19 May 2014

Avoidance Solves Nothing - But Writing About It Might

Only fear can defeat life. . . . .
It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease.
It begins in your mind, always ... so you must fight hard to express it.
You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it.
Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid,
perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear
because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.
~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi


May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.  Join me in blogging to erase the stigma of mental illness so our loved ones can seek the help they need.




A
voidance is one of my specialties.  Depression and anxiety only make this particular dark star of mine “shine” even brighter (Darker?  Hmmm.)

A bill is due?
Ignore it until they start threatening to take your firstborn as payment.

A report for work is needed?
Wait until the afternoon before it’s expected to begin asking people for input.

Having people over for dinner on Sunday?
Panic and rush around the grocery store on Saturday afternoon wondering what the hell you’re going to serve.

Notice some weird medical issues?
Wait until you’re writhing in pain and they have to take you to the ER.

Sign up to help X do any number of fun or helpful things.
Become so anxious the night before that you give yourself a migraine and digestive issues.

It’s Going to Take CSI to ID this Body of Problems
On a good day (or if I’m really lucky, a good string of days), bills are paid on time, reports are completed and edited and reviewed a week early, dinners are planned with clockwork precision, doctor’s appointments are made before things get tricky, and social engagements are driven to with excitement and flare.

But most “strings of days” aren’t like that.

Life ebbs and flows.  I could have a week where three days are good and two days are quiet and one day is really bad.  Other times, things cycle in the space of just 12 hours.

Today for instance, is a good day.  But it could easily go to pot.  And not the good kind.  In the morning, I felt really good.  I whipped out a clean notebook (they’re an addiction – all those blank pages!), wrote up all my “To Dos” that had been pinging my brain, and set to work getting things done.

And they aren’t tedious things.  They’re fun things.  Good things.  Actions that will help make some people’s days brighter, ease another’s stress, and make my life a little easier, and the holiday weekend more relaxing.

But then something happened.
Image credit: Sarah Brandis

I don’t know what it was.  A drop in my endorphins?  A dip in some other brain chemical?  Something I ate this morning?

Maybe it was the fact that my co-worker was in a car accident over the weekend (she’s fine!) and won’t be in until Thursday.
Maybe it’s the fact that I have to compress my work day by a couple of hours today in order to make a writing class (which is fun!)
Or maybe something on that To Do list makes me nervous. 
There are a couple of entries that assume that I’m talented in a certain area.  A couple more include making plans with people at least a few weeks in advance. And one involves spending time with a difficult person.
Ahhh.  And there it is.  Without even knowing it, my subconscious grabbed on to that event and began wringing its hands:
Why in the world did you think that was a good idea?  You do realize that instead of just “here is X amount of money – knock yourself out” you chose to go big.  Now you’re stuck with this person not just for the event, but for the drive to the event, dinner before the event, and the drive after the event.  Which by the way, will include our most hated pastime ~ sitting in traffic.  Way to go, genius!  You never think these things through, do you?  Gods, you’re an idiot.

Make Like an Ostrich and Stick It
The whispers weren’t audible.  But the drop in “warm fuzzies” was noticeable.  And so what did I do?  I avoided. 

The Internet is a great tool for the Avoider.  Forget FB and Pinterest ~ which I told you are like weed and crack.  Email is the best drug, because it makes us feel like we’re being productive.  See?  I’m answering your email about the thing.  And being all happy-happy and busy-busy. 

Not avoiding.  Nope. No avoiding going on here. Noooo.

This chart applies to any fears we may have.
Image credit: The Strangest Situation Blog

The truth is, I’m afraid.  

I’m afraid that the choice I made (regarding attending the event with said difficult person) will blow up in my face.  Unfortunately, this isn’t based in bad juju or a fantasy.  This is based on past experience.  Which again makes me call my IQ into question regarding the initial decision.

And this reminds me of a well-known fable, The Scorpion and the Frog:
A scorpion asks a frog to carry him over a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out, “But you knew I was a scorpion.” 
I Wanna See You Be Brave
The lesson could be that I am indeed an idiot who should have thought “Yes, that is a nice idea, but X is not a stable person and will likely make the evening a living hell for you.  Best to just write her a check.”  But that’s in the past and can’t be undone ~ I don’t have an in with the Doctor.

And it doesn’t help me face my issue using avoidance as way to cope with fear.  But writing about it does.

So, today started out as a good day.  And then it turned panicked and bad.  The To Do list sat with only one lone red line through it.  All the other tasks languished.  But one of those tasks was to write today’s post.  And in the writing, I figured out what was at the root of my avoidance.

The real lesson then, is that, sometimes, when we’re anxious, or sad, or panicked, or upset ~ we need to talk it out.  This is something we can do every now and then with a supportive friend who is a good listener.  And it’s something we should do with a well-trained supportive therapist on a regular basis.

But it’s also something we can do when we’re alone.  A journal ~ whether in book or computer form ~ can’t give you feedback or positive reinforcement.  But it can help you to gather your thoughts, to help clarify your feelings, and sometimes, even show you the solution to your problem.

So today, if things aren’t going so well, I encourage you to “fight hard to shine the light of words upon” whatever it is you feel you can’t face.  Call a friend, call your therapist, call a hotline.  And write down everything you feel.

Together, let’s fill the wordless void with the light of shining words.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

How do you cope when things don’t go as planned or when you’re feeling anxious?

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