One of the things I am most grateful for in my life is that God has given me a relatively high emotional set point. On most days, I feel cheerful and happy, and I don’t deviate a lot from that set point.
But when I do? I use coping skills.
It’s so awful.
My life has not always been full of healthy coping skills. For a while, I had figured out some really great ways to numb my emotions so I didn’t have to feel the “lows” that life inevitably brings.
Shopping. Not eating. Throwing myself into work to the detriment of my relationships. People pleasing. Overexercising. Sarcasm. Perfectionism and striving for achievement. Emotional eating. Sounds like a nice little list, right?
I used to be able to drown out emotions with all of these things. They worked worked super well at making those lows go away.
What didn’t work so well were the lows these behaviors created in the aftermath—you know, broken relationships, a pile of shame, getting sick, losing things that were important to me, etc., which inevitably resulted in me needing to use MORE of these behaviors, which created more problems, and so on and so forth.
It was a bad cycle and at some point I surveyed the broken life I was living and decided it was time to become an emotionally healthy adult. With lots of help and support and therapy, I now use healthy coping skills (and have actually spent the last few years teaching them to others as my job.)
Great, right? Except now I’m forced to feel all those pesky emotions WITHOUT NUMBING THEM.
Like I said…it’s awful.
Bad day? Time to curl up with a book, not dig into a chocolate dessert or buy new clothes. Overwhelmed with anxiety? Time to pray about it, talk about it, or watch a sitcom instead of spending two hours in the gym. Feeling “less than?” Time for an I-statement and a good cry, not a new diet plan or pouring myself into my next achievement. I can’t even drink a glass of wine or buy an extra coffee without asking myself “am I drinking this to dull or avoid feeling my feelings?”
People, it’s not fun to live like this!
Right now I feel sad, scared, anxious, and emotionally on the edge. If I could change something, I would, but the situation prompting these feelings isn’t up to me to change. I literally have no control over it.
And so instead of frantically try to make my feelings go away, I am writing and acknowledging them, telling myself how normal they are, thanking God for my blessings, listening to praise music, being present with my daughter during her wake times today, and planning a fun outing for us later. I am feeding myself like I should, not exercising today because my foot hurts anyway, and staying away from anything resembling an attempt to numb myself.
How boring. But how necessary—for my daughter, for my husband, for my family, to honor the God who has given me life, and for myself. I may want the easy thing, but I choose the better thing.
Yours in grumpy emotional health,
(PS: Maybe I still use sarcasm a little.)