Wednesday Wisdom

I would like just to “share” with you a “coping” strategy I have only recently learned to utilize. I have a formal diagnosis of panic disorder – something which is not at all helped by the illnesses I have or the drugs used to treat them! At any rate, when I am faced with a stressful situation (I actually tend to focus well in times of “crisis” – I cannot say this in regard to EVERY CRISIS, but in general, I think the fact that I have HAD to deal with crisis after crisis with these illnesses has forced me to be able to jump up and land on my feet when some kind of “emergency” occurs), I tend to go into “panic mode,” often obsessing about the person involved or what I might have done wrong or whatever the case might be. I can spend days or even weeks in this “heightened” state – if I think I have unintentionally hurt someone I care about, I cry and cry and cry and I have crazy panic attacks until something shows me that I was really overreacting or the person I thought I had offended calls me and tells me all is well, &c. *Note: I fully realize there is a difference between “anxiety” and “panic.” I do plan on discussing the distinction between the two in YET ANOTHER post that will be up very soon!*

Lately, this “anxiety” has been presenting itself in a very sneaky way – I have had an issue with friends of mine who have come to trust an acquaintance of mine when I do not think said acquaintance is in any position to think clearly and is likely using these people for whatever she can get out of them. Of course, there is nothing I can say OPENLY about this situation to the people about whom I’m concerned – I can’t just go right out and say “THIS GIRL IS A NUT CASE! STAY AWAY FROM HER! CHANGE YOUR PHONE NUMBER! DON’T GO INTO HER HOUSE EVER AGAIN!* However, that is not really the way “adult” relationships work even with very close friends. I HAVE said things like “Please be careful,” “Person N has to learn to get herself together first,” “When I was in this person’s position, I didn’t trust even myself,” &c. &c. &c. I’m sure you get the idea. You have to present your “arguments” tactfully – not only because you don’t know the whole situation “Person N” is living through, but you don’t know if the person you’re trying to “protect” might be highly sensitive to such discussions, and you never know what a seemingly “volatile” person will do with anyone, really.

I was thinking last night – after I had a discussion with one of my good friends about this other person who apparently kind of “flipped out” “out of the blue” on her (I am not at all surprised.) I realized that there is a point in life at which you realize that that kind of behavior or even the words that were supposedly utilized (I will not write them here!) are childish and not going to get you anywhere – in fact, they will only give you MORE NOTHING! Even between close friends or best friends, you learn to hold back a little bit – you just don’t want to hurt the other person and you never REALLY know where even your closest friends have invisible “lines” drawn that cannot be crossed without incurring a severely negative reaction. There are times when I do lash out at people: HOWEVER, after I have reached that point of absolute MADNESS, I ALWAYS take time alone away from everyone and everything, think the situation over, and almost always go back and apologize to the other person at the very least for yelling and behaving poorly. This is just something I feel is a skill we develop as we “get older” – it very much exemplifies the difference between REACTING and RESPONDING; and in my case, the rectification of a bad REACTION by utilizing a THOUGHTFUL RESPONSE.

With all of THAT said, I just want to say that for me, the “stepping back” is absolutely crucial to the process of “making up” with friends and family. Even in “pleasant” conversations, one often needs not to lie all of his or her “cards” on the table, as it were. In times of high emotion, no matter WHAT emotion, it is always helpful to hold back a little bit and to keep particularly malicious thoughts to oneself. I AM NOT ADVOCATING IGNORING YOUR FEELINGS WHEN RESPONDING TO ANOTHER PERSON – NOT AT ALL! Do whatever you have to do to get through whatever it is that is bothering you – write, paint, bang a drum or a piano, go for a long walk or run, do something PHYSICAL – just give yourself space and back away from the situation for awhile and let you mind calm down.

This also works in regard to the anxiety I was talking about at the beginning of this post. My anxiety recently has been regarding “Person N” coming in and basically seeming to take away all of my friends. However, once I stepped back and looked at the situation a little more “objectively,” I could see that this was not really the case. There is absolutely no reason why I cannot have MY friends and my friends can be friends with this “acquaintance” as well – as I said, that is “adult” behavior (perhaps “adult” is the wrong word – I tend to associate “adult” with high levels of social conditioning; perhaps what I mean is more along the lines of “wise” as in learned more over time). Yesterday when I was terribly worried a friend hadn’t gotten in touch with me all day because of this other person, I found out that the friend’s phone had no reception for hours and hours. Needless worry, needless anxiety. In this situation, I needed to step back. AND FURTHERMORE, I CAN GUARANTEE THIS SITUATION WILL NOT JUST *POOF!* END! I have to learn to utilize the tactic of “stepping back” and letting the anxiety pass like the MBSR leaf on the stream. And the truth of the matter is that if I DO happen to lose friends over something I didn’t do, that is no reflection on ME and the friendship could not have been very solid to start with. All of this is, again, just a “minor” SHIFT in both our thought patterns and in our behavior. IT really is a great example of that whole “responding” rather than “reacting” thing.

At any rate! I hope you are all having a happy and healthy day wherever you are in the world! I hope to be back later on – I have so much to write about!! I hope my Northern hemisphere friends are having the beautiful fall day we seem to be having today! Thanks much again and I will be back!

❤ Always, Beth

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