KAIT MAURO

Field Notes on Healing: One

HealingKait MauroComment

I bought a book, “Calming the Emotional Storm,” way back in early 2015 after my suicide attempt when I was determined to put my life back together. My life is built on a solid foundation right now - there’s a path for Edward & I, we have amazing fur babies, we have a roof over our heads & the luxury of not having to worry about where our next meal is coming from (which, when you were once homeless with an overdrafted bank account, is not something you take for granted). Because of all of this, because of where I am in my life right now, I have the time, energy, motivation & resources to work on some of my ghosts. These ghosts are the narratives I tell myself about my life & myself that are old, hardwired in, but don’t serve me anymore and aren’t even purely factual (let alone compassionate). These ghosts are difficult to challenge & exorcise. I started reading this book many times in many different homes during many different phases of my life since 2015 but never got past the first chapter & a half or so. The subtitle is “Using Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills To Manage Your Emotions & Balance Your Life,” which sounds about right for me right now. Yeah, I’m reading a self-help book on how to manage emotions when you live with emotional dysregulation issues. Judge all you want - it’s helping.

A quote from the book just explaining what emotional dysregulation is:

“Emotional dysregulation means you react emotionally to things that most people wouldn’t typically react to, your reaction is more intense than the situation warrants & it takes you longer than the average person to recover from it or get back to feeling like your usual self.”

I am trying to recover from this, to become more emotionally regulated & to relearn how to be a human, almost - one with healthier thought patterns & emotional responses to any given stimuli. I am growing up all over again. I am learning how to cope. People mention “coping skills” or “tools” or “strategies” a lot in therapy & mental health situations… but they’re extremely vague terms to a person who was taught unhealthy or zero coping skills when they were growing up. Like, yes, I would love to have coping skills - what the fuck is a coping skill? This is the level we are working on, people. Like, tell me what your coping skills are or what other people do to cope because it just feels like an abstract concept to me (or at least it did when I started this healing journey a short while ago) and I have no idea how to actually enact a “coping skill.”

“In addition, your relationships or self-esteem may suffer […] all because you didn’t learn certain skills to help you deal with your emotions as you were growing up. […] Our environment also plays a large role in the development of emotional dysregulation, and trauma is a common factor for people who have problems managing their emotions: having been physically or sexually abused or having been neglected as a child, for example.”

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The introduction of the book is just kind of an overview but the first chapter is about mindfulness. I will admit that, even though I’ve had the Headspace app on my phone for years, I have barely used it & am a total newbie when it comes to mindfulness. I’ve spent so much of my life, my adult life at least, living in the past or the future. I worry about the past even though it’s already done. I feel shame, guilt, anger & fear when I am stuck in the past.I fret about situations that might repeat themselves & cause me pain all over again. Through this kind of anxious rumination, I cause myself the pain all over again - it’s a stupid cycle. I worry about the future, I imagine all kinds of horrible things that could go drastically wrong. I also worry about things not going drastically wrong, about things just continuing as they are with me feeling as broken, empty, alone, bored, directionless & pointless as I do a lot of the time so far.

“Mindfulness is about intentionally being aware of the present moment and, rather than judging whatever you find in that moment, allowing yourself to turn toward your experience.”

Not judging does not come naturally for me & is something I need to work on. See the post about “Splitting.” People & experiences are usually either great or terrible in my book - I need to write my stories with a bit more nuance.

“By focusing on the present moment, mindfulness helps you train your mind to control where your attention goes rather than let your mind control you. It’s about paying attention to what is happening now - and taking an attitude of friendly curiosity, acceptance & openness towards the experience. […] Often we have enough pain to deal with in the present moment; being stuck in the past and the future only multiplies the amount of emotional pain we have and makes our pain that much harder to bear. […] Focusing on the present moment, or being mindful, helps to prevent painful emotions from coming up by helping you be aware of when you’re living in the past or the future.”

Friendly curiosity, acceptance & openness towards the present experience sound wonderful to me. I want that. I am posting these excerpts from the book a) in the hope that they will help you if you are struggling with painful emotions b) to help myself remember what I am learning. Mindfulness, as I mentioned earlier, is both a new skill & one that does not come naturally to me. I am an expert worrier. But I’d like to change that.