Coping Skills, Life, Uncategorized

What to do when things aren’t working

I’ve heard other people on blogs and in person express the sentiment that they’re trying everything they know how to do, and it’s not working. What do you do when nothing seems to work?

I’ve been struggling with feeling like nothing’s working recently and then feeling even more hopeless as a result. I’ve been having a tough time since my uncle and and grandmother passed away. I’m grieving and being reminded of past trauma and the recent trauma of their deaths in intrusive and unpleasant ways, all the while being apart from my family (away at college) and trying to literally survive and not fail my classes.

So what do you do??? I wish I had more answers than what I have, but I’ll share what’s getting me through so far, and if anyone has any other ideas, please let me know.

Validate yourself. If you’re trying everything you know and using all the skills you have, you’re probably trying really hard and dealing with some pretty hard stuff! Give yourself some credit and acknowledge that you are struggling.

Think about what you mean when you say “things aren’t working.” Sometimes the skills I use do work; they just don’t solve all my problems. For example, the goal of distress tolerance skills in DBT is to get you through the moment without worsening the situation. They’re not supposed to make you feel happy or to get rid of whatever was causing the strong emotion. If I hold ice up to my face (the TIPP skill) in place of acting on crisis urges, then the skill worked. Even if I am still really upset and the crisis urges come back soon, the skill got me through that moment. I expect that skills will help more than they are able to. Having more realistic expectations here would help, I think.

Make sure you’re doing the things that have helped in the past. Personally, I know that I have to eat enough and sleep enough and get exercise and see my friends and have time to myself regularly in order to maximize my okay-ness. Sometimes I get frustrated thinking, “But I slept so much! I ate three meals! I did so much good work and tried so hard! Whyyy am I not feeling better?” and maybe it’s because I’m avoiding my friends and haven’t had a real conversation with anyone in a week. Not doing one essential thing, even when you’re doing all the others, could be the missing piece.

Ask for and accept help from other people. You don’t have to do everything alone! Friends, family, strangers, online friends, old friends, therapists, doctors, etc. can all help! For example, my mom visited me at college this past weekend. She has offered to do this in the past, but this was the first time that I accepted her offer. She was willing to help, and I knew it probably would make me feel better and was desperate. Her visit ended up going great, and I felt much better afterwards deep down.

Still on the topic of asking for help, I sometimes know that I need help but don’t know what I need. When people ask, “What can I do?” or “How can I help?” I don’t know how to answer. I’m still working on learning what I need, but here are some things that I have asked for: a hug (many times), for my friend to let me vent, for my therapist to reply to my email, for an extension on an assignment, for someone to eat a meal with me, for a friend to send me something in the mail, to schedule an appointment with a doctor, to set up a time to facetime a friend. These are things I can ask for! People can always choose to say no, but asking doesn’t hurt and often helps a lot!

Maybe consider bigger changes in your life. I know that if I keep on feeling this badly, taking a semester or a year off of school is an option. Dropping some classes is an option. Going to an inpatient, residential, or day treatment center is an option. Changing my therapist is an option. Transferring schools or switching my major are options. There are lots of options!

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Radically accepting that 1) you are having a tough time right now, and that 2) there are things you can’t change and have no control over, can allow you to see a situation more realistically and therefore make better decisions about the things you can control. I can’t change the fact that my uncle and grandmother died, but I can celebrate their lives, think of fond memories, and strive to embody the qualities I admired in them.

Have patience. I know that this can be really hard to do. But giving things time and just pushing forward can work. Hold on. Time may not heal everything, but it can help with a lot. I have a saying that I like: “There are good days and bad days. Keep going, and you’ll find both.”

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Life, Uncategorized

My uncle died

I don’t really want to write anything about this, but I think I’ll feel better just saying something and putting it out in the world. I’m still working on accepting that this is real, so writing this helps make it more “official.”

My uncle died about a week ago.

If anyone who I’m close to is reading this, they’ll now know that it’s me writing this blog… if they didn’t already know… I hope that no one I know finds this blog. If you do, please don’t read any more and let me know that you’ve found this…

Anyway, that aside…

I’ve been really sad. Which is understandable.

He was my uncle from my aunt’s second marriage after her divorce. He was only in our family for a few years. But he was SO loved…. he was the best uncle, such a great stepdad to my cousins, and he brought my aunt so much joy and love…

Part of my sadness isn’t just at the loss of my uncle, but sadness for my aunt and my cousins. I’m close with my aunt and my cousins, and I really feel for them.

My aunt and uncle only got married a few years ago, but they’ve known each other almost their whole lives. In my aunt’s junior high (middle school) yearbook, my uncle wrote that he loved her. They were really good friends in school. My uncle had had a crush on her ever since then. His marriage to my aunt was his first marriage. His friends told him to give up on trying to find true love and to lower his standards… then my aunt got divorced, they reconnected, and he married what he considered to be the perfect woman.

I’m sad at the loss of their beautiful, inspiring, loving relationship. I’m sad that they didn’t get to spend more time together. They only had a few years of marriage.

I’m sad that I didn’t get to know him any better. He was such a good guy. He died of a brain tumor, and towards the end, it was hard for him to understand what people were saying because the tumor affected that part of his brain. But, while the things he did say were often random and out of place, they were almost always incredibly positive and loving. He said SO many times in his last week or so, “If you ever need anything, you just let me know. I’m here for you.” “You know I’ve always liked you, right? You’ve always been good to me. I love you, you know that?”

He told my aunt, “You’re gorgeous. I’m the luckiest guy.”

It’s heartbreaking….

——————————-on a slightly different note——————————–

A lot of the things meant to be comforting at the funeral, in songs I’ve been listening to online, and in things people have said have to do with Christianity and God. I’ve had a rocky relationship with Christianity, and at this time, I’m not exactly religious. I don’t believe that my uncle is in heaven, I don’t believe he’s in a better place, and I don’t believe I’ll see him again someday in heaven. When people say these things in an attempt to comfort me or themselves or to find some meaning in the horrible situation, it just makes me feel worse, because I don’t think they’re true. I believe my uncle is GONE and I will NEVER see him again, and that makes me really sad.

So, here are my own ways of “making meaning” out of this loss, without religion.

  • I’m sad because I’ve lost someone significant
  • “Grief is the price we pay for love”
  • He’s not in pain anymore
  • I’m glad we all got to have some time together instead of none at all
  • He and my aunt did finally marry each other
  • We had lots of good times together
  • He lived a full life, especially the last few years
  • We have memories
  • We have pictures
  • We all got to say goodbye to him, and he got to say how he wanted to be remembered and say goodbye to us
  • He died surrounded by family

Of course, these things don’t make it all better. I’m not trying to make it all better. I’m still really sad.

Goodbye, Uncle [____]. I said goodbye every time I left your house and hugged you goodbye. I said goodbye on your last day when I left you there unconscious but alive. I said goodbye a few hours later when you were still warm but with no breath or heartbeat, when the funeral home men came to carry you out. I said goodbye at the funeral home to your body all dressed up and covered in flowers. I said goodbye when I put a rose on your coffin at the gravesite. I’ve said goodbye a lot, but I’m still saying it… I can’t believe it’s goodbye forever.

I miss you. We all miss you. We love you, you knew that. And we know you loved us. Your memories will always be with us… I love you…