This is what a learned from resisting my damn emotions while using destructive coping mechanisms to repress them.
- Emotions are short-lived. They come and go in waves. The happy feeling does not last for a lifetime — nor the sad feeling.
- They are a combination of our subjective beliefs, physiological responses, and behavioral expressions. If we can adapt our idiosyncratic experience to a more rational view of the situation, we can change our physical response, therefore, our behavior.
- Emotions are a source of information about what is happening in your human mind and body. Our emotions shall not override our life plans. Instead, we should use our bodily signals to consider extra precautions to tolerably flow in the present moment.
- They are inescapable. Efforts to avoid them will fail as emotions are innate human responses. There are no “magic pills” to eliminate negative emotions. They are meant to exist, period.
- Our emotions deserve our attention. Once I acknowledge a negative emotion, I am more likely to take proactive measures about the situation. After understanding the negative feelings in my mind and body, I can make peace with them. Such action empowers me because it reminds me that emotions are visitors; they do not define me.
- They exist on a spectrum (which includes neutral emotions). We grow up with the misconception that emotions are either good or bad. Fortunately, emotions are not black and white. There are different levels of emotions, including “neutral” emotions. Look back at your life and realize how many times you have underrated days with “neutral” emotions or feelings.
- When you stop resisting them, you find freedom.
Using Destructive Coping Mechanisms to Repress Emotions
The one thing that my parents failed to teach me was Emotion Regulation. They were exceptional parents overall, yet so caring that they could not bear to see me suffer. They would opt for agreeing with me even when I was wrong. They defended me when they should have confronted me. They were eager to hold me in their lap and console me. It was like my potential suffering was a sin.
With the onset of my menstruations, I started my journey of thwarting emotions. I was not enjoying its effects. To deal with it, I learned that hiding in my room and avoiding social interactions simplified things.
Welcome to my life Miss Avoidance!
Upon my high school graduation, I met alcohol and nicotine. They were, of course, gross and bizarre when I first tried them. A few months later, I moved to Canada to study abroad and learn English. As soon as loneliness, boredom, and life crises emerged, I embraced my new friends.
Why would I accept being miserable when alcohol and nicotine not only numbed my emotions but brought friends and excitement into my life?. Then there was Mcdonald’s, ice cream, and (no energy to cook so) take-out. At this point, who needs a therapist?
Goodbye, Depression and Anxiety (see you tomorrow morning).
Canada did not work for me. My parents rescued me and brought me to Miami, FL, back to my safe haven — for now.
New life stressors manifested, including no-friends, college, re-acculturation, and language barriers. Besides, I had my perturbed parents patrolling me, so sustaining my awry habits was a struggle. Once reality and I collided, I was able to ask myself:
“What have you done to your body?”
I dreaded the way I looked. At the age of 17, I was overweight because of the messy life I was living. I knew I had to do something, but why accept the process of adequately improving my health when I could fix this fast? I chose fast. I restricted my food intake, tracked every calorie I ingested/burnt, exercised 2x/day, planned every meal, and weighed myself daily to ensure progress.
One does not have time to worry or be sad when micromanaging food intake is the priority. Please! Make yourself comfortable, Mr. Perfectionist and Ms. Body Dysmorphia.
When in graduate school, I told a classmate that I was having difficulty keeping up with grad school and my full-time job. I could not sit through my 3-hour classes. I would leave my desk 2–3 times to walk around the hall or smoke a cigarette. My boss kept complaining about my carelessness and forgetful mistakes at work. I felt too hyper and on-the-go all the time, but at the same time, I was unproductive. My classmate recommended to me her psychiatrist, who willingly prescribed me Adderall.
My dearest host, Avoidance, found her best friend: Adderall.
With Adderall, I could sit through class, concentrate, study for hours, improve my work performance, control my weight, and avoid feelings. Nothing could get in my way. I felt on top of the world. As long as I could outlast “busy mode,” I could accomplish my goals and shun emotions. Cha-chin!
For 10+ years, I had been giving rise to my internal pressure cooker. It was evident that if I did not have my emotional blockers, I could not function. I was unfamiliar with negative emotions to the point of fear and aversion.
After all, there were two things I knew about myself; I loved myself when I was busy, hyper, and in good spirits, and I hated myself when I was the opposite.
I became so dependent on my “quick fixes” that, ironically, my productivity and sanity were contingent on them. Yet, my physical and mental health was suffering.
My physical symptoms included GI problems, recurrent bronchitis, shortness of breath, dehydration, low stamina, low libido, restlessness, muscle cramps, weak immune system, unmanageable stress, and poor appetite.
Regarding my mental health, I can attest to mood swings, overthinking, emotional outbursts, agitation, verbal aggression, waves of depression, lack of meaning, irritability, and unwillingness to open up emotionally.
The Recovery Process
Alcohol was the first friend I was willing to turn in, considering the number of relationships I lost because of it.
Nicotine and Adderall remained my primary coping helpers for the forthcoming months. It took a lot from me to let them go. I must say, the withdrawal period was beyond abysmal. However, once I conquered that stage, my other destructive tendencies (i.e., weight control, perfectionism, and social withdrawal) vanished with it.
It has been eleven months since I last used any of my go-to remedies for repressing emotions.
To this day, I still find it surreal that only a year ago, I firmly believed that discontinuing my bad habits was impossible and pointless. I blamed my emotional dilemmas on everything but alcohol, nicotine, Adderall, and avoidance.
It was a fortunate stroke of grace to have found peace when I stopped resisting my emotions.
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