It Just Is

A couple of weeks ago a white supremacist, amatonormative Incident™ happened and it stressed me the heck out. I don’t want to go into the specifics of the Incident™, though I will share that it made me feel dejected, weary of my relational boundaries, and somewhat hopeless. Ugh, I can’t believe I worked so hard to get a tenure-track job, got the tenure-track job, got a part-time job on top of the tenure-track job, and then life still smacked in the face with this bs, I thought to myself. Who knew you can’t girlboss/nonbinaryboss your way out of systems of oppression??

To eschew self-destructive and unhealthful coping, I practiced these three strategies:

1) Self-validation. Instead of only ruminating on the Incident™, I implemented kind thoughts like “Thomas, this is just really hard that this is happening right now” and “It makes sense that you’re feeling a sense of grief, frustration, and anguish given how unfortunate this situation is.” This form of self-soothing helped me feel comforted even though I couldn’t change the facts of what was happening.

2) Remembering that no emotion lasts forever. Even though I felt super sad and annoyed about the Incident™, I kept in mind that those emotions would fade in intensity over time. Literally every negative situation and emotion I have encountered has at some point shifted, usually reducing in acuity or sometimes even turning into a positive circumstance over a period of days, weeks, or months. It’s like when I listen to “OMG” by NewJeans which is so much better than listening to a mediocre man – there are periods of my life when I’m riding the chill euphoric high encapsulated by the song and there are periods when I’m not. Though, I’ve always managed to find my way back to that level of bliss, even when shitty stuff has happened.

3) Radical acceptance mixed with committed action. Instead of fighting the reality of the Incident™, I took time to acknowledge that yes, this heinous thing is happening and I really cannot change it. There’s no point in continuously wishing it weren’t happening or ignoring that it’s happening: it just is. However, I can still take action in other areas of my life to fight white supremacy, patriarchy, amatonormativity and other forms of oppression.

I think I’m most proud of myself for not even thinking about restricting my food intake or engaging in disordered eating when The Incident™ went down. As I get older, I recognize more and more that I’m an action-oriented person. While I make time to sit and reflect, I like to approach my problems head-on with some tangible strategies or solutions. Earlier in my life, anorexia felt aligned with that disposition. Only eating twice a day, telling all my friends about how fat I thought I was, and weighing myself every morning all felt like progress, like a form of clear forward momentum in the ongoing chaos of my life.

I’m happy now that I’ve rewired my brain so that I automatically recognize that food restriction is fatphobic and really just prevents me from feeling my feelings and coping effectively. If I starve myself, I have less energy to do my meaningful work and to over-disclose about my life on the internet. I can practice action-focused coping with these DBT and ACT strategies instead. Even if The Incident™ sucks, I refuse to make the situation worse by treating myself with anything less than compassion, patience, and grace.

What are some of your favorite/go-to coping strategies when you feel stressed? How do you keep yourself grounded when things feel out of control or simply just not going your way? I hope folks are well and until next post!


Filed under Personal

6 responses to “It Just Is

  1. I’m so sorry you’ve had a Horrible Incident (more than a mere Unpleasantness, it looks like) and I hope you’re able to swerve it and put it behind you. Massively well done for not engaging in problematic behaviours as a result of it, that’s really big and you’ve done brilliantly.

    I do have two mantras: “This, too, shall pass” and “All will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well” – the second is Julian of Norwich, not sure who said the first. They have stood me in good stead over the years.

    • Thank you so much for your positive reinforcement and kind words re: my coping! I love these mantras and think they’re a great reminder of how emotions we feel in the present will shift and change as life continues to unfold. (:

  2. This is such an open and honest post, Thomas. So sorry to hear an incident happen. Agreed with these kinds of incidents it can be hard to change anything about them, especially in the moment that it happened as that has now passed. But you can certainly collect your thoughts after, take care of yourself and work towards meaningful work as you mentioned. There are different ways to fight cultural oppression and injustices, but not every moment is the right moment.

    When I feel stressed or have an experience where I feel angry or disappointed, I like to try to take things slow. I like to focus on one thing, maybe one person whom I am talking to or focus on one point – telling myself okay, this can be challenging but let’s take it slow. I just focus on letting everything by me and not react, and instead process what happened afterwards. Talking to a good friend is also a good way to process too as are likely to see things more objectively. Hope you are doing well 😊

    • Thank you so much for your kind words Mabel! I like the idea of taking things slow, especially because sometimes when we’re stressed we feel the need to move quickly. Love the notion of not being reactive and processing what happens. Yay for social support too. Hope you are well!

  3. I’m sorry something like this happened to you. I’m sickened and angry. I’m glad you’re ok and found ways to deal with it. While you didn’t mention it, I also hope there wasn’t a physical attack. I worry about things like that. I don’t carry anything (like a knife) because I know I won’t be able to get it out on time.

    Thanks for sharing this and the methods you use. I’ll have to bookmark this entry so I can come back to it.

    Take care Thomas!

    • Thank you for your warm wishes – not a physical attack! I’m glad I was able to cope with the emotional onslaught effectively. I hope your weekend is going well. (:

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