I had a period of 2 days recently where I entered into what I call "emotional survival mode." It can look different to different people, but in this instance, I had tons of pain pop up out of nowhere, insecurities threw themselves towards me in bunches, and I was left scrambling to defend myself.
I processed through it using a few different tools.
One, I just sat in the pain - no fixing allowed. I allowed myself to feel each emotion as it came up, and just sat in that for a bit.
It's so easy - especially as men - to be a fix-it mechanic, desperately grasping for a solution as soon as a problem appears. But that solution is more than likely only temporary.
The next thing I did was let my close friends in on my process. I shared my pain and process with them, and let them listen to me and love me.
A friend offered some counsel specific to the situation - I took action on the advice, and did the homework.
Another practical tool is my journal. It's the best way I've found for getting clarity on what's going on in my head or heart. I write down everything that comes to my mind with brutal honesty - if I'd let me Mom read my journal, I know I'm not being honest enough!
That's how I got through that mess. Another mess, another pocket of pain is going to hit me again, but knowing how to practically get through the pain is priceless.
I don't have all the answers here. I don't like to pretend like I have it all together. That's the danger of social media. But I want to tell you something you already knew: social media isn't reality.
People can seem to have perfect lives on the outside, but if you get to really know them, you may find that they are dying inside.
You never know what someone is going through based on their social media accounts. The two recent high profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain show this. The lives of these two celebrated individuals looked almost perfect from the outside... but they were dying on the inside.
Never assume you know what someone is going through.
Here are some tips for navigating if you feel like you’re in the hell of an emotional war zone
1. Don't rush out of survival mode
It's okay to be in survival mode. Sometimes we have seasons of it where we feel completely incapacitated, and the only thing we can do is survive day to day.
Survival mode is completely fine - and sometimes it's just what we need. We get clarity to focus on what's important again. Allowing ourselves to be beautifully broken, messy, and helpless can force us to rely on our community - which is the best thing that could ever happen to anyone.
Short seasons of survival are okay. If it turns into a lifestyle though, that's not okay.
2. Have compassion on yourself
In our desperation to fix the pain, and to get out of survival mode, we often forget that we are only human, we're not invincible, and that we need to give ourselves compassion.
If it hurts, allow yourself to feel that pain, and also allow yourself to feel the pain of being in pain, of being in survival mode. What you're going through sucks - don't try to brush it off and keep running. Give compassion to your heart.
You need that compassion more than you know! Your heart deserves to be seen and heard, not locked in the trunk of your car.
3. Be vulnerable - please!! - with people who know and love you
Isolation is the greatest lie in the world. It says, "People will reject me if I show them who I truly am." That's bullshit. Sure, rejection may happen - but you have good people in your life that you can run to, they'll embrace you. To love is to be vulnerable.
We must be strong enough to risk for love. Vulnerability is the doorway to that love.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
- C.S. Lewis
4. Don't run from the pain.
Once again, we make the mistake - with our human nature - to try to avoid any and all pain. But pain is the pathway to healing and beauty and life.
Trying to escape it all our lives is sure to yield more of it. No pain today means a lot of pain tomorrow. Processing through pain will always be a part of life - why not learn how to do it the right way?
You'll be okay. I'll be okay. Let's make the world a better place - it's okay to not be okay.