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. 

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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. 

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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?

Coping Skills, Life

How to modify dances when your body is in pain or works differently

I love dancing and have been dancing for most of my life. It started getting painful to dance in fall of 2019. Then in March 2020 when school went online, I moved back home, and the semester’s performance was cancelled, I stopped dancing altogether. I didn’t dance for many months and tried to take it really easy on my body. I danced a little bit with my sister occasionally last November and December. And now, I am back at school (still online, but I’m living on campus), and I’m in two dances this semester for the dance group I’m in.

(there is more backstory to this than I originally intended; feel free to skip to the how-to part if that’s what you’re looking for!)

I love dancing, but it is still painful. 😦 I had a dance teacher once who was very accepting and understanding of everyone and encouraged us to just “modify” the moves to best suit us. However, I didn’t know how to modify them! So I ended up just doing what everyone else was doing and hurting myself.

I felt a lot of peer pressure when dance classes/rehearsals were in person because everyone, especially the choreographer, was watching. I felt bad if I didn’t do a move or sat down for a bit. Some people were nice, but others were not. Plus the choreographer normally has a vision for how they want their dance to look, and I felt pressure to meet their vision and expectations. And I want to be able to move that way. If someone does a really pretty, fun, powerful, or graceful move, I want to be able to move that way, too! And sometimes I can’t.

This makes me really sad. I am getting sad writing this. I think I am grieving the loss of this ability a bit. Dancing used to be one of few consistently good things throughout my life (another one is nature), and now it’s not anymore. It’s hard and painful, which makes it less enjoyable, and it probably won’t get better with just “hard work” or “practice” or “getting used to it.”

Today (right before this, which is why I am writing this), I had a rehearsal. I like my choreographer. She is kind and understanding. I told her that I have health issues and will be taking it easy on my body and may need to stop and stretch often. So she’s aware of that. And the group of people is great. Many of them are seniors, like me, and I’ve been in dances with them before. And my choreographer lives right above me, so I can hear her floor squeaking as she dances, even though we’re all on zoom, so that’s cool. It makes me feel connected to her. And I like the song we’re dancing to, and I like the dance. The dance is gentle (no sharp/forceful movements) and somewhat slow, which is good for my body.

But even with all those good things, I didn’t have a good rehearsal because of my (stupid) body. Things were fine until we did two step pivots, and then my feet (like, the bones in the balls of my feet) felt awful. It did not feel good, it did not feel right. I got really anxious (note: I had pain first, then anxiety. The pain was not caused by the anxiety at all.) and couldn’t get away from the feeling that “something is wrong, something is wrong.” I turned off my video and sat on the floor and hugged my knees and kinda dissociated.

I think part of me was scared that this will lead to several more days of pain, because that has happened before. And last fall (2019), it seemed like all my physical issues started (or at least got a lot worse) after a dance class where I felt similar uncomfortable feelings. The day after that bad dance class, I skipped my actual classes because it was too painful to walk to them. (thanks to zoom, that’s not an issue now, haha) So, I don’t want that to happen again. Especially since I’ve been feeling better in general recently.

I think I pushed myself too much today. I had already done two physically strenuous things today before this dance class. I’m aware of Spoon Theory, but I think I have to actually use it and ~radically accept~ that I am someone who could be helped by it. I had already used up my spoons, and it was too much for my body.

So then after I cried/dissociated for a bit, I tried to do things to make it better, and I kinda massaged my feet (didn’t help much) and then got up and ate some candy lol for self soothe. And then (and I am proud of this), I messaged in the zoom chat that my feet were not having it today and that I was going to do the rest sitting down. And I turned my camera back on! And I followed along with the arm parts! My arms weren’t feeling great, either, though, so I guess my whole body has had enough for today. My hands are actually not feeling great as I type this, either. I think I’m just too cold. It’s too cold in here. My joints are not good when it’s cold.

Anyway, that’s all the story/preamble. That was longer than I expected. This is fresh on my mind and, I guess, kinda emotional. Anyway.

Now that I have been dancing in modified ways more, I feel like I actually know how to modify dances now. So I will share those tips. 🙂 The same general strategies could probably be applied to other group exercise classes, or really any exercise routine you’re following that’s not something you came up with for your body.

How to modify dances

  1. Do smaller movements. Don’t lean as far. Don’t take as big a step. Take a tiny jump. Don’t lift your leg as high. Do one spin instead of two. Don’t turn your head as far. Don’t lift your arm as high. This is probably the biggest thing!!
  2. And, if you can, do slower movements.
  3. On turns, spot! Spotting is when you look at something with your eyes, keep your eyes focused on it as you turn, and then flip your head around quickly and find the same place. This is something that can be learned and is often taught, but it’s easy to forget to do! Spotting takes more work but makes me way less dizzy and nauseous. I just have to focus on focusing on something, haha.
  4. If a move goes down to the floor and back up quickly, don’t go all the way down to the floor. Stay on your knees or feet partially. Don’t untuck your toes. This makes it less of a sudden movement (aka less pain) and makes me less nauseous.
  5. Practice doing things slowly and in a controlled manner before attempting to do them full-out. Make sure you know how you will move and which muscles you will use and how you will support your body before trying to do something up to speed.
  6. Similarly, if there’s a new, complicated, or quick move, break it down into bits and practice each part. It’s okay to not have it on the first day and to gradually learn it and put the pieces together over several weeks. Maybe those muscles will even get stronger or more used to it over time.
  7. Walk (just take steps) instead of doing a move to get from one place to another.
  8. Focus more on other things that make a dance “look” good. Be aware of your facial expressions and try to look at the audience / the camera when appropriate. Add emotion to the dance. Make sure you’re in time with the music. If it’s a tap dance, make sure the sounds you’re making are at the right times, even if you’re making the sounds with different steps.
  9. If you can’t do the leg part, just do the arms, and vice versa. Or just do the head. Whatever feels comfortable for you in that moment. You can sit down if you want, on the ground or in a chair. If you’re in a spinny chair, you can use that to help you move, too! Or if you have a wheelchair, you can use that to move around (I don’t actually know much about wheelchairs, sorry, but I do know that there are actually some dance classes specifically for wheelchair users that just do dances from the waist up!).
  10. Skip moves that you can’t modify at all. But you don’t just have to stand still (or sit still). You can sway to the beat of the music and focus on your facial expressions. Even just listening to the music can be helpful so that you hear how the counts go and when each move happens. If you can’t do any of that, that’s okay, too! It’s better to not do it than to get hurt! It’s okay to take a full-on break like I did and take some time to take care of yourself! It’s probably better for you in the long-term!

Ballet-specific

  1. Probably the most common modification is to change 5th position to 3rd position. So, instead of putting your heal touching your other foot’s big toe, only put it in the middle of that foot. Or even less.
  2. Similarly, don’t turn out as much if your knees hurt.
  3. Don’t lift your legs as high, don’t lean back so far, etc.
  4. Don’t try to fully do moves if you don’t know them or aren’t used to them. Ballet often uses muscles that the rest of everyday life doesn’t use. It takes time to build these muscles. It’s better to do an incomplete version of the move than to hurt yourself. As your muscles get stronger, you may be able to do more of it.
  5. Some ballet teachers (in my experience and what I know from other people and things I’ve read) can be more particular and harsh than teachers of other types of dance. Not every ballet teacher is like this, but some are. It’s okay to leave the class and find a different teacher if you want to. This goes for all the dances, too, but in ballet there is an emphasis on doing moves in a specific way that there isn’t an emphasis on in, say, modern dance. Modern is much more “make the move your own, let it come from your heart.”

Tap-specific

  1. As I said above, make it sound good. Most people are probably watching your arms and face, not your feet, anyway. If you can move your arms and make facial expressions comfortably, then focus more on those things.
  2. Take steps instead of doing flaps. This will sound the same and is less foot movement.

In general

  1. Let your choreographer or teacher know ahead of time if you think you’ll be doing things differently or taking breaks. For me at least, this makes it much easier and less shameful to do things differently or take those breaks when I need to because they’re already aware.
  2. On zoom, turn off your camera if you want to.
  3. Stretch a lot before and after, and anytime in between, if it helps you.
  4. Maybe dance in a warm room? Since it’s cold, I’m wondering if this would help me. Maybe I should wear a long-sleeved shirt instead of a t-shirt.
  5. Make the floor comfortable to dance on, and make sure you’re wearing the right gear. If you’re in your own space, like I am now, put an extra blanket on top of the floor to make it comfier to dance on. A yoga mat or towel could be good, too. Wear socks to make your feet move more smoothly over the floor. Or wear ballet, tap, jazz, etc. shoes that are meant for the type of dance you’re doing. Make sure they’re the right size and fit comfortably and are tightened properly in the right places (the tightening should be so that the shoe supports your foot properly, not so that it hurts. If it hurts then don’t do it).
  6. If you have long hair, tie it back. When my hair is flailing all around, it makes me more dizzy.
  7. And if it hurts to wear it in a ponytail, braid it loosely. A braid pulls on my head less and is much more comfortable and still keeps it out of my face.
  8. Make sure you’re prepared to dance by eating enough food and drinking enough water throughout the day.
  9. Quit dances or classes if you need to and it’s too much for your body, or the teacher/choreographer isn’t nice to you. Do what’s best for you! You may be able to find a better teacher/choreographer or class. Or you can dance on your own. Or make your own dance group!
  10. Find dance options that are best for you. Like I said, this dance that I’m in is gentle and slow. Fast dances or sharp movements are not good for me. Hip hop, tap, and ballet are overall much more painful for me than these sort-of-modern dances I’m in now. I think that dances where you stay upright like line dances / social dance (square dancing, contra dancing, etc) or TikTok dances might also be better for me, but I haven’t tried those recently.
  11. If it is hard for you to do things differently or take breaks, try to bring yourself back to self compassion and radical acceptance. I want what’s best for me in the long term. It might feel better (less shameful) to push myself harder now, but I will feel much worse later. I’m the only one that has to live in my body with the consequences. I have to listen to my body and trust myself. And I have to accept (not deny) that pushing myself too far can make me hurt, even if everyone else seems to be doing it easily and painlessly.

So those are my tips so far! If anyone has ideas for how to modify a pivot, let me know. Maybe if I step with my whole foot instead of the balls of my feet, it’ll be better? I don’t know. I think I will also wear warmer clothes next time. And make more of an effort to stretch. I realized I had to go to the bathroom during our stretching time, so I didn’t stretch much. It would have been better if I had gone to the bathroom before the rehearsal started. So, that goes along with making sure I’m prepared to dance.

Does your body hurt when you move? Have you modified things so that they don’t hurt (or hurt less)?

Affirmations, Coping Skills

Affirmation #25 — Each year is different and new in its own way

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The fact that lots of bad stuff happened last year doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again this year. That was 2019, and this is 2020. The fact that some patterns repeat each year, like the start of school, holidays, and anniversaries, doesn’t mean that the same events of the same type of events will happen again this year. Each year is different and new in its own way.


A lot of bad stuff happened to me in December/January/February of last year. I feel better now than I did a month ago, and I haven’t been thinking about those things as much, but sometimes I just can’t shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen purely because a certain date on the calendar is coming up.

Right now, the anniversary of my grandmother’s cremation ceremony is coming up. It makes me anxious. I know that it’s the date in particular that is making me anxious because when I imagine the date being after this particular date, I feel relieved.

In December, I was so scared before each important date happened, and so relived, happy, and hopeful the day after, once it passed and nothing bad happened.

I’m trying to ground myself when these feelings come up and focus on what is going on around me in my life in the present. Reminders like this affirmation help, too. The dates repeat each year, but the events change.

Affirmations

Affirmation #4 — Self-Validation

(note: mentions of death)

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It says:

 

Self-Validation

I have been through a rough time.

I am grieving.

It makes sense that I am sad because there are important people missing from my life.

It makes sense that I am angry because their deaths block my goals of spending more time with them and showing them my love.

It makes sense that I have thoughts like, “I don’t understand why I’m not dead yet,” because with all the people that have died, it has shaken my foundation and made me more likely to believe that anyone can die at any moment. AND, at the same time, the vast majority of people I know have not died, and there is no rational, causal reason that I would have died, either.

It makes sense that I have the thought, “I don’t understand why people are nice to me,” because I have received conflicting messages and amounts of help in the same situations.


I wrote this when I was struggling with the thoughts mentioned above. I was invalidating my feelings and feeling shame, guilt, and anger at myself for thinking these things and reacting this way. I was just making it worse. So, I wrote this rather intentionally to validate myself. Because what I’m feeling and thinking is valid and comes from somewhere, even if I don’t always know where that is.

Coping Skills

Websites — anxiety symptoms, grounding, grief, student with mental illness

I’d like to share some websites I found recently that I really like and have found helpful. (to be clear, I’m not getting paid by these websites or anything; I have just found them helpful and want to share them in case they could be helpful to others, too)

Anxiety symptoms:  This one lists a ton of symptoms associated with anxiety and describes what they feel like and what causes each symptom. I have struggled with identifying what I am feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally, describing it, and knowing when it is something worth worrying about or something harmless. This website helps by including lots of different ways people might describe a certain feeling or symptom.

For example, the “dizziness or lightheadedness” description includes feeling “off-balance, unsteady, that you might faint or pass out,” “difficulty placing your feet because your perception of the ground may seem wrong or incorrect,” feeling like “your legs may not support you,” and about 10 others. It notes the different ways dizziness can occur, like out of the blue, in waves, persistently, at varying intensities, etc. The page also offers possible anxiety-related causes of dizziness, like hyper- and hypoventilation, an active stress response, persistently elevated stress, and sleep deprivation and fatigue.

I think this is useful if you want to understand what is happening in your body or mind, learn more about anxiety in all its different forms, put a name to things, or to help with hypochondria and differentiate between illness and anxiety symptom. A list like this is something I’ve felt a need for in my life for a long time, and I’m so glad I finally found something like this.

(https://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-symptoms.shtml#symptomslist)

Grounding techniques for coping with flashback and distressI think I’ve linked to this website before, but I really like it, so I’m sharing it again. It lists a lot of things you can do right now if you want to become more grounded. It’s easy to read, even if you’re in that flashback-y state and are having trouble concentrating. I had bookmarked this site a while ago, and I recently used it again when I really needed it because I had it conveniently bookmarked. It was helpful. If you think bookmarking this site could be helpful to you, too, then I recommend doing that! 🙂

(https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/flashbacks.htm)

What’s your grief: This is basically a blog about grief with lots of niche topics that are written about in helpful ways. I hadn’t really dealt with grief, at least not debilitating grief, in my life before the recent deaths of my uncle and grandmother. This website helped me understand it, see how normal it is, think about how I’m grieving / going to grieve, and gave me some recommendations for movies about grief (Coco and Mary Poppins Returns, apparently! I’ll have to check them out! 🙂 ).

(https://whatsyourgrief.com)

Saving your grades from a mental health crisis (by Not Yet Hermione on Tumblr and rewritten in what I think is a more readable way on 7cups here): This is a guide on how to deal with school when you have a mental health crisis or near-crisis / rough time. It has helpful and realistic tips and things I didn’t think of, like asking to submit homework through email if you can’t make it to class to turn it in (something I could have used earlier this week but that didn’t occur to me) and making time for “I feel like crap” time in your schedule so that you don’t avoid your emotions and don’t just push through all the time. And the guide reminds you that your mental health is more important than school and has some encouraging things to say, which I kinda knew logically but are still nice to be reminded of.

(https://www.7cups.com/forum/StudentSupport_114/StudentMentalHealthSupport_1211/Savingyourgradesfromamentalhealthcrisis_193340/ )

Life

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…