“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m irritable and cranky, everything annoys me and what’s worse, my whole system feels off and I can’t sleep.”
I’ve been hearing this more and more lately, from people confused because they don’t feel like themselves. So many people are trying to outrun uncomfortable feelings and trying to avoid or manage what they’re feeling by getting busier and busier, until they can’t. Too many are hitting the wall, and don’t know what to do to quell feelings of anxiety and pain bubbling up from inside.
Some feel desperate to feel better, but don’t know how to and blame or judge themselves as wrong.
While we all have emotions, too many of us don’t know what to do when uncomfortable or painful feelings arise.
I know the drill far too well because I was in the same boat for many years. I tried to talk myself out of my feelings, not knowing we can’t think ourselves out of an emotion. I created carnage along the way with the irritability I felt, and often had to do clean-up duty in the wake of it. It was a mess and so was I.
I tried to stay busy to avoid feeling what was going on inside, but often sleep wouldn’t come, those feelings only resurfacing when I needed to rest. As many of my readers know, that led to anxiety, depression and burnout for me.
Learning about emotions, and how to support myself through uncomfortable emotions changed my life for the better. My past mess became my message of hope for people—there is a way through difficult emotions.
It may be surprising to learn any emotion will last only 60 to 90 seconds and then diminish, unless we try to suppress it or feed it with a thought. The emotion may come back, but it will have less intensity if we can learn to breathe through the emotion and let it pass. I didn’t believe that at first, and when I learned it was true, it changed my life.
Learning to pause and breathe, and ride the wave of the emotion with the breath helps to relieve the pressure that is often experienced with strong emotions. Being able to receive support from another is helpful.
The challenge is many of us are conditioned to suppress our emotions and they start to look quite unlike what they really are. Anger and irritability frequently arise as a cover-emotion for some of our most uncomfortable emotions, such as shame, fear or grief.
I’m curious if much of the irritability and anger we’re seeing in society today is related to the fear and grief that’s been stockpiled inside of us through the events of the past several years. It may not be the only emotion at play, but I am curious how much grief is being played out as irritability and anger.
Many experts reflect feelings of grief, of mourning the world the way it used to be, may have put the world in a prolonged grief disorder. People who experienced losses during the pandemic and were often left unsupported in their loss. Other losses experienced were often unacknowledged or camouflaged as something else.
While grief is expected following the loss of a loved one, it is not reserved for death alone. We experience grief following all kinds of losses in our lives. Ours is a grief-avoidant culture, so many of us don’t know enough about this very human experience. The symptoms of grief are often unrecognized for what they are, and therefore knowing how to help ourselves and one another is difficult. That leaves us unequipped when inevitable losses occur.
We can support ourselves with learning more and talking about death and grief to remove the mystery and fear that often accompanies the topics. This is an important topic and shying away because of our discomfort with the topic of loss, grief and death leaves us unequipped when we need it most.
Resources are available through a variety of sources, including Central Okanagan Hospice Association and Springfield Funeral Homes. Kelowna death doula, Keri Brekveld hosts Death Café’s on the second Thursday of each month at the downtown Kelowna Library.
This is my personal invitation to all of you to attend the Kelowna General Hospital’s Walk of Memories, to take place this Sunday (Sept. 24 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Dolphins sculpture in Waterfront Park in Kelowna. (Arrive between 2 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. to complete the walk before the closing ceremony at 3:30 p.m.)
The KGH Walk of Memories is a free, interactive, ceremonial walk through four-stations along the waterfront in a supportive, caring atmosphere. Participants are invited to stop and reflect on their loss while remembering the legacy that remains.
This special day is sponsored by the KGH Foundation, Springfield Funeral Homes, the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna and McDonalds. The closing ceremony at 3:30 p.m. will feature music by Mr. and Mrs. Strauss, harp music by Caroline McKay, refreshments and an informative talk by local grief expert, Clair Jantzen.
I hope to see you there, if not for yourself, then to help support other people in their grief.
If you’re struggling with difficult emotions, reaching out to a therapist can be so helpful. You might find you’re not alone in your experience.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.