Comfort in, dump out, but where?
June 6, 2023 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I've received some very distressing news about a loved one that pulls at one of my worst anxiety triggers (imagine a worst case scenario. And then it comes true. That.) As it often happens, it comes with a cluster of other stressful events. I'm having trouble coping.

The news cannot be shared with other people, and the person in question would fall unquestionably within the radius of 'comfort in' - and I can't think of how the 'dump out' part would work then. People in my orbit also have Life happening to them and really don't have bandwidth, either.
In the meanwhile it falls right within a cluster of other stressful events going on in my life including absolutely awful and unavoidable work deadlines. It neatly also neutralizes the one nice thing I was looking forward to for months. I believe this is called a clusterfuck. Please give me your best self-soothing/venting/sharing without sharing/relaxing/not-being-terrified-of-awful-limbo strategies. I'm in touch with my therapist but we can't chat 24*7, and my panic attacks and stiff shoulders are back after a long while of managed anxiety. I hate this.
Please help. Thanks.
posted by Nieshka to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
if there's nobody to talk with, it's down to journaling. (Which can be surprisingly helpful.)

Suggest going for a run (I know it's the worst, but it really does work faster than anything else to dispel body tension) then shower (good place to cry) then journaling.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:44 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]

Journaling. Take everything you imagine saying to your therapist and dump it out onto the page (or the screen, if that's easier). I'm always skeptical of journaling and find it very hard to get started, but once I do and the words start flowing, it really does help.

(fingersandtoes: jinx!)
posted by mekily at 12:45 PM on June 6

I'm sorry to hear you're dealing with this. In addition to the ideas above, I wonder if Crisis Text Line might be an option to look into--it's free, anonymous, and confidential, they're staffed 24/7 by volunteers and if you contact them saying you need to vent and brainstorm some coping strategies, that is absolutely a thing they would be happy to support you in.
posted by jameaterblues at 12:52 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]

Journal yes, but also sit down (or go for a walk somewhere private) with an imaginary version of a person you respect and know would listen and offer comfort and say it out loud. Verbal processing is a really important part of early trauma treatment, and bad news is trauma.

Complete the stress cycle as best you can, every time your anxiety ratchets back up. It lets the caveman part of your brain stand down and stop pumping survival neurochemicals into your system.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:54 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]

> The news cannot be shared with other people

You can probably share it in an anonymized way or with people who have no connection to this person. Please don't close off sources of support for yourself by defining "confidentiality" in unrealistic and unnecessary ways. Think of all the non-overlapping groups of friends you likely have: coworkers, personal friends, relatives, online buddies, yoga class friends, other regulars at the local pub, your fanfic writers' group... You will still be maintaining appropriate confidentiality if you were to cry on the shoulder of a sympathetic colleague during lunch hour, because they don't know your loved one from Adam.

You are always entitled to seek out help in ways that do not affect the person who is at the center of the circle of suffering. It's fine to talk to YOUR friends unconnected to your loved one, unless it's some truly exceptional circumstance, like, you're sharing state secrets or maybe information about a celebrity that these unconnected people might leak to the press.

> People in my orbit also have Life happening to them and really don't have bandwidth, either.

I mean, they still care about you, I'd wager, and they still want to help you when you are facing a big crisis like this one, I'm sure. Everyone is always busy and always preoccupied and always struggling with our own issues. None of us have carefree lives. And also, at the same time, we are here for each other and we must lean on each other when we need extra support. We make room. If you are unsure and hesitant, then just share your news with them and let them offer whatever level of support they are comfortable with offering. *And then take them up on the offer.* Don't decide for them what they should be comfortable with, you know?

You're not alone right now. Don't tell yourself that you must get through this on your own. Reach out and connect, as you obviously wish you could do - you can!

And yes, you can journal and work out and meditate and let yourself cry and so on. But I would urge you to do these things in addition to reaching out to other people who can support you, not instead of.
posted by MiraK at 1:21 PM on June 6 [13 favorites]

Do you have a job with an employee assistance program (EAP)? Those often include 3-5 therapy or counseling sessions (at no cost). I used it once when I had a short term specific but important decision I needed to make, and it was very helpful to have those sessions beyond regular therapy. I'd suggest looking into that to see if you can get into some short term sessions.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:26 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]

Even if your friends are busy, even if you feel bound by confidentiality, I think all but the most churlish would come through if you said "I'm in a really bad place because of some family stuff that I can't talk about, but I could really use a hug."
posted by kate4914 at 3:54 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]

This is a perfect use for a warmline! I would try googling one to see if there's one in your area (or maybe you want one out of your area for more privacy). You can call and just say, "things are pretty stressful and I just need someone to talk to for awhile" and they should be able to lend an ear and let you vent for a bit. Hope things turn around for the better for you soon!
posted by carlypennylane at 6:09 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]

If you can book a massage, it can be surprisingly helpful just to work out the body stuff.
posted by Bottlecap at 3:15 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]

So sorry you're going through this, Nieshka. :( You can get in touch with me for a chat if it's helpful!

Facebook has a number of closed support groups for people with specific circumstances. E.g. people with specific illnesses, people caring for older, infirm parents, people who're recovering from specific kinds of surgery, parents of children with special needs etc. You'd get a lot of empathy and support if you posted there, and many of them have an 'anonymous posting' option.
posted by unicorn chaser at 6:28 AM on June 7

If you're someone for whom journaling feels unhelpful or sort of hokey or hard to start, try writing letters to someone specific. You're not going to send the letters to those people, but for me at least, writing my feelings as though I'm talking to a specific audience of someone who cares about me helps me both articulate better how I'm feeling, and start to think about what comfort or advice or help someone who cares about me would give. You can even write the letters as drafts in your email, if writing emails feels more natural to you than writing out some formal letter. But the idea is to give yourself a (pretend) audience, so it feels less like talking to yourself and more like seeking out the help you're craving.

So instead of writing, "Dear Diary," I'd write, "Dear [my sister who I'd love to vent to about this but don't feel like I can because it's a secret and because she has her own shit going on]." And then write a letter to your sibling, best friend, parent, ex-partner who always gave really good advice, whoever is the person you'd most want to talk to about this if there were no barriers to doing so. Explain it in your letter exactly the way you'd want to explain it to them if you could. If you're anything like me, about halfway through, you'll start to write things like, "I know you're going to tell me that it'll all be okay and that I should do X to improve the situation," because you'll start to think about what comfort or solutions or advice that person would give you, and you'll be able to write out the pros and cons of the approach you think they'd suggest. But for me, writing letters in this way gets me out of my own head and gives me at least some of the same comfort I'd get from actually being able to talk to the person I want to talk to about it.

I wish you all the best with everything you're dealing with!
posted by decathecting at 8:42 AM on June 7

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