When The World Brings You Down

I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why I was so sick. One day I was fine, then the next I was blindsided by a sore throat, migraine, and stomach ache. I would get better, only to be right back at square one a few days later. For weeks, I’ve been in limbo without a clue of what to blame. The new environment? Allergies? Diet? I tried it all, but nothing seemed to work beyond taking enough medicine to put down a blue whale.

Sickness isn’t just inconvenient, it’s also a real mind warp. You start to wonder if your body is more than just sick – maybe you’re dying. Maybe you’re finally succumbing to all that cheese and wine. It’s even worse when, like me, you’re waiting for insurance to kick in so that you can get a doctor to tell you to chill out and prescribe something you’ve had in your cupboard all along. Instead, I started to question every single food and exercise decision I’ve made in the last year. But, nothing stuck. I haven’t diverged from my diet in any considerable fashion, I exercise a little less, but not drastically, and my last doctor visit was normal.

Then it hit me: the world is a dumpster fire and I am caving under the stress. When we talk about stress, I think it’s important to acknowledge the insidiousness of it. It creeps in slowly, but it can cause a weakened immune system, a lower blood pressure and heart attacks. I realized I was slowly being taken down by the weight of the world.

If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you can tell that I’m a liberal Feminist with a soft spot for the inherent goodness of humans. I really and truly believe there is more good out there than bad. However, I’ve realized that I can only take so many hits to my optimism. My body was being affected by the stress of the ugliness in the world. After a little digging it became apparent that each stretch of days that I was sick has coincided with terrible events in the news. If your first thought is ‘Well, terrible things happen daily’, then you have just solidified my theory. The reality is those terrible things ripple out, they infect us all, and make healing more difficult.

So, now what?

On Friday I spoke about shutting down my social media, taking time to unwind and breathe in preparation for the new week. I did all those things and I admittedly feel much better today. But how realistic is that for us all? Not everyone is privileged enough to remove themselves from the world, and even fewer of us have access to mental health advocates and therapy. Funnily enough, thinking about those facts started to overwhelm me. When you have nothing but everything to lose, how do you take care of yourself? For me, it has boiled down to this: if I don’t take that time, if I continue to ram my way through the muck without stopping until my body begins to lose the fight there’s a possibility I could die. My life could end and no one would get to read all the stories I have rolling around. I won’t ever get the chance to meet my future family members, or go to Paris, or try deep-fried crickets. I don’t think that notion is so dramatic once you’ve looked at how stress can kill.

If you’re like me, feeling weighed down and without a therapist, there are some alternatives:

  1. Daily Self-care.: Technically, brushing your teeth and eating three square meals counts, but I suggest taking it further. No phone after 8 PM, saying no to triggering TV shows or movies, listening to music that relaxes you. Anything is better than nothing at all!
  2. Meditation: I’ve written about how hard that is for me to do, but now that I use Tapping to ease into the practice, it’s become much easier. The Headspace App is another great alternative that I was recently introduced to.
  3. Free therapy: Most advocate services for domestic violence, sexual assault, or PTSD offer group therapy or one-on-one therapy sessions. It all depends on the level of funding, but they do their best to have something for everyone. I’m currently going to a weekly group session that has made waves in my mental and physical health.

I must also add that is imperative you speak with your physician and share your health concerns before labeling your struggles as stress-related. It was only after a doctor’s visit that I was able to rule out any physical ailments beyond stress.

I say all of this to remind you that you do not have to suffer and you definitely aren’t required to do it all alone. Since I’ve been working to listen to my body and disconnect here and there, I’ve been feeling healthier and clearer. I really encourage you to take time to figure out what you might be going through and what you need to get better. Good luck!

 

The Emotional Freedom Technique Is A Great Way To Ease Into Meditation

Keep your heart clear

And transparent,

And you will never be bound.

A single disturbed thought

Creates ten thousand

Distractions.

– Ryokan Taigu

Within the Black community alone, for every one woman who reports a sexual assault there are fifteen that go unreported. Statistics show that 80% of rapes are reported by white women, but women of color are more likely to be victims of sexual assault. Due to low rates of reporting for men, the numbers aren’t clear on how many are truly affected by assault, but it is believed 12% of Black men are survivors of rape. When it comes to healing, the road is long and winding.

Nothing steals peace of mind like trauma. It muddles every thought, each activity, and disrupts one’s ability to take care of the self. The pain makes even the most mundane tasks seem like mountainous undertakings. For most people, meditation is a healthy way to engage with your mind in the pursuit of peace. It offers the kind of self-care you can’t find in a product, or fancy meal. But what if you’re unable to meditate? For some survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, or other traumas, being left alone with your thoughts can be more terrifying than relaxing. When struggling with symptoms like PTSD or automatic thoughts, it can be difficult to settle into the kind of space that allows meditation.

I was introduced to the Emotional Freedom Technique in a therapy session. As a survivor of sexual assault, I have truly struggled with any form of self-care that involves my thoughts or being still.

When it became apparent to my therapist just how difficult sharing was for me, she suggested we explore the Emotional Freedom Technique. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or “tapping” was developed in 1993 by Gary Craig, who believed stimulating the meridian points of the body could release energy blockages and perhaps stop negative emotions. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncturists, believe the meridian points are channels the chi will pass through to flow to the vital organs. The tapping process requires using the fingers to gently tap or massage various points on the face and torso while repeating positive affirmations. Ideally, as you continue the tapping you will feel yourself begin to calm. You can repeat the process as many times as you need.

The act of tapping and focusing on her words allowed me to recenter my thoughts, breathe easier and relax. After that, we began all of our sessions using the technique until we were comfortable enough to share and grow together. Now, as I revisit meditation, I use EFT to begin the calming process. Tapping soothes my mental aches from the day and helps me to reclaim the power I thought I lost in assault.

Below is an instructional video on tapping if you would like to give it a try.

*Statistics courtesy of End Rape on Campus