Bounce Back

A few weeks ago, I was explaining to a frustrated friend about how healing is not linear. She was distraught because she felt as if she was having another breakdown.

I, too, have felt that way this week. I found myself crying after a week plus of not having cried once.

Oh, shit. I’m moving backwards. All that progress is lost.

I had to remind myself of what I told that friend.

“The most important thing,” I said, “Is the bounce back period. How quickly can you pick yourself back up after you break down?” It’s unrealistic to expect that we will stop being upset by something that shook us so deeply. But, what’s more important is, how long after experiencing the strong emotions are we able to return to our normal life.

Almost a month ago, well, it took me about a week to “get back to normal.” I had no routine, because I resisted one.

I’m too distraught. I can’t simply do anything. Not when I’m this upset. 

All I could do was pace, and curl up in my bed, and cry hysterically, and call a friend, and then try to eat. And worry. A lot.

That was three weeks ago. And I got it back together because I tried. I started small in putting the pieces back together.

This morning, I became very upset and sobbed to my friend on the phone. “I’m so overwhelmed!” But then I was able to get off the phone with her and do the things I needed to do. A week or more ago, it would have taken me two or more hours to pull it back together.

I’m bouncing back faster. And that’s how I know I’m healing.



I have been feeling my emotions so intensely lately.  The anxiety gathers in the area where my body holds the most tension- where my neck meets my shoulders. Once I get up and start to move around, it is slowly able to release. But, when it releases, I feel it in my whole body.  This happens most often first thing in the morning.

My legs begin to tremble, and I doubt my ability to stand. And then an intense tingle rises up through my body, until it finally hits my head. It comes up so strongly and so violently that I feel as if something bad is happening to my body- like I might pass out, or vomit, or have a seizure, or, who even knows.

But then it hits my eyes, and I’m able to cry. Not just a few tears, but a full-on, hysterical sob. The above painting, acrylic on canvas board, is a visualization of what this rush of emotion feels like. I call it “Geyser,” because that’s how violently it happens- like a geyser or a volcano.

I hate feeling this way, but at the same time, it’s nice to know that I can release all of the built up anxiety through my tears. I’m hoping that my art can eventually take that place, however.

The Feedback Loop

When I was in the worst month of my anxiety, my brain and body were in a giant, unceasing feedback loop. My body, being over-activated because of heightened medication levels, was communicating to me that I was in danger. My heart was racing, my body was tense, my jaw was clenched. The symptoms, to my mind, were signaling a flight or fight response. My body was acting like it was in danger. So, it makes sense that my brain followed, searching for things to defend me from. Which was pretty much everything.

That plane overhead? It’s going to come crashing down.

I’m going to get into a car accident on the way home from work.

That food I ate for lunch? It’s going to make me sick.

That thing I said yesterday? So and so is going to be mad at me because of it.

In cognitive behavioral therapy, it’s actually a triangle- your thoughts impact your feelings impact your behaviors impact your thoughts, and so on. But here, I just want to focus on thoughts and feelings, and how they feed each other. This is something I’ve only recently began to observe and understand.

I had just favored a psychotherapy approach rather than a cognitive behavioral way of thinking. I was always fascinated with the idea that things from one’s past could lurk in one’s subconscious and impact their actions and behaviors without them knowing. I figured that my current anxieties were based on previous traumas. And they are. But, the thing is, all you can really do with that approach is to develop mindfulness of how these traumas impact your daily life, so as to notice and minimize their impact. In grad school, we used to talk about the “corrective emotional experience.” I used to picture some magical, cathartic “aha!” moment, where the wound stopped hurting and never hurt again.  Through my own therapy, I learned that this doesn’t happen.

What happens is that you gain an awareness for the issue and it’s triggers, as well as an acceptance for the way it makes you feel, which does help it to hurt less. From there, you learn how to take care of yourself when you are feeling that way.

So now, I’m finding that, because my anxiety is less in my body, it is less in my mind. However, there is still work to do. Now, my body isn’t feeding my thoughts, but my thoughts are still feeding my body. It’s easier to be cognizant of how this is happening, now that it is coming more from one side and not so much from both.

For example, when I feel my body tense up as I’m lying in bed early in the morning, I now recognize that it is related to my concerns over the day. Will I be anxious today? Will I complete all the tasks that I have ahead of me?

As I work through my CBT workbook, Mind Over Mood, I hope to improve this.

On Feeling Your Feelings

photo credit: Sit and watch via photopin (license)
photo credit: Sit and watch via photopin (license)

One of the most important things that we can learn is how to sit and be present with our emotions. That, if we take the time to experience them fully, and locate where they live in our body, not only will they not hurt us, but they will go away.

Our feelings are begging to be felt- not ignored. If we ignore the uncomfortable ones, they’ll keep intensifying, nagging at us to get our attention, until finally they’ll begin find a home in our body where they’ll cause us physical pain and discomfort rather than emotional pain and discomfort.