On Childhood, Changes, and Coping Mechanisms

coping mechanisms

I don’t believe I’ve ever published a 2am blog post.

Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of late night writing sessions, but none of them ever felt good enough to post. Either they were too raw for the public eye to see or my words didn’t have an ounce of sense in them.

I’m feeling pretty clear-headed tonight, so let’s see where the page leads me.

January as a whole has been outstanding. I don’t know what’s in the air, but I feel like a different version of myself. Not much as changed in the new year quite yet, but the energy overall feels cleansed from everything 2018 brought me.

It took a couple of weeks, but I’m starting to be able to put the past behind me. I spent most of Fall trying to mend the things I was terrified of breaking. I was scared of losing someone’s attention, growing distant from others, and believing things had already been as good as they were going to get.

It’s funny. I smelled a rollerball perfume I kept in my purse last Summer and it took me instantly back to those days. I remember feeling so in awe of life then, but I also know I was looking back with tunnel vision. While last year gave me some of my best memories, I also know I went through a lot of hell during those times. I hit some dark points that a simple smell of rollerball perfume was trying to mask.

I fell in to a pretty sad spot as 2018 ended. I had a collage of memories to look back on and yet, I found myself feeling just as lonely as the year began. All the relationships I pursued had fizzled out and the ‘new’ feeling of going out and being young started to die.

However, I’m looking back with clear eyes now.

I’m starting to see that living in the past only interferes with the moments I’m creating now. During some of the ‘best’ times from last year, I had no idea I was in them while they were occurring. It wasn’t until I looked back that I truly saw those memories for what they were.

That very knowledge is what has made this month so refreshing. I’m actively living life as it comes.

When you have no idea what to expect, every day becomes its own journey.

I’ve come to another realization that I wish I knew a year ago. (But again, we can’t expect ourselves to know what we don’t know yet.)

 

That gut feeling you get when you do something scary doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

 

There’s a difference between something feeling completely off or simply being in uncharted territory. If we’re experiencing something we’ve never done before, it’d be concerning if you didn’t feel an inkling of fear. It’s normal.

I’ve written this a million times, but I remember a specific post I wrote in 2017 about being scared of relationships. I spoke about the feeling of being suffocated and isolating myself when someone reciprocated any genuine feelings towards me. That sounds awful writing it down, but it sums up why my relationship history is so messy. I’ve put all of my eggs in baskets that didn’t ask for them and hid them from people who’d do anything to fill theirs.

I used to run away from that gut feeling of someone trying to love me. Call it childhood trauma or pure fear of commitment, but I’ve always been terrified to break down that wall.

2019 feels like the year where I let myself sit with the fear rather than go after those who will always be uncertain about me.

I’m easing in to the idea. It’s too much pressure to think about it as any more than a daily commitment. I wake up each day willing to work a little more towards being comfortable with the idea of love. It sounds cheesy as hell, but after probably a decade of confusing encounters, I know my relationship to love itself needs tending to.

I think that’s where a lot of us get tripped up when we’re overwhelmed.

 

We look at something we’re dealing with days, weeks, or even months in to the future when that has nothing to do with right now. We can’t know how things will play out then, we only know what we’re capable of doing in this moment.

 

Don’t get me wrong, having faith is still a scary thing. It’s easy to want to plan out and control how every aspect of how your life will go. It feels safer than just hoping for the best.

There’s nothing wrong with a little structure or goals in your life, but it’s when you only adhere to them for a future outcome that those little things become detrimental. You need to find a way to be okay with where you are before you can ever get to where you want to be.

 

I used to see life as such a linear path.

 

You take steps here and there that lead you to where you’re ‘supposed’ to be. In reality, you’re not meant to be anywhere other than where you are right now. Not in the sense that you don’t deserve better, but that each choice you’ve made up until this point placed you a bit closer towards what you want.

Truth is, you don’t need a solid end goal to reach.

To be brash, life doesn’t end until you die.

You can commit yourself to a certain goal, but think about it – once that goal’s achieved, your expansion doesn’t stop there. You don’t suddenly become content with life every moment until you’re gone. You crave new goals, new experiences. You find yourself wanting to grow further from that ‘end’ point you set.

This idea of an end goal only hinders you further when you treat every day as a means to an end FOR this goal. You can claim how much you want something but if you’re miserable on the way there, you’ll find you never reap the benefit.

While this all makes sense typing out, I also know how difficult it can be to come to this realization.

Depending on how you grew up, everything up until this point may have been future-focused. If we hustle now, we’ll be thankful later.

Like I’ve said, there’s nothing wrong with a good hustle, but make sure the intentions behind the hustle are pure.

For example, why do we strive for money and a good career?

 

With our finances, we may tell ourselves we want financial freedom. We don’t want to work to live and live to exist. We want to be taken care of financially so all of those worrisome thoughts no longer power our mind.

Or, we may want money to be able to afford a life we’ve envisioned for ourselves. We see ourselves in designer clothes, nice houses, multiple cars, etc. The life we’re living currently may feel a like a scrap version of what we know it could be.

People don’t want to admit this, but sometimes we want money simple for the power it gives us. In a world where we’re taught to see everyone as equals, part of us may find a sense of self-esteem in having more money than other people.

 

Whatever it may be, we need to find the intention behind what we want and dive further in to it.

The thought I know will be the most triggering is the idea that having money makes you feel better than someone else. No one wants to own that aspect of themselves.

However, if you grew up in a childhood where you were always the poorest of your friends and they made you feel inadequate because of it, you may still harbor that animosity within you. That’s where your desire to climb the corporate ladder comes from – to prove to Bob in math class that you can afford those shoes you never could.

Once you find that aspect within yourself, you can begin to heal. You slowly realize over time that the coping mechanism you’ve been using all along (in this case, making money to prove worth)  is the root cause of your pain.

You strived to make the most money and be the top of your branch to prove the school kids wrong.

Working hard was your motivation as a kid because it helped you see the other side of your pain.

You saw an end game – become super successful and you’ll be just as worthy as the rest of them. It was your sole motivation back then, but now, as an adult, you run yourself dry daily.

You may be making a good salary by societal standards, but the hours only become longer as the gross income gets higher. To your kid self, you’ve made it and yet, you still aren’t happy.

 

I swear, shitty intentions is what keeps most of us confused about our lives.

 

Thing is, we use coping mechanisms because it is all we’ve known. They kept us safe during a scary time in our lives, so while they may hurt you in adulthood, we can’t disregard them. They were a crutch to keep us from feeling the hurt we didn’t want to feel.

But now, it is up to us to decide what to do with this newfound information.

To get personal, one of my largest coping mechanisms is any form of addiction. I’ve found myself addicted to a variety of things, but all for the same purpose; the feeling of relief that comes over me.

I binged food during a time I was obsessed with my body image. The addiction was in total opposition to what I actually wanted (weight loss) and yet, those ten minutes of relief kept me binging for nearly two years.

Up until last year, I’ve used shopping as a way to fill a void. I’d go through a depressed period and either go out to a T.J. Maxx or spend hours on Amazon. I knew I didn’t need anything I was buying nor did I have money to be spending and yet, I consistently found my credit cards racked up.

Most of 2018, I found myself hurt over my relationships so, in probably my worst addiction thus far, I used substances to numb myself out. I wouldn’t specify it to any particular vice, but whatever was the most accessible.

I beat myself up for all of these things over the years, but thing is, I truly was looking to make myself feel better.

You need to look at yourself through the eyes of your younger self. You wouldn’t berate him or her for looking to make themselves feel good again.

 

However, once we’re aware of anyway coping mechanism, we have to figure out what we’re trying to escape through it.

 

I didn’t want to feel the negative emotions from my relationships last year, so I avoided them.

Eventually though, you realize you can only escape your issues for so long before they begin to overflow. You can hold on to a coping mechanism for as long as you need to, but there comes a point for everyone where the drive to move on from your issues overpowers your desire to cling to safety.

Letting go won’t come easy and you can’t expect the process to be perfect. Trust me, I’ve let go of old mechanisms only to pick up a new one a few weeks later. We can jump from attachment to attachment without realizing we’re even doing it.

 

All that matters is that we find we’re no longer bulldozing how we feel or cope, but looking for better solutions.

 

While my emotions have been calmer as of late, I don’t doubt that if a bad night hits me, I won’t be tempted to look for a quick fix rather than sit with the issue. If I slip up, that’s okay. I’ll learn more for the next time.

We put so much pressure on perfecting our lives when we’re only human. All I can do is try my best daily and let my gut lead me where I need to go.

There’s no formula to life. Not mine, not yours.

We can look to others to spark inspiration, but once we start creating this idea of what our life should be based off of theirs, we’ve transcended into dark territory.

So even though I’ve written a novel for you here, trust that my words are only meant to ignite something in you, not shape you.

We’re the sculptors of our own sky so on that note, I leave you with this.

The pain we experience in this life was never meant to wrong us. It arrived as a messenger for all the ways we’ve disowned ourselves over the years.

We forget about the inner child who was bullied for being poor and lost his self worth.

We forget about the little girl who always felt like a victim to the world around her.

Once these aspects find themselves seen and heard, the power to move forward arises as well.

Pain doesn’t have to be an never-ending cycle. We’re the creators of our life and with that, the way of change has always been in our hands.

We forgot is all.

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