Minding Your Own Emotional Business

I was going through something, and I remember stopping and thinking, “mind your own emotional business.” By the time your mind is dropping intellectual bombs on you randomly, even it’s tired of your bullshit.

So here, I am going to explore the idea further. Hopefully, we will come out of this quarantine with even a tiny improvement in our emotional health.

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If you’ve interacted with me during these times of COVID-19 and curfews, you know I am NOT qualified to speak on this from an “I am better than you” standpoint. So, don’t feel free to drop me a message about potential hypocrisy. Between the excessive drinking (WHO called it), questionable life choices, breakdowns, tears, and fights, it hit me I needed to get back to minding my own emotional business and running a tight ship.

Now, your issues don’t look like mine. If anything, you are probably more well put together. Logically, you’d wonder what this mess has to say to you. Well, let’s take a walk, shall we?

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I’ve learned A LOT during this journey with mental illness. You don’t have to have it, but there are universal truths we can explore. So here’s the five-step program I’m using to mind my emotional business.

Step 1: Can you address your denial, please?

If you ever think or even say out loud, “you made me feel-” to xyz, please. Stop. Just. Stop. Is the person in your neural pathways sparking off the chemicals producing the adverse reaction you’re having?

ARE THEY??!!!!

(I don’t know if that’s how it all works, and I can’t be bothered to research, but you get my point)

Nowadays I spot, address, flip, and expel any negative emotions toward another person quite fast. Are we good at this? No. But have I stopped sending people long messages and being passive-aggressive? Mostly. Have I known to love people from afar? Corona and quarantine are helping me perfect this art.

You can get upset, want to snatch someone’s weave, and ask yourself out loud, “Is this human being stupid?” What I’m talking about is the act itself of holding on to a negative emotion for longer than is necessary. Here is a cool infographic you can consider using when starting the process. Thanks for sharing Nyams!

Marc Brackett. PhD

In short, call yourself for as many meetings as you can until it’s out of your system. The focus shouldn’t be on how much someone triggered/ triggers us; it’s we who ought to deal with the emotions within us. So, please, let’s not delegate emotions and subject others to bad moods, short texts, and blue ticks. I am talking to you, Maureen Wambaire King`ori.

PS: Looking at the phone ring is quite alright. Consider taking a time out, especially when you’re not feeling alright emotionally. I am all for having close friends, family, and partners to help us through difficult emotions, but again, that’s a form of delegation. Ponder and calibrate, then when you get stuck, ask for guidance. Thanks, Doreen, for the lesson.

Step 2: READ.

Like, yo. Why do I have to say this, and it’s 2020??

You know what, open an incognito tab. Search what brings about people pleasing, why you have a hard time saying no, why you feel a coldness towards your parents, why you hate your job- you get the point. There’s a ton of information online written by professionals who will shed light on the inner workings of your subconscious mind where all the murk is hidden.

The reason I’m insisting on this is because demons come out to play. You can dress it up, money it up, success it up, but your demons always show. Slay them one at a time, and release yourself (and us) from it. I’ve hurt and pushed away people I loved and vice versa. If I’d started the inner work much sooner, life would be a lot different.

Step 3. ASK. FOR. HELP.

I can’t credit everything to my “seeing the light” and starting the journey. God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, my mother, Doreen and Portia (my dear, dear friends) where all part of it. Other friends too- don’t come catching for me, please. So were an uncle and aunt who are like my guardian angels because they came through when I needed the most support. And I’ll finish this salamuz segment with acknowledging the mental health professionals who’ve been with me along the way too.

Step 4. Take care of your body

I breath heavy these days. That ish is NOT sexy. I sound like I ran a marathon. And what is diet? This is good advice; I’ll take it for myself too. Maybe I can make it through a Sun Salutation A today without collapsing. Gee!

Step 5. Accept it’s a lifelong commitment

You’ll be dealing with your emotions till death.

Pause, go back one line, reread.

Yea. So why not focus on minding that emotional business of yours? Like now?

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Life can be simple when you figure out how to manage emotions, especially those causing distress. I’m also realizing they are not who I am; if anything, they are getting in the way of the ME.

Cheers

To whom it may concern: Here’s what mood disorders are about.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health medical practitioner; therefore, kindly do not use this content for diagnostic purposes. It is strictly for informational purposes. I write as someone affected by a mood disorder, who’s done a ton of research, and a counseling psychology student.

Why I am writing this

If you have a mood disorder, feel free to share this with your peers. I came to realize that people still don’t get what mood disorders are. Reference points are13 Reasons Why and Netflix series with high school teens. The media tends to depict extremes; Joker and every disturbed character ever, all shows with a psychiatrist, a person on a sofa, and the question “how does that make you feel?”

I am writing this because the messaging I’ve been getting is that 1) I am overreacting. I should cheer up because I tick social boxes of basic needs, family, friends, and a job. 2) I am ungrateful. I ticked boxes, and on top of that, I have parents who foot my medical bills. So what am I complaining about? 3) I am moody for no reason. Well, it’s a mood disorder. It is an illness. We don’t tell a person with diabetes,  Down Syndrome, or asthma to chill out. Why do you ask me to do the same?

I am misunderstood and frustrated.

I’ll circle back to this at the end.

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What is a mood disorder?

So, here, I have to come through with a medical definition; this one is from Mayo Clinic of what a mood disorder is.

“A mental health disorder is characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.”

The thing about mood disorders is that several things cause them. It could be biological. If your mother/father has a mental illness, you’re likely to get it as well. It could also be having two schizophrenic siblings in one family because the genetic lottery was not kind. Here, you “inherit” the disorder. Otherwise, something could have gone wrong either as a result of injury or a mutation.

The other is psychological, and this one is loaded. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can all go under psychological causes because they ultimately affect your mind.

Physical abuse and neglect: If you’ve gotten a beat down at any one point of your life, then you can understand how that could bring lasting trauma. How do you even trust a world when, in your early years, you were shown that security and love is a rumor? With stress hormones on overdrive 24/7, how do you even function? And with this one, it’s inter-generational. It’s how you still hear women saying, “I deserved to get hit” in this feminist age and men being silent about physical abuse because “are you man enough?”

The other aspect is physical neglect- where you grew up with nothing. That could be as a result of poverty or just parents who, among different ways to show you they didn’t want you, didn’t give you much. You’ll have a delayed ability to learn, and poor social skills and emotional health, and in some cases, issues such as severe dissociative states. The baseline is that physical abuse and neglect stunt the brain. And then you expect this person to function well in society. Well! Next time that tout with second-grade education from the village who was born out of wedlock talks shit to you, take a chill pill. They are not okay.

Emotional abuse and neglect: Emotional abuse is prevalent. About 40 percent of people on the average report having experienced expressive aggression or some form of coercive control. And surely, there are some people saying, “It hardened us.” That is not being hardened. That is emotional trauma, and you’d rather be cold and angry instead of facing your childhood pain. So please, miss me with that. We have a lot of angry people on this planet, and if I was to guess, it has to do with psychological abuse they’ve experienced in the hands of their guardians, relatives, teachers, and peers. So how does this not mess you up?

Another form of psychological abuse that exists is emotional neglect. This one is hard to show because you don’t have the typical “my mother called me” and “my dad did.” In this type of neglect, nothing happened. That is a huge problem. What are the long term effects? Your self-esteem and emotional health are damaged. You grow up feeling empty, and you’re unable to handle your emotions. Words are powerful. Silence is deafening and destructive.

Think of it this way. When you’re in a fight with someone, and then they go quiet, what does that signal to you? Think of all the agonizing thoughts you experience during that time. Now, as a child, when you have parents that emotionally neglect you, it signals to you that, as a human being, you don’t matter. It also says that your emotions don’t matter. Now send that child out into the world.

(This phone generation: be hella careful what you’re teaching your children.)

Sexual abuse: A messed up fact that I came across was that if you were sexually abused as a child, there is a 60+ percent chance of re-victimization. What happened to you as a child is not enough; you’re also likely to get raped when you’re older.

That one pained me on a personal level. But the math made sense. Unless you go for therapy, you tend to downplay dangerous situations as compared to other people. Maybe next time you’ll have more compassion for that chick hanging out questionable characters? The global stats are that 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in their lifetime. She could be that one in the three, dear. Be kind.

What are all these a recipe for?

Say your grandpa has diabetes, your dad does as well. The odds are that you too, will get it. However, that doesn’t have to be the case with early intervention. And that’s the thing people need to understand. If your child has been through something traumatic, take them to therapy. ASAP.

Now, let’s assume you do nothing and boom, you have diabetes. That’s the same with mental illness. If you have a predisposition to get it, and the environment is “right,” you’ll suffer from it. For others, you’re born with it; you could have the rosiest of upbringings and still have a mood disorder.

Now, here’s where things just get murky. Research after research suggests that the factors I’ve talked about cause changes in the brain function, and also specific neural circuits in the brain get altered. Case in point; neural circuits for the ordinary person have no issues producing happy hormones. The rest of us, we need medication to rewire those neural circuits to even think life has the potential to be a happy place.

So the brain circuitry is off. Manifestation of the same is changes in appetite, sleep, concentration, energy levels, daily routine, mood and even self-esteem. There will be physical and behavioral symptoms. The results? The DMS5 has a full list of mood disorders that you can check out.

Bottom line: There is no singular cause of mood disorders. It’s a combination of a couple of things that scientists are still working to figure out.

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Frustrated and misunderstood.

If you’re in this space, here are some things that might help you through. They have for me.

  1. You didn’t ask for this. Don’t let your mood disorder be a millstone around your neck that drowns you with guilt and shame.
  2. If they haven’t been through it, they won’t get it. It’s not their fault. It just means you need to either find your tribe or make peace. It doesn’t also mean you have to isolate yourself either.
  3. Get help where you can. As long as it helps you heal your childhood trauma and cope, go for it.
  4. Don’t let anyone tell you how your wins should look like. Did you get out of bed? Celebrate! Did you survive a social function? Yay! Did you say no to booze this one time? By the way, you’re doing well. Only you know your struggles intimately and can see when you’re improving. Don’t let others make recovery markers for you.
  5. A LOT of your pain resides in childhood. If you continue to ignore that by the way, you’re not going anywhere. Denial can only take you through life for so long. Face and heal that part of your life.
  6. READ. READ. READ. LIKE DAMN IT! READ! You have information at literally your fingertips. Google imposter syndrome, depression, constant butterflies in my stomach. If it’s too much, incognito is your friend. Search “why I hate my parents so much?” or “why do I date bitches or assholes” and “why do I always think about sex?” Ignorance about our ways in this time and age is almost offensive.
  7. Self-awareness and moral courage; these are the two pillars you need. Always.

Take away

Next time you’re tempted to tell a friend who’s told you they have a mood disorder to cheer up, google on appropriate ways to support them. Otherwise, silence is also a plan, but understanding would be better.

Here’s why; they haven’t killed themselves. You guy, they have tried. THEY. HAVE. TRIED.

Cheers.

Letter to the depressed self: Believing that you’re still loved

I’d open with scripture but even we Christians have to admit that side-eyes all around are sometimes the order of the day when things are rough.

Something I am learning about living with depression is that it’s something you manage, especially when chemical imbalance is at play. When I say manage it means becoming familiar with it to the point that you know how to help yourself or get help when you feel things are getting out of hand. Michelle Williams has a new show Chad loves Michelle where, in the first episode, she talked about checking herself into a facility after a bout of depression and taking meds to manage it.

Full disclosure: I found me a therapist after I saw that I couldn’t handle my internal battles alone. And even after that, I had three episodes of near suicide that thankfully I had another voice urging me to ask for help from friends. If you’ve been here or are going through this, let it be enough to know that you’re not alone and that you can soldier on, despite how crappy things look. 

Just watching how Michelle’s depression is affecting her relationship (and Chad’s frustration), I could see a lot of my life too. Among other things she talked about her room being her safe space because she wasn’t able to feel safe anywhere else, especially to be honest about her feelings. When I was watching I was all around saying “YEP!” because that’s something I can attest to.

If you followed my blog before you can possibly tell that I was, to a degree, censoring certain aspects of my life. It wasn’t intentional. I just didn’t feel safe. And I still don’t. Something that has been a constant in all my relationship is my inability to find a safe space to open up. While I had due reason to be skeptical about the space provided- I have dated some guys with the emotional capacity of a white wall- I still think that even when a fantastic guy is to roll up (like the one in the vicinity), I could still keep my walls up.

And that’s the thing about depression.

Even the most amazing things feel threatening. If you’re in a relationship with someone and they say stuff like “I am not good enough for you” or “I will hurt you, just go find someone else” I am not expecting you to stay and understand. Sometimes it’s not your portion to be a doctor and love someone to health. Leave that to people whose natural disposition has them loving someone back to health. I’m saying that so that you never feel bad about leaving someone who was difficult to love especially if you now have the awareness that depression was the cause.

I guess this post is for the person who’s depressed and has if they dared even hope it was true, love around them. That could be a spouse, friend or family. I’m realizing retreating when you’re super depressed is easy when wondering why you’re alive in the first place. But even when (as a family friend put it) you’re looking at the bottom side of the bottomless pit, choose courage to believe that you’re loved.

That’s my pompom word for you today. Choose to believe that the essence of you is worthy of love. If you’re finding that hard, then consider this; you can’t possibly be surrounded by morons who choose to love you as you are!

Choose courage.

 

Cheers.