Sometimes we Need to get out of our Heads

I recently read a post about a kid that was almost successful in committing suicide, and while she was in the hospital she received a letter from her teacher and she said, “Why would somebody say such nice things about me? I didn’t think anyone would notice if I were gone.” And the thought struck pretty close to home. The burden of the past and the expectations and responsibilities of the future certainly distract us from what is happening in the present. I understand that there is a lot more to suicide than this post, but it brought up some important feelings for me. 

I often get wrapped up in my own mind, and then I start to spiral. I think the same thoughts over and over and the longer and deeper I go into my own head during these times, the worse the thoughts get and the further I go down, spiraling out of control. Then I continue to spiral until one thought circles around in my head consuming me and every ounce of my energy. It has been a long time since those thoughts have included suicidal thoughts, but I have been there. Reality, at that point, is so far away. I cannot speak for anyone except myself, but when I am able to realize where I am and take myself back to reality, it’s not nearly as bad as what my mind has spiraled into. It is important to take time to notice when we are in our heads too deep and notice what is actually real and what we have made up in our seemingly uncontrollable spiraling.

I may not get the cardinal, but I get the flowers...

If we know we are spiraling and can recognize it, we can come back from it and notice the beauty and important things in life. At that point, even though it may be extremely difficult, we have to remember to practice gratitude and notice the little things that make us feel the joy of being alive. One example I have is the elusive cardinal that hangs out in our backyard. I have tried to get a picture of him so many times, but he always manages to evade me. Except when I’m working and I’m tired of working. At that point he comes and plays in the bush right outside my office window and gives me the chance to see him and enjoy him…when he knows I can’t get a good shot because our windows are so dang dirty. It makes me smile and laugh a little…what a little player! I wouldn’t normally take note of things like that, but I have been trying to recognize these little things that make me recognize reality and appreciate the little things that bring me joy.

Another more prominent example I recently experienced: I went on a weekend getaway with my best girlfriends that I had not seen in a while. I have been going through some pretty intense personal struggles since January, and I am managing, but it has been a tough few months. Likely, some of the most challenging of my life. I may have had a bit too much to drink at the concert we went to and may have acted a little ridiculous. My friends mentioned that they were worried about me that night, and I brushed it off as no big deal at the time. But by the time I got home, I was spiraling and repeating the thoughts in my head nonstop. The last thing I ever wanted was to ruin a great weekend, but mostly, I don't like people to worry about me or think that I need help. The spiraling thoughts went on for a few days driving me farther away from reality into making me think that I totally failed my friends and ruined what was supposed to be a fun-filled and easy going event.

With the work I have been doing with Brene Brown’s Couragework course, I knew I had to do something different. So instead of keeping it all inside, I sent a text to one of my friends asking for some clarification, but before long I had already known the answer I did not actually want to hear. Rather than continuing to spiral, I decided I needed to own it and come to peace with it. I texted (I know, I know not the best solution but I knew the message would get there and I wouldn’t be able to change my mind once the send button was pushed) both of my friends an apology for being ‘that girl’ again that night. I wasn’t sure what to expect from them, but I figured it wasn't going to be something I liked. To my surprise, the response I received from both of them was not anger or frustration or disappointment; it was supportive and loving and caring. Just the response I would have expected from myself if I were on the other end, but did not expect to receive myself because of my lack of self-compassion. 

It turns out that it was precisely the push I needed to move beyond my some of my recent struggles I had been suffering from in the previous months, and could not find the motivation for action, but since then I have been doing yoga, running, drinking less, and eating healthier like I had been wanting to do for months but was unable to get over the hump of my self-battling.

I can only imagine the endless spiraling I would still be in if I did not realize that I was in a dark place only going deeper and to choose to be brave and speak my peace to my friends. It seems so insignificant to have sent two simple texts, but at this point it has meant the difference between healthy and not healthy and moving beyond my stagnancy. So I thank you friends, for being the wonderful and caring people you are!! 

When we are in dark places, it is easy to stay there and only go deeper. Everything seems so miserable, and the hole seems so deep. But if we can start to realize that this hole we think we are in is actually self-made and in the grand scheme of things, fictitious, then we can take action to get back to what reality really is. We can have a little self-compassion, and we can notice that little dumb cardinal who makes us smile for being a jerk, and we can take action and own our stories, make peace with them, and move on from them. We may be surprised by the outcome…nature is beautiful, people likely are not judging you as harshly as you may think, and there are people out there that care. This one moment may seem like the worst, but in reality it’s only one moment and it can be recovered from.