If you met me before July 2015 and after August 2017, you probably know of me as a bubbly, cheery person. I have a close friend who calls me “Tigger” because of my energy; I like to be happy, I like to spread warmth, and I like to laugh. I had a really rough 2 years and had anhedonia; nothing made me happy, and all I felt was hopelessness.
I worked really hard on coping mechanisms, on learning how to not assign happiness to outcomes, but to enjoy the journey, and I have discovered things to love about me [I have a lot of things about me that I love.] So while my overall mood/state of wellbeing is good, I did struggle with depression, I baseline have anxiety, and the lack of sunlight does not make things easier for me.
We live in a society in which it’s still not okay to be okay, and the only time is it kosher to share your sad story is if a triumphant ending follows. No one wants to hear that you’re still going through it. But, sometimes, like today, I have days when I feel sad as hell, and my day is a bit teary. These moments can happen because I’ve read too many terrible news stories, and I feel helpless, because something happened that was triggering and reminded me of my 2 year-long nightmare, I didn’t get something I wanted, or because my brain has decided she wants to mope, I’ve written down a few things that I do to cope with these feelings.
This one is a no-brainer. Endogenous morphine, known as endorphins, are good, they are dope, they make you feel good. I also care about my physical health and looks, so working out gives me control and something to focus on. I always feel extremely proud of myself when I push my body to new physical limits.
- Learn something new
This was something I picked up in 2017; I have a few favorite podcasts, like Philosophize This! and Harvard Business Review Ideacast because of the intellectual content and what I learn from it.
In 2017, I read 9 books, 7 of them non-fiction, and I re-learned how to code.I knew that doing this would give me joy because I take a lot of pride in my intelligence and my ability to quickly pick up material. I think the world is interesting and terrifying, and the more that I learn, the more I realize I know nothing, Jon Snow.A new project of mine is going to involve learning about urban farming and how I can get involved, and creating dope music playlists.
- Reframe my thoughts
I used to have the nastiest internal voice. Seriously, I talked to myself in a way that nullified the need of external enemies. I remembering reading a quote on how I should talk to myself the way I talk to people that I love, and that stuck with me.If I am having a bad day, I ensure that I am extremely kind to myself, I remind myself that I am smart, beautiful, great ass, funny, resilient, intuitive, eclectic, creative, the picture girl that you just painted [please, someone catch this reference…]
But, all jokes aside, Phylicia Rashad penned a letter to her younger self and to remind how important our language is. So if I apply for an internship and don’t get it, instead of saying “I was rejected” I say “they declined to offer me an interview/position.” I have to be in an unconditional relationship with myself, no one else. And I’m mindful on how I talk to myself; I recognize that I respond so much better to empathy and kindness, so I should extend that same respect to myself.
- Draw and journal
I’m creative enough, I’m a decent artist, and I like to color. I find that slowing down and writing out my feelings keep me from being less dramatic about it. Journaling also helps me recenter, focus, and get to the root cause of the issue.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT] is very much about getting to the root cause of your feelings; If I notice I feel a certain why, I ask myself what thought is driving this feeling. Once I identify the thought, I then search for the root cause AKA the belief that begat the thought. Journaling helps me redefine my beliefs therefore changing my thoughts and ultimately shifting my emotions.
- Observe my feelings
This follows the same trend as 3 and 4, but hear me out. Instead of saying “I am sad” I say “I feel sad.” The former is me internalizing an emotion and making it a semi-permanent existence; the latter is me recognizing that this is a temporary feeling that is occurring to me, but it isn’t me.I let myself have my sad feelings and watch them without judgment.
I avoid people, so I don’t have to perform and be happy, and because I don’t want to bring others down. I remind myself that I went through 2 years of hell and I came through smiling. I remind myself that what I am feeling is normal and everyone goes through this, too.
Me learning how to embrace the moments when I feel down has kept me from entering a death spiral where I shame myself for being fallible.
At the end of the day, feelings and emotions are data, not facts. Just because I may feel existential dread, does not mean bad things are happening. I have so much gratitude for my NYC experiences, for my friends who have always supported me, and for God, that I have faith that things workout for the greater good. But some days, like today, I have to work a little extra harder to maintain my perspective of counting my numberless blessings, one by one.