I got some upsetting news on Saturday, just before beginning what used to be my “fun” night (now my “make the best of being home alone” night). Today, I want to talk about how I dealt with it.

I have historically been absolutely terrible at self-soothing.  Some of the things that I did were appalling–more self-punishment than self soothing.  Apart from taking the truly dumb things off the table once I started working on becoming a mother, I never actively worked on techniques or a plan for taking care of myself while stressed/sad/anxious/lonely until my husband left me.  I wasn’t tempted to do any of the old stuff after he left, but I still thought it was a good idea to make a plan for how to deal with the pain if/when it became so overwhelming that I was tempted. Narrowing down a huge list of ideas I found online one day to just the things that might actually help me kept me occupied for a couple hours.

I literally typed it.  I kept a copy inside the closet of my bedroom (in which I used to hide and cry sometimes on bad days, even long before he left) and in my purse.

I don’t think I ever had to go through the list, but I did read it from time to time for new ideas.  I re-discovered super-hot baths during that time–I had had to give them up so many times after miscarriages and during pregnancy that I’d forgotten how comforting they were to me.

Back to Saturday, when I was facing a night alone and upset.

I texted a couple people about it first, and it quickly became apparent that they didn’t really “get” it, why I was so upset about it.  I don’t think I know anyone who could understand it, because it would require them to be stuck living in an area of the country about which they aren’t particularly nuts, and to not have any family anywhere close (mine is 1800 miles away and on the other coast).  While that didn’t make me feel that they cared any less, I still felt very alone.

I made myself go to the gym, but I was definitely teary.  At one point, I slipped into the bathroom until my crying subsided.  It was a shitty workout–not good enough to leave me with a sense of pride at having done it.

Onto the next idea.

I thought about going to a bar to watch the hockey game among people, but I thought that catching up on sleep would be more beneficial than leaving my house and, at best, having friendly conversation with strangers.  (I don’t feel like I fit in around here at all, so the chances that I’d feel anything but alien at a bar alone are very slim. I did it once, ended up going with the nice boy and girl I met to the next bar, but I think that was just my lucky night).

Next idea.

I have a friend who had to find an apartment for him and his son and move in as quickly as possible, and he has basically nothing but clothes and his laptop.  A mutual friend is coordinating people who have home goods to donate or gift.  I had volunteered for towels and pots and pans, and I got a tip on an awesome sale.  It was cold, and I really didn’t feel fit to be in public, but maybe thinking about someone who is going through much worse and more stressful things would help me stop wallowing so much.

It did help, but I still felt upset and lonely when I got home.  I still felt this weird need to punish myself.  So I did, sort of. I made myself clean the downstairs floors by hand instead of taking a hot bath.  I didn’t feel like doing it, but it was also something that hopefully lead to some sense of accomplishment while scratching that old (and unhealthy) itch.  Afterwards, I took a shower and put on my pajamas.  Still felt lonely. So, I put on a hockey game and colored.

One of my students had shown me her adult coloring book within the last week or so.  I had heard about these on Facebook a while ago and thought that they might be good for me.  When I was a teenager and feeling stressed or anxious, I’d color (in children’s coloring books) sometimes or do word finds to distract myself.  The pictures are more intricate than kids’ coloring books, and they’re in patterns–even better, the patterns are often symmetrical.  Here’s an example:

Print and color this page from “The Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People” by Emma Farrarons. Courtesy The Experiment Publishing.

Print and color this page from “The Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People” by Emma Farrarons. Courtesy The Experiment Publishing.

I actually use crayons rather than colored pencils because I like the feeling of writing with a crayon much more–it sort of glides and makes wider lines, while a colored pencil gets more resistance and requires more strokes to fill a space.

And then I took my Xanax (my daughter wasn’t with me, and party night is now my night to spend more than 7 hours in bed) and went to sleep.  I slept 10-11 hours.  Not straight, but it was pretty damn solid sleep.

Sunday, of course, I felt low and restless again, but that has been covered. My point is that I’m very proud of my ability to self-soothe when no one can help me and I’m lonely/sad/anxious.

I’m aware that a lot of the things I’m doing and writing about are very elementary…I’m trying out things that I should have mastered decades ago, and I am embarrassed as I discover how deficient I am in some social/emotional ways.  I’m congratulating myself for things that most adults don’t even think about.  I have hesitated to go into detail about certain things (such as the goal of having girlfriends with whom I spend time in person somewhat regularly) because of that, but I’m doing it anyway because:

(1) I’m not the only adult in the world who has these issues, and I doubt all of the others are losers or assholes, so maybe I’m not;

(2) embarrassing or not, this is how I am until I improve;

(3) I’m actively trying not to censor my posts in such away that I project any sort of image.  I’m being as close to all of me as I can here even though it may cause secondhand embarrassment or turn people off; and

(4) I am actively working to change, and writing about it may serve as some sort of “accountability” check for the 167 hours of each week that I spend outside of my therapist’s office.


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