3 Tips On Coping With Conflict

The idea of confrontation has always made me sick to my stomach. Up until very recently, I got incredibly anxious even considering someone didn’t like me or that I might have to engage in conflict – whether it was at work or in my personal life.

That was, until therapy came into the picture. Each day, I’m learning that anger is a healthy emotion when valid, and that it’s completely acceptable to stick up for yourself when you know the situation is wrong. Learning to argue in a healthy way is one of the main ingredients to this whole “adulting” thing, and everything from little fights with your partner to standing your ground at work fall into that category.

Doing anything to avoid confrontation is not only counterproductive, it can stunt your emotional growth. We’ve been conditioned to think that fighting is harmful, dangerous or exposes us as vulnerable to the negative emotions of others but in the endit’s really about owning our truth and standing our ground when someone enters to shift it.

In the past few months, I’ve dealt with a lot of conflict. While it can be emotionally draining, we must learn to stick up for ourselves. If you’re having trouble fighting the fear of confrontation, here are a few tips:

Respond, Don’t React 

I’ve had a lot of trouble with this. Whenever I feel attacked or cornered, the first instinct with my own anxiety is to get angry. That usually isn’t the best response, although anger can be a valid feeling.

Then there is a completely different knee-jerk reaction some people with anxiety experience. Fear. The intense feeling or need to hide, panic or even please them to make the conflict end. Fight the feeling – you are allowed to disagree with others. 

Deep breath. In and out. Focus on expressing a rational, direct and clear response – do not just react in fear. 

Getting to this place takes both practice and the right tools, so don’t beat yourself up if future conflict brings on an emotional reaction – even if you’re doing your best to avoid it.

 

Practice Saying No 

Oh boy, have I learned this. Perpetually a people pleaser, the word no wasn’t really in my vocabulary. With my own anxiety, I would avoid conflict and just agree or say yes because I was afraid of the other person leaving – abandonment. Particularly in a romantic relationship, I would appease the partner to stay away from bigger fights or getting emotional on my end, because then they would definitely leave, or so Anxiety Erica led me to believe. 

In my most recent relationship, I continued to grow and break the boundaries of conflict avoidance. Even though the relationship didn’t last, I am thankful that that specific partner respected and allowed me to get mad, to start a fight. I’ve never been comfortable with it due to my fear of abandonment, so I consider that to be growth – no matter the end result.

If saying no is something that’s on the more difficult side, start small. Whether you’re at the grocery store, a cafe, or movie theater, practice refusing. Take the baby steps and like repetition therapy, you will quickly learn that the world doesn’t end when you stand your ground. No one will yell at you, there won’t be any negative consequences – you’re allowed to say no. 

 

Know Your Value 

One of the main reasons conflict anxiety exists is from undervaluing ourselves. Especially at work, it can be hard to know we are in the right when a manager, coworker or any employee is directly engaging with you. With the normal instinct being to shrink and hide, we must firmly plant our feet on the ground and speak our truth.

Panic and fear have no place in conflict when we are clear and direct. It takes confidence, self worth, and a helluva lot of growth to reach the place where truth matters more than the negative consequences our anxiety creates, but once you get there, stay there – stay empowered. 

We are only our truth, it will set us free and keep us from any harm. If you know you are in the right, fight for that feeling.

 

Believe me, I know this takes time. This isn’t some snap of the fingers shit – practice makes perfect. In fact, the whole reason I wrote this post was because in my last therapy session, I spoke with my therapist on how I handled a confrontation in my life, and halfway through my story I noticed she had a look of approval on her face.

When I finished, she told me that she was proud of me. She said, just a little over a year ago, I would have handled a conflict exactly like that very differently. It would have been a series of hurt, anxiety, fear, and intense crying. And eventually appeasement. This time, I responded with a healthy combination of anger, authenticity, and owning my truth. I didn’t have any concern for the consequences that came after the confrontation, or a crippling fear of abandonment – I just looked to my truth. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, it’s a long journey to unlearn behaviors like these.

 

 

 

Do you have a fear of conflict or confrontation? Share how you handle it in the comments below! 

 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Finding My Fire

I won’t lie to you guys, it’s been a rough going for me lately. With life and my anxiety reaching an all-time high last week, I decided to take the long Labor Day weekend for some much-needed self care and rest. Boy, did I need it. 

I’ve always had a problem with stopping. Taking the time to reflect and knowing everything will be alright in the “in between.” Over the entire holiday, my anxiety was triggered with fearful thoughts.

 

What if your writing isn’t as good when you come back? 

What if no one cares anymore? 

What if you stop relating to others? 

 

Swirling around my mind like a toxic milkshake, these thoughts overwhelmed me – but only for a little while. Therapy has taught me to be mentally stronger, so I know how to combat these irrational thoughts. Speaking of my fantastic therapist, I was beyond ready to have my bi-weekly session today. Getting emotional even on the drive there, I knew I needed to pour out my feelings.

Starting off the session explaining my day to day triggers and stressors, the discussion eventually turned to the topic that has been giving me the most anxiety: writer’s block. 

One of the reasons I decided to take this pause from the blog was because I was completely drained. Barely making out the words, I was sobbing even at the thought of saying I couldn’t write for Anxiety Erica – it’s everything. Why I come home excited, how I heal through my words, a safe space.

With an almost saint-like grace and wisdom, it was like my therapist knew that was the root of my issues. Her immediate response was to make the most of “me” time.

Embrace the pause 

 

“We must learn to be okay with, and embrace, pause time.”

Learning to completely stop is something I’m not good at. I will go and go until I can’t anymore – and I found out exactly what that feels like this week. It’s essential to spend time within ourselves and nurture the passion we have, rekindle the fire.

Whether that means staying in bed most days powering through a Netflix marathon, being around family and close friends, or even getting outside on a hike – do what you need to feed your soul. Reclaim your motivation.

 

Master the art of compartmentalization 

 

Writing has always been something I live and breathe. Not only a passion, but a purpose. It has been a goal in the past few years to make it a career, and with my current position being a Copywriter – I would say I can check off that to-do on my list.

Unfortunately, once writing became a daily part of my position, it turned from a passion to a chore. Where I once wrote about things that gave me fire, connection to others and authenticity, I was becoming completely drained from the “work” aspect of an entirely different form of the written word.

While I cried on the couch, feeling hopeless and like nothing would help me find my fire again, my therapist said these words:

“Just like we have different types of friends, we have several forms of writing too.”

Then, it clicked. Through the art of compartmentalizing, I could cultivate my fire again. When obligation and timeframe wanders its way into writing, the passion can immediately be sucked out. In order to find my fire, I needed to categorize my creativity, like so:

Work writing 

The creativity surrounding the writing I do during the day, i.e. Copywriting duties, any writing involving my work or company.

Passion writing 

Authentic, vulnerable and emotional words that I write whenever I feel inspired or motivated in life. It is where my connection to others starts, and ultimately – it’s for pleasure. 

 

The motivation to get up each and every day and slice out a piece of your soul for the world to read is fucking hard. Most people don’t realize the extent to which writers will go for authenticity and sometimes, a break is needed.

I’m proud of myself for taking this time to pause and reflect because now that I’ve rested, I’m quickly gaining back the energy and inspiration to hold my heart in front of you all again – finding my fire and coming home with my own words. 

 

 

Do you have trouble with writer’s block? Share your own tips on combating it in the comments below! 

Works in Progress // Elliott

Suffering from multiple, severe mental illnesses since the age of 16, Elliott’s life has been a constant cycle of instability, chaos, and breakdowns. Locked up in a ward four times, it was only when he hit rock bottom that he made the decision to start attending DBT therapy.

Applying the skills he’s learned from DBT therapy to his everyday life, Elliott fights to have a fulfilling life – despite his mental illness.

 

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Name: Elliott Smith

Age: 47


Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

July 17th of this year is my 47th birthday. The first time I remember being diagnosed was 1986 – I was 16. I was suffering from depression with suicidal ideology. I came home from school one day and decided life was to painful to live. So, I wrote my mom a note, got some rope and went in search of a farm grain silo to hang myself in. A woman from my step dad’s church (he was the pastor) saw me and called my mother who came and found me and talked me into getting help. I then spent two and a half months in a locked ward where I was diagnosed with depression.

That was the first diagnosis of many. My time of service in The US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division left me with PTSD. Then the anxiety, bipolar diagnosis and Borderline Personality Disorder. Because I have so many – I feel – accurate diagnoses, I refer to the group as just mental illness. I don’t know where one illness ends and the other begins. This mix of diagnosis have so many symptoms. The depression, anxiety, mania, aggression, anger, horror and fear in the form of flashbacks. I have always, as long as I remember, felt like something wasn’t right. My life was a cycle. Stability. Then instability. Chaos, then breakdown. Then the cycle would start again.



What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

I have attempted or planned suicide four times – all four times I have been institutionalized. But still, my life didn’t change. My illness and my symptoms pulled me around like a dog on a leash. I had little pockets of happiness in an ocean of fear, pain, darkness, and agony. For this period, I didn’t really have uninterrupted medical or mental health care coverage. So, I would try to get help but for years could not afford to stay in therapy. In 2010, after finding out about the VA compensation process I put in for PTSD competition. I received disability status from the VA. This allowed me uninterrupted medical and mental health covered for the last seven years. This was the point my mental illness turned a corner.

Around this time, I had a very horrible episode where I ended up hurting someone then I tried to hang myself. I was again at rock bottom. Somewhere in the process of getting back on my feet again, I decided to figure out how to change the life I was leading. I decided to work to learn how to live a quality life. It was not a bolt out of the blue or “ah-ha” moment – it was a slow realization. I was finally aware that I needed to help myself before I was going to be able to get proper help. I was going to have to work my fucking ass off to ever have a quality life.



How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?


Well for me it is everyday life. It’s been 30 years (diagnosed) of mental illness. I don’t remember anything else – it is apart of everything. This very reason is why the skills I have learned are so important.


In 2011, I attended Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT. The skills I learned there became the life-changing foundation of not just how I’ve learned to cope, but I learned to really thrive and found a way to maintain and live a quality life. The skills I learned from DBT were practical actions and strategies I could apply in specific or general ways to my everyday life.

  • Mindfulness. Focusing on what it is I am doing and saying. Focusing on my thoughts without letting them run away with my actions.
  • Wise mind. Because I lived in my emotional mind or my rational mind I would go back and forth between chaos and shame. Trying to maintain wise mind (both emotion mind and rational mind at the same time in balance) keeps me able to make decisions that help me maintain a quality life.
  • Distress tolerance. Knowing that life is probably going to get a little dicey and having the skills to tolerate the distress that is going to be apart of my life is crucial.
  • Checking the facts. This skill I learned allows me to challenge my symptoms and thoughts and hold them up to the light to see if they are real or the lies my symptoms tell me.
  • Radical acceptance. This allows me to accept the big unpleasant truths without giving up or giving in.
  • Acceptance. Accepting my reality was a life-changing experience. When I accepted that I have multiple mental illnesses and I will continue to have these issues  – I was set free. This acceptance for me also mentioned being completely transparent with my self and others in my life that mental illness was part of who I am. I would no longer try to hide how my life was to anyone ever again. My mental illnesses are always something you get to know as you learn more about me.

The list of skills go on and on and I talk about them a lot in both my @myrhoughtsracing Instagram and my blog.



How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you?


Mental illness literally has only given me symptoms. I get what you’re asking, but I don’t see it as a gift or a benefit. With that said, I have learned by living through my symptoms that people – all of us – are amazing! That life is hard but worth it. That life is precious and fragile. I learned these gifts not because of my mental illness but in spite of it.



What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness?

My thoughts and feelings are just thoughts and feelings. I don’t have to indulge them. They are not in charge of my life.

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below and you could be featured on the blog! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Setting Healthy Boundaries

Going into today’s therapy session, I was really excited. Because of the long holiday weekend of 4th of July, it’s been roughly three weeks since I’ve had a session. While I handled my anger well during that time, I was itching to sit down and discuss all the different situations that had occurred since the last time we met.

I’ll be honest – I was a like a middle schooler handing in my well thought out essay in therapy. I was so proud of myself for the way I’ve set clear boundaries and removed triggers the past few weeks that I deserved a little praise.

When I told my therapist of all the things I experienced over the past few weeks and how I handled them on my own, she was more than proud – she was moved by my newfound ability to see a potential trigger and remove it before it became an issue for me.

Here’s a few examples:

A week or so ago, I found out that my ex-boyfriend has posted on social media for the first time since we broke up. I wrote about this in a previous blog post, but I’ll explain it again. My close friend called me to give me a heads up that he had posted, so I was very grateful I didn’t scroll through my feed on Instagram and have it pop up – instant trigger.

Turns out it was a photo of him settled into his new apartment. This triggered my anger – I was hurt. Hurt that he was “moving on” and doing exciting, fun things without me when in reality, that’s life. It moves on. He will have endless experiences in that new apartment that I will never be part of, because we aren’t in each others lives anymore. And that’s where I needed to rework my focus – shift the focus from him, and onto myself. What new experiences will I have? How do I feel? 

Because honestly, he doesn’t matter anymore. It’s not about him – it’s about me and how I react, how I handle my anxiety.

So, from this event I made the decision to unfollow him on all social media. I set a very clear boundary for myself. No more temptation to go “keep tabs” on what he’s doing, no more potential triggers when he posts something and I randomly see it. No more.

This is how I will move on, and stay there.

Another example of setting a healthy boundary for myself was about a week or so after my breakup. It was a random Saturday night and I was spending it alone at home. I got a text message from an old hookup – I say that because we never actually dated, just had fun – just saying hi. I hadn’t spoken to him in over a year, so I knew what his intentions were. I was so not in that place to have sex with no strings attached, and honestly I felt uncomfortable even talking to him about it, so I spoke up. I was upfront and direct with him – I appreciated the gesture but I’m not ready to be in that place. Being the very nice guy that he is, he was completely understanding and civil, but it’s so important to set these boundaries when we feel overwhelmed or that uncomfortableness sets in.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Just a year ago, I would never have had the ability to send a text like that, it would have sent me into a spiral of anxiety. I’m proud to know what I deserve and know my emotional boundaries. Could I have accepted his invitation that night? Absolutely. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I wasn’t ready – and that’s okay. 

In response to all this, my therapist said something that truly resonated with me:

“It’s okay to make mistakes, but we need not repeat negative patterns.”

Creating healthy boundaries is the key to managing my mental health, and keeping up with my triggers.

In addition to discussing my emotional boundaries, I also read my therapist a second letter that I wrote to my ex. This time, it was based in anger. While I have no intention to sending it to him, it’s important to put pen to paper for me when I’m overwhelmed with an emotion. It helps me to process that feeling, and move on from it in a healthy manner.

While I read the letter to my therapist, she noticed that I was starting to cry. She told me I could get angry and yell while reading it, but my knee jerk reaction was to be hurt. I still have trouble expressing anger publicly, but I’m proud of myself for getting through the entire letter. My therapist told me that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed because for me, this is new. It’s a new emotion to be expressing and it’s not always going to go my way. She also said:

“Don’t be afraid of your anger – it’s appropriate.”

She’s 100% right. I’m afraid since I haven’t been in this place of anger for as long as I have, that it will never fade. That’s my anxiety speaking – I will move on from this emotion. As long as I sit with it and acknowledge the lessons that come from the pain and the anger, I will move to the next stage.

 

 

Have you set some great emotional boundaries for yourself lately? Share them in the comments below! 

A Journey Through My July Goals

July is here and it’s hot. Like seriously humid, guys. While I can barely stand this warm weather, I’m very excited to guide you through my July goals! While scrolling on my Instagram feed earlier today, I was tagged in a new month challenge from a follower. It was about creating a set of goals for the month and honestly, I just love a good list.

So, I sat down with my notebook and really thought about what I want to work on. Here’s what I came up with:

Keep my anger in check

Whether that means removing small triggers or reflecting on my feelings before I fully react to any situation, I will do better in caging my rage. I’m learning – now more then ever – that it’s essential to cut something off if it’s triggering you. Doesn’t matter if it’s an old friend from college, a former co-worker or an ex boyfriend. If they trigger you, remove them. It’s a waste of your energy to spend any time on someone who isn’t bothering with you.

Pursue more poetry

With starting this blog and my Instagram account, I’ve discovered so many inspiring poets who bravely discuss mental health in their poems. From R.M Drake to Becca Lee and Alison Malee –  I’m falling hard. Starting this month, I’ve made the decision to start supporting their writing more than just reposting on my account. I want to buy their volumes and review them on the blog. There’s a wisdom in words, and sometimes it’s so very healing to read someone baring their soul in order to connect within a community.

Master the art of networking

This month, San Diego will be overrun by the magic that is Comic Con. I’ve gone every year for about six years and I must say – it’s fantastic. This year, I *hopefully* will be attending for a day and my goal is to try and network while I’m walking the floor.

I’m on a mission to meet other folks who are just as passionate about mental health as I am! There are limitless opportunities, I just have to get out there and find them. Whether it’s researching community groups, events or conferences that are going on in my area or just handing a potential person my business card – I will master the art of networking.

Learn to let go

Throughout my breakup, I’ve tried to control when I’ll feel a certain emotion or the exact moment I’ll move onto the next stage. While I’m currently in the anger phase, it’s pretty unknown as to when I’ll transition into a more accepting space – and that’s okay. 

With my anxiety, I always have to control. Triggers pop up when I don’t know the outcome or when the path ahead is blurred, but the more I maintain that grasp, the less I actually experience life. It’s time to cut off the control – this world isn’t about knowing every step.

 

Those are my goals for this month. Your turn – what do you want to accomplish for July? Share a few of your goals in the comments below!

 

The Thing About Setbacks // A Lesson In Making Mistakes

This weekend has been a long one. Yes, it technically is a long weekend, but I’ve had a really hard time keeping my anger in check.

Every day this weekend, all I’ve done is snap at people, get defensive, and let any little thing trigger me. I ragged on my friends and had a quick temper at others – that’s not something I’m about and it’s not part of what I do on this blog. I’m letting my anger phase of my breakup overtake my emotions and it needs to stop. In order to confront your mistakes, someone usually has to call you out on your behavior. I’m thankful to have people like that in my life where – no matter what – they will tell me the reality and not sugar coat my anxiety. I was wrong and that’s okay. 

It takes a lot of strength to own up to your mistakes but that’s part of how we grow past them. Was I really defensive at first? You bet I was. It’s all part of anxiety – she’ll hold on as long as she can, whatever she has to do to stay #1 priority in my mind. But, once I paused, meditated with my Simple Habit app, and had myself a good cry, I realized that I made a mistake. Guess what? I’m still good enough. Making mistakes is all part of life and it’s part of living with mental illness. We don’t always get it right the first time around – come to think of it, I usually never get it right the first time – but that’s how we learn to adapt and practice new coping skills in the future. Sometimes you have to experience a setback in order to be better.

Now, I know this is incredibly hard to do, believe me. I didn’t always used to be this person that could have an argument or be called out on my attitude and be open to it. But since therapy, I’ve changed. Even my therapist has told me that one of the things she loves about me is that I’m able to look at a comment I’ve been told about myself and be open to changing it. I’ll admit, you’re right, I do need to work on that. There are plenty of people who cannot utter those words, but there are also many that can. We are capable of seeing our weaknesses and learning from them – we are strong enough.

I have a lot of anger inside of me from my breakup and while anger is an emotion I’m not used to, it’s not an excuse for the behavior I’ve had all weekend. If I use my own anxiety as a crutch for my attitude, how will I grow? I won’t, that’s what. This journey with anxiety is going to be paved with several obstacles and setbacks, it’s all in how I pick myself up and learn from them.

Reflect, don’t react. 

That’s a new mantra I’ve come up with for handling this anger that’s arrived in my life. Instead of completely reacting – whether it’s through defensiveness or anger – I need to learn to stop and ask myself why I’m so upset. Is my anger directed at the right situation or person? If it’s not, that means it’s time to do a deeper dive into this emotion and why I’m feeling it to begin with.

When we do what is right, it’s never easy. This path is not easy. It’s confusing, sad, happy, overwhelming, scary, content, and all other range of feelings. I’m a person and I’m hurting, but that doesn’t mean I have a free pass to vomit my attitude and anger all over everyone else. I see this setback and I raise it with reflection, resilience, and a response of: I will do better. 

 

 

Have you made a setback or mistake in your mental health? Share your story in the comments below! 

It’s Okay To Be Angry // The Power of Being Pissed

This past week, I’ve been angry. Like really pissed. After attending therapy last week, it became clear to my therapist – and myself – that I’ve moved on from the sad to mad phase of my breakup.

It all started with a bad day at work. What began as feeling disrespected by someone in the workplace transformed into a larger anger that had been sparking inside. When I told my therapist about the disrespect, we discovered that my anxiety and anger seem to be triggered by feeling disrespected.

I didn’t just feel disrespected by my coworker. Those feelings morphed into the repressed emotions I was feeling about my breakup. I feel disrespected by what happened. I feel my time, my mental illness, and my support was disrespected and guess what? My feelings are valid. I’m allowed to be angry. 

Anger is a healthy emotion. It’s a basic, important reaction that we’re all allowed to feel. It’s how we handle the reaction to an anger trigger is what counts.

Just as emotions like fear and sadness have something to teach you, so does anger. In order to get to the acceptance phase of a breakup, you must journey through your rage.

Anger deserves appreciation. Read below on how I’m learning to navigate my own anger:

 

Write It Down

With help from an insightful article over at Writing Through Life, I’ve found it’s often difficult to write when you’re in the middle of anger, so it’s worth it to reflect after you have a minute to sit still. While you’re feeling the emotion, put pen to paper. Express your anger; jot down every negative thought, wish, and destructive impulse.

My therapist suggested getting a separate anger journal, one that I can just wreck. I have a therapy journal where I write about notes for my sessions and keep my handouts. An anger journal is completely for vomiting my anger on the page. Scribble, stab, doodle, write on the paper. However you need to get it out, do it. No one is going to see what you write, it’s okay. You can always throw it out or shred it afterwards.

 

Ask Questions

Don’t ignore your frustrations – have a conversation with them. Ask why it exists and what action you can take to feel more at peace with your situation. Writing Through Life has some great questions to start with:

What are you angry about?

What happened to hurt you? 

What does your anger tell you about your life? 

What does it tell you about yourself? 

 

Feel It Out

Getting mad doesn’t make you a bad person. Not always being in a “positive” mood doesn’t discount the work you’ve done with your mental illness or mean you’re not doing well. This idea that we constantly have to stay in a positive mood is just not reality. With mental illness, a wide – and overwhelming – array of emotions can pile on top of us in a moment’s notice. We shouldn’t have to repress those emotions that are necessary to feel because society tells us it’s not okay to be angry.

Need a little physical action? Whether you have to punch a pillow or sob while your dog licks your tears, let yourself feel. Let yourself be. 

Own Your Anger

Anger has always been seen as an emotion we shouldn’t express, but is it bad? That’s what we’ve been taught. We deny and repress, but honestly, acknowledging your anger can help you to understand that it’s a protective mechanism and a natural defense against pain.

If you learn to cope with anger rather than repressing, you can potentially unlock the key to truly discovering what the soul needs. The only way we can progress and move forward is by taking personal responsibility for that anger and listening to what drives that emotion.

 

Being angry is an uncomfortable emotion to sit with day in and day out, but I must. The only way to truly grow is to meet emotions that we wouldn’t normally have a conversation with.

You have the power to choose what you want to do with your rage, ditch the destructiveness and make peace with being pissed.

 

 

How do you accept your rage? Share your experience with anger in the comments below. 

Handling Heartbreak With Anxiety

Recently, I wrote an article for Inpathy Bulletin about dealing with a breakup with anxiety, and it made me realize that I haven’t dedicated a post to handling heartbreak. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to distance myself from the more intense emotion and pain that comes directly after a breakup, I feel comfortable talking about it in depth.

Although it’s become clear by now, a few weeks ago my ex boyfriend broke up with me. The reasons were scattered, but in the end it came down to this: he just couldn’t come with me. By this, I mean he wasn’t the right match to go down the same road I’m on in my own mental health journey. While that’s hard to accept, it’s something I must. Like myself, he has issues and they just became too much to handle, so it was time to part ways.

Most people think breakups are the stuff of sad songs and romantic comedies, but in reality it’s a visceral and sometimes even suffocating pain to end a relationship in which you’ve most likely invested all of your emotional energy. Cue anxiety, depression, and other mental illness and it can be almost impossible to breathe.

Healing a broken heart is difficult for anyone, but for those of us who are constantly battling mental illness, it can cause us to question our self worth or even trigger. While this is not my first breakup, each one comes with its very own set of memories, which in the beginning, can be painful to relive. Even though I did not feel like anything was my fault during the breakup, it can be easy for anxiety to latch onto such a traumatic event and start to poke at your self worth with thoughts of whether this is your fault or you could have done something differently: maybe he/she would have stayed if….

Stop that thought process before it turns into a spiral. As someone who is hyper sensitive, I see you and feel that pain wholeheartedly. Fear the stress of this breakup could lead to a breakdown? Here are some tips I’ve learned while navigating my heartbreak.

Take Care of Yourself

Healing always starts with self care. No matter the form of loss, you must nurture your emotions and heart. Whether that means going to bed early, taking a day off to lounge on the couch, of reading your favorite book for the 20th time, do what you need to do to soothe your mind, body, and soul.

While you used to have someone to take care of you all the time, now you don’t. That person is gone but it doesn’t mean you stop the care. You are always first priority, relationship or not.

Feel It Out

If you want to cry, cry. If you feel like screaming, whip out a pillow and do the damage. Feeling relieved, or even happy? Don’t bottle those emotions up. Meet them, don’t feel guilty for having happy moments – it doesn’t diminish the time you had together. 

It’s okay to not be okay, which is something we hear a lot in this community. More recently, I’ve learned that it’s also okay to be angry. Anger is an emotion I’ve always had trouble with, so it’s important to feel all the range of emotions. It will help you move on in a healthy way.

Learn to Let Go

Change is a bitch. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to shake her. Grieving is random, it comes in waves but you have to learn to let it go. We struggle to accept loss. We constantly fight reality and avoid the truth of the situation: they aren’t a part of our lives anymore. Try not to dwell on what could have been, or if you should have done something differently because in the end, it happened how it happened. You can’t control it. If you find yourself spiraling and ruminating, write it down. Battle with reality.

Protect Your Emotions

While we have to let our emotions, I truly believe that it’s important to protect those hyper sensitive souls from trivial things that will only cause suffering. A good example is social media. In the aftermath of a breakup, social media is toxic. It’s a space where – in a way – you can still be in each other’s lives without actually speaking. If it’s too triggering to see your ex over social media, unfollow. Unfriend. Block. Whatever you need to do, do it so you can be in a safe space and move forward.

Little things will hurt the most. Although I’ve been in a much better place lately, something small crept up on me and brought me to tears. I was lugging something gigantic up the stairs to my studio and while my neighbor was coming down, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “you dropped this.” I looked down and the keychain my ex boyfriend got me had broken off my keyring. While it’s trivial, it still really hurts. It’s a memory. Even though it’s a sweet one, it’s painful right now. I let myself feel the sadness, and afterwards I realized it was a sign. It needed to go. Time to shed that memory in order to create new ones.

Lean On Your People

Although you must deal with grief and loss at your own pace – there is no set timeline for moving on – there are plenty of people who understand what you’re going through. Let them help. Yes, you must deal with this emotionally on your own, but support is healthy too. In the first few days after my breakup, I had an outpouring of support from close friends and family. Sometimes it can be unexpected, but it can help ease anxiety to know you have a support system who is on your side – no matter what you’re feeling.

 

I will leave you with this quote from Becca Lee, an inspiring poet who beautifully states the true purpose of pain:

“So often we associate pain with darkness because that is how it tends to feel – all-encompassing, overwhelming and never-ending. But pain is not sent into our lives to drown us; pain illuminates the parts of us that need our attention and it makes us acutely aware of the parts that are broken, hurt and sore. Not so that we may suffer, but so we may heal and grow. So that we may give our wounds the love, care and treatment they so desperately need and deserve. Pain shows us where we do not want to be. It holds up the parts of our lives that are not aligned with our spirit and soul and creates discomfort so as to bring about the desire to change. Our pain moves us towards the light, towards who we truly are – but only if we are brave enough to look beyond the darkness and allow it to do so.”

The aftermath of heartbreak is intense. That pain is real. The sorrow is real. Your anxiety invading your mind, telling you you aren’t good enough or how you could have done better, is not. Breathe, and remember these feelings won’t break you – they can only make you stronger. Move towards the light, towards who you truly are. 

Everyday, I get closer and closer to my true self. If you’re suffering from a broken heart, I hope you realize it’s not your fault, and that real change can come from this. Be patient with yourself – grow from the pain. 

 

 

How do you handle heartbreak with anxiety? Share your tips or stories! 

Post Therapy Thoughts

Settling onto the couch, I felt myself breath a sigh of relief. Every two weeks, I get roughly an hour of this safe space. A net to fall into, a shoulder to cry on, and a sanctuary to study my every mental health movement.

This week, I went in with newly found motivation and happiness that I didn’t think I would have this early on from a breakup. From our talk, my therapist discussed two different, equally crucial, topics: finding your anger and recognizing your worth, purpose. 

Finding My Anger

We came upon this subject when I told my therapist a story about a bad day I had last week. More like the worst day. I had some issues at work where I felt disrespected, and that triggered me. Once the work day was over, I did the exact thing I need to learn to break. Instead of listening to myself, I sought validation and advice from others.

This can be a toxic activity, especially for anxiety. Already pissed off, my anxiety would be more triggered by whatever the person said. Normally, people have differing opinions and life views, so they don’t ever really say what you want them to. I knew the answer, yet I didn’t consult myself.

I got into fight after fight with my mom, then dad and it resulted in a full fledged anxiety attack – which I caused. To this event, my therapist gave me a new solution: write it down. Before I pick up the phone and call anyone, write the reality down. After that, I may not need anyone’s advice because I have my own.

Although it may not seem like a quick fix because I’m not used to knowing what to say to myself, this is how I practice.

Along with this, I learned that my anger is triggered by feeling disrespected. I found that it was more intense because of feelings associated with my breakup. I felt disrespected. With some distance from the emotion of the actual breakup, I realized that I saw more of the reality of the relationship and guess what? I’m kinda pissed. And that’s okay. 

Growing up, and even before I started therapy, I never had much of a voice. I let others speak for me and didn’t stand my ground. Little by little, I’ve become more connected with my voice and with that comes anger. It’s a learning experience, but I’m on my way to expressing anger in a healthy way.

Recognizing My Worth, Purpose 

The second part of my session was me explaining to my therapist how overwhelming it has been to have such amazing people reach out to me – whether through this blog or my Instagram account – and tell me that my words have had a serious positive, emotional affect on them. I heal myself, while healing others. 

It was then that I started to cry and my therapist said the most touching thing:

“Breathe it in.”

Almost like a yoga chant it was so calming, she taught me right then and there that while this is emotional, it’s all part of my path. She continued to say:

“We’re all here for reasons. Sometimes the darkest pain is felt so we can be encouragers.”

We feel so deeply in order to encourage others to confront that same emotion. I’ve come so far, and I’m beginning to realize that I’m finding my new purpose and passion in this blog. I love doing it and I appreciate everyone that reads, supports, or reaches out.

My therapist ended with a new mantra that I will be repeating to myself:

I deserve to be loved and respected. 

Whenever you’re feeling unworthy, or that you aren’t good enough, say that to yourself. You are worthy – always.

 

 

Has therapy helped you? Share your story in the comments below!