“It’s Just Too Much”; Why Teens are Mean pt. 2

Yeah, yeah, it’s been a while. Are you still there?

 

As promised, I’m here to continue the conversation about communication, emotions, and our ability to express them in a healthy way. Today I want to focus on emotional numbing and how it affects the psyche.

In my last post I highlighted the ways in which all humans have a tendency to ignore or discount their own feelings and emotions. For maturing teens, this is especially difficult. Bottling up emotions can lead to violent outbursts and feelings of confusion and pain. When we express our emotions in a healthy way, we are able to let go of the need to bottle them up. Letting go of this natural tendency will allow more energy to flow through your heart, body and mind.

During transitional phases in our lives, bottling up emotions can seem like the only way to get through it. It’s not always possible to express our emotions constructively and many people don’t know how to start. Some people suppress their emotions, while others ignore them entirely. When an individual becomes overwhelmed with stimuli, a natural response is to shut down. Like a computer running multiple programs that hasn’t been restarted in weeks, the human brain becomes slow and bogged down.

You may wonder what the difference is between bottling up emotions and becoming numb to them.

When you bottle up an emotion, there is an air of secrecy. Maybe you think your feelings are unjustified, unimportant or that no one will care how you feel. In these situations, you keep your feelings and thoughts to yourself and ignore the emotions connected to them.

Emotional numbing is when we become closed off and unable to feel deep emotion altogether. Sometimes this is in defense against pain or injustice from our past, but there are innumerable reasons. When we feel overwhelmed by our constant flood of emotions and thoughts, we can become overstimulated and unsure of where to start when it comes to figuring out “what’s wrong.” Instead, we might just close ourselves off to emotion entirely.

Common phrases to hear from someone who is emotionally numb are “It’s too much to handle” or “I don’t know how I feel.”

Emotional numbing is a natural way of protecting oneself. When we have suffered a wrong, it can feel easier to just block everyone and everything out rather than facing the pain head-on. Compared to bottling our feelings which leads to outbursts, emotional numbing can seem like the “healthier” way to deal with problems. But in reality, it is even harder to recover from emotional numbing than emotional outbursts.

Emotional numbing can be incredibly damaging on the brain and heart. It’s not the freezing of the heart that hurts. It’s the thawing out that shocks our system. You might ask why not just stay frozen? After all, it’s comfortable there. You feel protected there. It’s easy to stay safe and avoid all the bad feelings if you look at life from far away. I’ll tell you why…

When you close yourself off from emotion, you not only block out the bad feelings, but you simultaneously eliminate the chance for good feelings as well. I’m not just talking about happy and sad though. I’m talking about a general sense of feeling alive, moving your body and exercising your muscles, feeling loved and excited and getting worked up about something that moves you. These are the feelings you eliminate by closing yourself off to emotion.

And the biggest part of it is that no matter how hard you try to block out those negative feelings  (anger, sadness, loneliness, insecurity) it won’t really matter because you’ll probably still feel them anyway. Instead, you’ll feel them inside. You’ll have conversations in your head with yourself reminding you of how you didn’t do well enough or that someone else could do better than you. This is called self-doubt. Self-doubt is a truly crippling type of hell. Plagued by ideas in your own head of what others must think of you, you avoid contact with people. Those who are most closed-off are often the most self conscious and insecure.

But let me ask you a question.

What’s the worst that could happen if someone says something rude to you or judges your character?


Teenagers are so driven by community and a sense of fitting in that they would do just about anything not to be made fun of for being different. Being the “weird” kid isn’t a title many kids sign up for willingly. The craving for community is what leads many teens to drug abuse, gangs, and dangerous behavior. It also leads them to bullying and an overall rejection of kids who are different from themselves.

This fear of rejection leaves a kid with few social options. Sometimes the choice is limited to only two options: be made fun of or make fun of others.

If you ask a teenager the question I posed above, the answer is likely to be radically different from that of an adult and also quite different from the answer of a child. During transitional phases in life, we experience a heavily opinionated inner critic who contributes to our self-doubt and self limiting beliefs. Much like a childhood bully, this critic picks apart the aspects of ourselves that we see as “flawed.”

The best way of preparing a child for the onslaught of confusing emotions, conflicting beliefs and uncontrollable desires that come with puberty is acceptance. Teaching children to respect, accept, and honor their feelings, even if they don’t know what these feelings mean, will give the child a greater sense of calm when faced with bigger issues.

Reminding kids to BE KIND to everyone they meet is the most important lesson of all- for every person is going through his or her own battle that we know nothing about. Every outward reaction is a mere reflection of one’s own relationship with the self. When someone is hurtful, they are usually hurting even more on the inside. Teach compassion, empathy, and an overall sense of care for others’ wellbeing.

This reminder to be kind no matter the situation reiterates the importance of honoring our emotions instead of ignoring them. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be honest with others about what you’re going through. It’s okay because we’ve all been there. The collective human experience is filled with pain and hardship, but at the turn of every corner, you will find a reward worth every ounce of pain. Just keep going. Just be kind. First to yourself, and the rest will follow ❤

Always with love
xoxo
Dee

“I Hate You”; Why Teens are Mean pt. 1

Dear Reader,

Think back to a time when your emotions were so strong that you had to act on them- maybe you got frustrated and yelled out in anger, maybe you were feeling afraid and began to cry. Re-read that sentence and really think about it for a moment.

For some of you, this memory may be from when you were very young, still a child. For others, this memory of intense emotion may be from your teenage and young-adult years. For ALL of you reading this, it’s also possible that you experienced this just recently! We are human, after all. Emotion is what enriches our lives and also complicates it.


Teens and Emotions

Teenagers experience a wide range of emotions multiple times a day. Flooded with neurotransmitters, the teenage mind is in a constant state of rapid change. You may remember what that felt like or you may have witnessed it first-hand as it happened to your own child. The fact of the matter is that teenagers have a lot going on in their heads and it affects their behavior and understanding of the world more than they may realize.

There’s been a heavy weight on my mind and my heart recently. I know a couple of teenagers right now who are going through rough transitions into young-adulthood. One in particular is my little brother. I feel the pain he’s in when he acts out. I recognize the patterns of anger, sadness, insecurity, self judgment, and emotional numbing that I went through when I was his age (and still go through when my mind is not balanced). My brother and I share a tendency to bottle up our feelings and have subsequent outbursts of intense emotion. Sometimes we say things we don’t mean, whether intentionally hurtful or not, as an emotional reaction to how we feel on the inside. It’s not a fun place to be. It’s actually pretty fucking scary.

As a third party in the lives of both of the teenagers I know, I realize there is truly only one way in which I can help them through this tough time: understanding them. Trying to tell them what I’ve learned and how I learned it will do them no good. In order to grow, you must learn things in your own way and on your own timeline.

There are many ways in which a person copes with intense emotion. Two natural ways of dealing with emotion are through emotional outbursts and emotional numbing. Outbursts are caused when emotions aren’t fully expressed and bottle up over time. Numbing happens when a person becomes so overwhelmed by their thoughts and feelings that they become desensitized and experience a disconnection with all feelings.


Cause: Bottling Up Emotions

Even though we may not enjoy these emotions -anger, sadness, insecurity, etc- they are all natural emotions that we feel as humans. If we don’t express them, they can bottle up. Sometimes it happens in such a subtle way that we don’t even realize it.

Example: Adults Bottling Emotions Example: Teens Bottling Emotions
  • Your roommate stayed up all night and kept you awake, but instead of knocking on the door and asking her to keep it down, you laid awake in bed thinking about how rude she’s being and reconsidering living with her.
  • A kid at school made fun of you and everyone laughed. Instead of telling the kid to leave you alone and that you don’t care what they say about you, you avoid the kid and all of their friends.
  • You get jealous when your partner spends time with other people. You trust your partner, but you are unable to shake the feeling of jealousy, so instead you hide it. Instead of expressing the feeling, you pretend you aren’t jealous and think negatively about yourself for feeling that way.
  • Your parents are divorced and speak negatively about one another around you. Next time one parent does or says something unfair to you, you remember what the other parent said. Instead of expressing how you feel about the unfairness, you talk to the other parent about it. Your attitude becomes negative around the “unfair” parent and you naturally spend less time with them.
  • Your coworker tells you the boss is writing employees up unfairly and you feel compelled to stand on your coworkers’ side. After all, camaraderie is important. But instead of getting the facts straight, you hold a grudge against your boss and over time you develop a sour taste for your job entirely.
  • You hear from one friend that another friend is mad at you. You feel betrayed and question all of your mutual friends to see if anyone knows why. Overwhelmed with all of the opinions, you decide it’s easiest to be mad at your friend too. Besides, you didn’t do anything wrong. Why should they be mad at you?

Effect: Emotional Outbursts

Over time, we bottle up so many little things that are seemingly harmless, but actually take up a big majority of our energy. Once we reach our max, we have to release all the pressure in the bottle. Some people learn to release the pressure gradually, but many of us have a tendency to explode.

We’ve all seen this happen. Your partner blows up at you for something small and seemingly insignificant. Later on, you realize they have been hiding their feelings out of fear, embarrassment, insecurity, or a number of other reasons. Your boss had a bad weekend and takes it out on you and your coworkers.

The teenage brain, already overloaded with thoughts and feelings, explodes more often and sometimes more violently than an adult. Teenagers can be especially hurtful to others during these intense explosions. Sometimes they cuss, yell, slam doors and say things like “I hate you.” It’s important to understand that these intense outbursts are a reflection of their inner feelings.

How To Help

  • Don’t mirror their behavior! If someone is acting out, the worst thing you can do for them is reinforce their destructive behavior by responding in the same way. Take a deep breath and put yourself in their shoes before you start yelling back.
  • Don’t take what they say personally. Remember how toxic those bottled up emotions can make you feel. Remember the desperation you felt to express those toxic emotions in an attempt to get them out. Every outward reaction we have to one another is just a reflection of how we react inwardly within ourselves. Think of the skin as a window, not a wall.
  • Give them time to cool off. After any intense emotional reaction or interaction, it’s best to back up a few steps and recenter yourself. Emotions can be complex and take time to work through. If you are able to communicate calmly, you’ll get much further in resolving the issue.
  • Be open and calm when you talk again. Try to express how they made you feel without blaming or attacking. Ask questions! Most of us have questions, but for fear of judgment or of “sounding stupid” we keep them in. It might be uncomfortable at first, but if you can ask just one question that requires depth and starts a productive conversation, you’ll be glad you did.

 

In my next blog, I’ll talk more about emotional numbing and why it happens. Emotion can be powerfully overwhelming if you don’t know how to effectively express it. Instead of bottling it up and exploding or letting emotion flow through you naturally, some people cope by cutting off emotion entirely.

Until then, I’m off to do some yoga and ground myself after the momentous rain storm that just hit the entire West Coast at one time. I spy a few cracks of sunlight through the redwood trees.

Always with love,
xoxo
Dee

How It All Began

At the beginning of 2017 I set some goals for myself. Pushing toward these goals has really shaped the way my year has gone. I’m finding that it’s really important to always have something to strive for. Even the smallest things can make a huge impact and keep me focused on positive change instead of negative behaviors.

In previous goal-less years, I fell into the same old patterns:

-I worked at jobs that sapped my energy and drained my passion
-I made friends with people who were not good influences on me
-I was less active, eating worse, and having health issues
-I was smoking cigarettes, drinking excessively and having thoughts of suicide
-I was reckless and promiscuous

Basically, my point is that while all ya’ll been bitching about 2017, I’ve been growing exponentially. Setting goals was only the first step in a year-long journey of self-love and acceptance.

On October 27, 2016 I went for a 1 mile run. It took me over twelve minutes and I was so incredibly sore afterwards. Of those twelve minutes, I ran four and walked eight. Despite this performance that would normally discourage me, I got up the next morning and ran again.

Here’s the key to how I did it: I didn’t get up to run so that I would get fit or lose weight. I didn’t get up to run with a hidden agenda or any real reason. I went for 1 run, 1 morning in the dark of October and during that four minutes of increased heart rate, I was present. Instead of focusing on the pain in my lungs, I focused on the euphoric rush of blood to my brain. I focused on the clarity of my mind and the rush of my senses. I breathed deeply into the icy cold chill in my chest instead of letting it consume and discourage me.

Don’t get me wrong- it wasn’t all beautiful. My muscles ached, I choked for air when I slowed to a walk. My lungs, heart, and muscles were completely out of sync. My lungs were weak so I wasn’t delivering enough oxygen to my bloodstream which caused my brain to briefly starve of air. Desperate for oxygen, my circulatory systems powered down a little to give my brain more power. My muscles were unnecessary at that point. My legs grew so cold it was painful to touch them and I just couldn’t run anymore. I literally COULDN’T.

But I was so curious. During that four minutes of blissful synchronization, I felt as if I could run forever.

A little backstory may help: I was fresh (I mean, DAYS) out of an abusive relationship with a toxic alcoholic. This first run must have been aligned to happen exactly when it did, because those four minutes I felt like I was truly running away. Everything behind me and a blank slate before me, going on a run that cold morning in October was the best thing that happened to me all year. It started a journey towards my Personal Legend (Any fans of The Alchemist out there?) that has led me all the way up to today and the creation of this blog. Crazy.

Over a year later, I’m sitting here analyzing what that run really means to me. It was the moment of greatest transformation for me. When I decided to get up and go for another run, I was really starting to get better from all those “illnesses” I’d been “medicated” for in my late teens and early twenties. I just didn’t know it yet.

I know that seems like a big jump to say that going for a lousy 1 mile run around a well-paved, well-lit upper middle class suburban neighborhood at a leisurely pace of 12 minutes and 13 seconds had has any dramatic effect in my life.

But if you need proof that the universe provides signs, that intuition is real and powerful, and there is a greater force in everything, take a look at where I went running…

California Wildfires
This is after it burned down this year, of course
Image-1
Here’s the map of my run from my iPhone

 

coffeybefore3
Here’s what it looked like before the fire

I did a lot this year. I set lots of goals. Let me stress how important it is that: I DIDN’T ACCOMPLISH THEM ALL. And that’s okay, because if I shoot for the moon, I’ll land among the stars. First I had to break down my own self-limited beliefs.

In the beginning of the year, I started carrying around a notebook.

Every time I think of something I want to do, an idea I have, a positive affirmation or just a place to brainstorm I turn to this journal. I’m uploading some of my favorite pages for you in hopes that it may help you learn to love your progress as it taught me.


 

2017 has been like no other year and I am just so emotional about the amount of growth I’ve done, but I’m not done yet. I have some plans for 2018. As it grows nearer, I’ll fill you all in.

I’d like to take some time to recognize those of you who have reached out to me during my journey. I’ve received numerous messages on many different platforms, but especially on Instagram. Some of you I’ve met, others I haven’t. Some of you I see every week, while others I haven’t seen in years. Thank you all for your support, your kind words, your encouragement. I am so touched by your bravery to step forward and support another human in a world where we are taught to compete. Your messages inspire me to continue my journey and share what I learn.

“Your perception of me is a reflection of you”

So for all of you out there sending kind words and love my way, you are sending kind words and love to yourself as well. I am but a mirror. The good you see in me is the good you will learn to see in yourself.

Always with love
xoxo Dee

My Supplement Regimen

Alright ya’ll. I posted yesterday about my withdrawal from antidepressants, but I want to follow up with some ways that you can manage the symptoms and jump start your brain so that it starts to produce and reuptake (I’ll explain this later) the neurochemicals (Serotonin in my case) that it needs to function.

Oftentimes people mistakenly believe that if you take antidepressants, it’s because your body is unable to produce the correct amount of neurochemicals needed for healthy brain activity. Sometimes this is the case, but for me specifically, my brain needs a boost to help it more slowly absorb the serotonin that it produces naturally.

Science Speak: Reuptake is defined as “the absorption by a presynaptic nerve ending of a neurotransmitter that it has secreted.”

Simple Speak: When a neurotransmitter is created in the brain, the nerve endings absorb it and use it for healthy brain function.

Many antidepressants work to inhibit, or slow down, this reuptake. These medications fall into the category of SRIs (Selective Reuptake Inhibitors)

Science Speak: SRIs “inhibit the reuptake of a neurotransmitter from the synapse into the presynaptic neuron, leading to an increase in the extracellular concentrations of the neurotransmitter” SRIs Information

Simple Speak: SRIs are used to slow down the absorption of neurotransmitters so your brain can swim around in yummy fluid for longer before being processed.

FUN FACT:
“Although serotonin is well known as a brain neurotransmitter, it is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. In fact, altered levels of this peripheral serotonin have been linked to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.” Gut Health & Serotonin

This quite literally means that gut health and a balanced diet is the #1 way to promote healthy brain function.

When I decided to quit Sertraline cold turkey, I did a lot of research on different natural supplements I could take to help with the short-term withdrawal symptoms as well as long-term benefits. Gotta throw in there that I’m not a doctor so don’t take my advice, blow it out of proportion, and hurt yourself then try to sue me. This is California after all. Most of our laws exist because somebody sued and ruined it for the rest of us 🙄

St John’s Wort:

Commonly used in Europe to treat depression naturally, St John’s Wort is a wild plant that can be bought in pill, herb, and liquid form. I use the liquid form and put it in my water bottle in the morning that way I’m getting a good dose throughout the day.

Note: St John’s Wort can make other medications less effective, especially prescription antidepressant medications and hormonal birth control. It’s also possible to overdose on serotonin production so do your research y’all.

Check out this link for more info: St John’s Wort

GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid):

GABA is a naturally occurring amino acid and neurotransmitter created in the brain to regulate the nervous system and can help with anxiety, depression, insomnia and addiction. GABA is most effective when taken in the morning on an empty stomach for optimal absorption.

Check out this link for more info: GABA 

5-HTP:

5-HTP is a chemical by-product of L-tryptophan and works to increase serotonin in the brain. It has been proven as effective for treating depression and possibly effective (not tested enough) as a treatment for anxiety, sleep disorders, migraines and PMS.

Check out this link for more info: 5-HTP

P.S. If you’re wondering about my beautiful pinecone candles in the photo, they are made by my friend Lindsey. They are 100% beeswax and smell like delicious honey. Check out her etsy shop here —> Redwood Coast Mercantile

Always with love- xoxo Dee

Brain Zaps Are No Joke Ya’ll

On November 5th 2017 I decided to withdrawal cold turkey from the only antidepressant that’s every “worked” for me. I had been taking 150 mg daily of Sertraline (the generic for Zoloft for those who don’t know) for about 3 years with little to no noticeable negative side effects. Things seemed to be fine until I visited my psychiatrist earlier this year.

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen a talk therapist or had a doctor that did anything besides prescribe me pills for my DSM-V diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety. I feel a bit like a christmas cookie from a cutter that lost its shape in the oven.

Anyway, I was getting ready to move out of state and I wanted to make sure I’d have enough medication to last me for a little while so I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. My doctor is a tall, thin, foreign woman, but incredibly warm in the face. I sat down in her little office and she asked me all the usual questions. “How have you been? What are you doing for work? Where are you living? How are your symptoms?” I rattled off the usual answers out of habit.

As I was getting ready to leave, a question of my own popped into my head and I blurted it out without overthinking in my usual manner. I looked up at my doctor and asked: When will I know I’m ready to come off the drugs?

The question came so quickly that I didn’t have any time to overthink how she may answer me or what reaction she would have – a coping mechanism I developed over the years so that I was never too surprised by extreme emotions or confrontation. She looked straight at me with the warmest expression and said “You’ll just know when it’s right to wean yourself off the medication.” That little bit of encouragement was enough to plant a seed in my head that would follow me around for the rest of the year.

In July I began weaning off slowly. I cut my dose by 1/3 over the period of a few weeks. After that, I cut my dose by another 1/3 for a week or so until I started getting increased anxiety attacks and decided I needed to move even slower. I went from 150 mg to 100 mg, briefly to 50 mg and then back up to 75 mg for the remainder of the summer. I started to doubt my ability to tell the difference between what my normal brain was doing and what the medication was doing to influence my brain.

By summer’s end I hit a low that brought me back to my comfortable “normal” dose of 150 mg daily. I was discouraged.

I started doing research on quitting cold turkey and what the possible side effects would be if I went that route. I found a few real live people who had documented their experiences on youtube and it reminded me that I wasn’t the first person to want to do this the “wrong” way.

The list of withdrawal side effects were long and scary-sounding.

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome:
Anxiety
Insomnia
Vivid Dreaming
Headaches
Dizziness
Tiredness
Irritability
Flu-like Symptoms
Nausea
Electric Shock Sensations
Returning Depression
(source: mayoclinic.org)

With all of this in mind and every professional and non-professional advising me to wean slowly (assuring me it was safer) I just didn’t feel like I was getting the results I wanted. Every day when I took my medication, I wondered what would happen if I just stopped. Would I go cuckoo bananas bonkers? I survived without it for all those years. I just couldn’t imagine that coming off of it would ruin my life. Something inside me just kept telling me I ought to try it cold turkey. The worst thing that could happen is I would have to go back on them again. But how would I know if I didn’t try?

Week 1 was a little tough, but could have been worse. I experienced night sweats, waking up drenched in cold sweat every morning. My sleep was pretty broken, but tolerable. I got a gnarly cold that week – cough, congestion, sinus pressure, the whole nine yards!

Week 2 brought with it so much dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and brain zaps. Brain zaps really are no flippin’ joke. I read about them trying to get an idea of how they would feel. All the other symptoms could be imagined, but brain zaps were something I’d never felt before. They are described as electric-shock-like experiences in the brain accompanied by dizziness, tremors, vertigo and imbalance. The only way I can describe one is like getting hit right in the middle of my forehead with a metal bat and having a shock-wave ripple through my head repeatedly. They came on quickly and completely out of the blue. They usually only lasted a few minutes at a time, but completely drained me of my energy for a few hours. It was much like the energy drain accompanied by a panic attack. Nap time!

Week 3 is when things started getting better. I experienced irritability along with a lower tolerance for visual and auditory stimuli. Going into stores and being around crowds became increasingly overwhelming and sometimes frustrating. I also started getting headaches again. Even with all these symptoms, it was clear that my mood was improving. I was smiling more, crying more, laughing more and overall just feeling my emotions with love and depth that I had not experienced in years.

It’s now been 21 days since my last dose of Sertraline. Yesterday I even went for a run and didn’t get dizzy! I’m noticing new things about my mind and body that I didn’t realize before and learning to listen to my body more than anything else. My gut, my heart, my brain- it feels as if these three important parts have begun to realign to help me guide my life based on what is truly best for me.

I am so glad I finally found a doctor who told me that I was the only person who would know what was right for me. And lo and behold, here I am- moving forward, growing into my own skin, opening my eyes and heart and loving myself completely, flaws and all. I’m so happy I decided to stop medicating. It felt like all the medication did was help me run from the things I wasn’t ready to face yet. It served a purpose, but it feels phenomenal to let go of something so powerfully controlling in my life.

Always with love- xoxo Dee