Do you ever sit, unsettled, a void in your stomach or chest? You feel so empty you need something close to fill you quickly. The sensation is gone for a moment. Just a moment because tomorrow morning it is back, and you feel empty all over again. You smoke to much, drink too much, eat too much, exercise too much, work to much, lust for human contact too much, etc. Nothing can fill you, you want more. You become consumed by doing that one thing excessively, or multiple things excessively, and you get the same outcome; you are still empty. You have to give yourself some credit! You are putting 100% of yourself into the moment you are trying to fill that void.
I was on the phone this morning with one of my oldest friends. He was not in a good way, and was talking about needing to call women to get over women. He gets numbers and gives numbers frequently. If he is in a relationship and the girl pisses him off, he is in an Uber texting the last person that gave his number. He doesn’t have to hook up with a person, but knowing that person wants him or is interested in him fills him for a moment. Then his girlfriend comes back and lets the girls know that he is actually unavailable because he is not over his girlfriend, disappointing the girls. Letting them down gently after getting them excited in anticipation that there might be a chance for them. There is a cycle and no one is getting their needs met.
Another friend is alone everyday after work. She goes home to an empty apartment. Everyone loves her but she cannot love herself. She drinks, gets high, listens to music. She wakes up, goes to work, comes home, she dirnks, gets high, listens to music. Life appears to be then passing time. Not really living or feeling, just passing time.
My client will feel empty and take a razor blade to her inner thigh to end the emotional suffering. She is no longer focused on the emptiness, the endorphins have kicked in and the emotional pain is gone. For a moment she has fixed herself to feel a release, distracted from the emotional pain, the emptiness that she is feeling. She fills her void for a moment and then hours later, the next day, she feels the emptiness again.
Addicts are constantly chasing their first high. The first time someone gets high, they feel a state of being that can’t be beat. They feel good physically and emotionally. They have no cares, no worries, no responsibilities that one time. Then they sober up, and go for that high all over again. No one ever reaches that level of high ever again. One of the leading causes of overdose in addicts is the mindset you must do more of the drug to get the same effect. While trying to fill that void, addicts many times end the void altogether.
I will be honest, mine is work. If I feel the void, I go to work, I clean the house, anything I can do to be very productive. I do too much, neglect my spouse, kids, and anything else that should have been done. When I am done with my 100 hour workweek, the void is still there. I had to make drastic changes. I was not being effective in life. I couldn’t fill a void, but I did manage to create a plethora of health problems.
At one point in life, or a constant run, we all feel emptiness and meaningless at a point. Some people feel it their whole lives. It means that it is a good time to change focus. The things that are fulfilling you are now hurting you. There are consequences to everything that you do. Ignoring or avoiding the bigger problem never makes it go away.
Nothing is going to fill your void. No matter how hard you try to forget, overcompensate, or avoid, you have to accept you where you are at this moment. There is no finding yourself. We should always be at a constant state of evolving. We should always be getting to know ourselves. It allows for the fact that we can change, evolve and change our minds. We also need to accept that people change and change their minds.
I no longer do what does NOT work. I do crazy shit. I get on a plane when no one else is coming. I sit with myself in peace when no one else is there. I focus on the sun, the sky, the ocean and the mountains. My life is more chaotic and sporadic than most of my most severe clients. To be a great therapist, I must practice what I preach and know myself well enough to know my limits and boundaries. The most unsuccessful I have ever been is when my boundaries became permeable.
Don’t get me wrong, I care what people think. People influence my behavior, attitude, thoughts and feelings. I care about what my children think and say about me. I care what my friends think of me. I care what my colleagues think of me. I try not to think more than a minute on that. I stop myself from running with thoughts that take me down a dark rabbit hole that I cannot climb out of. I don’t have depression because I literally run from it.
To get where you need to be, you need to be able to sit with yourself. Sit somewhere without expectations of someone sitting with you, taking care of you, or addressing your needs. You have to do these things for yourself. You need to know that you are irritable right now so letting people around you know that you need a break and space is ok. Better to deal with your emotions before you take it out on someone else. Learn to sit in your own shit. Like yourself, love yourself, and then share yourself. Start with a simple meditation. Something that lasts only a couple minutes and you can make part of your everyday repertoire. Then focus on the emotion of sadness, anger, resentment, loneliness or agitation; whichever one that runs you. Sit in it. Ask yourself why you have it. Analyze the shit out of it. Break it down. Why do you feel sad? Example: my mom never thought I was good enough, she had me clean, said no to everything I wanted to do, shared my secrets to all her friends, bought me clothes that were 4 sizes to big for every occasion. My mom sat across from me at age 35 and said, “you could have been something.” I AM SOMETHING. I am a mother, wife, friend, best friend, business owner 3 times over, a loser, obnoxious, demure, sweet, sassy, mean, intelligent, stupid, etc. The thing about finding yourself, is it can never fully happen. We are always learning, evolving, changing, and as we get older we get more settled in our ways. It’s just important to learn to enjoy the ride.
Too many times, people get focused on one part of themselves. The truth is, that we are made up of many parts and we cannot focus on one part of ourselves. It is not a fair representation of who we are. Yes, we are flawed. Yes, we all have great qualities. We have stories that are horrific and have horrendous upbringings. That does shape the way we are, but it does not defy who we are. We are many parts. Find the parts that bring you the most joy and happiness and focus on those parts. If you don’t have the parts that make you happy, focus on peace. When do you feel that you are at peace? Is it when you are in the bathtub taking deep breaths? At night while laying in bed right before falling asleep? Is it when you get home from work or school and sit down to relax before chores or making dinner? Find a time that you are at peace. Take time each day, two to five minutes to really be in the moment in your peace. Pay attention to what you are feeling in your body and be.
If you are finding this difficult, start with a guided meditation on youtube.com. Follow a guided meditation. It maybe difficult for you in the beginning, but it is a practice, and it gets easier. People download a daily mediation on the apps on their phone. This might help to remind you to do it. Six months from now, you will have less anxiety if you do it daily. You may not notice subtle changes at first, but give it time, you will notice in time. If this is too difficult, try it after an intense workout, when your body has exerted energy, or at the end of a day. If it is just too much altogether, contact a mental health professional for coping skills and guidance.
Make a list of all your personalities. Accentuate the positive. If you don’t like something about yourself, change it. Be careful though, you can only successfully work on one thing at a time. Working on more than one thing will overwhelm you, giving you too much to work on and you will quit. Take for instance when you come home from work and everyone runs up to you and wants something from you. Instead of catering to everyone at the moment, kiss everyone and say, “I am going to my room to unwind for 15 minutes, and then I will attend to your needs.” Taking a moment for yourself instead of being reactive and irritable with the ones you love is much more effective.
I encourage you to do this at work as well. If you have a high pressure job, work long hours, etc.; take time to take five minutes and take deep breaths. I know that when I am working on job sites doing construction, I will work 13 hours straight to get a job done. Over time, you train yourself not to take breaks, therefore, you train yourself not to take care of yourself. This can cause health issues, and add unneeded anxiety to your life. Set good boundaries and take care of yourself. Most importantly, take ME time.