Distress intolerance – Part 2

I have counselling tomorrow, but now is a good time to do Module 2 of the Overcoming Distress Intolerance. As I walked out of the corner shop after dropping off my daughter at school, a man came pushing a pram and shouting in drunken rage at his toddler son, who was walking hand in hand with mum and tinier sister towards the school: “na man! You’re lying! Forget it man!” to the tiny boy, and the little boy’s face with his tiny mouth in a frustrated frown.

To me it’s like a knife in the chest. It seems only right to me, it seems normal, my reaction seems normal to me. But I know, at the tender age of 44, that it is not. Some people will dismiss it, some will ignore it, some won’t even see it, and some will accept it as normal part of that type of family. To me a child is a child. I come from a family that is refined, educated, and yet horrible things happened with us, I had a surprise drunk abusive (you never knew when he’d “turn”) husband, and two wonderful, tiny little toddlers, who have witnessed some things, sometimes. We were what you’d call middle class, I guess. How does that make us any different that little hurt family? Or rather, I get that whereas we will always be working or financing our own food and shelter, these parents rely on the English welfare system, which is devastatingly flawed. But the children? They are merely and solely victims of this. How can anyone be indifferent? How can anyone not care?

I never got it, never understood it.

Then my brain jumped ahead, and couldn’t stop thinking of a friend I had, whose major influence on my life was the way he dealt with my emotional distress. Every friend has special “powers”, his was that. He may or may not have cared about what actually happened, but he cared that I cared, and that I was upset, and somehow, he always knew the right words, the right thought processes to make me feel better. Alas my husband lacks that, sometimes unwittingly making things worse for me, and now that this friend is out of my life I found myself missing him in that moment, and there, the whole process begun, the whirlpool began to open below me, ready to suck me into despair.

So I told myself, well, this is a good time to deal with distress intolerance, part 2. You need to detach yourself from these situations, and I don’t know how. D. used to tell me how. Now I can’t even form a thought in my head that makes what I saw any better. I can, however, stop the usual spiral that used to drag me down: I saw this-this breaks my heart-I wish I could do something-what can I do-there are so many, so many many many children suffering this and far worse right now, this very moment, and so on and so forth.

I needed to stop the spiral, the whirlpool that drags me down. No, not stop: step away from it. So I breathed, and thought of the only way I know how, be nice to my children, be good to them as much as I can, protect them, who knows, I probably sheltered them too much and now they lack skills to make it in life without anxiety or depression, and there it goes again, the spiral catches me again.So now I stop, go make some coffee, and then approach module 2.

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Have read. Insights: I was fairly good at stepping back from the emotions, which didn’t overwhelm me. The image of a whirlpool applies to my emotions, and the tornado applies to my thoughts. Instead of letting myself get carried away in tornadoes or whirlpools, I take a step back and watch them, in fascination, as it happens, because they are two natural events that fascinate me greatly.

Other insight. I have chosen in my life to surround myself with people who hate my emotional side, or at least are impatient with it, and find it irritating. It makes sense, since as a child my parents were very cold (mother) or very quick to anger whenever I got emotional (dad). I could have chosen to be with people who love that about me: that I am sensitive, kind, and have a strong sense of justice vs. injustice. Instead, I chose people who are more rational and level headed. So that’s ok now, it doesn’t mean I have to dump my husband and find someone who loves me more for what I am, but I can start looking at it differently. It’s not that he doesn’t love me for what I am, it’s just that he is different and can’t really speak that language I speak so well, the language of deep emotion. So, I must take a step back from that, stop feeling hurt by his reactions to my emotions, remember I chose him like that, and watch from a very slight distance.

Done some good breathing, too, when all else fails (all else being my pets: they are my anchor to coming back to reality, I do believe having animals around is crucial for human wellbeing).

Baby steps

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