Sometimes it’s necessary to STOP. To slow down, breathe deeply, and calm the thoughts of the irrational mind. Sometimes it’s necessary to let it all out in a dirge of feelings, a beautiful cathartic release, the nature of which varies from person to person. Sometimes it’s a requirement of a high-functioning individual to do a little of both- some unthinking, soothing breathing, and some hashing out of the details, putting it all on the line. Either way, you’re taking a step back from the usual coping mechanisms- the usual “keep calm and carry on” that serves as a necessary tool for social situations in which you find yourself about ready to bust a cap in a stranger’s… you get the point.

Catharsis is a beautiful thing. I never got very far when I would bottle up anger, sadness, and anxiety- ultimately, it all comes tumbling out unbidden. Cathartic release comes whether it’s called upon or not- there is a point when the human psyche simply cannot hold on any longer, and the dams of the mind break down to the flood of emotion inside. When I was at my sickest, this would culminate into a panic attack, an anxiety event that would capitulate my body onto the cold floor and my mind into whirring circles of darkness. Instead of being calm and pulled together, the persona I wished to present to the world, I was chaos embodied. It wasn’t a very balanced way to live, to say the least.

I’ve since found ways to let out the emotions clouding my much more well-nourished brain in a healthier way. This isn’t to say that I don’t sometimes break down in tears after a hard day or an argument- but somehow, I’m less afraid of feeling. I can employ healthier modes of cathartic release- whether it’s a normal-paced neighbourhood stroll, a yoga or meditation session, a dance class, a moment of writing without borders, or a moment to listen to a favorite song on repeat. These constitute not so much my distractions- because there is a point at which distraction can in fact hinder my recovery- but my ways of getting to the nitty-gritty of what I’m feeling, allowing myself to feel it, and moving on.

Honestly, it has taken hours of therapy to get to the point where I can say that I’m not afraid to feel. The automatic response that is triggered in me if I’m feeling something I don’t want to, like anxiety or (especially) anger, is to run away. Flight from feelings is an instinct I’m very familiar with, as is the channeling of anger or anxiety onto my own undeserving person. However, I’ve been having much better luck dealing with difficult situations through allowing myself to stay the course of an emotion. I was actually surprised to learn that a feeling doesn’t stick around forever- that working through something, in fact, makes it dissipate more quickly. Interesting how I’d long tricked myself into thinking that engaging in an emotion would result in it’s taking over like. I’ve found quite the opposite, like so many of the things I’ve learned about myself over the past year.

I’m no longer allowing myself to make the excuse that I don’t want to feel something, that I’d rather distract and replace- because working through things makes me stronger. I’m already stronger than I think- what might the future bring?

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