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When your feelings take you down a rabbit hole...

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

*** trigger warning *** mental health/suicidal thoughts – trauma/abuse ***

I wanted to share and be real. To speak my truth. As many of you know life can sometimes feel really overwhelming, where your resilience is low and the smallest thing can tip you over the edge.

Today I am having one of those days. One of my triggers is lack of sleep, so being extremely jet lagged is having a massive impact on how I’m feeling, along with a situation where there’s upset, hurt and conflict with someone I care about.

These things combined along with some grief, leads to me having upsetting and negative thoughts about myself. Where my thoughts are trying to tell me I’m a crappy and bad person, and all I do is upset and hurt people. Cue, lots of crying and feeling overwhelmed with lots of different emotions, even though rationally I know this isn't true.

My usual person to phone when I feel like this wasn’t available on the phone, so I started asking myself “what can I do?” Talking it through right now isn’t an option. I knew I needed to cry this out but also release it, makes sense of it, break the thought pattern, etc. So I didn’t let it take over the whole of my day.

So I picked up a pen and paper and started writing, allowing all my thoughts and feelings to come tumbling out whilst crying. As the overwhelming feelings started to lessen, I used a technique I learnt during my MA – laddering.

This is how it went:

I have caused upset and I’m not liked because of it

I’m a bad person

I’m underserving of love and other good things

That whatever I do is a failure & I’m not good enough

I’m not good enough

I’m unlovable

I’m worthless

People are better off without me

I might as well be dead.

Reading it back to myself was upsetting but also useful as it helped me know what was the underlying thoughts and feelings of what I was experiencing. To help me get to the bottom of what my brain was attaching my emotions too. Rationally, I know a lot of it is rooted to the abuse and trauma I experienced growing up and it is not my reality now.

I sometimes hate that part of me and it is a real practice to develop the self-love and compassion for myself. Somedays I can do it with some ease, and others when my resilience is low – like today, it can feel overwhelming.

Through the process of using the laddering technique I was able to pick apart the emotions and thoughts I was attaching to the present and how I was feeling, and what was old trauma. I noticed there was a lot of shame underneath, and I know shame’s best friend is secrecy and not speaking it, keeping it hidden – so here I am telling shame to F**k off! (If you don't believe me, watch Brene Brown's TEDTalk - The Power of Vulnerability.)

By having an understanding of how I feel helps me identify what I need to do to manage my emotions and not let them take over my day. I was able to identify and honour the emotion, feel it and express it appropriately, in a healthy not harmful way. That is real progress for me. A 30-60 minute process of journaling and using the laddering technique helped me get a handle on what was happening and stopped the emotions to sabotage the rest of my day. So I went from feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, upset and full of shame to still feeling tired but proud of myself and a sense of self compassion.

When you are in a similar situation here's some questions for you to think about.

What do you do to check in with yourself? How often do you do this?

Do you stop and notice how you are really feeling?

How do you express your emotions in a helpful not harmful way? (This means in a way that is not harmful to yourself, others or items/property.)

******* Update - the next day *****

Today I got a little more sleep, not much but an hour more. When I woke at about 3:30am I was able to think, 'okay, what didn't work for me yesterday?' One of the answers was getting up and doing work. So, instead I decided to use this time to practice a lot of self care, love and compassion as I definitely needed it after disappearing down the rabbit hole.

I thought about what helps me feel ground, calm and connected.

This is how my morning turned out.

  • I picked some wild flowers and eucalyptus from my garden and put them in a vase and placed them in my office.

  • I then went for an early morning walk (some of it barefoot), whilst playing music that every time I listen to makes me feel connected to the 'sisters' from my Circle Facilitation course. I sang and danced along to the music.

  • I made a cup of cacao and rose water and create a beautiful 'alter' to join some women in a reiki share. (An alter is creating a beautiful space - mine had crystals, flowers and a candle.)

  • I then read a poem - I like just opening the book and reading the poem I land on. Which usually ends up being something that relates to what I need. It made me cry, so I embraced it and let it flow.

  • Followed by doing an oracle card reading - asking the question what do I need to know today. I don't know how it works, but I always pull the cards I need! It's like magic if you believe in that kind of stuff.

  • Then ended with a kitchen disco - singing and dancing whilst putting out my washing and doing the washing up.

Oh, the difference between how I started my days and how they both unfolded.

Today I thought about what did I need. The answer was connection, nature, joy, fun, a good cry, sitting and taking time out with beautiful things, then moving, singing and shaking out the emotions I needed to release.

I ask you, how can you practice self care and connecting with yourself and your emotional needs if you have 5-10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour? What can you do to start creating a habit and adding it in your day?

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