Note from Hannah: This is the latest installment from the New Perspectives Series. This post was contributed by Dawn Clancy (and do yourself a favor and check out her blog and radio show, Growing Up Chaotic).
When I set out to write this article, I pictured myself creating it from a peaceful and reflective place. With a mug of coffee to my right, and my computer snug in my lap, my fingers would breeze across the keyboard, breathing life into the ideas gently fluttering in and out of my consciousness. However, where I find myself at this very moment, makes even the roughest of seas on the show Deadliest Catch look like water in my bathtub. I am in the midst of an emotional shakedown and sitting with discomfort has never been a strength of mine. Whenever I feel anything, especially anger, it is always intense. Every last cell from every corner of my body feels like it is thrashing around in a mosh pit at a rock concert. For years I found solace in binge eating: brownie batter, potato chips, and pints of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream. I have on many occasions busted through the grocery store at 1am in hot pursuit of a box of cookies that I would devour in less than 5 minutes. The relief I found from whatever feeling I was resisting was not worth the mental lashing I would give myself for stuffing my face uncontrollably, “you are so fat, so gross, disgusting, what is wrong with you?”
My experiences have taught me that there are two ways of sitting with discomfort, you either sit with it or it will sit on you. For example, I have been losing my internet connection on a much too regular basis lately. When I can’t figure out how to fix it, and that emotional wave of frustration comes crashing in, I lose it! Before you know it I am on the phone pounding on the cable technician and my husband and cat are doing their best to stay out of my line of fire. In this situation I couldn’t sit with feeling overwhelmed so I lashed out. This is not a friendly place to be. Still, I have made great strides in learning how to co-exist with the upsets in my life. Now, instead of sucking on a roll of chocolate chip cookie dough when I’m depressed, I do my best to ride it out, remembering that I don’t need to hurt myself in the process. Doing this requires that I maintain a certain level of awareness. For example, I keep a highlighter in a cup under my calendar and when I am having an off day I smudge it bright pink. It serves as a reminder that I need to pay extra attention to what’s going on. When I look back on the month I have proof that each wave of depression passed and I handled it without cake or ice cream or avocado flavored chips. Cultivating awareness takes time and patience so take it easy on yourself. In the beginning it may feel like you’re not improving, but believe me every attempt you make is strengthening the likelihood that you will not be frantically trolling the cookie aisle at 1am!
Dawn Clancy is the creator of Growing Up Chaotic, a blog and radio program for those determined to SURVIVE and THRIVE despite growing up in toxicity – i.e. a childhood immersed in alcohol, drugs and physical, emotional or mental abuse. Her goal? Create a community hell bent on breaking, cracking and demolishing the cycle of dysfunction.
Love this post, Dawn. I think awareness is so key. I know when I am aware of my emotions and what’s going on around me, I am much more able to handle what comes my way. I agree that it takes practice…and being a aware when you are not aware!
So true Jennifer – staying aware is tough. Oh and staying present. Lately when I start getting anxious I just ask myself if I can handle what is going on right now and I more times than not – I can.
Dawn, I too have been in the cookie aisle at 1:00 am. At one time, this was the only coping that worked for me but have fortunately found other ways to cope and learn to sit with discomfort. There is so much freedom in knowing that our emotions won’t kill us nor will our circumstances. Thank you for this honest and practical article.
Ilene, I love how you put it- “There is so much freedom in knowing that our emotions won’t kill us nor will our circumstances.” Yes!
Ilene – That is the key – knowing that your emotions won’t kill you even if at the time they feel like they will. Just recently I was upset about something and I found myself shoveling tortilla chips like it was my job. I stopped for a second and asked myself – “Girl what are you doing? What the heck is going on?” That slowed me down – that awareness. Then I was able to remember that whatever I was feeling would pass. Thanks for reading and I am glad that you enjoyed it!!