Play in my seasonal journal for January and February has been slow. The summer holidays are always a busy time and it is harder to find time to create when the family are home all the time. In fact, I didn’t even get around to setting specific goals for these 2 months but have just carried on with my summer goals which included reading 3 books related to emotional wellbeing, and work on noticing and naming what emotions are coming up for me.
Early January I finished Lost Connections – Why you are depressed and how to find Hope – by Johann Hari. I found this compelling and while it has very mixed reviews I related to many of the ideas presented. The author suggests that we need to start looking at the reasons we are getting depressed, rather than treating the chemical imbalance with medication that was likely created from issues related to society and our lifestyles. Two particular points that gelled with me, were the need for meaningful work and connection.
Right now, I am about half way through Burnout – the secret to unlocking your stress cycle by Emily Nagoski and finding some great tips on how to complete the stress cycle. After that I will be looking forward to starting Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown. I have acknowledged that I will not get these finished by the end of this month, but they will get finished!
As far as noticing and naming my emotions, this is an idea I have been considering for a while. Back in 2018 when I got sober I really struggled to deal with the barrage of emotions I was feeling. After numbing my feelings with alcohol for such a long time, I found it difficult to both open up to other people about how I was really feeling and also to know ‘what I was feeling‘. I knew I was often depressed and unhappy inside, but on the outside I was exhibiting the “I’m fine”, we are doing okay persona. I was, and often still do, suppress how I am really feeling. Four years on and I still think I am emotionally challenged. Plus, I think I have become more reactive to events going through menopause, so it is even more important to be able to recognise what I am feeling before it develops into an outburst of anger at some poor unsuspecting citizen.
Back in my early sobriety days I read a book called, Running on Empty by Jonice Webb and Christine Musello. Running on Empty deals with a topic called childhood emotional neglect (CEN). Childhood emotional neglect happens when your parents sufficiently neglect your emotions and emotional needs. Meaning, they do not notice what you are feeling, ask about your feelings, connect with you on an emotional level, or validate your feelings enough. First off, I must explain that although this book was about CEN, I did not choose to read it because there was anything wrong with my relationships with my parents and my childhood. My mother and I did, and still do, have open and honest discussions, and she is my emotional rock. I can however see that I was raised in an era where we were expected to conceal our emotions and that we learned to hide many of our ‘negative’ emotions from the outside world. Overall, I feel that society is trying to get better at allowing us to express our emotions, but its taking time for adults to learn to be open and vulnerable. I know I find it extremely hard to share my feelings, especially when I am most upset, and most of the time I exhibit an exterior to the world that says, I am coping. Truth is, most of us are struggling – I know I was then and I still am now. Some of what I write here, is my way of learning to become more vulnerable.
Anyway, back to the book – at the end of the book was a long, long list of emotion words. Although we typically only consider 6 emotions as the core emotions there are so many more! Core emotions are often considered as happiness, anger, sadness, disgust, fear and surprise. Because one of my goals was to try to name emotions that I was feeling , I decided to create a page listing emotion words to help me expand my vocabulary. I had seen Sarah Gardner (Juicy.s.art) post a reel on instagram where she had stamped a full page of words and I liked the idea of putting these words out into my universe. Here is the result.
I also completed my January intentions page for my One Little Word project and created a mindmap as part of my February work. I have more to add to these 2 months yet, but happy to have made at least one page each month so far.
Yesterday New Zealand had more than 13,000 cases of the Omicron variant, with 263 people in hospital. It’s tough living with this shadow of Covid 19, and I would say fear is an emotion a lot of people are living with right now. It feels inevitable that we are going to get this strain soon – Holly has come home for the week as it is now widespread in the Halls of Residence and if she stays there she has to stay in her dorm room and can only come out at specific times. We are still sending Mitchell to school, and while it feels like a big risk given his vulnerability and his deteriorating lungs, the alternative of him staying home is unmanageable. Disruption to his routine makes his behaviour escalate to a point that he is aggressive in a way that we are unable to cope with his demands and should we need to isolate because one of us gets Covid 19, I really don’t know what we will do. So, I live in hope that we will stay well.