Category Archives: Mental Health

A Complex Relationship: Family, Nurture and Personality

When we are children we are taught that family is everything. Blood is very important. Honour your parents. Respect your adult relatives. Make all of them proud. Follow their advice. They want the best for you. Now, all this can be true most times. But in others, it isn’t. The concept of family as a loving institution is one I struggle with a lot because my family is deeply dysfunctional. I grew up thinking I was part of a small minority of children in the world who didn’t have normal Christmas celebrations, who didn’t experience happy family holidays, who disliked Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, who preferred going out with friends than staying at home with family, who barely depended on relatives for anything…

However, as I time went by, I realised people like me aren’t part of a minority. We are part of an invisible large group in society, a group that hides their stories and issues, while pretending everything is fine to keep going and to fit in. As members of the group, we know that if we voice our experiences and thoughts, we will be most likely misunderstood and thought of as “whiny, spoiled and uneducated kids that hate their relatives without a reason”.

Family isn’t everything for me. And I personally know other young people, with different backgrounds, yet in the same situation: no relatives to trust or cherish completely. I have read so many stories of LGBT+ teens that were kicked out of their homes for being who they are. I have read so many stories of teens with verbally and physically abusive parents, who can’t get help due to lack of social protection and/or access to welfare services. I have read so many stories of girls without freedom of choice and forced into marriage by their own mothers. I have read so many stories of boys whose depression is unseen and ignored due their fathers’ pressure on their masculinity. I have just read too many stories. And none of them were fiction.

Telling children that parents always want the best for them is dangerous. Telling children that family will always be there for them is dangerous. Telling children that love from relatives is unconditional is dangerous. All this isn’t true for many and it leads to delusions and false hopes while children try to please others at the expense of losing their identity and developing mental health issues. Psychological abuse is real and not only adults experience it. Many children and teenagers are trapped in abusive relationships, but their feelings and behaviour are ignored or misinterpreted till it is too late. The main problem with psychological abuse, mental health problems, and emotional issue is that they can’t be seen, so for many, they don’t exist.

Constantly insulting someone to the point in which they have no self-esteem and self-confidence isn’t discipline: it is verbal abuse. Constantly punishing someone physically because you are angry and think you have power isn’t discipline: it is physical abuse. I have experienced both things and at least 75% of the times, I did nothing wrong other than being near a really moody relative. Sometimes, the people who hurt me ended up realising they were wrong, yet they rarely said sorry. They normally ignored it and acted sweet minutes after, or they tried to put the blame on me with irrelevant accusations and mind games. You may think this isn’t a big deal, that complaining about it is being weak, and that it is something easy to accept and live with. However, it isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe adults should be respected, not because they are adults, but because they are humans and humans should be respected. Then again, there is a difference between respect and abuse of power. A difference that some don’t understand. Just because your son or daughter doesn’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean they are disrespecting you. Plus, respect should be mutual. Children should respect their parents and parents should respect their children. I’m not saying children should run their houses: I’m saying that children ought not to be insulted, maltreated and under-appreciated. And less without a reason other than their age or/and gender. The consequences of this can be negative and the impact it can have on a child’s future can be harmful.

Nurture (the environment and upbringing of someone) plays a key role in the development of a child’s personality and identity. It is said to affect incredibly a person’s social, emotional and intellectual skills, and I believe this. I know that my behaviour and attitude are extremely influenced by my childhood experiences. To explain how is this possible, I will use a psychological theory: the psychodynamic approach. The psychodynamic approach is based on the belief that human behaviour is caused and can be explained by the different conflicts in mind caused by consciousness and unconsciousness. One of the main psychologists who supported this perspective was Erik Erikson, who identified 5 stages of development:

  1. Trust vs Mistrust (0-1 years): Babies need adults to satisfy their emotional and physical needs. If these needs are satisfied, they will develop trust in their surroundings. If these needs aren’t satisfied, they will develop mistrust of their surroundings. For example, if babies are neglected in their house during their first year of life (e.g. they aren’t fed; their nappy isn’t changed), they will mistrust their carers, as they will realise they can’t rely on them to satisfy their needs.
  2. Autonomy vs Shame (1-3 years): Toddlers try to do things by themselves, without relying on their carers; they will try to be independent. If their carers shout at them every time they make mistakes, they will develop a feeling of shame, fear and self-doubt. In contrast, if their carers encourage their independence, they will develop a sense of autonomy. For example, when a toddler tries to eat on his own and gets messy, if the parents shout at him, he will stop trying, in order to not be shouted at and to not feel embarrassed. If the parents praise his attempt and help him the next time, he will feel more self-assured and will keep trying.
  3. Initiative vs Guilt (3-6 years): Children develop curiosity and try to learn through questions to adults in their environment. If their curiosity is satisfied (adults answer their questions), they will continue asking and grow up to be more ingenious. If their curiosity is not satisfied, or they are called silly, they will stop asking and grow up to be more fearful. For example, when a child asks his father if the sun is hot, if the father says “yes” and explains briefly why, the child’s knowledge will grow and he will develop a sense of initiative. If the father doesn’t answer the question or calls him silly for asking it, the child will feel ashamed and will end up thinking he is silly.
  4. Industry vs Inferiority (6-12 years): Children ask themselves how their environment is made and how it works. Industry will develop if children are encouraged to carry out projects and/or if they are helped with those projects. In contrary, inferiority will develop if children are not encouraged nor helped with their projects, hence they will fail and they will feel inferior to others who are successful. A good way of illustrating this is using school homework as an example. If parents motivate their children to do their work for school and help them when they need it, the kids will be more likely to be responsible about their studies. Conversely, if parents pay little attention to their children’s homework and don’t help or encourage them, their kids will be more likely to fail and care less about their studies.
  5. Identity vs Role confusion (12-18 year): During this period, distress is common amongst teenagers, since they are trying to find out who they are. In most cases, identity is developed from friendships. If a person doesn’t have a strong network of friendships, they will have trouble to understand the values and morals of a relationship. An individual develops an identity when they have a clear and consistent view of who they are, and when they find a point of understanding between their opinion and the opinion of others. If someone doesn’t form their identity, they will have difficulties to determine who they are and which their place within society is: this is known as role confusion. For example, children and teens who are bullied and don’t have friends will struggle to develop trust in future relationships, and will have difficulties to find who they are and where they belong to within society.

While all this is just a theory that doesn’t take into account genetic / biological factors and it may not apply to everyone, I can see how it translates to my life. I was in care (living in a children’s home, under local authorities protection) since I was 7 years old till I was 15 years old. Without doubt, my rough childhood and my confusing pre-teen years affected negatively my personal development, mainly the emotional and social aspects of it. I’m an extremely independent and autonomous person, my self-esteem is irregular, I have no self-confidence, I’m horrible socialising, I constantly fear being humiliated, I regularly get paranoid about my few friends hating me and I have trouble maintaining significant relationships. On top of all, lack of interest, frustration, flashbacks of traumatic events, sadness and feelings of hopelessness are things I have to deal with every day. And I know that great part of this is due to my upbringing.

Recently, I have been reflecting about my experiences and about who I am quite a lot.  If my childhood had been different, would I be a different person? Would I be more confident? Would I have self-esteem? Would I be able to socialise better? Would I still have mental health problems? I’m aware that great part of my personality is determined by genetics and that people react different to different events. At the same time, I know that I can’t change certain aspects of who I am, even if I try every day. Consequently, I can’t blame others 100% for who I am and for how I respond to events in my life. I assume my responsibility to cope with my problems, to not be arrogant and stubborn to avoid confrontations, and to understand and/or forgive people who may have hurt me, as well as say sorry to the people I have hurt.

On conclusion: the relationship between family, nurture and personality is complex. Biological factors determine various aspects about ourselves while social and environmental factors also shape who we are. To be honest, I’m not completely sure about what I expect people to take away from this blog post. I have struggled to categorise it as a personal one, a thoughtful one, or an inspirational one (I ended up choosing the three categories!). All I know is that I don’t want sympathy or pity. My problems are my problems. I used my life to illustrate certain points I was trying to make, as I always do. I like sharing my personal stories with others because I hope people can get something out from them. I have learnt so much about how to improve my life and behaviour by reflecting on the experiences of others, it would be great if my readers did the same.

I merely wish people (parents in particular) were more aware of how their actions and attitudes towards others (children specifically) can affect and impact them. And more if these are repeated and regular. I also wish people would realise that everyone is dissimilar and we all react differently to events. There is a limit to what a person can change about themselves: making people feel “weak” for being sensible and for not coping with problems as you wish is not good, it is actually selfish and patronising.

Furthermore, I wish people would use love and motivation, rather than hatred and shame, to correct children’s mistakes. This doesn’t mean you can’t punish kids or you can’t tell them off: it means you need to balance the negativity with positivity. And lastly, I wish people understood that not everyone has loving families and those who don’t shouldn’t to be forced to feel grateful for things they shouldn’t. The abusive or/and neglectful behaviour of parents can be analysed, but it should not be excused. Never. Because if it is, children will find others to blame for the detrimental events they experience. And most times, those others are just themselves.

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Traumas Are Too Complex To Understand And Too Large To Cage

In the psychology and mental health field, traumas are negative events that cause psychological distress. The word “trauma” has Greek origin and it means “injury”. It was firstly used to describe physical wounds, such as a gunshot, but now it also relates to hurtful experiences which affect people’s minds, rather than just their bodies.

Traumas can derive from situations like:

  • Sexual abuse.
  • A car accident.
  • The death of a loved one.
  • Being a witness of a crime.
  • Wars and violent conflicts.
  • Bullying in school.
  • Neglect and maltreatment during childhood.
  • Domestic violence.
  • And many more…

It can be difficult to know if someone has a trauma or not, because it is something interior and subjective: it can’t be seen, it can’t be heard, it can’t be touched, it can’t be tasted, it can’t be smelled. Traumas often lead to mental health illnesses, such as post traumatic stress disorder, characterised by symptoms such as nightmares, physical pain, nausea, trembling, sweating, and vivid flashbacks and thoughts about the negative event. It can also cause other issues, such as manic depression, social anxiety, paranoia and bipolar disorders.

Since it is hard to diagnose mental health illnesses, it is hard to know the impact of traumas on people. Many people go through one or more in their lives, but not everyone reacts equally. In a lot of cases, traumas can lead to mental health and emotional wellbeing problems, as said. But in others, traumas don’t have an effect on people’s mental health. Why? It is difficult to explain.

On the one hand, biology gives us facts about how the brain of people works. On the other hand, the environment gives us factors which can affect human emotions. However, not everyone fits into the same box. People can react differently to the same event. Not everyone cries when death strikes. Not everyone is able to move on from maltreatment. Not everyone needs psychological help when they break up with their partner. Not everyone has self-esteem issues when they suffer from a constant verbal abuse to their appearance. Also, people may hide their negative reaction to an event and fake a positive response.

The different ways in which people react to events in their lives is better explained through psychology and ego defence mechanisms. Ego defence mechanisms are unconscious actions and behaviours that we use to protect ourselves from distress, such as anxiety, sadness, anger etc. Here are six ego defence mechanisms, as identified by the Australian psychologist Sigmund Freud:

  • Repression: repression is “forgetting” and hiding a negative memory somewhere in your mind because it causes you distress. For instance, people may keep disruptive childhood experiences, such as abuse, repressed in their minds, so in a way they are unaware of what happened till something/someone makes them remember the experience later in their lives.
  • Regression: regression is returning to childish behaviour and primitive actions to cope with high levels of stress. For example, when you have to talk with someone you are attracted to but you have to hide your feelings, you can feel heated up and nervous, acting like a little kid that can’t speak very well.
  • Denial: denial is an unconscious way of rejecting a reality, through ignoring it or making it surreal in your mind. A good way to illustrate denial is when someone experiences the bereavement of a relative or friend, and they keep acting like if the person was still alive.
  • Displacement: displacement happens when individuals feel distressed, and they decide to pass that distress to other situations/objects/individuals which won’t react harmfully to them. A good case study of displacement is when someone has a bad day at work and they can’t argue with their bosses, so they wait to get home and then they shout at their partners, because they know that shouting at their partners won’t lead to them being fired.
  • Sublimation: sublimation happens when behaviour and thoughts which are not accepted within society are expressed in a way that will be accepted within society. The most known paradigm for sublimation is the music of artists such as Eminem or P!nk: singers and rappers who write their own music often sing and rap about their life experiences, even if violent and disturbing, instead of talking normally about them.
  • Projection: projection is blaming others of your own feeling of distress, or/and your own incorrect behaviour. Projection is often common in schools, where a student may fail an exam because they didn’t study, but they blame the teacher for bad-teaching or poor-marking, instead of blaming themselves.

When comes to trauma, any of these ego mechanisms can be used involuntarily to deal with it. The human mind is complex. Therefore, it is difficult to judge and understand how people react to negative experiences. And it is even more difficult finding a way to cope with them. “Be strong”. “It will be fine”. “Let it all out”. “Transform your negative energy to positive energy”. These sorts of phrases are often used to reassure traumatised people, but the orders they contain are hard to follow, and they can be dangerous. Quite dangerous.

A clear precarious piece of advice often given is “forget about it” or “ignore it”. To start with, one person may not be able to forget or ignore that their loved one died. That they were bullied. That they were victims of robbery. That they fought and killed others in a war. You can momentarily ignore the existence of certain things, but not forever. They will always come back to haunt you. Moreover, repressing and denying memories is not good. There is a limit in what the human mind can take. If you keep putting water and water inside a bottle, it will end up over flooding. And the trouble that over flooding causes can be bigger than emptying the bottle in the first place.

Another thing that shouldn’t be said when comes to traumas is phrases like “it had to happen: it was written in your destiny”. And not only because it doesn’t help. If a person is deeply spiritual, philosophical and/or religious, it may be fine, as they will understand the trauma as part of their lives, determined by cosmic energy, fate or a God. However, some things shouldn’t happen. A clear example here is rape. You CAN’T say to a rape victim “it had to happen”. By saying that, you are diminishing the culpability of the attacker and making the victim feel that what happened was ok. And this isn’t cool.

Religion, spirituality and philosophy are great methods to cope with traumas positively, don’t misunderstand me. I support them 100%, but reality is that people’s lives are severely conditioned by the actions of others, and actions change randomly. I understand that a lot of people often say that sort of phrases meaning “accept it and move on”, but just because you accept something it doesn’t mean that something was fine.

Nonetheless, acceptance is always the first step to recovery from trauma. It is probably the longest and the most difficult too. Accepting an experience can take from a few minutes to several years, but it is always the best path to try to follow. We can’t change the past. What happens, happens. All you can do is helping others or yourself, so it doesn’t happen again or you/they are ready for a possible next time.

Sometimes, people are able to accept something easily, and recover a positive emotional wellbeing and a good mental health, without the help of professionals. You can self-treat yourself through reading books, taking online courses, enrolling in relaxing activities, talking about the trauma with people you trust… And it is fine. Everyone has their own ways.

However, if since the event you experience continuous distress, anxiety, sadness, insomnia or similar irregularities, seeking professional help from a psychologist, emotional wellbeing advisor, welfare officer or counsellor is normally the way to go. I think that you know you need professional help when your feelings and thoughts are so dreadful, that you think about performing, or you perform, activities such as self-harm, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, violence or over/under eating. If you are doing, or you are thinking of doing, any of these things to cope with a trauma, you should seriously think about getting advice and support. These activities, amongst many others, can hurt you. And they can hurt others.

Furthermore, you should never voluntarily fall into regression, displacement or projection. Being immature will make things worse. Being horrible to an innocent person because of your own problems is evil and more if you know that the person won’t answer back. And blaming people of things you have caused to yourself is putting a sense of self-blame and guilt on others, which can lead to another person suffering. Don’t be that selfish. I know these mechanisms are involuntary and they can be instinctive reactions we can’t control at first. But if you keep doing any of these things to cope with distress from a trauma, you need to learn to control your impulses. There is professional help to do this if you need so.

Lastly, it is important to point out that sublimation is almost certainly a great way to deal with a trauma, but it mainly works if you are an artistic or creative person. Art and creativity come from freedom of choice and passion. Artistic and creative works usually reflect who we are, where we come from, and where we want to go. Why don’t you try writing a poem about your feelings? Or composing a melody to express your sorrows? Or drawing an abstract painting reflecting your anger? If you don’t think you are an artistic or creative person, using the works of others can help too. Read a book about a topic close to your issue. Listen to music that transmits your feelings. Go to a museum and see the paintings of an artist with a difficult life. The options are vast. And don’t forget that counsellors and psychologists can offer their own advice on how to use sublimation to live with traumas.

On conclusion: traumas are too complex to understand and too large to cage. How people deal with them varies quite a lot, depending on what caused the trauma, the brain, personality and environment of the person who suffered from it. It is always important to watch out for clear signs that indicate a person may be struggling with one. These signs often come together with mental health illnesses that affect people’s emotional wellbeing. And remember that recovering from a trauma can take a long time, and it is not easy. Humans we struggle to control our reactions sometimes, as the ego mechanisms show, and we don’t always react positively. But it is possible to accept and live with a trauma. Some people can do it alone, others may need professional help, and it has little to do with being weak or strong.

 

 

 

#RIPBilly: When Suicide is Apparent but Sadness is Unknown

Sometimes, I wonder if blogging about inspirational and motivational stuff is worth it. I just think that most things I blog about are common sense and everyone already knows them. “Who cares anyway?” are my thoughts when I don’t feel motivated enough to share another post. However, I always end up reading a new in media, or seeing a tweet in my timeline, and I remember why I’m doing this. This time, what remembered me why I’m doing this is the hastag #RIPBilly in Twitter. Billy was a 17 year old who committed suicide after leaving a series of clues in social media, mainly Instagram. He first disappeared from his country, USA, and was later found in a river in Canada. Here is a picture timeline of the events.

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(Clues left in Instagram)

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(Missing alert)

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(He was found)

When I first saw the hastag and the Instagram pictures in my timeline I was quite shocked. My first thought was “this a twitter troll”. Sadly, there are a lot of people in social media who like to fake suicide, mental health problems, and diseases for attention; sorry for my skepticism. Nevertheless, after going through the hastag, I realised the story was true, and it felt like a punch in my stomach. This sort of stories always make me feel like this, because suicide is preventable in most cases. I always wish I was there to help the person and share my advice and give them the strength I give to myself. I’m such a believer in hope, and I love spreading positivism with others. Negativity just knocks me down so much. This story knocked me down.

I was also puzzled by the fact that he left so many clues, but nobody seemed to help me. However, I won’t run and say “nobody cared about him”. People have already reached to those conclusions in social media, and this was a response from someone within Billy’s circle:

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I agree 100% with this note. Some people hide their sadness behind a smile, and you may never know about it till it is too late.

Suicidal thoughts are considered a mental illness, but that doesn’t mean that you commit suicide because something is not working in your brain. Sadness is a real killer. It is an emotion that drugs people to a point in which they can’t even help themselves. Calling people who commit suicide “coward”, “weak” or “selfish” is ignorant. Life is not brilliant for everyone. Not everyone has good things to look forward too. Not everyone is full of hope. Not everyone has someone to give them strength. Not everyone believes that things can get better. Life is life.  Everyone says it is worth living it. However, is a life full of struggle and tragedy really worth living? No. But you can always try and turn the struggle and tragedy into something positive. It is about perspective.

I always say that there is no point in living life if you are not happy. But in NO way I encourage suicide. What I mean is that if you aren’t happy, you need to change things in your life. Neutralise what is making you sad. Chuck it away. Block it. Run away from it. The real issue here is knowing how to do this… Not everyone finds a way. Billy didn’t. The rest of thousands of people who kill themselves every year don’t neither. And this is reason enough for me to keep this blog running.

From Billy’s story, we can all get a message: pay attention to what people say and do. You may think they are overreacting, attention-seeking, being dramatic etc; but sometimes, people NEED help and they feel embarrassed, helpless or alone, and they don’t want to ask for it. We have to learn to read between the lines. If you notice someone is sad, try to cheer them up, rather than just asking what is wrong. Make them feel loved and understood. Show them they aren’t alone. Actions speak louder than words. It doesn’t matter if the person is just your classmate, or someone you see in the bus stop every morning. The smallest actions also make people the happier, trust me. A simple “Hello, how are you?” can help. And if you think their problems are really severe, you shouldn’t hesitate in getting in contact with a professional and refer them. Counsellors and clinical psychologists exist for this sort of situations.

I will conclude this post saying that my thoughts and prayers are with Billy’s family and friends, who are probably having a horrible time accepting this. Billy was loved, as the following pictures prove. I suggest you have a look at the hastag #RIPBilly to read more from his friends and family.

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Sharing a true sad story,

Emilie H. Featherington ❤

Overcome An Emotional Breakdown

It is inevitable feeling down sometimes. When I say feeling down, I mean feeling very sad, quite angry, highly stressed, pretty frustrated, extremely anxious, or a combination of some, or all, of these sentiments.

I’m going to explain what I do to deal with emotional breakdowns. My method may or may not help you. But it is useful for me, and I just want to share it with you all, because it may practical for you:
Step 1) Understanding feeling down is normal: I never get worried about feeling sad, angry, stressed, frustrated, and/or anxious. I’m aware of the fact that negative sensations are part of life, as much as positive sensations. Some people have more negatives, others have more positives. Therefore, I understand there is nothing wrong on feeling down now and then. It is normal, because life is a rollercoaster and it isn’t perfect.Obviously, if I had an emotional breakdown constantly, such as long-term depression or severe anxiety triggers, I would seek medical help. Clinical depression is actually a medical condition which can be treated. Anxiety disorder is also a medical condition which can be treated. I always keep in mind, that if my emotional breakdown reached limits such as self-harm, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts; I would imminently seek help before hurting myself. However, I have never reached these limits.
In addition, I never punish myself for having an emotional breakdown. By punish, I mean thinking stuff like “I’m here hating or being depressed about my life when people are dying on Syria due to the war there. What an ungrateful person I am!” This type of statements are only applicable for situations in which I act like an spoiled girl and fume about “not having internet on my mobile”, “lacking of presents on my birthday”, and/or “crying over my brother stealing my snacks”. But when I feel down, it is due to serious situation; it is when I can’t help feeling that negative sensation.
Some people have easier lives, others have more difficult lives. Nevertheless everyone has problems. Having a medium-income family won’t make losing a friend less painful. Having clean water to drink won’t make a struggle to socialise less real. Having money to buy clothes won’t make parent’s fights less upsetting. I know there are people in much worse situations than me, and I’m grateful about not being on their shoes. Even though, that doesn’t make my serious problems any better, and my distress is still there.
Step 2) Figuring out why I’m having negative vibrations: There must be a reason why I’m feeling sad, angry, stressed, frustrated, and/or anxious. Identifying it is the best way to think about a solution. I usually know why I’m in a bad mood. In most cases, it is due to family problems, socialising efforts, losing weight difficulties, and self-confidence issues. I could say that I have negative vibrations about situations in which I don’t have physical or/and mental control enough. Feeling down is always triggered by something such as a person, or situation; unless you suffer from a disorder or a mental health condition such as anxiety or bipolarity. In any case, it is really important for me to figure out the exact cause of my emotional breakdown.
Step 3) Talking to someone who I trust and who will understand me: Whenever I’m feeling down, I always find someone to talk to. In a way or another, there is always someone available who will listen with empathy to my situation.
For instance, if I’m angry about a family problem, I often rant with my brother about it. Unless he is the problem, of course.
On the other hand, I often find myself messaging my far away friends about socialising efforts and self-confidence issues I experience in England. But I don’t message any friend; I message friends who are going through similar situations, who actually understand how I feel, and who won’t discuss what I told them with anyone else. Talking to someone really helps. You can rant about the topic, explain your feelings about it, seek for advice, and be comprehended. It is a way of letting all out. And it helps me to calm down and relief negative sensations. It really does. In the rare occasion in which I can’t contact anyone, I go directly to step 4.
Step 4) Reflecting about the motive of my emotional breakdown:  As a general rule, I make myself certain questions about the reason why I’m feeling down. I consider in depth what/who made my mood bad. Is this person/action a cause strong enough to waste my time? Is it worth it falling out? With these questions, it comes other typical ones: is there any way in which I can improve the situation? Do I have power over the actions that have led to my sadness, anger, stress, frustration, and/or anxiety? It is awkward how most of the times I realise falling out is not worth it all. The person who made me feel bad isn’t even affected. Or/and the action can’t be changed.
Sometimes I have control over the subject, like when I have socialising insecurities. I encourage myself thinking tomorrow is a new day and I can try talking to people again. Or, when I contemplate about giving up on my weight loss plan. I remember how good it will be weighting myself one day and thinking “wow, I’m not overweight anymore!”.
Other times, I don’t have control over the subject, like in most family arguments. I realise the problem is not mine, but of my parents, or my aunt, or other relatives. For example, when my mother and my father are having arguments about legal inconveniences, it is not my dilemma; but it affects me. However, I end acknowledging the fact I don’t have the power enough to change things. It is not losing against a problem; it is being realistic.
Or another example is when I miss my friends and family from Spain. I end up having to accept that I won’t see them at least until summer and that I’ll have to wait till then.
Reflecting about the reason of my distress is not only useful to understand it, but it also helps me to accept it. This step could also be called “accepting the motive of my emotional breakdown”, and it is the one in which I normally reduce, or eliminate, the feelings of sadness, anger, stress, frustration, and/or anxiety. This helps me to think more clearly, and create an outcome (if possible) of the problem. It is easier to think with an unperturbed mind than with a troubled mind.
Step 5) Distracting myself: This is the last step. It is all about finding something to do, to avoid thinking about the problem again. I’m never able to reach this phase before reflecting and accepting the reason of my dreadful mood. This is simply because if I don’t meditate and accommodate to the situation, I will still suffer from negative vibrations. Consequently I won’t be able to think about anything, but the problem.
I distract myself through relaxation and/or enjoyment. My relaxation techniques include sleeping/taking a nap, giving a walk, listening to music, watching TV and reading. My enjoyment techniques include playing basketball/ doing exercise, writing a song, writing any of my novels, blogging, and talking to/hanging out with my friends. I would say my most effective way of relaxing is lying on my bed and listening to music peacefully. I have a determined playlist of songs that improve my mood, either due to the melody or due to the lyrics. In contrast, my most effective way of enjoying myself is playing basketball. I love practising this sport, and it makes me focus on putting effort on the game, rather than on life problems.
This fifth step is not essential for me to reduce the feelings of sadness, anger, stress, frustration, and/or anxiety; when I reach this step, I’m looking forward to forget the motive of my distress. However, sometimes I don’t need to distract myself. For instance, if I’m feeling bad due to an argument with a friend, solving the argument with that friend is an easier way of feeling better. This step is useful for contexts in which there isn’t any viable solution, I don’t have power over the event, the situation is senseless, or dealing with the crisis requires time.
These are the five steps I follow to overcome an emotional breakdown. They always work out. If not, I would be on a rehabilitation centre or in a madhouse right now.
I would like to say, whenever I have felt down, I have never thought about turning to bad habits such as excessive smoking, drugs, or getting drunk. I don’t have anything against people who smoke, but I hate it. The fact that it causes millions of preventable deaths every year is a reason enough to avoid it. I know a lot of people are like “I’m young I can quit smoking at some point.” But quitting smoking is not easy, and the harm can’t be repaired.
I wouldn’t try other drugs mainly because they are illegal, they are expensive, and I wouldn’t even know where to get them. I don’t move in those sorts of social circles. I avoid them. Besides, I have seen people’s lives ruined by drugs, and I don’t want that for me. For a lot of people, consuming drugs is “fun” and a good way of “relaxing”. I see their point, yet I prefer to try another healthy ways of having fun and relaxing.
And I’m not going to say I have never drunken alcohol; I have. But I have never been drunk. I don’t think getting drunk is a way of socialising, but I know a lot of people believe so. The thing is, I despise not having control over situations. So imagine getting drunk, and not having control over my own body and mind. It would be a disaster to be honest. However, I have nothing against drinking alcohol. It is fine, as long as you control yourself and it doesn’t become a dependency.
Another negative habits people tend to do when having an emotional breakdown, is self-harming and suicide attempts. I have never done them, nor they are in my plans. However, I don’t blame people for doing them. It is the same with smoking, getting drunk and consuming drugs; the pressure you may be suffering can make you turn to awful things that give your momentary pleasure, or seem like good outcomes in that moment.
Sometimes, enough is enough. Your mind goes weak. Your body goes weak. But in some way, I have always been determined enough to say no to these things. I always remind myself these bad habits are not the solution of my problems; they are the beginning of new ones. I kick them away from my mind. I think about all my dreams and aspirations, and how I won’t be able to perform them if I’m a drug addict, an alcoholic, or much worse; I’m dead. Also, I think about people who love me, and how much they would suffer if I had an addiction that is harming me, or if I died.
On conclusion, we all feel down at least one time in our life. In most cases, it is more than one time. My recommendations to overcome an emotional breakdown are easy to follow: understanding feeling down is normal, figuring out why you are having negative vibrations, talking to someone you trust and who will understand you (if possible), reflecting about the motive of the emotional breakdown, solving the problem (if possible), and distracting yourself (if needed).
In addition, I try to be strong, and say no to smoking, drugs, self-harm, suicide, and high alcohol consumption. These lifestyle choices have the power enough to ruin your life and most of your opportunities; they can even wreck your relationships and spoil dreams. If you ever feel like you can’t cope alone anymore, talk with your parents or with an adult your trust such as your teacher, or your doctor. Charities and local authorities (social services) can also be helpful if there is no one on your social circles that can help you. Remember; you are not alone. Never.
Hugs and love,
Emilie H. Featherington ❤