5 Ways I Cope When Things Get Too Heavy
This could be considered another one in the series of connecting the dots. The first one was My Adoption Story Part 11, called Out of the fog – Connecting dots about how adoption has affected me and My Adoption Story part 12 , called Out of the fog – Connecting dots – One Mistake Is All It Takes.
In today’s post, I am going to list and explain 5 ways that I cope when things get heavy and overwhelming for me. I wish I could say they are productive, but so far, they are all just ways I find myself coping as in getting through different situations. Instead of having complete mental or emotional breakdowns, I have found myself resorting to these coping mechanisms.
Let us back up a bit, as 2019 came to an end, I had decided that 2020 was going to be an amazing year of growth, regaining control, and making dreams come true. It started out well. I joined a gym. I cut out alcohol and sugar. I got up early every single morning. I consumed motivating and inspiring content every day. I felt genuinely great about life, about myself, and about where things were going. The last time I felt that good was before coming out of the fog. (Maybe that should have been a warning or red flag in and of itself).
We all know what happened next…
The world came to a halt. Life as we knew it came to a halt. At first, it seemed it would hopefully not be for long. Soon, it became clear there would be a new normal.
Uncertainty, isolation, and out of control became constant features of everyday life.
For an adoptee, for an adoptee who thrives on social interaction, for an adoptee who thrives on social interaction who had just gotten a handle of life, that was hard. I felt defeated as gyms closed, as playgrounds closed, as schools closed and remained closed, and as I was finding myself unable to control any of it.
Over the last 6 months, my emotional and mental stage have gone through ups and downs like a roller-coaster with no breaks. I have reached utter and complete exhaustion on a whole new level.
I compiled a short list of ways that I cope with challenging situations. These mechanisms are not new for me, but in the last few months, I have found myself trying to pinpoint more clearly what my coping habits are. The next step would be to ask how well they work, but for now, just an outline of what they are and how they manifest in my life as an adoptee.
I hope this can bring validation, support, and comfort to anyone reading this who may have experienced or struggled with any or all of this.
1. DISSASOCIATE EMOTIONALLY
One of the things that happen when I encounter a situation that is emotionally heavy on me is that I disassociate emotionally. It is a weird feeling that I can best describe as someone hitting the “off-switch” on my emotions. This in turn, inhibits any emotional response I would have had to the situation and the person I am faced with. I feel myself go into robot mode and I am physically present, mentally present, but emotionally distant. This usually happens in response to me being triggered by either feeling accused, attacked, or the opposite; ignored. A situation that lacks emotional safety for me is one where I quickly disassociate emotionally.
2. CRY IT OUT
I have mentioned before how difficult it is for me to cry in front of people. On numerous occasions, I have been close to crying, feeling the tears fill my eyes, but not being able to let them fall. There are different reasons for this, but that is another blog post. This difficulty to cry in front of people does not mean I do not cry. It just means I cry in private. Even at home. The bathroom and the car are my two go-to locations to break down in utter despair and cry. And when I say cry, I mean cry. The one that comes from the soul. The one that stems from the gut. The one that carries loss, grief, and deep sorrow. This happens in response to building up emotional responses (maybe that disassociation mentioned above) instead of letting them out in the moment, from frustration that builds up over time and then finds a way to come out in tears. I tend to feel drained after, but it does also feel like lifting a weight off my shoulders.
3. SEEK TO CONTROL
A huge trigger for me and a source of frustration is not feeling in control of my life. As things get messy at home, as plans are not confirmed, schedules are changed, and chores pile up because I do not get around to doing them. As my attention is pulled in different directions throughout the day, I feel the need to control the situation and “fix” what does not work for me. I feel inadequate. I feel myself slipping into anger. I seek to control and to square things out. This means I want plans, schedules, routines, predictability, and active engagement from those around me. Once I have a plan, I can be somewhat flexible within that plan, but with no sense of what to expect at all, I really struggle to function.
4. PHYSICAL SHUT-DOWN
Lately, I have found myself shutting down, not only emotionally, but also physically. As with the “off-switch” on my emotions, I know also shut down physically more often than before. This means, most days I literally fall asleep. Sometimes even involuntarily so, sitting on the couch in the afternoon, waking up hours later, realizing I fell asleep. Other times, because I feel my body drained of energy to the point of giving in and taking a nap. It is as if I have been pushing forward my entire life, and even more so since coming out of the fog, and I have now reached the point of pure exhaustion. It helps to nap. I am lucky to be working from home and now since the kids are home from school and my husband also works from home, I do have the ability to sleep and get that added rest I apparently need to function.
5. LASH OUT IN ANGER
Out of all, this is the one that does me in. When I feel overwhelmed and when I feel inadequate and when I doubt myself the most, I counter with anger. I lash out. It happens in the blink of an eye and I rarely catch it before it is too late. I go from calm to mildly frustrated to overcome by a dark rage so quickly I sometimes scare myself. I do not know if this really counts as a coping mechanism, but it does feel like I do this in some kind of defense and deflecting and that it is fear that is behind it many times. Fear of rejection manifested in anger in situations when I feel one of two of the extremes that trigger me the most, ignored, or put on the spot. The anger is also something that only makes itself known to those who I feel safe enough lashing out at, so unfortunately the ones I love the most. That is why I say it is the one that does me in.
With everything I am going through and everything that I carry and have carried for all these years, it is the fact that I get angry and lash out at my family which is my main reason for seeking professional help for the first time. I made my first appointment to see a therapist, and although I know it is a process to even find the right one, it is a step in the right direction. And I will share my journey with you all here.
I share this for the same reason I share everything else in relation to my adoption story and my adoptee experience, to let anyone out there know who might be struggling with similar things, that you are not alone.
If you are an adoptee, I am here for you. Reach out to me to connect via email or message on social media.
Thank you so much for being here, for spending this time with me, reading my post.
I admire you for showing up for yourself and others.
If you would like to share your thoughts or have any questions, please, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or reach out to me.
To all my fellow adoptees,
PS. We are all in this together.
Written by: Amanda Medina
If you would like to read the whole series of posts where I tell my own adoption story, please, click HERE.