Writing Out Your Feels
I'm feeling tired. Frustrated...no...angry!
I feel stupid.
Life is kicking me in the ass right now.
The bell has rung and Life has entered Round 2 with me and I already have a swollen eye and a fat lip leftover from Round 1.
Here comes the uppercut, "How the hell does self-care matter right now?"
Life has been a little rough on me lately, as you can read from my journal entry. Honestly, I feel a bit naked right now sharing my journal entry with you. Yes, I'm a therapist, but I hope you'll excuse me if I don't live up to an unrealistic ideal of harmony and zen that many therapists are branded with. I'm going through some things right now and it's taking a lot for me to paint a smile on my face and be present with every client.
I deeply respect my clients (even the ones that try my inner gangster) and they deserve to have me as present and cognizant as possible during their session. And I will not let them down.
But when their session is over and they leave equipped, motivated, and heard, I sit alone in what feels like an acid bath of thoughts and counter-thoughts.
Today is just not my day. Hell, Round 2 has taken two weeks to get through. A very, very long two weeks.
I'm not embarrassed to say I have PTSD and struggle with depression, or what Sir Winston Churchill referred to as "The old black dog". My resiliency is not like a gas tank that I can fill up and have ready. My resiliency is like a bathtub with the drain open while the water is running. It never fills up. My resiliency never stops draining because life, bad memories, nightmares, and inconsiderate and incompetent people constantly drain me. Sometimes we are simply busy with surviving in a world that seems on the brink of self-destruction, yet trying to be polite to people at the same time.
I don't have the disposable income to do yoga or join a gym (although I want to) and I don't have the time to meditate (I'd rather catch up on sleep), and it's too damn hot in South Texas in the summer to be outside and mountain bike or hike, which are two staples of my self-care. But, if I were to end my pity-party there, then I deserve the black eye and swollen lip that Life caused. In fact, Round 1 with Life was me feeling sorry for myself and what I can't do and Round 2 was all about survival. Round 3 needs to be different.
Round 3 will be different. Instead of focusing on what I can't do, I choose to start identifying what I can do. So, I begin this Round by writing in my journal, which you’ve read, and now continue my written catharsis by writing this blog so I can get unstuck from my feelings.
Our feelings originate in various regions within our midbrain and are processed in the cortex parts of our brain. The cortex is the white matter of the brain we see when we look at a brain and it is associated with higher functions, like talking, thinking, and problem-solving. Sometimes our feelings from the midbrain mix with the thoughts from the cortex and create a concoction of over-thinking and obsession that we can't get unstuck from. As a result, we worry, lose sleep, eat poorly, abuse drugs and alcohol, and eventually experience some kind of breakdown.
Writing helps get us unstuck from our feelings by processing those thoughts and feelings through the whole brain, predominately through the creative regions located in the right hemisphere of the brain. Now, I'm sure some brainiac reading this will cut my explanation to shreds. I am very simply describing a very complex neurological process. The result, however, is indisputable...writing helps, it costs next to nothing, and is indisputably a powerful self-care tool.
If you've never written your thoughts down to get them out of your head, let me help you. First, don't buy some uber fancy leather journal that looks better as decoration. Your journal is a trashcan for your thoughts, so go to your local dollar store and buy a composition notebook for a buck or two.
Second, when it comes time to actually put your pen to paper, don't make it weird by writing something like "Dear Diary" or by writing some painfully long diatribe about your routine day. Instead, write how you feel about the shit you're going through. Don't worry about it being found and read; you're probably not important enough to worry about your journal pages being in a museum 200 years from now.
Third, write without worrying about style, spelling, grammar, or neatness. Imagine giving your high school English teacher the bird and write any way you want. And all this applies to electronic journaling, too. It doesn't matter the medium you use, as long as you're comfortable with it, go for it! When you've filled up a journal, keep it, trash it, delete it, or burn it. Who cares! It's yours, do with it as you wish.
So here's the challenge: For the next seven days, before you go to bed, spend less than three minutes writing out your thoughts and feelings and see how you feel by the end of the week. If writing is your thing or if you really got some traction from writing, do it again for another seven days and see how you feel.
Remember, Self-Care for the Busy Person isn't just about taking care of yourself while living a busy life, it's also about figuring out to take care of yourself in those seasons of survival, like what I feel I'm in right now.