Coping_Mechanisms_Trueblue_Magazine_6 Latest Issue

Help! My Life Needs Coping Mechanisms


When life happens and everything seems a little bit harder than it should be, what do you do? How do you decide what is the most effective way to deal with it and to move on? I don’t have all those answers. I want to have them, but I know that it isn’t a possibility. All I can ever hope for is a little peace and a little patience while I figure my way around this bit of insanity called life.

Psychologists will consistently give you dozens of ways to deal with all the traumas and problems in your life: everything from ‘identify your stressor’ and ‘build healthy relationships’ to ‘create a stress journal’ and ‘look at the big picture”. I genuinely believe that any kind of intervention from another person can be incredibly influential and can have a significant positive effect; sometimes all it takes is a good ear and a big hug.

Sometimes it takes a heck of a lot more than that…

I’m a big fan of talking out what’s bothering you and I’m happy to listen to anyone who needs to give it a go. That being said, I’m not going to talk it out. I’m more of an internal-deal-with-it-er. I take offense too easily and have my feelings hurt too easily to effectively deal with people being around me when I’m grieving and coping. I know people mean well, but I also know who I am and how I deal with stressors. I would like that to change. I don’t want to cope ineffectively.

So—knowing that I cope badly—I did the only thing I could think of: I researched coping mechanisms. Let me tell you, there are a lot of options and responses to stressors and I’ve realized that none of my coping mechanisms are working all that well.

Avoidance:

You know those times when you actively avert yourself from anything that causes distress? I’m a master at that. The problem comes when I realize that, even if I pretend it’s not there, it’s actually not going away. Nothing is changing and I am stuck, repeating the same mistakes, hoping for change, without making any sort of effort because I’m too busy being scared to confront my own demons. Einstein called that insanity once, didn’t he?

Trivializing:

Growing up, I often heard “if it’s not blood or death it’s not worth worrying about”. I thought that served me well, but sometimes it is blood or death. Then what? If I’ve spent the last two and a half decades of my life trivializing stress because it’s not blood or death, how can I be expected to have developed proper coping mechanisms? Maybe it’s not about diminishing the value of stressors in your life, but instead dealing with each stress for what it is.

Distancing:

I panic and run. I don’t talk. I don’t listen. I don’t maintain relationships. When I get panicked, I’m just gone. Suddenly I make sure my phone stays silent and I am in a new mindset, moving to a new city or, even more likely, a new country. Whatever it takes. That is probably the most detrimental of my coping abilities. I have lost many great friends and many great relationships because I could not respond appropriately in times of stress. I’m sorry for that.

Compartmentalizing:

I can wear whatever proverbial hat I need to in order to make my days livable. I, like everyone, am full of contradictions. When push comes to shove, I am a gifted compartmentalizer. I can be task-oriented enough to make it through my day, deal with the people and things that stress me and get out. If completing tasks were enough to bring real change, I’d be fine. Unfortunately, they are not.

Crying:

I cry. Very regularly. It’s become a joke amongst my closest friends. I don’t full-on weep, but there are definite tears in my eyes way more often than is socially acceptable. I wouldn’t ever want to be cold and steely; I don’t mind my tears. They’re problematic because I do it when I can’t process a feeling. When I’m too full of emotions—whether they’re good or bad—I get teary-eyed. I’d rather be able to deal.

Passive Aggression:

I could tell you more… but I don’t want to. Exhibit A, right there, folks. No one likes it. I don’t like doing it. More than anything, it feels gross. It needs to end. Now.

I do all of the above. The most annoying fact is, that rather than finding peace through my super-not-so-awesome coping mechanisms, I’m stuck knowing that they’re ineffective. I’d be okay with a little blissful ignorance right about now.

Well,  that’s not going to happen, and even if I did suddenly have the option to live blissfully unaware, I know it’s not what I really want. Instead, I think it’s about time that I took a page from my best friend’s book, and get to work on being more forward when dealing with my emotions. As the most ‘together’ person I know, I’m going to assume she’s doing something right. Operation: Grow A Backbone is commencing. Look out Ineffective Coping Mechanisms, I’m coming for you.