*So let me properly set this up for you. My family and I are moving to a new house (and city) in a few weeks which, if you’ve moved especially, with young children, I don’t have to tell you how stressful this is. My daughter went from being a 6 week old who slept through the night beautifully to a 6 month old who is up every 2 hours at night. And I’m doing a lot of work on my business right now. Soo…I’m stressed. A lot.
Fast forward to a Sunday morning. We had just come back from breakfast and my baby was overdue for a nap but she will not go down. And this is like any other minute of every other day and they just all run together in one frustrating mess of half memories. This is nothing new by a long shot. And yet the anger I experienced felt very new.
No, it wasn’t anger…it was rage. And it wasn’t just in my head or heart the way my feelings usually are.
It was in my body.
I wanted to kick something, hit something, scream at someone. Get the rage OUT of my body because it felt intolerable. I was crawling out of my skin. I felt like an absolute monster/crazy person/some other terrible word for myself (which gave me a lot of empathy for my poor toddler who feels this way several times a day but I digress).
So as I was walking around trying to breathe and calm down (while I had safely placed my baby in her crib, I should add) I started to think about what I needed to do to actively cope instead of merely survive this moment. I decided I would go for a run as soon as my husband and son got home. No sooner than having that healthy, adaptive though, I immediately came up with 100 reasons why I couldn’t do that: “You’re being crazy”, “Don’t be so dramatic”, “You have so much stuff you actually HAVE to do…what makes you think you should be able to go for a run??”.
But the rational, kind part of myself reminded me that I can’t take care of anyone or anything else until I take care of myself. So I put on my running clothes, laced up my shoes, and impatiently waited for my husband to come home. And then I actually left.
Now I’m running, sprinting actually. I could stomp the ground as hard as I wanted, pump my arms and legs as fast as I could…and it felt good. But the tears came then. Rage tears, hot and wet on my face, blurring my eyes as I ran down the sidewalk. But I let myself cry. If I bumped into a fire hydrant because I couldn’t really see, so what! (I didn’t – whew!) If a passerby thought I should be institutionalized, who cares! I cried and cried and cried as I sprinted through my neighborhood. And slowly the lump in my throat that only existed because I had been fighting my emotion went away.
I kept running. Disgust is what came up next. Disgust at myself. That I could let myself get that angry. That I could feel that rageful toward people that I love, that (for the most part) have done nothing wrong. That I could have my freakin’ doctorate in feelings and still not be able to manage my own. The intense anger felt SO TERRIBLE and it was hard to believe, awful to believe, that I was capable of feeling that way.
But at some point I noticed that compassionate part of myself starting to whisper about being human. Started reminding me of the enormous amount of pressure and stress that I’m currently facing and when you add total and complete sleep deprivation to that picture, anyone might feel some of what I had been feeling in that moment at my home. Or maybe they wouldn’t feel what I was feeling but they would feel SOMETHING. Simply having unpleasant thoughts and feelings doesn’t make me a monster, it’s what I do with them that counts. And I was running. I could’ve been doing a lot of other not great things, but I was running. So maybe I wasn’t so bad after all.
I kept running and I started to fatigue from the sprinting. I could feel the anger draining from my body as my muscles finally began to tire. So I stopped to walk and think. Think about what I was doing. I didn’t want to simply experience the feelings, I wanted to think about my thoughts and my feelings so that I could understand them. So I could later explain them to my aunt and husband who were waiting for me at home, undoubtedly wondering what the hell was going on. And I wanted to be able to explain it to you.
But then I noticed that when I stopped to think, some of the anger bubbled back up as I was walking. So I figured I should write about everything to better understand it. So I stopped in a park and sat in the grass, enjoying the beautiful fall weather while tears spilled down my cheeks, again, (I’m a cry-er, what can I say??) and let my thumbs fly across my phone screen writing all of this down.
So what’s the take away? What can you and I both learn from my mess of a morning. Several things I hope.
1) When you are melting down, however that looks for you, you are not a monster/crazy/substitute some other terrible word about yourself. You are human. You are having a hard time. And you feel things. And sometimes those feelings are intense or feel intolerable. But that’s human too.
2) When you find yourself melting down, you need to actively cope. That sounds like me saying something incredibly obvious – did you know water is wet?? – but when we’re feeling something really intensely, we often forget to cope. We start to spin around in our heads and all we can think about is the possibility of going down the drain – being sucked into these terrible feelings – so we fight it and freak out and we sometimes forget to cope. So run. Or meditate. Get a massage. Ask for a hug. Write. Breathe. Something. Just remind yourself that you are not crazy and Do. Something.
3) It’s necessary to do something to actively deal with the feelings but often this isn’t enough. Catharsis – getting energy out – is typically not enough to deal with it and ultimately feel better. We have to think about it, make meaning of it, understand it. That’s why every time I would slow down during my run, the anger would bubble back up – because I was still thinking about my stressors in the same unhelpful, inaccurate way (“What the hell is wrong with my baby?!?!, “I want to kill my husband!!!”, etc). I needed to THINK through what happened, understand it differently (“Nothing is wrong with my baby – she’s just a baby”; “My husband is stressed and human too”) in order to actually feel better and move past it.
And here’s the final take away, which will be familiar to those of you who follow my blog or know me. Now would be the time that I post this and immediately old fears come up. Cue the worry: “But my family and friends might worry about me”, “My clients, current or future, might think I’m crazy”; “What if I am kinda crazy??”. And then the kind, compassionate, wise part of myself starts to whisper again about vulnerability. About how what ultimately connects us as humans being more than anything else is authenticity. The courage to put ourselves out there, the good, the bad, the ugly. Even if it’s scary.
So here I am. Human, occasionally wounded….but stronger every day.
What does your monster look like? How do you deal? I would love to hear about it on my Facebook page
**This was written over 2 months ago and only now am I finding the time to edit it and post. Yeah…shit’s crazy.