Managing Emotional distress

Ever since October 2017, I’ve been experiencing attacks of what I can only call extreme emotional distress. I don’t want to get into the details of what happened back then, but basically, a particular “event” seems to have somehow released all the emotional pain that I’d been repressing for about twenty-five years.

This has made my life really difficult. I feel like I can be ambushed at any moment and plunged into a pit of grief, despair and rage. Once I’m in there, it’s very hard to climb out again.

After a few weeks of feeling okay, I had another attack yesterday. I felt awful all day, aching chest and head, depressed, constant intrusive, negative thoughts, and it ended with a full on screaming/crying meltdown in the kitchen.

I’ll give myself yesterday, but I really need to get on top of this. The first thing I think I have to do is accept that these feelings aren’t just going to stop or go away, which is what I’ve been hoping. The gaps between attacks do seem to have got longer, but I think that’s more down to me getting better at avoiding the things that trigger the feelings, then any actual healing. When the feelings do come, they are as a strong and overwhelming as ever.

I know could get more proactive about managing my emotional state on a day-to-day basis, but here are some things that I think I could put into place for those times when I do feel myself being dragged into the “pit of despair”.

  • Create a safe place to be sad

Make a designated place in our living environment where I can go when I’m feeling really bad, where it’s okay to scream and cry into a pillow if I need to, or to just lie there and stare at the walls. It needs to be quiet and comfortable and stocked with soft toys (the distress seems to be coming from a very “young” part of me and cuddling soft toys is actually one of the few things that’s guaranteed to help).

  • Put together some tear-jerking “resources”

One of the problems is that, as someone who spent years disconnected from their emotions, I now find it very difficult to cry. This means that I end up with a horrible build-up of bad feelings that I can’t release until it comes to a crisis and I have a total meltdown. But, there are some things that always get the waterworks going (the death of the Mars Rover anyone?) and it might be good idea to access them as soon as I feel the pressure starting to build.

  • Allocate a notebook just for ranting

I’m someone who processes experience through writing (like I’m doing right now). It helps to get things out of my head and onto a page, but I don’t want to fill my nice journal with lots of awful, negative thoughts that make me feel ashamed when I read over them later. So, I could have a notebook as a dumping ground just for this stuff. I can rip out the pages or burn it when I’m done.

  • Log out of Social Media

If I’m honest with myself, the majority of these attacks have been triggered by stuff I’ve seen on twitter or Facebook. I don’t want to give up social media because I do still get a lot out of it and I love interacting with people, but I also need to accept and get better at managing the more harmful aspects, especially when I’m already feeling fragile.

  • Get better at aftercare

So far, my approach has been “Phew, glad that’s over, let’s get on with life”, because I’ve learned to deal with my mental health issues by POWERING THROUGH! I think I probably need to have an aftercare regime, which involves things like being really gentle with myself for a few days, restricting social media access, and doing comforting things.

So, those are some ideas for responding to attacks of emotional distress. Thoughts and suggestions are very welcome.

March Life Round-up

This month has been busy and a bit stressful. I’ve had a lot on at work, we both got lingering colds, and our flat was invaded by mice, thankfully now evicted. But it’s also been a very good month for cultural activities.

We kicked off with a local folk festival. The acts were really high quality and introduced us to new music from Welsh bands like DnA and VRi. The festival ended with a quite astounding set from Nick Harper, covering songs written by the famous musicians he grew up around.

I went to see the RSC tour of Romeo and Juliet with my Mum. It’s a dark and serious production, clearly aimed at an adolescent audience and raises questions about gang violence and gender. I don’t think my Mum liked it very much, but I thought it was innovative and interesting. Great set design too.

I had to go to London for a work conference, so we made a trip of it, hung out with an old friend, and visited Gay’s the Word.

Work also took me to Liverpool. I’ve never been there before, which is odd, when you think that it’s where my Dad’s paternal family is originally from. I didn’t have time for more than a wander round the docks, but would like to visit properly at some point.

Finally, we saw Kristin Hersh (electric trio) play live and it was fabulous, as always. Touring with two long-term collaborators, this was a loud, life-affirming gig from people who truly enjoy playing together.

Reading

I finished Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr. and have many thoughts about it, which I’ll try and post at some point. I read Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, which was an enjoyable SF thriller, and Acceptance, the last novel in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.

I finished 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro, which was fascinating, if you’re interested in early modern history and literature.

And I loved Jane Hirshfield’s collection of poetry, After.

Television

We watched Season 5 of Stargate: SG1 which is good comfort TV and have started a Babylon 5 re-watch. We’re persevering with Star Trek: Discovery, even though it’s irritating the hell out of us on several fronts.

February Life Round-up

Another quiet month.

We had a little trip to Bath for my birthday where we did touristy stuff like visiting the Jane Austen Centre. We were watching a film about Jane Austen’s time in Bath when my partner blurted out, “This isn’t the Jane Austen Centre, it’s the ‘Jane Austen Liked Bath Really Centre!'” and I started having hysterics. It was a bit like that, but it’s fun as long as you don’t take it seriously. I was hoping to find a tea towel in the gift shop to replace the one my aforementioned partner SET FIRE to last year, but none took my fancy. Strangely enough, The Radical Tea Towel Company has a good one.

I think the only other activity worth mentioning was a visit to Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair. I’m not particularly into vintage stuff, but we always enjoy this fair and usually pick up a few bargains. Well, I’m set for silk shirts for the foreseeable future anyway!

Reading

I finished The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth about Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner. It was quite an enjoyable read, but felt overlong and padded. I read Revelation by C.J. Sansom. I generally like the Shardlake series, but Revelation is extremely gruesome and pushed my tolerance for that sort of thing almost over its limit. My bedtime book was Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worlsey which is a nice read. Finally, I read a book of poetry (yay!), Unravelling at the Name by Jenny Factor.

Television

The only thing we made an effort to watch was Season 2 of Star Trek Discovery. I think the second season is better than the first, but I have a feeling that I want to like Discovery more than I actually do like it. I do like the characters and that’s keeping me engaged, but I’m not so sure about the rest of it!

Otherwise, we watched Season 2 of Poirot which is one of our comfort things.

Forty Two

I turned forty two last weekend. I never feel like I really settle into the next decade of my life until I hit the second year, so I’m quite excited to see what will happen.

I had an incredibly rich intellectual and activist life during my twenties, but I was lonely,  completely bonkers, and on an emotional roller coaster the whole time. My thirties were a period of great personal development, including a proper relationship and a ton of therapy.  I’m hoping that my forties will be a time for self-actualisation.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you never know what life is going to bring you, so I’m just going to try and be open to whatever comes my way.

January Life Round-Up

January has been pretty quiet.

The second week saw both the anniversary of our civil partnership in 2011 and our first proper date back in 2007, so we decided that was worth celebrating and went out for a nice dinner at a little French bistro near where we live.

We went to one gig. It was supposed to be folk legends John Kirkpatrick and Martin Carthy, but Martin had flu and had to pull out. John Kilpatrick  managed to get a set together at the last-minute and it was a really fun gig, with all the joy of watching a tuly consummate performer. Plus he sang one of my favourite songs by Fairport Convention, ‘Crazy Man Michael’.

Books

I finished and wrote a post about Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers.

I also read Star Nomad  the first in a series by Linda Buroker which was fun (CN for rape threat though).

Film

We went to see The Favourite and seem to be in disagreement with pretty much the rest of the universe because we didn’t like it!  I won’t get into the reasons here because it would take an entire post.

Television 

We watched Lucy Worsley’s series History of the Home which was fascinating. I love social history.

Winter Solstice

Image shows a stylised black and white drawing of the sun rising over a snow capped mountain and forest

The Winter Solstice is one of my favourite festivals. I’m pleased to know that the sun will be returning but, for me, this time of year is all about embracing the darkness and the quiet. It’s the point at which I draw the last year to a close and start to think about the twelve months ahead.

We were both getting colds, so we didn’t do much on the day, but we managed to give the flat a good clean and created a little altar with a candle. I made a butternut quash gratin by Nigel Slater and served it with a 1970s-style nut roast from my Good Housekeeping book of vegetarian recipes. My partner made delicious chocolate chip cookies.

There are three areas of my life that I’d like to focus on during the coming year.

Continue reading

November Life Round-up

I usually struggle in November because it comes with some difficult anniversaries. This year, I decided to just try and enjoy it for what it is.

I did pretty well socially. Work sent me to North Wales, which gave me the opportunity to visit some friends on the way back. We took our nephew to the museum for an afternoon and he had a great time. We also went to a party at the end of the month at the house of people we hardly know, so that was definitely an achievement for us.

Reading 

I only finished two books in November and they were both re-reads, Persuasion by Jane Austen and Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie. I was motivated to read these after watching adaptations, Persuasion just because it’s wonderful and, along with Sense and Sensibility, is the Austen I like to read in the winter. I re-read Sleeping Murder with a view to actually writing a post about it, which I haven’t got around to doing yet.

Television 

I watched Anne of Green Gables (1985) and The Sequel (1987) for the first time and really enjoyed them. Anne of Green Gables isn’t really a “thing” in the UK, so I didn’t know much about it, but it was very important to my American partner.

I’m working my way through the Netflix re-imagining of The Haunting of Hill House. I think it’s brilliant, but it is f***ing with my head!

My chill-out watch has mostly been Chef’s Table, which has become more interesting now that the chefs have a bit more diversity. My favourite so far is the episode with Christina Martinez, an undocumented migrant who runs a traditional Mexican barbacoa restaurant in Philadelphia. It made me cry.  I really liked the one with Ana Ros, a self-taught Slovenian chef, too.

Film

We only watched one film and that was the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion. I didn’t really like this adaptation when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me over the years and is now one of my favourites. It has a different feel to other adaptations – slower and more realistic. The only thing I don’t like is the ending which has Anne and Wentworth kissing in the street as a circus goes past (why?) and then sees Wentworth demanding Anne’s hand in marriage in front of a room full of people (erm, no!).

Soundtrack to the Month 

Mostly Kristin Hersh!