I come by it honestly. My Dad was a well-intentioned workaholic and my Mom both loses and finds herself in helping others. I’m good at staying busy. It’s brought some amazing adventures, a sense of confidence and independence, and varied nerdy interests and intellectual pursuits.
But what happens when life slows down and gives you more time than you know how to fill? If you’re me, you panic! The panic goes in waves (the waves calm when the smallest bit of distraction helps me avoid the darkness that my fear tells me is looming in the distance, waiting to pounce if I slow down enough for it to catch me). I didn’t think I actively avoided being still, but at the same time I certainly wasn’t comfortable in it and had created patterns and habits that kept me from finding an uncomfortable amount of it. But those patterns of staying busy had been changed and weren’t available and I got scared.
Oh, and to further normalize aversion to stillness, Im a therapist! Im supposed to like this shit! Im into mindfulness and stillness and emotions and all that uncomfy stuff. Wasn’t I supposed to start a prolonged state of levitating bliss when I got my MFT license!?!
So I did what any enlightened person does…I judged myself, I denied my feelings, and I found new ways to get busy again. Until I hit a brick wall and got buried under depression and anxiety. Until I started crying at small, seemingly random things. Until I struggled to get out of bed. Until I was with my favorite people doing my favorite things and still felt numb because disconnecting from painful emotions had disconnected me from the more fun ones as well.
Begrudgingly, I took my own dumb advice and leaned into the stillness. I got really intentional about keeping up my yoga practice, mediating, listening to music, journaling, letting myself lay in bed and cry if I felt like it. I got intentional about being curious about my thoughts and feelings and simply observing and labling what I saw. At that time, what I found, was lonliness. In hindsight, all my previous busy-ness that had been an effort to avoid feeling lonely had kept me from connecting to others, mostly because I hadn’t been connecting to myself. Without truly seeing my emotions and lonliness, I had not been effective in helping myself feel better because you cant fix a problem you refuse to identify. Once I got in touch with my lonliness I was able to take action to connect to friends and family, connect more meaningfully to activities, and, most importantly, connect to myself.
This stuff isn’t magic. I still had times (and currently have time…lets be real, this stuff is part of life and still happens) when I missed people or was bored. And those times hurt, but I find myself practicing being more open to acknowledging that hurt rather than running from it. I firmly believe that being separated from others is painful, but being separated from yourself is suffering.
I encourage you to join me in this practice of daily slowing down enough to see yourself. It’s a scary idea and takes a lot of bravery. And its worth it. You’re worth it.
If you’re struggling with overwhelming emotions, Im here to help. Get in touch via email ErikaHolmesMFT@gmail.com, or phone 818.919.2253