Learning to cope

There’s a reason why today’s blog post is late. It’s not because I had a big night out last night – though I wish that were the excuse – or because I simply didn’t press publish. It’s because I’m learning to cope.

It’s fucking difficult

Being a human in 2018 in pretty hard, and not for the reasons we might think. The icy political climate and consumerist bent our Western world seems to support is one thing, but let’s look at life on a micro (read: daily) level.

We’re all under immense pressure to perform, whether real or imagined, and this takes a toll on the body over time. From duties we face at work, to the maintenance of relationships, it’s a wonder anything actually gets done! But honestly, would anything bad happen if you didn’t immediately reply to that email from Karen in Marketing? Probably not.

It’s exhausting

I find myself starting to doze off on the couch after work earlier and earlier these days. It’s winter here in Melbourne, sure, but I get the distinct impression there’s more going on. It’s not high-level tiredness, but low-key exhaustion that I’m feeling. I eat well, I get regular exercise, and I generally don’t overdo it. But what I’ve become a pro at is worrying about not doing enough.

 Photo by  Alfonso Scarpa  on  Unsplash
Photo by Alfonso Scarpa  on Unsplash

It’s easier to get drunk and pretend to be okay

I’m guilty of this one. After my mum passed away in 2014, I spent the majority of 2015 on a full-blown bender. On the outside I looked like I was having the time of my life, making new friends and generally sparkling like a diamond. But I was hiding. I think part of me still is.

The truth and depths of our feelings is scary – being left behind is even worse. And no matter what anyone else says, it might never go away. Right now, I’m choosing to face my feelings head on and it’s like eating a dumpling that’s come straight out of the fryer. At first it burns, then as it begins to cool, you can taste its flavours. But your mouth is still a little burnt.

It’s not about being tough or strong

Learning to cope means dealing effectively with something difficult. Nowhere in that definition does it say we have to be tough, strong or stoic. There’s no rulebook. Be messy, loud, emotional, happy, angry or quiet. Be tough if it helps but be gentle at the same time. I’ve got some of the toughest skin out there but underneath it beats a bloody, swollen heart that cares (probably too much) about everything.

 A valiant point by Sarah Wilson, from her  Instagram .
A valiant point by Sarah Wilson, from her Instagram .

It’s not about shrugging it off

Apathy is sooo 1994. And so is undermining your personal story. Learning to cope invites compassion in to sit at the head of the table and carve the metaphorical turkey. What happens to us is important and so is how we respond to it. I can’t shrug it off anymore, but I will learn how to hold myself like a newborn – softly, safely and in a way that let’s me breathe.

It’s not about getting it right

There is no right. There is no wrong. There’s just a bunch of choices. If something doesn’t feel right, pivot. Change. Shift. Choose another path. Coping is just as much about getting through the difficult thing, as it is welcoming in the new, better thing.

It’s about admitting you’re having a rough time

I’m having a rough time with this idea. Truly. Over the past 6 months, I’ve been yelled at, abused on Instagram, ghosted and just plain ignored for speaking up. It’s impossible to know the full story or to ever completely understand someone else.

Our culture in Australia breeds a kind of entitlement that is so insidious that it’s only when you’re having a panic attack, lying on the floor of your apartment, with no one to call, that you realise something is really, really wrong.

 Photo by  Tim Foster  on  Unsplash
Photo by Tim Foster  on Unsplash

It’s about your vulnerability

Not the Breńe Brown kind, but the kind that you can trust other people with. The kind that is dark, venomous, angry, hurt and confused. When shit goes down, people make it very clear (very quickly) whether or not you can trust them with your vulnerability. So pay attention. I wish I had known this earlier so that when I came back to Melbourne utterly heartbroken, I might not have lashed out at so many people. If I had known that they just couldn’t handle that side of me, I’m sure we would all still be friends. Life lesson? Got it.

It’s about choosing yourself

…not being selfish. Learning to cope is intentionally picking up your emotional baggage and starting the long trek up that hill. It’s putting that baggage down when you see a friend (who’s also climbing that hill) fall down to their knees, and helping them back up. I write this to remind myself that we’re all going through it. I may not always see the fall, but I try my best to be there the second after, in the ways I know I can be.

How do you learn to cope when shit gets shaky? Let me know in the comments below.

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