Sunday, August 9, 2015

4 Ways I Manage My Emotional Pain

"We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are." -Anaïs Nin

For a long time, now, I've struggled in blogging for the simple fact that I've felt comfortable neither writing about certain things nor writing around them. Let's just say there's an elephant or two in the room, and--having always been a wide-open sort--I've been at a bit of a loss. For the record, I don't think this is a bad thing, necessarily; in fact, one thing I've learned about myself is that I've failed most all my life in establishing appropriate boundaries with others. I've been entirely too willing to share my innermost thoughts and the intimate details of my life.

Some truths should be least until the day a person feels (s)he can express them properly...and deal with any and all consequences of her sharing. I feel sure that someday I will tell my story, but now isn't the time, and here isn't the place.

In the meantime, though, I want to share that 1) I'm very focused, these days, on managing my emotional pain, and 2) I'm experiencing some success. It's a little humbling to admit that, at forty-one, I'm just starting to understand and control some of what ails, but at the same time, I know I've been blessed to spend time with a counselor and in research. Period. (Even if I am in the hot center of my life.)

If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally, please receive the following as what it is: my sharing some of what is working for me in hopes that my hurt won't be wasted.

  • I started taking krill oil. I've never taken prescription medication to help with my emotional pain, so I can't really speak to its effectiveness. I read awhile back, though, that there are studies indicating that fish oil can be as effective for mood stabilization as lithium. Someone close to me advised my buying krill oil over fish oil since krill oil tends to be easier on the digestive system. I talked to a pharmacist about all of it before buying krill oil over the counter. Since I've been taking it, I feel much less weepy and yell-y. At this point, I have my daughters on chewable cod liver oil, too, with the support of our physician assistant. We still have drama, but I'd say it's been cut in half. At least.
  • I started practicing distress tolerance (especially self-soothing) as necessary. When I get really emotionally disregulated (i.e., when I'm having what you might call a panic attack), I don't feel as though I have any control over my emotions. I feel swept away by them. It's as though I'm in over my head and drowning in the middle of the ocean. I've learned, though, that I can ground myself to a certain extent by concentrating on touch. I got through a reading at my grandma's funeral by holding a pressed penny and rubbing my thumb against it. Somehow, rubbing the penny helped ground me in the moment. I am not being swept away. I am standing here on my own two feet.
  • I started reciting Psalm 23 in my mind as necessary. When I'm really out of whack, I don't feel like I can pray any sort of coherent prayer...not that God requires coherency, of course, and I've certainly prayed my share of: "Help." But I've memorized Psalm 23 to the point that I can recite it easily until I've calmed down and can more easily pray.
  • I started having conversations with myself. When I'm in the middle of a full-blown panic attack, these are very limited, but there was a time when I didn't think they were possible at all. I'm learning to ask myself one question, which is: When do you remember feeling this way, before? That question helps more than any other because I can't as easily identify the reason for current emotions as I can identify the reason for past emotions (having had time to process through the past). So, for example, whenever Jim calls "time-out" and I experience panic, I think back to a time from my childhood when I felt the same way and tell myself: That was then, and this is now. They were not Jim. 

    I was feeling really angry the other day (needy, desperate, restless, unsatisfied, angsty, hopeless), but when I tried to explain how I felt to Jim, the best I could come up with was lonely. "If you're lonely," he said, "I don't understand why you're watching tv upstairs by yourself." I didn't know how to respond; I mean, he was right! But when I asked myself, later: When do you remember feeling this way, before?, I zeroed in on the experience of rushing to my aunt's house during lunch break in anticipation of a letter that hadn't arrived. I was nineteen, but the feeling was the same and tied (as much of my emotional disregulation is) to abandonment. Okay, I said to myself, why are you feeling abandoned? And duh: my best friend had flown home a few days before, and I hadn't seen Cade, who was on vacation with his dad, for about eight days. As soon as I understood why I'd been feeling how I'd been feeling, I felt better and (Bonus!) knew the answer to Jim's question: I'd been watching tv in an effort to lose myself in a story other than my own.
This is just scratching the surface of the mirror through which I see and understand myself. I hope, by sharing a little bit of my journey, I'm able to help someone else. It's so frustrating to find oneself in a place of emotional pain without understanding its source, knowing what to do about it, or having the words to describe it. If you're in this place, please feel free to e-mail me ( any time. Know I'm praying for you. And if you're the praying sort, please pray for me, too.


  1. There is so much good advice in this post. I'm hoping to suggest something you mentioned to a friend who's struggling.

  2. These are really helpful and I think I'm going to try some, if not all, of them to help with dealing with my big emotions. I will certainly be praying for you. Thank you for sharing this and for trusting us with pieces of your story.

  3. I can relate to all and every word you have penned here Brandee and like you give waaaay too much of myself without even considering the effects it may have on me! And again, like you I've been fortunate enough to get help in the form of counselling over the years and this has helped me to recognise that I have to make changes to protect my heart and mind from myself (I can be my own worst enemy!) Know that you are daily in my thoughts and prayers, my friend xo