*This entry was originally posted on Medium as "(Still) Learning to Cope" on October 8, 2016*
I’ve been thinking a lot about coping.
Specifically, I’ve been doing a mental audit of how I cope with various situations. I wanted to see if I could find any consistencies or irregularities in how I handle them. Knowing that there are way too many different situations to consider, I oversimplified it by creating two buckets. Work and Life.
Lets take a look…
Work: If there’s a huge deliverable at work, if something is wrong, or if there is a fire drill, my natural instinct is to just focus on getting that particular task done and ignore all non-essential tasks. One thing I think about during those times is how I’m going to deliver that work.
On this chart here is a terribly illustrated version of a simplified project management triangle.
You can only choose 2 out of 3. At my old job I got alignment with my management that this is how we would handle urgent requests, but not all of my problems can be managed in this manner.
So to summarize how I cope with stress at work, I try to overcome it by working hard and focusing on the things that will help me deliver the best possible output.
Life: When life gets tough, I put my head down and I work extra hard and focu…oh wait. No I don’t. This one is a bit more complicated. Everyday I find myself in situations that I’ve faced countless times where those coping mechanisms are second nature. But I also face new situations on a regular basis as I live my life (as we all should!).
There are some situations that I find myself in regularly that I’ve been coping with but realized that my coping mechanisms just seemed to stop working. This coincided with my sudden anxiety flare ups late last year. There’s obviously a connection, and it’s been the question that I’ve been trying to answer for the last 10 months.
I find it so fascinating how we as people teach ourselves different coping mechanisms for similar situations. I’m not surprised because we’re all different and unique, but it’s just so amazing how our brains work.
I started going to therapy regularly again, different from the one I had earlier this year. My new therapist is great. I have probably already talked about her but her approach is what I need. She challenges me and provides different perspectives that I wouldn’t normally think about. Which is funny because one of my bad habits is to think about every possible negative outcome in situations.
In recent past I was a more resistant to medication. I didn’t really have any sound reasons as to why, but it was mostly based on not knowing what it would actually do to me. I had just started a new job and wasn’t sure when the insurance was going to kick in too so I delayed the process. I was also afraid of developing dependencies, but I spoke with my doctor and we decided to ease into it and try some things out to see how I would react.
There was also a more scientific approach to it. I won’t go into too much detail but it’s this thing called a GeneSight genetic test, and it basically tells you which medications work best for you based on your genetics. It’s actually pretty cool and I’d be happy to talk more about if if you’d like. If you know me personally, ping me or just leave a comment.
Anyway…therapy, books, medication, these things are not the solution. They are supposed to help me on my journey to figure out how to cope, but that journey has been rocky. I repeatedly make the same mistakes and I have developed some bad habits the last 4–5 months.
I won’t say that I’ve regressed since my first post, but I certainly haven’t progressed as much as I would have liked.
I had a lot of ambitions this summer. I had plans to go see this thing, hang out with thatperson, explore this area, try this food, build a coffee table, donate a bunch of clothes, learn self hypnosis, run more often, read all of my half read books, go to the beach, and so on.
To summarize what actually happened in a paragraph, I turned 30, saw some things, hung out with some people, didn’t really explore, ate the same food, didn’t build a coffee table, didn’t donate clothes but did put clothes to donate in a bag (halfway there), failed to teach myself self hypnosis, ran twice, started new books that have also only been half read to add to my collection of half read books, and didn’t set foot on a beach.
Summer is obviously over now, and while I’ve done some of the things I wanted to do, I didn’t really enjoy summer to it’s full potential. Like Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth”. Suffice to say I was psychologically punched in the mouth this summer. I must have done something wrong, right?
According to my therapist, I tend to blame myself for a lot of things. Sometimes it really is my fault, but other times I just point the finger at myself because it’s easier and I don’t have to involve others.
She says that I don’t get upset enough. Not in the sense that I need to be upset, or she suggest that I do. She was just reinforcing the fact that I have a bad habit of putting myself at fault for most of my challenges, for lack of a better term.
I really wanted this summer to go exactly as planned. I was going to kick it off by turning 30 and start the next stage of my life. Early middle age. But I got caught up in non-sense and I chased ghosts. I exhausted so much of my time and energy, both physical and mental, to things that I shouldn’t have.
I don’t want to discount the great times I had this summer either. I don’t mean to down play or diminish the significance of who I hung out with and what I did. I mean, I got a new job outside of the agency world which is something I’ve been wanting for a while, and I did go to Amsterdam and Croatia at the beginning of September that was one of the best trips I’ve been on to-date. To all of my friends and family that spent their time with me and put up with my bullshit this summer, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
this isn’t a subject that is always broached with my family, I know they support me and are there. I’ve also got a great group of friends who are very supportive and are there for me too. Is it sad that I have to constantly remind myself of this? Probably.
All that said, I’m still learning to cope with anxiety, depression, and well…pretty much everything else. I’m still very much committed to self improvement the rest of this year and beyond. I have to come to terms with reality and just really dig in and focus on what is truly important to me, focus on what I truly care about, and let bygones be bygones.