For as long as I can remember, I have battled with situational sadness and thoughts of self harm. As a child, as young as thirteen, I remember sitting on a set of railroad tracks, waiting for a train to come. In my late teens, I became a pathological cutter and have spent more nights in the emergency room drinking activated charcoal than I care to admit. In bouts of depression, I have starved myself to disfigurement, sucked down pack-after-pack of cigarettes, cases of wine, and dose-after-dose of anti-anxiety medication. I have sent myself through emotional spirals and down deep, dark, and twisted rabbit holes, following my pain into the abyss, not knowing if I would make it back. But, I always made it back and I know that there are millions of women who never did. In most recent years, I have been able to take hold of my situational depression and thoughts of self harm. I am not a trained and licensed professional and what works for me may not work for you, but it is my intent to give my readers hope. If you suffer from either situational or clinical depression and have considered any kind of self harm, please seek professional assistance immediately.
How I Cope:
- I See It Coming: When I am faced with an emotional trigger that sends me into a dark mental space, I acknowledge what's happening. I admit that I am becoming sad and I don't fight it. Stuffing down my sadness is the worst thing I can do. I deal with it head on.
- I Make Time for It: When I start to feel this way, I immediately make time for these feelings. If I'm in the middle of an important project, I may hold it together until it is completed but, then, I schedule mental health days. During these days, I do just the bare minimum, if anything at all. Because I work for myself, I am able to schedule days of nothingness, laying in bed, watching Netflix, and just feeling whatever I need to feel.
- I Accept and Welcome It: There is nothing I can do to make these feelings go away. Maybe it's a break up, or disappointment at work, but whatever it is, it makes me feel blue and ignoring that feeling doesn't make it vanish. So, I accept sadness as a part of life and that it's okay to be sad. I might even deserve this sad moment in time, this time to feel and deal with this particular trigger. I need this time to get to the root of the feeling and I welcome that time, knowing it's going to hurt and that pain is okay.
- I Know it Will Not Last: As the saying goes, this too shall pass. Everything passes with time. Moments of despair become distant memories as time moves on and happiness moves in. Like everything, my emotions ebb and flow. Emotions are meant to be fleeting and I will experience the gamete throughout my life. During bouts of sadness, it is important for me to remind myself that it will pass and I will be alright.
- I Stay Still: Knowing that everything will work itself out, it's important that I stay still and not self harm. My thoughts of self harm may not be as dramatic as they were when I was younger, but excessive drinking and smoking, or not eating and sleeping are all detrimental to recovery. So, I do my very best to be still, to quiet my spirit and do nothing except what absolutely needs to be done. My appetite may lapse for a bit and I might not be sleeping so well, but I actively work toward getting back on track.
Self harm is the antithesis of self care and it is my goal to try my very best to take the best care of myself. Sometimes, however, life throws me a tough emotional blow and I have to take a knee. I have to go through the pain in order to get through the pain, but I need to go through this process as healthily as I can. Some self harm is also emotional, therefore, I am also careful what I tell myself during the low moments. I stay positive about who I am, what I deserve, and what I know God has for me. Words hurt and the ones that come from within hurt more than any others. I know my sadness is only situational and will pass as the situation passes, so I look forward to that time, taking as many mental health days as I need.
These feelings are normal and healthy when not chemical or clinical. We all have ups and downs, we all have dark thoughts about ourselves and others. Many women overeat, drink, smoke, overindulge is other ways, harming themselves as they run from pain. For me, dealing with sadness healthily has been a learning process, one that improves with time and practice.
New York Times best selling author, founder of The Gorgeous Girl's Guide, Steffans Publishing Enterprises, and Karrine & Co., keynote speaker, xoJane.com contributor, host of The Gorgeous Girl's Guide to... at Podcast One.