Earlier this week, I asked on my Instagram for blog post ideas and someone requested a “how are you? like not just good, or bad, or fine, but how are you really” type of post. This really hit me hard because the truth is, I’ve been trying to write one for weeks. To say October was a low point of my year is an understatement. I could feel it while I was in it, and looking back, I see that it wasn’t anywhere close to as good as the rest of my 2018. I was disconnected from my friends, my family, school, and Absolutely Olivia as a whole. I pushed down a lot of positive thoughts and ushered in negative ones by the minute.
Towards the end of October, having a good and fulfilling day was a rare blessing. It came to a point where I felt like all that could help me was to block the world out for a solid two weeks, then come back into life’s daily going-ons with a refreshed mind and new start. Event after event seemed to be happening that had me reacting impulsively and I felt like there was no time to assess what had been happening; like there was no time to breathe.
*The photos from this post are from a good day in October where I had a yummy picnic with some fun friends!*
I saw a quote once that went something like this: “Transparency is sharing where you have been, but vulnerability is sharing where you are.” During October, I so desperately wanted to be vulnerable and write a post about how I was feeling. But that was scary to me, and I didn’t know where to start or how to write the post without sounding completely and utterly out of my mind.
So, here we are, a week or so into November, and I can safely say that I have reached the other side of the dark tunnel I was in all of last month. I‘m feeling more like the pre-October Olivia who was proudly and positively herself, and less like the beginning of autumn Olivia who couldn’t go a day without calling her friends to get through a rough patch or internal breakdown. And that is why the blog post request that inspired this post hit me so hard. I was glad to move on from October and never speak of it again, but I feel called to talk to you all about it. Today, I’m going to walk you through my toxic thought processes and mistakes and how I eventually pulled myself out of it fully, in hopes that it can and will help some of you that are going through or will go through the same thing.
First, here is a list of the biggest, most negative thoughts that crossed my mind throughout October:
“stop being over-dramatic.”
“this is your fault.”
“if you hadn’t done this, _______ wouldn’t of happened.”
“there’s no one I can talk to about this.”
The saddest part about all these thoughts is that they were entirely my own. No one told me any of these things. These were sayings my brain concocted to make me believe that everyone else was thinking just as negatively about me, when really they weren’t at all. I’m going to address all these thoughts one-by-one really quick and explain why they’re toxic and also why they’re wrong.
1. “stop being over-dramatic” and “this is your fault”
Both of these thoughts are a dismissal of valid issues you may be going through. Their purpose is to make you believe there is no real truth to your feelings. If the situation is causing you hurt or harm, you’re not being over-dramatic. Believing things that are upsetting you are your fault and that your reactions are over-dramatic is something society has put there. The word overreacting is thrown around a lot, and while sometimes unintentional, it can downplay an issue and make it feel invalid or irrelevant. If you are questioning whether or not you’re being over-dramatic or whether or not how you’re feeling is all your fault, remember that the way you feel right now in this moment is extremely valid and deserves to be respected.
2.”if you hadn’t done this, _______ wouldn’t of happened”
There’s no point in beating yourself up over events that have already happened or events that you had no control over in the first place. It’s easy to let one mess up or a couple bad pieces of dialogue replay over and over in your mind all day, which can wear you down. We all think if we hadn’t said this or done that, maybe we wouldn’t have as much conflict or drama on our hands or feel as terrible as we do. The truth is: a) either no one noticed your mistake, especially if it was a small conversational slip-up or b) they did notice your mistake, but the ones who hold this against you even after you explain might not be worth keeping around.
Getting caught up in trying to find the root of what caused you to enter a mental slump can lead to a cycle of irrational cause-and-effect cases. It can be hard to get real and rational with yourself when your brain is feeding you toxic thoughts, so it’s important to take a brain breaks through breathing exercises, hanging out with close friends, focusing on a movie, and/or anything else that takes your mind off whatever is plaguing your life at the moment.
3.”there’s no one I can talk to about this.”
This is just another lie your brain puts there to make you feel worse. There is always, always, always someone you can talk to about what you’re going through. Whether it’s a friend, a parent, a sibling, a counselor, a teacher, or someone totally unexpected but who you feel is right; there is someone who is ready to listen, ready to care, and ready to be taught how to understand your thought processes and what you’re going through. Phone calls, texts, and real life chats with friends is what really helped me throughout October.
I cannot explain how helpful it was to talk things through with friends. A lot of times, it helped me to see that all the toxic energy I felt around me was really just all in my head (which doesn’t make the thoughts less real, just less able to affect you). It helped me sort through what was happening around me and take a breather from everyday life. If you’re not ready to have an in real life conversation about how you’re feeling, start by having a conversation with yourself and try to sort through the details (a lot of times, writing things out can help immensely!). Then, there’s always texting and phone calls with trusted people to help ya.
Whatever you do, don’t keep things bottled up! This only feeds the negative thoughts and toxicity in your head. It can be terrifying to open up and be vulnerable, even with people who know you like the back of their own hand, but in the end a weight will most likely have lifted off your chest.
Okay, so I’ve walked you through toxic thoughts we all have and told you why they aren’t true, but now what? As soon as I recognized that these thoughts I was having were all in my head (again, this doesn’t make them less valid, just less likely to affect me), I began to intentionally and consciously remind myself of their toxicity whenever they popped into my head. A silly, but helpful trick I was taught a long time ago, of envisioning a big red stop sign whenever negative thoughts came up, helped me too.
Getting out of a mental slump is a process and a journey, but one that you can overcome. This leads me to my last toxic thought:
“this is going to last forever.”
First of all, let me tell you it isn’t going to last forever because nothing actually lasts forever. I’m sure you’ve all heard this line a few times and sometimes it is so hard to see the truth in it, especially when you’re right in the thick of an issue. During October, I can not tell you the amount of times I thought to myself: This is never going to go away. I’m going to be in this slump forever and I’ll never be as happy as I was before. These thoughts are as untrue as they are frightening.
You’re just in a dark tunnel and every tunnel has an end. Your tunnel may be longer than others (months-years), but it could also be way shorter (days-weeks) and you’ll never quite know the exact length until you’re out of it; standing on a hill of wildflowers looking back at a time that shaped you. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly will pull you out of the tunnel, but turning to things that truly make you feel alive, well, calm, and happy will shorten your time in the dark. For me, it was creating a new playlist and having solo dance parties in my room, reading Harry Potter fanfiction, hanging out with my sister, writing poetry, and surrounding myself with the friends closest to me. These things are different for every. single. person.
Rack your brain and try to come up with a few ideas that may help you. A lot of times doing the things I mentioned previously not only helped my mood and mental state, but they gave my brain a break from the toxic thoughts for a while, which is sometimes all you need in the moment. Know that there are people out there ready to help you, be aware of negative thoughts, and never give up trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s there, I promise.