Coping mechanisms are important in life. They are what gets you through tough times. And if they are healthy, they make you stronger and better able to handle future disasters.
My current coping mechanisms: eating (mostly anything with sugar), crying, lashing out at people, sleeping, sleeping with a stuffed animal in my arms (yes, I am 28 and still sleep with a little stuffed dog, and yes, I need it), taking really really hot showers, watching really super emotional movies that make me cry, hiding under the covers, writing, and sometimes just laying and staring at the ceiling and completely zoning out and going numb (though I’m not sure that’s really a coping mechanism). I also like to lay on the bathroom floor when I’m having an anxiety/panic attack because it’s cold and makes me feel better.
I think the only truly healthy one on that list is writing.
I clearly need some healthier options. Coping is something we have to do in order to not completely fall apart. But I don’t think that the same coping mechanisms work for everyone. I suppose it may just be a matter of trial an error to find what works for you.
I do know one thing that helps me cope very well. Hugs. Being held. Oh how I wish I had someone to hug every single day. I can’t begin to adequately tell you how very much I like hugs. Having a physical person there to hug you and hold you even when you don’t know what to say or do is irreplaceable. It’s hard to go day after day, week after week not having someone to just hug you. It’s such a simple, basic act that holds so much power. Some hugs can change your life.
I’m sure there is probably an endless list of different types of healthy coping mechanisms. But one thing I know for certain is not a good coping mechanism is buying into all of the things that people try to tell you is wrong with you. Allowing people to convince you that saying or not saying certain things, or doing or not doing certain things, or that being exactly who you are is not acceptable is not a good coping mechanism and actually makes things much worse.
Here’s the thing, depression is not a personal failing. It is not a moral character flaw. No matter how many people try to tell you otherwise, depression is not a lack of faith, laziness, complacency, failure to pray, or sadness. Some days I wake up and I feel hopeless, exhausted, and don’t really care about anything and it’s for absolutely no reason at all. I’m not depressed because of a certain thing. I’m just depressed. Depression is not sadness. Everyone gets sad. People use the word depressed too much in reference to sadness. But it goes way beyond simply being sad. People can shake sadness after some time has passed. But sadness doesn’t even begin to encompass what living with depression feels like.
I’ve heard the stories over and over again for my entire life about how much “Jesus loves you.” The greatest problem I have had though is that I don’t nor have I ever felt loved by Jesus or God or whoever. And I’m sorry but some imaginary being in the sky who supposedly loves me is just not enough. You can tell as many stories as you want but that doesn’t make an invisible, “loving” god any more real.
I think religion in my life has played the role of being a coping mechanism. The problem is that it stopped working. So at 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 17, 18, 19, and 23, 24, 25 years old church and religious practice was enough of a distraction for me. But it did stop working. And when I decided to actually start feeling all the feelings everything literally came crashing down. Let me just tell you that 25 years of repressed emotions is quite the display when it all comes pouring out. And it is not a pretty picture. Not having ever learned any kind of healthy coping mechanisms, I don’t usually know what to do with it all. Unfortunately people in my life end up taking the brunt of it and I know that isn’t fair. I’m trying to figure out what’s going to actually work without hurting people.
I pretended I was happy for a long time. And I can’t do the pretending anymore. So even if that means that right now there are more sad, painful days than happy ones, it’s ok. I don’t want to not talk about the hard things just because I don’t like the way it makes me feel. You still have to feel all the things you don’t like to feel just as much as the things you do like to feel. It’s all a part of you. One thing that I like so much about yoga is that I’ve learned that acceptance of whatever it is your currently feeling is necessary to being present and real in your own life. You can’t outrun yourself.
Feelings are feelings are feelings. There is nothing inherently good or bad about any feeling. It’s just a feeling. It exists because it exists. It is what it is. I think fighting emotions, good or bad, is what creates misery in our lives. Some of the greatest songs ever written were written by people who have had their hearts and lives ripped to shreds. You don’t get those songs without processing the feelings that are uncomfortable. And honestly I don’t think that comfort is necessarily something to strive for. It feels good, but being comfortable is what leads to complacency and fear instead of courage.
I have had my meds adjusted and I have noticed a marked improvement in my motivation to work things out. I am also starting in some support groups. I begin with Codependents Anonymous on Sunday and I think it is going to be really good for me. I work well having some kind of routine to follow. I hope I can find some help to become a better version of myself. Because I’m not the kind of person who can do things by myself.