The Feeling of Feelings

Acknowledging one’s emotions is an important part of the process of recovery from mental illness. A lot of people never really develop very well emotionally, and I was no different; from an early age I put a lot of energy into distancing myself from what I was feeling, and in later life that came back to bite me, and hard.

One of the interesting things I have found, though, is that each emotion for me seems to have an associated physical sensation. It’s taken a a fair amount of time to really pinpoint them all, which is odd, considering that we are feeling some degree of emotion virtually all the time. But I think some of them don’t really register until we feel an emotion strongly, and I would think that these particular feelings could vary from person to person.

For me, one of the ones I have felt to a fair degree recently has been a feeling of fear or panic. This isn’t something I have mentioned before, but my neighbors, over the past several weeks, have been prone to loud, seemingly violent, fights. I hear them through my ceiling; yelling and screaming and slamming of things into the floor, and at first I found it annoying, but as it grew more frequent, I began to wonder if it was something like domestic abuse. I eventually had to call the police on them, and now every time I hear them I fear that it will be something bad, or that somehow I will get involved. This fear manifests itself as a tightness in my chest, my heart beating really strongly, and a little out of sync; it makes it feel like blood is rushing through my head.

Anxiety is much easier to express; anxiety can be set off by a lot of things, but hearing from anything involving a new job is almost certain to set it off. I have it sometimes when talking with friends who are having rough times; I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but I also want to be a helpful and supportive friend, and that can be a tough road to navigate. It feels like butterflies in my stomach; the easiest way I can describe it is that feeling you get on a rollercoaster when climbing up the first big incline, that feeling of apprehension – is this really a good idea?

Guilt is one I am familiar with, largely because while Is pent so long worrying about the lies I was telling to everyone around me during the worst periods of my depression. Guilt just made me feel sick to my stomach, like I needed to throw up, even when there was nothing in my stomach. Oddly, it didn’t ever make me any less hungry, and it only ever actually made me throw up once, but it really spent a lot of time working its unpleasant magic on me.

Anger is pretty easy; I sometimes find myself going straight to anger in traffic when something crazy happens – which is not unusual in Houston traffic, sadly. It only happens when I drive alone, too, which is strange. Anger is just a burning needs to do something immediate, often violent; I tend to satisfy this by saying or yelling quite an interesting array of things at my fellow drivers, warranted or not. I try not to make rude gestures where they can see me, or hit anything, because I don’t want to engender similar anger, but the yelling kind of feels good to get out.

Sadness is probably the one I have the most intense experience with, considering my depression. I haven’t felt a whole lot of it lately – at least, not to the extent of my worst depressions, or anywhere near that – but I have had moments of disappointment, like being turned down for a job or reprimanded by a manager, that remind me. It’s oppressive; it makes me feel tired, so tired I don’t want to move, or work, or do anything but maybe eat or sleep. It makes me lose interest in things, to just want to sit, sleep, withdraw from the world. It’s dangerous, and can be very insidious, and so I have to watch out for it often.

Joy is the emotion I haven’t had a lot of experience with – well, not until October or so. It was when I first realized I had feelings for Calla, and found out she had feelings for me, as well. My heart almost popped out of my chest, and when I was around her it still felt like that. When I was trying to describe how I felt to her, I used something similar to the rollercoaster description I used above – except for with her, it wasn’t the anxiety of the climb, but the feeling you get right at the apex of the climb – the flash of terror, but then the realization that you’re about to do something awesome.

That covers the five biggies – fear, guilt, anger, sadness, and joy, with anxiety as a bonus. So, how do emotions feel physically when they manifest for you? What kinds of sensations do they create? Think about it, then think about how often you’re feeling each; it can be a sobering conclusion.

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Grateful Dead Poet’s Society

So I have decided to start doing the gratitude challenge’s second iteration with or without Calla, though I hope she is at least reading along, if not trying it herself. There’s also some other stuff that is on my mind, but I will mention that after I go through the gratitude challenge steps. Just in case the steps aren’t clear, I’ll repost them again here:

1.Write down three new things you are grateful for each day, in a journal or somewhere else easily accessed. Be specific.

2. Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours.

3. Exercise for 10 minutes a day.

4. Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out.

5. Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a friend, family member, or other person you are grateful to.

So, I will start with the three things I am grateful for. First, I am grateful for Calla. She’s on my mind a lot lately, and I miss having her around; but regardless of where she is, I am grateful for how amazing she is and how she has made me feel; however things turn out, she has made me feel joy for the first time in a very long time. Second, I am grateful for my vanilla-scented candle here in my apartment; I find the vanilla scent very nice and soothing (even if it does occasionally make me really want cake with vanilla icing). I really like having the scent around my apartment, and so having such a convenient source is nice. Finally, I am grateful for my apartment. It’s nice to have a place of my own to come home to, to spend time in, to invite friends to; it’s nice that it is my choice who to share it with, and how to decorate it. It’s a type of freedom that is still pretty new to me, and I really enjoy having it.

A little earlier tonight, I got a chance to go out on a late-night candy run with a good friend just after she got off a long night at work. It’s kind of a ritual or habit between us, since both of us like to stay up late at night. She is a big fan of various kinds of candy, and it gives both of us a chance to clear our heads, talk about what has been on our minds all day, and just get a little time together to talk and hang out even if both of us have had busy days. Also, there’s candy, because there’s a 24-hour Walgreens not far from here, and they have a pretty good candy selection. Especially now, near Halloween. We talk about a lot on these trips; it was on one of these trips that I first told her about my feelings for Calla, and we cover a lot of our other issues, as well. I really enjoy these trips. They’re one of the best parts of my day on the days we go on them. 

As for exercise, I’ve been working on a series of exercises out of a book called Convict Conditioning, a book that focuses on using just exercises that can be done with a bare minimum of equipment (pushups, situps, pullups,, etc.) to tone and condition the body. There is one that is focused on eventually being able to do one-legged squats, which I am avoiding, but the others I try to work through on a regular basis; today is one of those days. I took some time out in between sets to meditate, because I find relaxing my muscles and clearing my mind between sets helps to make my exercises more effective. Doesn’t make the workouts hurt any less, though.

It’s not an e-mail, but I did get a chance earlier this evening to talk to someone I haven’t heard from in a while and express my gratitude to her for her friendship and advice. Yeah, I have a lot of female friends. We haven’t been in touch for a while, but even though she’s younger I think her experiences have given her a remarkable degree of wisdom.

Outside of my gratitude challenge, my father is sending me e-mail about possibly collecting, altering, or re-writing my blog posts to put them together as a book, maybe to try and help other people who have struggled (or will struggle) with mental illness. That is at least part of my I was writing my blog in the first place, though telling my story for my own gratification and therapeutic purposes was also a part of it, so I will have to put some thought into that; I don’t know if I would want to rewrite things from my blog, or rewrite them entirely to fit into a larger narrative, or try to describe my experience in chapters. There’s a lot to think about, but I would love to hear anything my readers have to say about the idea, especially if they have any experience in the area.

I’ve been doing something with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) called Peer-to-Peer Mentoring; it’s a ten-session class to try to teach volunteers about how to talk to others who aren’t doing as well with their mental illnesses as we are and try to mentor them, using our own experiences to try to help others see that while they may be in a very dark place, there is still hope on the other side. I have no formal training in mental health counseling, but I do want to help others who have trouble with mental illness; I’d like to believe that my experiences and thoughts might be able to help others. That’s why I’m taking this course, even though it is entirely a volunteer position.

Any thoughts from my readers, about anything mentioned above?

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things…

After a great weekend, today was somehow an even better day. I mentioned a week or so ago that I had feelings for someone, but that I didn’t want to bring them up because she was in a bad place and I didn’t want to pressure her. After talking with another close friend last night, she told me that the woman I had feelings for felt the same way. We talked about it today, and while we’re both very inexperienced, it’s probably the best thing I’ve felt in longer than I can remember.

I feel both happy and kind of terrified at the same time, because I don’t want to screw things up and hurt her. But I know that dwelling on that will almost certainly become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so I think we’re both going to take it at whatever pace we find comfortable. I don’t know where this will lead, but I want to make it as enjoyable as possible for both of us.

I don’t know how much she’s comfortable with me saying, so for the time being, that’s probably where I’ll leave it. She deserves the best I can give, and right now, here, that’s privacy. But I just wanted people to know that I’m happy, at least for now. It’s been a long time coming.

Title Optional

I think this weekend has probably been the best one I’ve had in quite a while, and I say this only about two weeks after my birthday. I got to spend time with friends, one in particular, and it was really a cool weekend.

Yesterday, my friend and I went down to her family’s boat and had dinner there with her family and some family friends, and it was a pretty good time; good food, good company, a baby (her nephew) there to make funny faces, and some good conversation. It’s always cool getting to know more about a good friend, at least for me, and then we came back to the apartments and watched some movies on TV until she felt like heading to sleep.

Today, I got up relatively early, texted with her for a while, then went out to lunch with her and couple other friends to watch the Texans game. While the Texans didn’t end up winning, it was still a nice lunch, and then she was feeling dizzy, so she rested for a while. Then she came over to my place, and we watched movies and talked. Nothing groundbreaking or earth-shattering, but I think it was time well spent, and I really enjoyed myself. I hope she did, too. I like to think I can hide how I feel, but I feel about as subtle as a sledgehammer around her, oddly.

I’m not sure what this week will bring – other than continued job applications and various other appointments – but at least it will be following a kickass weekend.  I think this may be one of the most enjoyable times I have had in years. That is all.