How To Cope When Life Kicks You In The Junk: A Tutorial
Yesterday, I went to a birthday party. The same birthday party (well, the celebrant was a year older this time) I went to on the same weekend last year. Same people, different presents. Walking back to the bus stop after the festivities, I found myself thinking about everything that’s changed in the last 12 months or so. If my life were a movie, this would be the part where the screen goes all blurry and we fade into a flashback, which would be set to Seasons of Love from RENT ( the Broadway version is better), because it’s my damn dream sequence and that’s just how I roll, okay? I don’t mind admitting that there has been plenty of unpleasantness to deal with in the last year. I’ll skip the details*, because A) it’s none of your business and B) I’m not really down with personal pain pissing contests, ya dig? Suffice it to say, lots of stuff sucked (concurrently and sequentially!) and I was sad/angry/exhausted for a solid few months. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I also met/reconnected with/befriended some truly awesome folks, had lots of travel adventures, became a first-time aunt and finally started writing again. And as Frost would say, that last point has made all the difference. Eventually, after enough time hanging out against the ropes, I was even ready to get back in the ring for another round. Oh, Life, you and I do love to spar so!
Photo by Stegsie
And even though ma vie isn’t, at first glance, noticeably improved over what it was at this time last year (in fact, I’m actually about to be unemployed in just about three months), I am so much happier than I was last fall. Happy enough that I’m not even worried about jinxing my contentment by mentioning it in print. Happy enough that I feel duty bound to impart to you the wisdom I’ve gleaned on how to get through the rough spots in one piece. Also known as:
How to Cope When Life Kicks You In The Junk: A Tutorial
Feeling better happens when it happens
Maybe it takes a week, a month, a year. There is no timeline for getting over pain/ grief/loss/ hurt/ anger/alien abduction etc. and anyone who tries to impose one on you needs to STFU. F’reals. When you’re ready to move on, you will. Forget about trying to schedule or fast-track the process and forget about feeling guilty or pathetic for not bouncing back to your old self as quickly as others think you should. Give yourself a break and cut out the clock watching.
Stress and pressure have a shelf life
As Bill Joel once remarked, “You will come to a place where the only thing you feel are loaded guns in your face and you’ll have to deal with pressure.” But even though it feels like it in the heat of the moment, pressure isn’t a constant. If you can just white-knuckle it through the sensation of suffocating under the weight of the world and keep yourself from committing to any capital D decision while under the influence of adrenaline (no easy feat, I will concede), you’ll find that the pressure eventually eases and you regain enough breathing room to assess things a little more objectively. The situation that seemed so completely dire a few weeks or months ago will have become tolerable enough for you to see that quitting your job and faking your own death is only one of the options at your disposal and not, in fact, your only way out.
Even when you think you’re not getting better, you actually are
Sure, at first glance, hanging out on the couch playing Halo or rereading the entire Baby-sitters Club series might seem unproductive and slightly self indulgent, but it absolutely isn’t. You’re not wasting time or regressing back to adolescence, you’re granting your brain and body a break from the heavy lifting of healing and giving them a chance to rest and recharge.
Reject the one size fits all approach
Reaching out to supportive friends, taking up a new sport, writing a letter to your dead grandfather; maybe these things will work for you and maybe they won’t. When it comes to dealing with trauma, there’s no checklist of must-do activities and steps to take in order to heal appropriately. What helps someone else to cope might do nothing for you or even exacerbate the unhappiness. You don’t fail at feeling better because the conventional wisdom of how to deal with Event A or Situation B holds little appeal or relevance for you. You know yourself better than Dr. Phil does. Go ahead and do it your way; Sinatra and I both have your back.
*Sorry, BeeZee. I know you wanted gory details. Guess you should have gotten me drunk on gin milkshakes when you had the chance.