Connecting Thoughts with Feelings

Recently, I have been learning to see things from different perspectives. Though I’ve always striven to do so, lately I have been blessed enough to be handed more tools to do this with. One of the key tools for me to handle my anxiety and depression was: connect thoughts with feelings. We often realize we are anxious, afraid, sad, depressed etc but don’t always connect the dots and figure out what is causing us to feel in a certain way.

I often fall victim to the “what ifs” and the “should’ve/would’ve/could’ve” mentalities. I imagine the worst things I can bear to imagine happening in my life. I do my best to berate myself on anything and everything I have done. I find fault with everything I can possibly imagine – if it has anything to do with me, it wasn’t done right. Obviously, none of this is healthy or productive. Minor things that most people can brush off, I hold close to myself in abject embarrassment for all of eternity. Conversely, if things get too serious in front of someone else, I act like I’m laughing at myself and brush it off. In reality, I’m wishing I was dead and had never existed. All it does is bog me down in a spiral of self-hate and hopelessness. The anxiety begets the depression which in turn causes apathy and then more anxiety. That is the nature of one of my personal beasts.

One of the other tools handed to me involved just feeling what you feel. Don’t resist it. I know that is counter-intuitive and incredibly difficult to do. I can attest, however, that it does work. Just let yourself feel whatever you feel. Then connect a thought to that feeling. What made you feel that way? What caused you to react in that manner. Once you have the answer to that, you can begin to reason with yourself and realize that your brain often lies to you. The things you are thinking are simply untrue and baseless. The scenarios you have chosen to create could just as easily never come to pass. So many things in life are a surprise. Why should the things you are most afraid of be any different?

It is taking some serious conscious effort and practice to continue to catch myself. My default for so long has been to go off in these spirals and then expect others to listen to my sob story over and over, followed by their validation, followed by me possibly starting fights with anyone who doesn’t listen and validate me, followed by more self-hate and disgust. It’s not a pretty sight for anyone, especially myself.

The past few months have brought back a lot of my most negative traits because a lot of bad memories have resurfaced. Flashbacks are zero fun, especially if you had parts of your memories blocked off and now suddenly the neat little box they were in no longer exists. Now that you have to deal with the ugliness inside you, the pain you put off for later because you were too raw to bear it before,  now that you are done bleeding and your wound is scabbed over, it’s time to deal with everything you had thought was no longer a factor in your life. If you don’t deal with it, you hurt the people you love and push them away.  You have to forgive and maybe even be grateful towards the people you were hurt by. You have to forgive yourself. For me, this is probably the most difficult thing to do.

I have forgiven everyone else I perceived had hurt me but I have yet to forgive myself. I resent my naivete and stupidity. I resent how jaded I have allowed my experiences to make me. I resent that the blazing light I once was has been reduced to nothing but a shadow of itself, not even really an ember in the ashes anymore. I have burned myself with every tool in the book and still can’t punish myself enough. I don’t think I deserve the good things that come into my life because I don’t think I ever work hard enough for any of them.

The truth is, I have. I have worked my ass off. I have stuck with things when many other people would give up. I have the stubbornness of a mule and when it comes to being successful in life, that is what has kept me going. Grit is the true key to success and I have it in spades. I also have a lot of compassion and empathy. I am giving and kind. I am supportive and loyal. I am honest to a fault. I am analytical, technical, creative, and sometimes wise. I know all of these things about myself because I have proven them to be true over and over.

For some reason, however, my brain chooses to continue to lie to me. This is probably because the negative thoughts are deeply embedded in my subconscious mind since childhood. I exhibited several symptoms of anxiety even before age four. Though this is something I have always dealt with, recently it became unbearable. Events triggered memories and feelings and obsessive tendencies that were destructive both for me and the people I love. That was my breaking point. I couldn’t allow myself to act like this anymore. So, I went and got help.

Thus far, it has been an eye opener and an extremely encouraging start. The key was to be open and honest, to let myself face my own worst demons without being afraid of judgement. Of course, this involved finding the right partner to listen and provide advice. For all of you struggling with similar issues, I would recommend you take the advice I did: be conscious of your own thoughts, feel what you feel, connect thoughts to those feelings, and then let it go. Good luck to all of you, may tomorrow find you better than today!

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