Lately I have alluded to some misfortunes, just generally ‘having a tough time’ and barely being able to cope. A lot. Personally, I feel as though the last four weeks have been a universal kick in the guts. I do not like to complain, and usually try to avoid it, but this most recent bought has left me struggling to contain myself as I feel misery after misery pile up. A tremendous sigh has come upon me and there has been more than one occasion that has left me crying uncontrollably. This may not seem surprising, unless you knew how little I do cry.
Why did I need to cope recently?
The best way to start is to explain my recent bout of life circumstances. About three weeks ago I received information that I was in an unprecedented position with a large corporation. I won’t go into details other than to say it was not something I felt comfortable with. IT was not something I was able to cope with or fix alone nor did I feel they were in the ‘right’ position. I spoke with certain trusted people who could advise me on how best to cope and solve the situation. Whilst it wasn’t pleasantly resolved, it is no longer a current burden. It was a deep blow and sucked. Within a seven day, my computer crashed, taking access to my entire semesters university work, as well as the entirety of my book, I have written a book by the way, with it. I was now restricted to visiting university library from 9am to 4pm every day to regroup. This was during a period in which I was recovering from a gastrointestinal virus so my body was not feeling ‘crash hot’.
Further to these troubles
There is a component of my life that I cannot talk too much about. This is due to privacy reasons. What can be mentioned is the existence of ongoing stress in this area. I am being mistreated and frankly, I would say I am being bullied. Previously, my ability to cope with the circumstances was bearable and I could accept the situation. This is not the case any longer and only hours after my computer malfunction, the straw fell on the camel’s back and it was all I could do to keep my temper in control and keep my focus on what mattered until I could have a shower and go to bed. Over the next few days both situations were resolved to a point I could accept, but my heart was still heavier for this new experience.
What more could happen?
Fast forward a week and I am starting to feel as though my life is settling down. I could cope with my first large scale ‘corporation’ shock. My second blow of the computer debacle proved difficult and scattered my head almost as much as the biggest bullying incident. At this stage I had started to think I am had my ‘Unlucky Three’ run and was hoping life would settle down. Needless to say, I was only in the eye of the storm. Come around the third week and in one fell swoop another trio swooped in for attack. As I approached lunch one day it became apparent the assignment I was working on, expecting it due in a week, was due at midnight. This is the part where we gasp, and thank my thoughtfulness at being so well organised that I was almost ready to submit in only a few hours, after a last edit. At the same time I was madly scrambling through my assignment in the university library, a man I call an uncle and knew more than my own uncles growing up, passed away. Taking some time at home that afternoon to collect my thoughts I was heartbroken to discover my fur baby bunny Turvy had managed to escape from her hutch and run away from home.
How did I cope?
I have a great support network. My family, housemate and friends are all aware of my personality, know my limits and how much space I need, as well as when to give me comfort. But they do still ask me how I am. Everyone does, it is a courtesy and reactionary, in my opinion. But few people ask how I manage to cope. What my strategy is for when I need to cope. Well, maybe they do ask or have asked but I have brushed it aside. I never really thought about it until one particular person sat me down and needed to know, “How do you always cope so well? I need to know what has made you this way. Why are you like this?” So, I thought about it long and hard. This question needed an answer and I needed to tell them how I cope. It seemed like a good question and my answer felt to be valuable enough that I want to share it with you.
What do I do?
Now see, how I think about issues is the first step. I have acknowledged the situation, but do not directly categorise it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When we think about ‘bad’ things they feel worse inside us and bring about negative thoughts and feelings, which we will inevitably associate with them. Yes, things happened to me, and yes, I cried or felt horrible about them at the time.
But I recognise that:
- My body was whole, hale and hearty
- I still had my family and friends, a roof over my head, food and clothes, not to mention the clarity of mind and ability to reach out to ask for advice and help
- The world has not stopped turning
- I do not live in a war zone and am not ostracised for my gender, beliefs, race or sexuality
Communication helps me cope
Once I have taken some time to remind myself that my is one that can be resolved, I contact my network. I reach out to my close family and friends and let them know what is going on. I tell the people I live with and see regularly. Talking about what is happening to me is often hard and more than once I had to text a person, or send them an email, as I was ashamed or upset. The desire to run away was strong and I was worried about what people would say or think of me. On one occasion, I honestly said to my mother, “Do I bring these situations on myself?” You may say this was as close as I have ever gotten to asking that big question of “Why me?” There were daily, sometimes more than once, phone calls between myself and mum, trying to sort out my numerous circumstances. I visited cousins, friends and sought more authoritative advice when necessary. Making sure I was talking to everyone regularly, regardless of how much extra time it took and stressed me out at times was essential. This was the most important commodity after keeping a clear, focused and positive thought process during this time.
I forgive myself
When you are overwhelmed with odds that feel against you it is easy to take the victim route and begin to feel like you are sinking. To cope in these times, I take a step back and drop all things I do not need to commit to or focus on and I make sure I keep to all the promises and commitments I had already made and can justifiably attend to. There is an important need during these times to remember you are only one person, and everyone has their limits. As a person who is prone to illness when stressed I need to be mindful of my stress levels and in times like these not only do I need to forgive myself, as any person needs to, but I also need to constantly work on upholding this belief. Because it is a belief. It is okay if some things slip by. It is okay if I do not do my best.
To cope I must look after myself
When you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed and distracted one of the first things to be confused is your diet. Some people take to comfort eating and stress eating, while others miss meals, or medications. They forget to break for drinks and lose track of the time. It is not unheard of to lose whole night of sleep as the mind cannot settle. As soon as I start to feel things are going badly I make meal plans and set timers for my bedtime and alarm clocks for waking up. When everything else starts slipping away from me I make sure my sleep and diet do not. Keeping to my schedules and revising my diary and calendar two or three times daily help me keep my mind rooted in the present so I do not lose even more control.
It is safe to say these coping mechanisms are not surprising, new or secret. Sure, I learnt them from counselors and have had years to practise them. They are second nature to me now. Yet, they are fail safe and foolproof. They have helped me keep my head many times, if not until the crisis was over, then until I could get in to see a professional for a more concentrated and authentic way to cope.
This is how I was able to cope over the last few weeks and will continue to do so in the future.