Overwhelm and Emotional Resilience
"...our problems are unworkable when we’re overwhelmed with fear, sadness, or disorganized thinking. Avoidance is good if it helps us regain perspective..."
This reminds me that during times of overwhelm, I am incapable of accessing my toolbox of self-care and resilience skills to overcome the overwhelm! This is when I need to be most kind to myself; that may involve doing nothing at all! I have been hard on myself for so many years when I am not perfectly positive, happy, achieving, thin, active, etc. etc. However, with time and patience and realizing that "this is not going to last forever", I can move out of the overwhelm and start dealing, gaining my resilience back and access and use the tools I have learned and the ways I have taught myself.
Unless you have lived this kind of overwhelm, it can be hard to understand. Some say: be more positive, exercise, eat healthy. See above, because that advice is unhelpful and uncompassionate-- we know what we need to do !--we know what to do to help ourselves, we just have to be able to get to the point where we can take action again. Ultimately, it's learning how we can be most kind and compassionate to ourselves.
#mentalhealth #emotionalresilience #selfcare
The Little Black And White Dog escaped yesterday. It was my fault: while trying to fix the front door security code; I let him out, thinking he’d stay in the front yard, not help himself to a jaunt around the reservoir ponds in the neighborhood. Luckily, I had thought to jam the house keys into my jeans pocket so I wouldn’t lock myself out while fixing the door lock. However, as I shuffled after The Little Black Shit, I didn’t think of my phone which remained on the kitchen counter, or proper shoes, as I stumbled along, trying to run in my flippity-floppy Korean-style house shoes. After 100m or so of the chase, I kicked them off, abandoning them on the sidewalk so I could run without falling. They waited patiently, as though they held the small feet of a ghost, standing invisibly in the sun. Going barefoot was the ultimate regrettable judgement call, as the chase turned into a game for The Goddamned Dog. Each time I came within a few meters of him, he’d jump up from sniffing and shoo off. By the time we had passed several of the ponds, my feet were beginning to feel meaty-raw, purple-bruised, and bloodily slashed. I’m not used to going barefoot, and the adrenaline from fear and anger was working hard to cover the pain. Being midday, temperatures in the Mile-high City of Denver had begun their climb above the 90-degree mark; the sun in the cloudless sky was cooking me through jeans and t-shirt.
Not having my phone made things worse, as I got lost in the cul-de-sacs and curves and cut-throughs of the community that surrounded these pseudo-ponds. After a couple miles of circling, returning, running, limping, walking, while continually hollering out The Little Shit’s name, I was near tears from fear visualizing the dog getting hit by a car or permanently lost. After all of my dog-sitting experience — most recently, nearly two years of full-time animal caretaking — I have never lost an animal! And really, it wasn’t The Little Black and White Shit’s fault; it was mine. It was my fault for letting him out in the front yard. It was my fault for giving chase when dogs usually think they are playing a game when a human gives chase.
When my feet had passed the point of feeling raw and I could feel my heel bone and metatarsals pounding into the pavement as though my feet lacked any skin on their soles, I began the circular journey back toward the house, limping back to get the car and continue The Search for The Damn Running Mofo Who Won’t Come When Called. The curly-haired terrier dog had run toward a park about a mile from the house; I knew I was getting close to the point where I could no longer walk at all. It had been at least half-an-hour or more of pavement and asphalt assaulting my poor feet — hot, midday cement, at that. Having already asked people for directions back to the house — a few folks were out in their yards, and either perversely inquisitive about my yelling or sincerely attempting to help — I had to flag down a guy driving by and ask for directions on how to get back to the house. I was so desperate, I almost jumped in front of his car to get him to stop. After an additional 20 minutes of limping and hollering That Goddamn-Black-Dog Little Shit’s name all the while, the Damned Dog finally appeared at my heels, although still running away if I tried to catch him. I finally lured him close enough and nabbed the Little Fucker. Bloodily barefoot, overheated, dehydrated, and traumatized, I trudged home, carrying the 20-plus pounds of the finally acquiescing Little Black Fucking Fur-ball, all the while enjoying a violent vision inside my head of beating the shit out of him; enjoying that fantasy for as long as I could, because I certainly would not act on it. I did, however, get some satisfaction while quietly cussing him out for the entire limping walk home. The language in this vignette is nothing in comparison!
The rest of the day I spent lying on the couch, feeling traumatized about nearly losing someone else’s dog and having to give chase for an hour; in pain and barely able to walk when I got up. Over the course of the day, I watched blisters grow to an obscene size on the soles of my heel, from toes to heels. On both heels, I’ve got blisters that cover 3/4 of the heel. Blisters that cover the entire area of the bottom of my toes bubbled up, some filled with blood. And the soles of my feet are so swollen it looks like I’ve had a pedicure because the skin is so soft and smoothed out from the swelling. Needless to say, I won’t be going for hikes any time soon, and the Damned Dog sure as hell isn’t getting walked for several days. He spent the remainder of the afternoon in his kennel, safe from my rage and pain. The errands I needed to run, I postponed to the following day, but as of today (the following morning), it is still difficult to walk. I have to decide whether to pop and drain the blisters or leave them alone. I’ll spend most of the day with my feet propped up again; maybe soak my feet in salt water or a concoction of apple cider vinegar, and take some pain medicine. I have more Visa Shit to do that requires meeting a notary and visiting the post office.
The stress of meeting so many repeated obstacles while trying to get all the required documents together for my Chinese work visa has been taking a toll. I recognize these injuries are the way my mind and body are telling me I have crossed the limit of my stress threshold and am over-reacting to these repeatedly stressful situations. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have re-injured my lumbar disc a few weeks back nor gotten myself into the Dog Chase situation. With almost every action to obtain the visa, there has been a setback or roadblock. This process has been a struggle the entire way, and I feel like I’m beating my head against a closed door, which is counterintuitive to how I intend to live my life. I believe I am encountering too many closed doors on this path back to China… too many for my comfort-level... so many that the situation is sending up Major Red Flag Warnings; that is, my Intuition Warning System is on High Alert. I know better than to ignore these. But for now, I’m in a holding pattern: doing what needs to be done to apply for the work visa, but remaining cautious about how events are proceeding. If the Red Flags continue to light up in a Screaming Display, moving from Level 5 upward toward DEFCON Level 1, and I keep having this niggling sensation in my gut, I’ll heed the warning and back off, choosing another school in another country. I still love the school and feel a deep sense that it is an excellent match for me, but is this all worth it? The communication problems with the school’s HR department (lack of clarity, lack of thoroughness, and outright contradictions in instructions) give me the opposite sense. I will keep my options open. If everything I owned that is important to me was not stored in China, would I be so eager to return?
For now, I’ve decided it is time to go pop some blisters and bandage up my poor feet. I forgave The Little Black Dog; he’s very sweet and well-behaved despite the lack of training by the owner. Maybe I need to be kind to myself and forgive myself for the mistake I made in letting him escape, too. In general, that’s the answer to all My Life Trials: be kinder to myself. Be mindful. Be self-compassionate. Allow what comes.
But that’s Another Topic for Another Day.
What is lacking and the solutions
To reverse the course of depression, there are five main types of activities that are helpful to do more of:
Enjoyable Activities (Lacking): running, riding my bike, yoga, hiking, eating out, cinema, exploring, swimming in the ocean
Achievement Activities (Lacking): playing chess, practicing piano, running, yoga, writing, drawing, studying, employment I enjoy, volunteer work, hiking, trekking, learning something new like language
Meaningful Activities (Lacking): teaching, volunteering, learning, talking to friends, working toward goals, helping others, writing, hiking, running, engaging in social group activities like hiking clubs, living at a yoga ashram
Physical Activities (Inconsistent): running, yoga, hiking, cycling, walking, dancing, calisthenics, climbing
Social Activities (Nonexistent and continual decrease past few years): coworker gatherings, going out to eat, hanging out at coffee shops, exploring, joining groups, dating, happy hours
That's ref-yoos, as in "garbage", not ri-fyooz, as in "deny".
I arrived in China with just enough trauma and emotional baggage to make it impossible for me to deal with more; although I had built up some emotional resilience and was excited at the prospect of new job, new city, new country, new possibilites, I wasn't ready physically, emotionally, or mentally to deal with the Thor's Hammer of challenges that would soon come smashing toward me. At the cusp of a healing shift as I departed the U.S., I had been steadily tramping forward out of darkness and into light; however, repeated respiratory illnesses due to the poisonous, polluted air ... continuous stress in a toxic, miserable work environment ... injury in the form of a broken arm, all became a repetitive sledgehammer blow against my re-born spiritual and emotional defenses. I was, effectively, being beaten down, down, down, to the point at which I currently slump and cower: I am disempowered physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Now I deal with this legacy of refuse in my body and soul, incapacitated for so many months, unable to stand in my former heralded strength to pull myself out of the muck that was sucking me toward the inert: the darkness and fear that bound me immobile. Although standing in recognition of the actions I needed to take, I was unable to perfom them; instead of healing, I suffered worsening of symptoms to the point that my body is this broken Thing I do not recognize and actually refuse to acknowledge.
What I thought was recurring pain from torn rib cartilage was symptomatic of something much worse awaiting me these past few months. Realization crawled slowly out of the dark alley of stagnation and loss of will my body and mind had become; I began to see that the pain signified an emerging and acute problem that manifested terrifyingly fast these past few months. As the physical pain and lethargy worsened, fear joined immobility in my heart and mind to act out the Fight-or-Flight response using my body as their stage -- I became this Frozen Thing sitting on my couch, sinking deeper into fear and darkness. What is happening to me and my body?!?! Too terrified to move out of the blinding light, oncoming with the speed of a Chinese bullet train, I froze in the headlights, and like the deer, was rammed and impaled by this physical tragedy. Yet, I have survived the metamorphasis from healthy athlete to physical wreck ... unfortunately??? So many forces have crashed down on me and into my life, leaving me pinned and unable to react or escape. Now, my symptoms can no longer be ignored as I stand on the cusp of a new beginning, one where I must -- I must -- act and reclaim my health. For I am not an infirm person and I refuse to live in an incapacitated, unhealthy state! I am miserable!
I have regained some of my Light and Power, knowing that I am soon to escape the torturous hell that is this job. I realize I should have never let it go on this long: I should have quit the toxic workplace 6 months ago, accepting that things were never going to improve. In retrospect, I should have cut my losses and said "Fuck You!" and dealt with the consequences while standing on a platform of power, rather than reacting from fear and weakness and the frozen state where I cowered. This job has disempowered me in so many ways: professionally, mentally, creatively, emotionally... resulting in physical illness and emotional fallout. And I let it, without realizing how far it was dragging me down. With so much to bear, I didn't even have the energy to quit. I knew I was falling deeper and deeper into a morass but could not summon the strength to use my battle-proved tools to extricate myself, pull myself up out of the refuse, shake off the negativity, or protect myself from the black toxins that fill the both the atmosphere of the school and this city.
But finally, I am leaving! It is not too late! Although my diaphragm is adhesed and my rib cage imprisons my lungs between steel bars, athough my lower ribs are filled with chronic pain and I feel the compression of organs and the compression of fear, although I am sick to my stomach several times daily with gastrointestinal distress, although I frequently awaken with headaches or experience a sudden spike of pain in my temple for no reason, although my good habits of diet and exercise have fallen to nothing, although this is the worse health crisis-- the only health crisis-- I have ever experienced, although this is the first time in my life to experience serious health problems to the point where I wonder if my life will continue even into the next year ... despite all of this, I know that shortly I will be climbing back up out of this dark legacy refuse strewn through my body and back into the light of health and well-being. Quite literally, in 9 days I will be boarding a plane and escaping from this grey, polluted city to climb mountains, to climb toward a new career in writing, and to climb my way back to health and emotional well-being.
In 8 days, on July 22, I will arrive to Hong Kong to spend 5 days hiking the mountains of Hong Kong Island while awaiting approval of my Chinese Tourist Visa application. The following Saturday, I have reserved a seat on the high speed train BusinessClassBeeyotch! to Kunming, in Yunnan Province. A few days of exploring and then I will continue west to my planned basecamp of Dali to prepare for my trek north. I will be in clean air and away from the toxic noise, light, and energetic pollution that is Chengdu. My healing will begin in earnest next Friday, which will be my first day of freedom from the hell that is the school at which I have been employed for 15 horrible months (actually, only these past 12 months of school year sucked because of a horrible, bullying, non-collaborative co-teacher) ! I can't wait to be in the mountains and surrounded by greenery and the noise of nature and small towns!!
- an aftereffect of a disease, condition, or injury
- a secondary result
A condition which is the consequence of a previous disease or injury.
sequela (UK: /sɪˈkwiːlə/, US: /sɪˈkwɛlə/; usually used in the plural, sequelae) is a pathological condition resulting from a disease, injury, therapy, or other trauma. Typically, a sequela is a chronic condition that is a complication which follows a more acute condition. It is different from, but is a consequence of, the first condition. Timewise, a sequela contrasts with a late effect, where there is a period, sometimes as long as several decades, between the resolution of the initial condition and the appearance of the late effect.In general, non-medical usage, the terms sequela and sequelae mean consequence and consequences.
Dreams of Power
When the effects of healing and empowerment carry over into Dream Time.
Usually, when I have what I call Fear Dreams, I am the loser. I am running from something or someone that chases me. Often, I awaken crying, breathing hard and fast, terrified, upset, or all of these. The day begins overcast by dark shadows and grey dread.
This time, I was victorious in my dream! It was a dream within a dream, filled with weird animals and children and houses filling a jungle-like setting. It was full of day-residue. The monster in the dream was not human, but of animal nature, and it thought it had me, as I was small and seemed meek. But I tricked the leviathan at the last moment and, effused with power from within, let go my hidden strength to overcome it.
My dreams mirror my life, and in the events of the past few months of misery at school have been born some truly terrifying dreams. This one was a welcome change, and signifies the changes that have been made from within! Because I have had physical healing and rejuvenation, my mind and soul have begun their own path back toward empowerment, clarity, wisdom, and self-confidence. As my physical power has improved, so has my mental and emotional power increased.
All the benefits of my time at the ashram are manifesting both during the day and at now as I sleep!
보고싶다 (I miss you)
Even the dust
Blanketing my heart
On the Front Lines
I was there. That day. We stared each other down across the lines. A decade later I wondered where he was, although I could still see the bright green clarity of his eyes. The lucidity of fear. We were the same, and yet we would kill each other in an instant, without an exhale.
Regret comes later.
I learned courage there. I learned of death as I watched them burn. Death choked me as I watched others drown in the sea, later-- and far away, covered by NBC.
I imagined myself shooting... killing. For patriotism...?...for "my country"...?
Yet I still see his eyes, envisage his brown skin, warm. We are the same, but I will kill him without an exhale. Without an exhale. Without an inhale. And I find, these decades later, that I cannot complete that inhale or exhale. It is shortened -- sliced to quarters.
Shallow, so shallow, just like my life is now.
For everything, now, in the present, is thin and transparent. This present life does not seem to exist; ghostly, people move through each other and through me, I see them through the surface--they are always far away and muddled in their proximity. I remain underwater, looking up through the blurred ripples; cold, untouchable, knowing.
That "patriotism" formed a monster of desire in me -- a desire to bleed. I welcomed all enemies, for I would mow them down with my "patriotism". I became both omnipotent and ignorant in my allegiance, as my friends died beside me for The Cause.
Those Green Eyes follow me today
... to date...
and I sing your song of farewell and youth.
Not much later, many miles away in the safety of warm relations, frying bacon, outdated carpet, and brightly-lit Christmas trees, I watched others of our kind burn and drown, a world away. I read of deaths and struggle and justified rebellion in black-and-white print.
The pictures were in color, though.
I still wonder why the print was set black on a striated-creamy white background of newsprint, while death was splattered in color. I can taste the saltwater of the drowned.
The painful winter before, we regaled each other in that plaza with songs and guitar of the Eagles and Scorpions:
"Welcome to the Hotel California.. such a lovely place..." and, "Is there really no chance to start once again? I'm still loving you..."
In that circle of warm welcome, I learned to embrace other songs, foreign to my tongue.
A season later, I watched you all burn.
I watched others drown.
I became drenched in my own rage and sputtered in helplessness.
I still suffocate 3 decades later.
Yet I seek out your green eyes.
And I thank you for that one bright memory among the Horrors.
Birthday Thoughts 2017
"If I am in a dark hole, offer me a hand. Don’t criticize me for falling in the damn hole."
It takes a lot of courage to be your true self in this world. It takes an immense amount strength to let others see the struggles you suffer, the challenges you face, and the fear that vibrates your entire being. In this culture we are taught to hide all weakness and keep it private. We are told to be ashamed of our fear and suffering—that it is our own fault, is borne from lack of strength or ability, and should be dealt with privately. All of that is reinforced when you receive a pat on the back when you need to be heard, or a superficial reply when you have exposed your heart, or worse, criticized and judged. To amplify: the judgment and criticism for daring to be authentic, daring to upset the status quo by not being happy all the time; by showing that you, too, suffer rough times. That you are human.
I think it takes the strongest of people to step outside the crowd and move alone into the spotlight and bear witness to your own fear, failings, sufferings, and pain.
Well, I am one of those strong people. I think it is important to share my struggles and my ups and downs because so many others suffer the same, and consequently will see that they are not alone. You see, the past few years I have felt alone a lot; often I believe I have no one to help me through hard times. And in truth, it is frequently accurate. I am here on my own, supporting myself physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally. I don’t always have family support I need, and friends have their own turmoil to deal with. Throughout my life, I have frequently been my only support system. Therefore, I have learned to be strong and give myself the love I need. I have learned to face my fear and do it anyway.
I am afraid all the time, but I just keep moving forward.
“Empathy seeking is driven by the need to know that we are not alone. We need to know that other people have experienced similar feelings and that our experiences don't keep us from being accepted and affirmed. Empathy helps us move away from shame toward resilience.”
- Brene Brown
Not only do I share my ride on the emotional rollercoaster so that others know they are not alone in their struggle, I share so that I can feel the same: that I am not the only human that suffers and struggles. I also share my pain so that I don’t implode and allow the pain to—quite literally—destroy me.
I need your empathy, not your judgements.
I am afraid of how (some of) you judge me for being weak— for not applying all the wisdom lessons I have learned (meditation, yoga, exercise, positive psychology, spiritual teachings). I fear that I am a huge disappointment to my coworkers and even my friends; for not being better, stronger, more positive, fulfilling my potential… I am afraid that all of you criticize me behind my back for being negative instead of being positive. And I know my fears are realistic: I know (some of) you judge me and criticize me, whether to my face or behind my back.
But you know what? That’s YOUR problem. If I am depressed and I share it and this fact bothers you, then you should figure out what to do with that discomfort and not attempt to alter me to make yourself feel better. If I am happy one day, and full of anger the next, and you can’t handle my mood swings, then you should stay away from me. If you can’t handle the depth of my grief over recent trauma, illness, and nearly losing my Dad, then keep your distance. I have had so many bad things happen to me in the short span of two years it is a wonder I survived being punched in the face by Life repeatedly and without end for two years straight!
I refuse to hide who I am and try to be perfect for any of you. I have had many ups and downs in life, and recently, it’s been a lot of downs. Should I pretend that I am happy for you? Would you rather me hide all of my pain and sadness and fear because it is inconvenient for you to see my anguish? Do you judge a child who has fallen down and is crying over a bloodied knee? Well, I have fallen down and my heart is bleeding. Will you not extend me the same care as you extend any injured person. If not, then not only should you keep your distance, but I don’t want someone who lacks empathy in my life in the first place.
I am not angry. I am sad to be so judged.
I have had years of healing and growth and self-development and wisdom. I have spent my life —my entire life— trying to be better, improve…which grew into self-development and self-knowledge. I have lived a public life in the public eye, and many have watched me rise to the top and then plummet. I used to be ashamed of my failures, because (some of) you and society told me I should feel shame. I have since realized that there are so many other people out there who experience the same struggle, failure, shame, depression, and other ups and downs. I also know, that through my teaching and sharing of the very knowledge I have learned during my life, that many have benefited. While you may not like the darkness I live in right now, at the end of that journey I will be the bright light of my Self again. And when I am bright, I draw many to me.
If you are unwilling to be with me through the darkness, I certainly won’t allow you to join me in the wonderful brilliance of the Light I Am. If you can’t support me when I fail, don’t expect to be here when I succeed.
With finality, please keep your judgements and criticisms of my behavior and my expression of my authentic feelings and Self to yourself. If you don’t like the darkness I am in—well, I never invited you to join me here in the first place. It’s my darkness, and when I have learned what I need to learn from it, the darkness will end. If you are truly concerned about my well-being, then don’t critique my rants, offer me a hug. If you are my friend, then be one, and don’t judge my path to self-awareness. Don’t you know I am doing the best I can?
If I am in a dark hole, offer me a hand. Don’t criticize me for falling in the damn hole.
Because I feel judged and I feel attacked, rather than being understood and supported, my need is to defend myself. I am going to acknowledge both my feelings and needs in this reminder to you:
May 2017: my Dad almost died
2016-17: repeated health challenges that affect my energy and anxiety levels, first year at a new school
2015-16: return to Austin from Korea, can’t get full-time employment to support myself which causes financial ruin from being unemployed for longer than one year, can’t finish my graduate program.
2015: escape a very traumatic/abusive relationship while unemployed, rip my meniscus which affects my ability to exercise and sleep, plus I’m in constant, 24-hour pain for over one year, can’t cycle, can’t run.
2014: while living in Korea I undergo two major surgeries, get told in Korean I might have cancer, and almost die of anaphylactic shock while in the ER being treated for nerve damage from cycling. I lose the use of my left arm for over 2 months.
Like I said, Life has punched me in the face repeatedly over the past few years, and it is due to my strength and certain friends that I am still standing! I have survived several major traumas (and resulting PTSD because of them) each year for the past four years!
I will continue being open and honest with my feelings, my challenges, my failures, my struggles…because someone else will recognize that they are not alone, and it will help them. That is me being of service. Who are you to tell me to hide my Self and be small and fit in your comfortable square hole because my language, my actions, and my emotions are too much for you? No box will hold me and no shape can conform to me. I will certainly not reform myself to your shape and your box.
I am honest. I am authentic. And I am one of the most courageous people on this blue earth because I’m facing the darkness inside of me and not trying to hide it and lie to everyone. It’s your turn to be honest and authentic and courageous and face your own judgments and fix yourself before trying to change me. If I need fixing or changing, when the time comes, I will recognize it and change myself.
If part of my journey toward self-actualization is this dark path, who are you to tell me to veer off course?
I am human. I am doing the best I can with what I know in the moment.
Just like you.
There is fiction. There is life. What is the difference?
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