week after week isn’t great for any relationship. Especially if that time together isn’t “quality” time. We haven’t had any kid-free time in months. That definitely can lead to a bit of a disconnect.

After a couple glasses of wine the other night, I looked at him and said, “When this is all over, we should probably go to marriage counseling.” He responded with, “You just need to get out of the house.” I scoffed, but he wasn’t that far off.

My unhappiness right now isn’t due to a marital issue. That was just an easy scapegoat. I found myself seeking external validation again in order to put a temporary Band-Aid over something that needed oxygen to heal. I’m surprised I didn’t realize what was really going on. The signs had been glaringly obvious. I had been here before, many times.

Hello depression, welcome back anxiety. It’s been a while, old friends.

I should have figured it out when I didn’t feel like writing, or reading, or doing any of the things I usually enjoy. I didn’t feel like doing anything at all really. I’ve been pretty lackluster about life in general the past couple of weeks. I’ve been focusing the majority of my attention on distracting myself in various ways, with very little passion for anything else.

I also have an addictive personality and tend to be completely consumed by things, people, projects, or ideas—whatever it is that I’m interested in at the time. I become obsessive and utterly relentless in the pursuit of what I want. This can be a great quality when I’m focused on a healthy goal; I’m usually successful in achieving my desired outcome. On the flip side, this trait can be really dangerous if I’m indulging in something negative. My attempts to distract myself from my current mental state haven’t been all that healthy lately. I finally realized that it was time for a change.

As a society, we too often view depression and anxiety in a negative light. When did we, as a culture, decide that half of our feelings were undesirable? That sadness and anger are not okay to express or even to acknowledge? That we all need to put on our rose-colored glasses no matter what kind of sh*tstorm we’re in the middle of. I’m sorry to say this, but “good vibes only” is total BS. That’s not real. And the last thing we need in this world is more fake-ass sh*t.

It’s become the norm to try and cover up any negative emotions in an effort to avoid them completely. If there is anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you can only hide from your feelings for so long before they’ll manifest in other ways. Did we forget that depression and anxiety are totally normal responses to trauma? Those feelings are internal alarm bells warning us that there is something wrong happening. We need to pay attention to those signals. Then we can figure out what we need to learn in order to foster change or resilience.

Let’s be clear that we are all experiencing trauma right now. If you’re paying attention to this horrible thing that’s wreaking havoc on the world as we know it, then you’re going through it. If your life has been affected in any way by the changes we are all struggling to adapt to, then you are knee-deep in the trenches, my friend.

People are dying every day, by the thousands! Those statistics are not just numbers. They are real people. People with families, friends, and lives. People with hopes, dreams, and plans. Someone’s grandparent, parent, sibling, or child. That in itself is devastating, heart-wrenching, and incredibly painful to think about.

To top it all off, people are losing their jobs, some maybe for good. There are businesses that won’t make it through this. Employees who won’t have a job to go back to when their unemployment runs out. Meanwhile, employees deemed “essential” are still out in the world risking exposure and potentially their lives. This situation we are in feels dire and hopeless. There is no definitive end in sight. We are left feeling lost and helpless, looking to leaders who are just as uncertain as the rest of us.

Can we all take a moment to catch our breath here? To be understanding of each other’s thoughts, feelings, and circumstances? Can we stop fighting with each other and just all agree that life really sucks right now? Sometimes it does, and that’s okay to admit. None of us are unaffected by this. It’s perfectly normal to be angry, sad, afraid, overwhelmed, and any other combination of emotions right now.

Even those of you who are reading this and think that I’m being overdramatic—telling yourself that everything is “fine,” nodding when someone says, “Everything will go back to normal soon”—I’m even more worried about you than anyone else. Stop organizing the contents of your refrigerator in alphabetical order and take a minute to check in with yourself. How are you really doing mentally and emotionally? Stay away from the shoe closet, and be honest. Remember that trying to always keep “busy” is an avoidant trauma response.

We will all be forever changed by this in some way. But hey, we are at least all in this together. Even if we are experiencing it on different levels and handling it in our own ways.

Every other time I’ve gone through something traumatic, I’ve had to go through it alone. No one else could understand how I was feeling because they weren’t going through the same thing. I am thankful to be sharing this experience with others. There is comfort to be found in each other, from a safe social distance of at least six feet. Haha. 

Think about how incredibly lucky we are to have the technology that we enjoy today. To be able to see each other live through a screen. Engaging in meetings, virtual happy hours, and even play interactive games via our devices. We aren’t as disconnected as we could be. Some of us even have the capability to work from home, in our pajamas. What a time to be alive! On the really hard days, try to remember that being alive is enough.

We need to try to take a moment to shift our mindset back to gratitude. If we focus on the all the things we are thankful for through this, we might find a thread to slowly pull ourselves back up and out of the pit of despair. It’s okay to lose yourself for a little while. Sometimes we get caught up in something and forget who we are.

It’s time to start putting the pieces back together now. We need to do the inner work first, then we can come together and figure out how to put the rest of the world back together.

~

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