On Days When We Feel Broken
Here's one thing we can do...
Yesterday felt like a broken kind of day.
Though the sun was out and life was good and all felt relatively right in the world, I nevertheless felt my operating system slowly draining in the background thanks to the relentless pull of anxiety and negative self-talk.
And while I’m wise enough to see those depletions for what they are — reasonable aftershocks following a manageable disappointment — they suck. They totally suck.
It really hit me as I walked along the sidelines of the Chicago Marathon, disappointed that I had to sit this year’s race out due to health issues, watching in awe as throngs of runners seemed to glide through the streets in unison, moving their conditioned bodies (and emotionally focused minds) together toward the finish line.
I felt left out. I felt alone. And I felt ashamed about having those feelings.
Obviously, I wasn’t left out. I’d chosen to sit this race out after Covid zapped my stamina this year. Obviously, I wasn’t alone. I was completely surrounded by a sea of people on and off the race course.
But, as I stood on the curb and waved my hands wildly and yelled all my “Woo Woo!”s and “Go Go Go!”s to the racers, I could feel my heart curling into itself as I fought against wave after wave of tears.
You’re weak. You’ve let yourself go. Don’t you think you just could have pushed yourself harder?
I realized that these negative feelings had been creeping in over the days leading up to the marathon. A few nights prior, I teared up watching (of all things) a Toyota commercial in a movie theater. I got misty putting dinner on the table. And I felt blue for no “good” reason as I drove to the grocery store.
What’s happening to me? I wondered. Am I losing it?
The fact is, my body was telling me to stop and allow the sadness and disappointment to move through.
Rather than do what I typically do (fight against negative feelings, analyze them to death, and problem-solve — all coping skills I picked up over the years to survive dangerous situations), I’ve finally learned to sit with uncomfortable, unpleasant, and even unclear feelings without rushing to fix or distract.
For some of us, this is particularly hard, even when our rational minds know better. Research tells us that our bodies remember how we’ve faced situations in the past; and since my body’s made up of at least 75% muscle, that’s a heck of a lot of muscle memory to *undo*.
But as the day wore on and my spirits wore down, I finally remembered to drop the rope in my futile tug-of-war with anxiety. Instead, I just stood very still for two minutes in my kitchen, immersing myself in the feelings I’d been working so hard to fight, naming every one of them in my head:
I wish things were different.
I didn’t plan things to go this way.
I feel like I failed.
I’d hoped for an outcome that looked nothing like this.
I’m mad at myself for being such a baby.
Why can’t I just focus on gratitude?
And then, just like that, my fog began to lift.
By facing my authentic feelings and giving them air to breathe, they didn’t get stronger. They dissipated.
I share this with you in case you’re fighting some tough feelings yourself (and we all eventually do).
None of this is rocket science. It’s called managing mental health. My hope, as always, is that the more we talk openly about these moments, the less left out, less alone, less ashamed, and less broken we’ll feel.
You are not broken.
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