Mental Health

So Much for Healthy Coping Strategies

I think I used to be fairly resilient, although it’s hard to remember because it’s been so long.  I am most definitely not resilient anymore.

My weekend was not great, even though I tried to be mindful of self-care and include good stuff like journalling and meditating.  My mood was low, and I felt alone, unproductive, and worthless.

My exercise of choice has always been dance classes, and even when I’m depressed and have no interest, I try to keep it up.  There was one teacher I really liked and had taken classes with for several years.  Although I never talked to her about it, she seemed to understand that I wasn’t well and sometimes couldn’t keep up with choreography unless I could see her doing it.  It worked out well, and I felt reasonably comfortable.

But then someone that I used to work with started going to the class.  I pretended that I didn’t recognize him, but then eventually he commented that he recognized me.  At that point, I decided I was done with that class; I knew the inevitable question would be where are you working now, and I was in no way prepared to talk about the shitstorm that has happened to my career since we worked together.  Avoidance has become an old favourite coping strategy for me.

So I had to find a different class.  It was okay, but a lot less comfortable.  The teacher liked to announce a few times during the hour-long class that we should all move to a different spot in the room to shake things up.  This is fine if you’re 10 years old or in a big studio where people in the back can’t see very well, but I think it’s rather silly otherwise.   Anyway, I had staked out my territory in a back corner because it involved the fewest number of people around me, and the consistency of staying in the same spot made it just a little bit easier to keep up with the choreography.  It was frustrating, though, because I tended to get odd looks from others in the class when I was the only one not switching places.

That brings me to this past weekend.  I went to class, and there were more people in the class than there usually are.  The teacher was quite pleased with this, and was very keen on having the students switch up spots frequently.  I stayed in my back corner, and I got a lot of strange looks, and on a couple of occasions, people asked me if I was going to move.  My frustration grew and grew until the point that I decided f*ck it, I’m done.  Hmm, that sounds familiar.   So I grabbed my purse and walked the f*ck out of there.  The girl at the front desk noticed that I was leaving early and asked “Is everything okay?”  I ignored her and walked out, managing to hold back my tears until I got to my car.

When life hands me lemons, I don’t make lemonade; instead, I turn to wine and potato chip therapy.  No, it’s not the best combination, and hell no, it’s not productive, but that is what I feel like when life makes me feel shitty.  I would like to think that I am sufficiently functional in life to handle things like this, but I’m not.  I cried the whole drive home, and decided that healthy coping strategies just weren’t going to cut it for instant relief.  I knew that a bottle of wine (yup, the whole bottle) and a bag of potato chips (yup, the whole bag) were not going to fix anything, but they seemed like the only thing that would let me escape.

This disappoints and frustrates me on a few levels.  One, that I couldn’t just deal with something in class that in the grand scheme of things was really not a big deal.  Two, that running away was my go-to coping strategy.  And three, that rather than using some of the self-care strategies I’ve been working on, I turned to booze.

I went to bed at 5:30pm, still in my clothes, and without even thinking of taking my meds.  But today is a new day, and it would seem that I’ve still got quite a bit to work on.

COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit

The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.

28 thoughts on “So Much for Healthy Coping Strategies”

  1. You got through the moments though. I like to think that in the moments we turn to the “bad” coping strategies, that means they were really needed. I like to think that we do what we think will best protect us in each moment. It helps with the post-binge, post-cut, post-avoidance, post-whatever shame.

    I know it might seem like avoidance but, leaving the studio, sounds to me like self-compassion. You let yourself take flight, listened to your instincts. And you’re up today, ready to face another day.

  2. Sorry to hear you’re having such a tough time. It is very easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re coping when you have effective strategies in place. But as you’re aware, the coping strategies are often the only reason that things seem ok.
    I tell my GP, psychologist, anyone else who will listen, that the only reason I’m so well is because I arrange my life in a way that minimises stress. As soon as the stress trickles back in my ability to cope diminishes.
    Your previous dance class sounds like it was really good for you, is it possible that your ex-colleague may not attend anymore, so you could go back to it? Or if he is still there, be ready with an answer, even if it’s made up! Maybe say you’re a self employed carer, kind of truthful, or that you’re on a study break…
    Really hope you find a way back to dancing xx

  3. At different times in our lives, we handle stuff that usually doesn’t bother us differently, and that’s ok. You did what you had to do to return to your comfort level. Please try not to beat yourself up over this. <3

  4. Why the hell would people be bothered by you not moving?! That is so frustrating because we adapt over and over to the world, but some people won’t move a finger to adapt to our reality. Don’t fool yourself, you are still that same resilient person, but we all have limits. You are adapting to a having an activity to used to make you feel safe and happy be different now. If you had not had a low point like this, then it would be unexpected. Hope you feel better soon.

  5. This post made me very uncomfortable because it brought back some horrendous memories. At present, I am quite well, but a few years ago I was in the middle of a major depressive episode in my life and I recall many experiences like that. I really wish I had some positive words for you about how to deal with it, but to be honest, I’m not sure how I got out of it, but I did. Sometimes self-care is the best solution and it works, but sometimes you jsut have to ride it out. You will get there and I really feel for you and wish you well.

  6. Oh, we are very alike! You are being so hard on yourself, and I totally relate…people tell me ALL THE TIME not to be so hard on myself, and I hate it, but…maybe it’s okay to just have a rough day, or string of days? Maybe you could just give yourself a high five for getting the hell out when you needed to? That was a kind of coping mechanism, leaving when it felt shitty to stay. I might have wanted to but felt too embarrassed to leave, so that was pretty brave, in my opinion. I’m glad we found each other’s blogs!

  7. Ashley, and going to bed without taking your meds and you are still here? Ain’t that resilient then what is? I mean, tough times don’t last but tough people do. So let’s look at the three most nerving stuff of your wahala as we call it out here (I just dealt with one here which started yesterday and just got over it this evening and involves helas more ridculous stuffs like cheese and an sms…) Just saying so much for this murky minds we got here:
    “One, that I couldn’t just deal with something in class that in the grand scheme of things was really not a big deal.(I now look back and well am still here and feeling better after time helped me deal with mine) my point is, sometimes all we can do is sulk, balk and then wait while doing some wine and potato chips or whatever it is helps us. Two, that running away was my go-to coping strategy – that to me is healthier than throwing shit around or cursing and showing the finger you know. (I used that strategy on Christmas day too with no remorse – and even on a family arranged photo shoot session I thought I had had enough). And three, that rather than using some of the self-care strategies I’ve been working on, I turned to booze.Sometimes, booze, ice cream, buying something etc is all we can do for quick respite/relief. It could have been a more challenging coping mechanism like shooting up for heaven’s sake. So Ashley, proud of you for even writing about this and sorry for my long comment

  8. I think I would feel the same way in your shoes. Props to you for even getting out of the house and going to that class! That’s something I’m still working on. And in the aftermath, you may not have chosen the “best” choice on the continuum of self-care, but you chose to do something that would at least bring you some joy. I think that’s all that can be asked of you and is a strength in it’s own right. Hope you are doing better today.

  9. Stay strong! Coping strategies differ from person to person, and as long as it’s not extremely detrimental, it’s fine. Happy that you’re hopeful for another day. Good job!

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