It’s like being caught in the eye of a storm.
Everything is whirling around you and its force is taking your breath away. You feel like you’re suffocating. It’s impossible to see through the dust and the dirt and it’s taking every ounce of strength to stay on your feet whilst trying to avoid the unseen obstacles whirling past that keep hitting you, hitting you, hitting you. It’s absolutely terrifying.
This is how an episode of emotional flooding can feel.
It can strike without warning. At any time and in any situation. And if you’ve never experienced it before it can be horrific.
But it’s actually a good thing. A way for your mind to tell you that it’s going through too much. That you need to slow down and start to give it some time to process all of your thoughts efficiently. That it’s currently on overload and that right now it’s got too many things to think about. That it needs to get rid of some baggage.
If you are a person like me who struggles to deal with emotions, both good and bad, then you may be able to relate. Feelings and emotions can be hard to experience and often feel overwhelming. You need a coping strategy. Mine was to avoid having emotions at any cost and my way of achieving this involved drinking lots and lots of alcohol.
As a quick fix and a one way ticket to create avoidance it worked a treat. But in the long term it damaged me. Physically and mentally. And as a consequence, when I stopped using alcohol as a coping mechanism, it was only a matter of time before all of my thoughts and my feelings came flooding back.
Not all at once, granted. Bits and pieces at first. But now that my thought processes weren’t clouded with alcohol and medication, I had to face them head on. In 3D and glorious technicolour.
It was horrible. The thought of actually having to deal with things straight headed was terrifying. I had literally nothing to hide behind and nowhere to run to. For an emotion dodger like me it was excruciating.
The first few times it happened were the worst.
I was sat on a chair being asked to talk about what I was feeling in front of 18 other people I barely knew. Inside I was feeling sick and overwhelmed and I literally had to sit on my hands to try and stick myself to the chair. Everything in me was urging me to get out of that situation and out of that room. I was completely out of my depth and out of my comfort zone.
It was the same the next time. And the time after that. An overwhelming sense of panic and an overwhelming urge to run.
But gradually, I started to realise that although the experience was unpleasant and often emotionally draining, it wasn’t actually causing me any real harm. The nausea passed and the anxiety lessened because I was resisting the urge to feed it. I also realised that by sitting with my emotions and actually feeling the sensations they were causing me, that I was learning.
Every single feeling and emotion that vied for my attention was trying to tell me something. By pushing them away, I was refusing to hear them. And the things that they were trying to tell me were important. Like trusting my instincts, for example. Things that were meant to guide me and prevent me from making mistakes. Or how to avoid repeating them.
So I now know the important role that my mind has to play and I’ve learned that it generally only asks for what it needs. I don’t let myself get overloaded and I make sure that I have plenty of down time so that it can go at its own pace.
Most importantly of all, when my mind asks for my attention, it gets it. In spades.