Life

Challenges of being forgetful

I’ve been very forgetful recently (past year or so, getting worse in the past few months). I’m not sure why. “Fibro fog” due to fibromyalgia and long covid are possibilities. There are other possibilities, too.

It’s very frustrating when I think of something I need to do, open my computer and go to the proper website… and then forget what on earth I am doing. Then I have to go back and reread what I was just looking at to see if I can get my brain to conjure up the same thought again. This method worked just now, but it often doesn’t work, and then I just don’t do what I need to do because I can’t hold onto the thought long enough to do it…

Sometimes I can’t write something down fast enough because that’s how quickly the thought leaves my mind. So my sticky notes are jumbled and unclear because they’re the only two words I could hold onto long enough. Then it’s difficult to interpret them later on.

In conversations, I often forget what we were just talking about. Or I had something to say earlier, but now I forget it, so I’m just silent. Sometimes it’s awkward.

(TW: bathroom; just this paragraph) When I use up the last of the toilet paper in the bathroom, I tell myself “toilet paper toilet paper toilet paper,” while I’m wiping and washing my hands so that I don’t forget. Even still, the thought leaves my head by the time I exit the bathroom. And so the toilet paper roll is empty when the next person wants to use the bathroom, despite my best efforts.

This is just a vent-type post to acknowledge the struggles I’m having with this particular thing. Writing it out makes me feel more valid. These really are struggles that happen very often to me and have real consequences.

Life

Ableist things people have said to me

I haven’t written about this too much on here, but I have several chronic illnesses. I got a bunch of diagnoses in this past year (YAY diagnoses!!!): IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), GERD (acid reflux), fibromyalgia, and strongly suspected endometriosis.

Anyway, there is a lot of ableism in the world. I have to deal with a lot of it. I’m sick of it. I feel like if maybe I write some of this stuff down, I’ll feel a little better.

My brother scolded me for bringing a bag (a small purse!!) to a dinner party. He said I was bringing too much and didn’t need it. I literally did need it!! It basically only had my medicines in it, which I would need to eat in order to eat a meal!!! (IBS & GERD issues)

I had covid, and I’ve been having heat intolerance (and fatigue) ever since. By heat intolerance, I mean that my heart rate gets really high when it is hot. I come close to fainting often. I have to skip work because of it. I told my friend this, and she said that maybe it’s because my ancestors come from colder climates that aren’t used to heat?? (I am White and my ancestors are from all over Europe — both hot and cold places) Maybe this one is a little racist, too, not just ableist. It annoys me because first of all, I’m normally always cold, even in the summer, and this is an established fact about me. Someone’s ancestry doesn’t dictate how their body works. Second of all, I was pretty clear that this is a new issue that has been happening since I have covid. It hasn’t been going on my whole life!! Ugh. It just felt like she wasn’t taking seriously how this new illness was impacting me. She did back off when I said this hasn’t been happening my whole life, though.

I will stop writing for now. Those are the things that are bothering me the most right now.

Affirmations

Affirmation #30: It’s never too late to ask for help!

It’s *never* too late to ask for help!

This affirmation is because I’ve been having trouble asking for help in my classes. And then as time goes on, and I still do not ask questions out of shame, I still do not know the material. And so I get more and more confused, lost, and behind in the class. This is a problem.

I am trying to remind myself that I can still ask for help in these circumstances. It is not too late. It is never too late to ask for help. There is still time for me to learn.

Coping Skills

Validation is MUSIC to my ears (how to validate!)

I came up with an acronym that helps me remember how to validate, and has helped me to teach my parents how to validate me.

The acronym is “MUSIC”:

  • M – Makes sense
  • U – Understand
  • S – Sounds like
  • I – Imagine
  • C – Can see

“It makes sense that you’re feeling that way, based on what has happened to you in the past.” “It makes sense that you’re angry because they were rude to you.”

“I understand that you are hurt.” “I understand that this has been a difficult time for you.” “I understand that you want some alone time.”

“It sounds like this experience really impacted you.” “It sounds like you’re feeling sad — is that right?”

“I can imagine that you might be overwhelmed.” “I imagine that this might bring up painful memories.”

“I can see that you are struggling.” “I can see how much you care.” “I can see how hard you’re trying.”

If you want to validate someone but don’t know how, just think: “Validation is MUSIC to my ears!” M-makes sense; U-understand; S-sounds like; I-imagine; C-can see.

Validation can feel quite, well, validating, which is often a good feeling of being understood, heard, and acknowledged. It can also make people feel more connected and close to each other. Hence the phrase, “Validation is music to my ears,” because it often feels very good to hear.

Validation also helps with emotion regulation. It helps people make sense of what they are experiencing, which can be calming. Putting a label (like, “fear”) on an emotion has been shown to decrease the intensity of the emotion. So, validation can help to regulate emotions. You don’t need someone else to validate you (though it is very nice and can help a lot). You can validate yourself, too. “I am feeling sad. It makes sense that I am feeling sad because I am missing out on things.” I try to do this, and when I do, it helps.


Other posts on DBT:

And other coping skills:

Affirmations

Affirmation #29: I can only do what I can do.

I can only do what I can do.

This sounds a little tautological, but it makes sense to me.

I have a doctor appointment coming up. I am worried that they won’t give me treatment or help that I need. Not that I want, that I need. I am trying to accept that I can only do so much, and that ultimately they have power over me and can control my access to medications, tests, and treatments. I am trying to radically accept that even if I do my best in this doctor appointment and am clear, assertive, and friendly, that they could deny me. So, I am trying to focus on what I can do.

Life

New Year’s Resolutions for the past 8-ish years

I’m happy and proud to say that I’ve achieved my new year’s resolutions for the past four years. 🙂 I’m feeling a bit burnt out from new year’s resolutions, lol, and I don’t feel like I need to come up with new things to achieve. My life doesn’t need to be radically different from what it is now. I think it will be great if I can just continue doing the things I’ve made resolutions for in past years. Hence, my 2022 resolution is…

2022 New Year’s Resolution:

  • Be effective / do what works

2021 New Year’s Resolution:

  • Stability. I achieved this mainly by moving out to an apartment with my roommate, and by getting a part time job. I also had an unpaid internship for 8 weeks. When I am living in my apartment (I’m at home with my family right now), my life is quite stable. It’s great. 

I wrote the following in 2020 and never published it:


I’ve finally figured out what I want my new year’s resolution for this year to be. 🙂

I know lots of people don’t like new year’s resolutions for a variety of reasons, but I do, and I find them helpful, so I’m going to keep making them. I love all sorts of goals, plans, and structure in my life.

My 2020 New Year’s Resolution is:

  1. to trust myself ten times more than I trust other people
    • and to not give in to peer pressure
    • and to put self care first
  2. also, less importantly, to continue to read the news
  3. and to improve my vocabulary 

2019 New Year’s Resolutions: 

  1. Survive
  2. One thing in the moment / one thing at a time
  3. Read the news

2018 New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Continue to have a healthy routine
  2. Tend to my emotional garden

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Drawing: “Tending to my emotional garden”

Image description: Drawing of a watering can watering various flower that have various needs written on them, like “peace,” “meaning,” “control,” “cared for,” “privacy,” and “expression.”

2017 New Year’s Resolutions: 

  • Trust my instincts
  • Do things regularly / forming a healthy routine

Trusting my instincts means listening to my heart to hear what it really wants, believing there is a good reason I feel this way deep down, and making decisions that factor in this gut feeling. Trusting my instincts will help me look out for myself. I will become more attuned to my feelings, especially unusual feelings and especially strong feelings. I will trust myself and not go along with someone else’s decision if it doesn’t feel right.

Doing things regularly means forming healthy habits that help me with the rest of my daily life. This means breaking out the old “Daily Check-in” sheets and filling them out. It means brushing and flossing my teeth and wearing my retainer more often. It means making my bed, picking out my own clothes, making my own lunch. Becoming self-sufficient. Writing in my journal more, meditating more, exercising even when I don’t have sports practice.

Trusting my instincts Action Plan:

  • Learn more “feelings” vocab. Look up a list and learn one new word a day.
  • In my journal, record unusual or unusually strong feelings I’ve had throughout the day.
  • In my journal, describe my feelings. Dig deep down. Where’s the conflict? Is there desire, shame, guilt, fear, anger? What feelings do I have towards certain things? And where might these feelings be coming from? Past experiences with the same thing or similar things? What is different and the same this time around?
  • In my journal, write about the decisions I make and how I’ve made them. What instincts factored into each decision? Looking back, was it a good way to factor in the instincts? Did I trust them too much, not enough, just the right amount? Am I proud of this decision now? Would I make the same decision now?
  • In my journal, write about what other people want me to do or want from me. How does this differ from what I want for myself? Where do we converge and diverge? Is it possible to compromise? What is the best path to follow going forward?

Forming a healthy routine Action Plan:

  • Map out what my ideal day looks like.
  • A healthy routine has many parts. Track them on the daily check-in sheets and work towards goals. It may be hard to do all at once, so focus on a couple things at a time.
  • Modify the daily check-in sheets, and print more.
  • Set SMART goals.
  • Things to learn
    • Sun salutations
    • How to meditate on my own
    • How to wash a bra

What could an ideal day with a healthy routine look like?

In the morning:

  • Wake up. Lay in bed.
  • Get out of bed. Drink water.
  • Exercise: knee-elbows, plank or brush and twist, others as needed.
  • Yoga: sun-salutations or the go to bed / wake up routine I came up with.
  • Meditation: mindfulness on 7 cups, YouTube, or on my own. Drink more water.
  • Go about business. Go to the bathroom. Take out retainer. Brush teeth and retainer. Clean eyes and nose.
  • Make bed. Brush hair. Get dressed.
  • Cook breakfast. Eat breakfast. Get in car. Drive to school.

At school:

  • Drink from water bottle. At least one bottle should be empty by 2:15.
  • Remind yourself to blink. Remind yourself to stretch and move your shoulder muscles. Remind yourself of your posture. Sit at the back of the chair and lean into the back.

In the afternoon or evening:

  • Make lunch and snacks for the following day.
  • Pick out tomorrow’s outfits and sports clothes, if necessary.
  • Pack backpack for the next day. Refill water bottle.

 

  • Write in journal, even if it’s one sentence.
  • Exercise if you haven’t yet and it’s not a rest day.
  • Take a step on 7 cups.

 

  • Every three days: shower, wash hair, wash face.
  • Once a week: wash clothes, use a pore strip, clip nails. Write a long journal entry. Let out all your feelings to someone: friend, listener, therapist.
  • As needed: use lotion.

Before going to bed:

  • Set alarm for the morning and the next night.
  • Drink water, brush and floss teeth, put in retainer. Go to the bathroom.
  • Fill out Daily Check-In sheet. Say positive affirmation. Do yoga. (the order here can be mixed around 🙂 )
  • Climb into bed slowly, still breathing slowly. Lay on back in a comfortable position. Good night! 🙂

 

2016 New Year’s Resolution: 

  • love myself unconditionally

2015

  • I made many new year’s resolutions and plans for many domains of my life, like physical, social, etc. A big one was getting enough sleep. I had plans to gradually change my bedtime and alarm time… And wasn’t on track with them almost immediately. I gave up early on. It was too much.

2014 

  • Similar to 2015. I used to have a picture of these old goals (2014 & 2015) on my phone, but my phone broke and I lost my photos… 

2013 and earlier

  • I wasn’t as serious about new year’s resolutions back then. However, I remember that my new year resolutions from something like  4th grade-7th grade were to stop procrastinating. Lol. Still haven’t achieved that… But I’m working on it. 🙂 

Coping Skills

Seeing things through the lens of an emotion

When I’m sad about one thing, I often get sad about everything there is to be sad about. I’ll see a painting my grandmother made, get sad and miss her… and then spiral into being sad about how I’m not close with many of my friends from high school anymore, and how my uncle died too, and how mental illness has made years of my life so much harder, and how my dad hasn’t been the same since the accident, and how it’s a dreary day, and etc etc etc.

Being sad makes me think about other things that are sad, and then suddenly I’m dealing with the weight of 10 sad things at once instead of the weight of one sad thing.

This happens to me with other emotions, too. If someone treats me unfairly and I get angry, I remember every other time in my life I’ve been treated unfairly and every thing I have to be angry about. If I’m happy, I notice the beauty in the trees and flowers, think about the good times I’ve had with my friends, and daydream about how great my life will be in the future.

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“Seeing things through the lens of an emotion.” Image description: a drawing of a blue-tinted magnifying glass illuminating blue blobs among blobs of many colors. 

It seems like the emotion puts me in a frame of mind where I am more likely to think about times I’ve felt the same way. It’s like the CBT Triangle:

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(Image description: CBT Triangle: thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in a triangle with double-ended arrows between them.)

CBT says that emotions influence thoughts, and thoughts influence emotions. (And also that emotions influence behaviors, and behaviors influence emotions. And that thoughts influence behaviors, and that behaviors influence thoughts.)

Maybe when I’m having an emotion, my brain is flooded with certain neurotransmitters. And then that abundance of neurotransmitters makes similar thoughts more likely. It’s like, if there’s a pool of sadness in my brain, then all the sad memories will become dislodged and float to the surface. I don’t know if it’s exactly like this (I don’t know much neuroscience), but this is how I imagine it.

It can be difficult when this happens with a strong, negative emotion. This means I can spiral quickly and start seeing the world in all-or-nothing ways, forgetting all of the not-this-emotion things I was feeling before. I think that one solution is to be mindful of this when it is happening and to trace it back to what caused the original emotion. Then I can try to just deal with that one thing, and focus on what is happening right now in the present.

Does this happen to you? What do you do if/when it happens?

Life

Hi and updates :)

Hi, sorry (again) for being away from wordpress for a few months! I don’t really have a good excuse lol, I guess just that school was busy. Don’t count on me to be reliable!

Good news! I GRADUATED COLLEGE!!! 🙂 🙂 Woo hoo!! This is very exciting! I am proud of this because it really was a LOT of hard work, and I struggled a lot during that time. There were many times that I wanted to drop out, or thought I would fail… but I didn’t! I got through it all!!

I have gotten to celebrate with family and friends, which was very nice. 🙂

I was living on campus this past semester, and I am now living back at home with my family again. The transition is hard, and I don’t really want to be at home. I was having a lot of fun with my friends in person, and people were only just starting to get vaccinated, when I had to leave it all behind. I’m sad and angry about that.

My plan is to get a job or internship for this summer. I don’t have one yet. I didn’t end up taking that job that I wrote about earlier.

I had a pretty good semester, actually. One of my best. My social life, grades, interest in classes, independence, and mental health were all probably the best they’ve been out of all my semesters. This makes it even more sad and frustrating that I had to leave. I was really doing so well. It also makes me sad for all the time on campus that I lost due to covid.

The only major bad thing about this semester is that my health issues continue to worsen. My joint pain is still bad. My hands were hurting to the point that I didn’t want to / couldn’t take notes in class for the first time because of the pain. Dancing was difficult. My doctor thinks my gut/abdomen issues could be endometriosis. I had to go to the ER once. But I’m getting things checked out. I’m going to try a hormonal birth control for the reproductive system issues and hope it doesn’t make me depressed.

I think those are all my updates. 🙂 I will try to be a little more present on wordpress…

This is supposed to be me graduating! 🙂 My school’s colors are not pink and purple haha, I wish!
Life

Happy Covid-versary?

Note: this post talks about covid-19 and quarantine. There is a description of blood and a brief mention of suicidality.

My “covid-versary” is March 13th. Friday, March 13th, 2020, was the day the pandemic changed my day-to-day life. That’s when I left school and moved back home with my family, where I stayed for 10 months straight, before coming back to campus this January for my senior spring.

I remember the day I left really well. It was a bad day in the middle of a bad week, and I was having other major problems that weren’t related to covid. I had had my period for five weeks straight. I was dizzy from a lack of blood. I went to the gynecologist (my last trip out and last doctor appointment for a long time) at the start of that week. She gave me a birth control pill to take to stop my period. It made me suicidal. I stopped taking it.

Then on Friday I moved out. I had to pack everything up very quickly. (note: blood) I got a bloody nose, and it dripped blood on my shirt (one of my favorite shirts!), and I remember feeling like there was blood coming out from all over me, because I was also still having the other bleeding. It was also Friday the 13th, which is supposed to be unlucky, although I’m trying to not be superstitious anymore because it’s not a healthy way for me to think.

I was lucky that I got to say good goodbyes to all my friends. I was taking the coronavirus much more seriously than my friends seemed to think it would be. So I really did say goodbye to my friends thinking I may never see them again. I spent the whole day with them while I was packing up (they weren’t leaving…yet), and I got to give them all long hugs. I’m really glad that I did. Now that I’m back on campus this semester, and some other people are, too, I’ve gotten to see some friends in person, but there are some people that I still haven’t seen in person since that day, and I truly don’t know if I’ll ever see them in person again, since we’re graduating now and going in different directions.

It’s funny to me (and very unfortunate) that a lot of my predictions actually came true. I think it’s because trauma has taught me that bad things can happen and they can be really bad, and my friends, I guess, didn’t really know that. When we got the announcement that classes were cancelled, my friends cheered for no school. I was horrified. I knew that if things were bad enough to cancel classes, they must be really bad. My friend tried to calm me down by saying that the death rate was “only 5%.” That is a huge percentage, and so many people have died this year, because 5% of a large population is a lot of people. My friends might have thought I was making too big a deal out of saying goodbyes, and that I was being overly cautious by going home… but those ended up being good things to do. I wish the worst hadn’t happened, but it did.

I remember wondering to my friends if we would forget what “normal” life was like, and them having an attitude of, “no, of course we’ll remember it, this won’t last long.” And then just today I saw an article in the Atlantic about all the people that are forgetting what pre-pandemic life was like.

Some things seem to have permanently changed in my life. One is zoom, and also google meet and FaceTime. It’s really useful for staying connected to people in other places, and for…everything. I think classes will (or at least, should) continue to offer online attendance as an option even when it’s safe to go back to classrooms. It does make it easier for me to attend, but there’s also a lot that I miss out on by not being in the classroom, like having side conversations with friends.

Another change is that I now go on a walk basically every day. And I have been doing this now for almost a year. This is strange to me; I can’t imagine a pre-walking life anymore. I didn’t see walking as an activity, a social thing, a form of exercise, or a fun thing before quarantine. I only saw it as a way of getting from one place to another, and I only walked if I had somewhere to go. Now I do it all the time, just to walk for fun, not to go anywhere. It helps my muscles/joints, it lets me get out in nature and out of my room (very important!), and it is a (relatively) safe way to see someone in person.

I feel like a lot of people talk about how their health has been impacted by the pandemic, but this hasn’t really happened for me that much. My physical health has gotten much worse and also better during the pandemic, and so has my mental health. I had some really bad times, physically and mentally, at the end of the summer, and again in the middle of the fall. But now I’m doing possibly the best, mentally, that I’ve been in years (not 100%, but better!). And physically it’s a mixed bag right now. My health does not seem to be directly correlated with the pandemic.

Anyway… it’s been a year.

Coping Skills

Coping with justified sadness

Note: this post talks about death and mentions brain injuries, a car accident, and bodily functions. Note 2: this post was written and edited over a couple years, so some examples from my life were written at different times. 

My DBT skills book gives suggestions of what to do when an emotion is justified (i.e. it fits the facts of a situation). However, I don’t really like what it suggests for sadness and would like to add on to it.

Sadness is justified when something important is lost or missing. When sadness is more intense, it is often a signal that the thing lost was very important. For example, sadness is justified when a loved one dies, when your life is not what you expected it would be, when you realize a parent has not really been a parent, and in many more situations.

The DBT book (DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan) suggests the following (on p. 243):

  1. Grieve; have a memorial service; visit the cemetery (but don’t build a house at the cemetery).
  2. Retrieve/replace what is lost.
  3. Plan how to rebuild a life worth living without the beloved or expected outcomes in your life.
  4. Accumulate positives.
  5. Build mastery: Do things that make you feel competent and self-confident.
  6. Communicate need for help.
  7. Accept help offered.
  8. Put on rose-colored glasses.

I would like to add on some other things:

1. Radically accept that this is the way it is now.

Change starts with accepting the reality of now so that you can identify what is wrong.

Example 1

For example, my uncle and grandmother passed away in January 2019. I cannot change the fact that they are gone. I am still sad, and my family feels very small all of a sudden.

Example 2

Another sad thing that I’m working on radically accepting is that my dad had a brain injury after our car accident. He is more easily angered now than he was before the accident. He is forgetful and often repeats himself without realizing it. He forgot to pick me up from school (back when I was in high school). He forgets important personal information that I have told him about my life, like what classes I’m taking (despite the fact that I FaceTimed my family every day when I was at college and talked about my classes all the time), what I’m majoring in, and that I have dietary restrictions.

In family therapy, I had long conversations with him and my mom about what information they were allowed to disclose to their friends about my mental health and treatment. My dad broke our agreements several times, telling several almost-strangers that I was in a partial hospital program and that I was depressed. Despite reminders and more discussions after these incidents, he has continued to breach our agreement. He seemed to be genuinely confused and thought that he was following the agreement. Regardless of the reason for all this, I’ve decided I can’t trust him with personal information anymore. This is sad to me because I’d like to have more of a relationship with him, and due to his brain injury and other pre-existing problems, that relationship is missing.

Example 3

On perhaps a smaller scale, another thing I’m radically accepting is that this summer [note: I wrote this part in summer 2019, but some of it applies to summer 2020, too] hasn’t been what I wanted it to be. I didn’t get an internship. I’m living at home when I’d rather be living with my friends near my school. I haven’t seen many friends this summer — they’re all off in different places. Despite working so hard on my ptsd, I’m still depressed. This is the way it is right now.

2. Mourn and grieve by expressing through art

People have told me that it’s okay to grieve, but I haven’t heard many examples of how to actually do this. The DBT book isn’t very specific with this, either, apart from the suggestions of holding a memorial service and visiting the cemetery. I sometimes find myself full of valid, justified sadness and I don’t know what to do with the emotion. 

One thing I’ve found that I can do is to express myself: express what I’m feeling, what has happened, where I’m at. And one way to do that, for me, is through drawing or art. It helps me see things visually/spatially and make sense of them a bit. 

Example 1

I drew this when I was feeling sad in the weeks after my uncle and grandmother died. 

IMG_2992

My drawing of people walking around and being sucked into a black, spiraling hole, with this quote around the edges: “Where you used to be there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling into at night.” -Edna St. Vincent Millay

Example 2

Due to digestive issues, I can’t eat many of my favorite foods. I drew the foods I miss most on gravestones. Seeing them like this makes me laugh a bit and also reminds me that I am grieving the loss of my favorite foods. It is a loss. Even though it doesn’t affect me as much as the deaths in my family, it makes me sad. I really do miss these foods. 

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My drawing of chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, pasta with tomato sauce, and brownies on gravestones

Example 3

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was struggling with all the death. The news kept talking about so many people dying. And someone died close to where I live in a violent way that got in the news. Then my mom’s friend’s father died of Covid. To try to process these deaths, I made a little house/box thing. I wanted to do something using my hands. I made steps going up to it. Inside, I made chairs and wrote “House of Mourning.” I cut out people and wrote the appropriate names on them, and I sat them down on the chairs inside the house.

Now they have a place to go, even if it’s only their name on a paper version of them in a paper house. It makes me feel better. It’s a way of acknowledging their deaths. I acknowledge that they have transitioned from living to dead by physically placing them in the house. There are chairs there; it’s a nice place to be. Since I’m not religious right now (and haven’t been for the past couple of years), it’s kind-of a non-religious alternative to the comforting belief that the deceased are happy up in heaven with the other people who have died. It’s a way of making sense of it and processing it. 

I’ve also placed some other things (not people) in my House of Mourning. I just wrote them on pieces of paper and put them in the house. They are: my dad not acting how I want him to as a dad; loss of certainty; and summer 2020 in the place I wanted to live this summer with my friends. When I write them out and put them in the house, I acknowledge that I am mourning them. 

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The paper house of mourning I made with people and things inside

3. Identify smaller qualities or aspects of the big thing that is lost or missing, and then problem-solve to see how you could put them back in your life.

When something important is lost or missing, there is usually some sort of underlying need that is no longer being filled. I know that you can’t replace a person, and it makes me feel a little disgusted to think of trying to do that. That’s not what this is, though. It’s just making sure that you’re still getting the things that you need and finding ways you can still live a life worth living without the important thing in it.

Example 1

For example, I’ve had to stop eating a lot of foods that I really like due to acid reflux. I can’t eat chocolate or dairy, so that eliminates most desserts. It was especially bad in the summer [2019] when I really craved ice cream and everyone around me was eating it. I can’t eat tomatoes, which eliminates a lot of pasta options and tomato soup. There are so many foods I can’t eat, but I don’t feel like listing them all. This may seem like not as big a deal as some other things, but it really does make me sad that I can’t eat my favorite foods anymore, and I’ve decided I’m grieving this, and I’m going to let myself actually be sad instead of invalidating my sadness. (note: bodily functions) I have tried to eat these foods again and have had diarrhea for two days afterwards each time. Thats no fun! 

So, I’ve been trying to think of what, exactly, is missing and how I can replace it. I think what’s really missing are good, sweet foods for a special treat or occasion. It’s taken me some time to come up with good replacements, but I’ve found that sugar cookies are delicious and edible to me. Peanut butter cookies are also good. My mom made me a carrot cake (with sugar icing, not cream icing) for my birthday. I can eat lollipops, smarties, lifesavers, and butterscotch instead of chocolate when I want candy.

Another thing that’s missing is the social connection from eating foods together [pre-pandemic]. I have to say no to offers of many foods, and it makes me sad to not be able to connect with my friends over liking good food. I haven’t come up with a solution to this one yet. I guess we can still enjoy other things together. 

Example 2

With my grandmother and uncle gone, and no grandparents left at all, one of the things I’m missing is some older person who will check in with me every now and then about casual things / general life stuff and be kind-of protective and warm. One of my aunts (the one that didn’t lose her husband (my uncle)) has kind of stepped into this role on her own. She called me last January [2019] after the deaths and left me a very kind voice mail message when I really needed it, and even said I didn’t need to call her back. She visited me at school and made sure we took pictures. She sent me an article she thought I would like. She’s more of a part of my life now than she was before all the deaths. I think that that awful time has brought my remaining family closer.

Another issue is that my family feels very small now. It doesn’t feel like there are enough people in it. One way I can make it bigger is by getting married. This is a long-term goal. I’ve never even dated someone. But it’s nice to know that there is a way that families naturally grow. People die, and families shrink. People get married or are in long-term relationships, and the partner and partner’s family are added to the family. Babies are born or kids/babies are adopted, and families grow. I’m not ready to get married right now, but it’s nice to know that I can someday and bring more people into my family’s network. 

4. Allow for time for sadness AND time for other things

Sometimes sadness and grief can be overwhelming. It can easily consume my whole evening, if not my whole day, or week. Sometimes that is not helpful. I say sometimes because sadness serves an important function, too. Sadness makes people ruminate, which can be helpful because people can process things and realize what they are missing. Sadness can also encourage people to try to get the things they are missing. Studies have shown that sadness can improve memory, judgement, motivation to get the missing things, and social attentiveness (source). Other studies have shown that depression can make people more analytical and allow people to gain insight to their problems (source).

But, it’s generally not good for me to be sad, grieving, or depressed all day. There are generally still things I need to do, like eating, cleaning, talking to people, going to appointments, or going to school. 

Example 1: 20 minutes of sadness a day

A therapist I used to have suggested I do “20 minutes of sadness a day.” I was supposed to set a time, like 4 pm, when I planned on being sad. And then when that time came, I tried to not push away the sadness and let myself be sad. I tried to “ride the wave.” Sometimes I cried. It was useful to take the time to acknowledge the sadness. It’s similar to having a “worry time” where you dedicate time to worrying so that you don’t have to worry during the rest of the day. It is more contained. 

The hardest part about this for me was stopping being sad and moving on when the time was up and my alarm went off. I was supposed to use opposite action (because sadness is valid and justified but not effective in this moment), but I normally had a hard time getting out of bed and would just keep lying there for an hour. I think it would have been better if I had tried having 20 minutes of sadness while sitting up, instead of lying down, and for less time, so that I didn’t get overwhelmed by the sadness. 

The general idea behind 20 minutes of sadness can be altered a lot. It could be any amount of time, even a few seconds to just acknowledge the sadness that is there. I prefer just doing “STUN waves,” noticing my sadness come and go, acknowledging it, and validating it. It could also be in any form. People could write in a journal, talk or write to a missing person, pray, make art, meditate, do any of the ideas above, etc.

It’s important for me to allow for time for sadness and then also acknowledge that other things may need to be done. I can temporarily move on from the sadness, knowing that I will come back to it later and am not ignoring or forgetting about it. 

In contrast to feeling the sadness, I try to identify positive things. Oftentimes, things are not all bad. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by sadness and forget everything else. Trying to make an effort to notice good things, like sunsets or flowers, can be helpful. I also try to add enjoyable things into my days using DBT’s “Accumulating Positives” skill. I make plans to do things like hang out with friends, watch a good movie, and take some time to do art. These things can also help with opposite action when I am trying to come away from the sadness and back into the rest of my life. It helps to have plans to hang out with friends, do other fun things, or just to notice the positives after having my sad time.

Sometimes happy things make me sad. Maybe someone I miss isn’t here to enjoy this with me, or I used to be able to do x fun thing but now I can’t because of illness. If they make me sad, that’s okay, too. I acknowledge that and let my joyful memories turn blue with sadness. 

Screen Shot 2021-02-10 at 03.22.11

Sadness turning joyful, yellow memories blue. (screenshot from Isaac Carlson’s video “Why Does Sadness Turn Memories Blue? | Pixar Theory: Discovering Inside Out,” originally from Pixar’s movie Inside Out.)

Example 2: Grieving periods

Some religions have set grieving periods. In Judaism, during the first week after a funeral, the shiva, people mourning are allowed to withdraw from life, and their needs are met by the community (people bring them food, etc.). In the next phase of mourning, sheloshim, people gradually return back to “normal life.” I have a couple friends that are Jewish and have followed this process of mourning after a death, and it seems to have been a good way for them to take time to process their grief. I think that taking some time off work/school, or even just giving yourself a break to allow yourself to grieve (any loss, not just death) can be helpful, too. Gradually returning to activities is an important part of it, too. It is “moving forward,” not “moving on.” 


So, these are my strategies for how to cope with justified sadness. 1) Radically accept that this is the way it is now. 2) Mourn and grieve, maybe by expressing things through art. 3) Identify smaller qualities or aspects of the big thing that is lost or missing, and then problem-solve to see how you could put them back in your life. 4) Set aside time to feel sad, and time to focus on other things. They seem to be helping me.

How do you deal with sadness?