As I’ve begun learning about my mental illness and how it affects my life, I’ve started to look back through journals I’ve written in the past. It’s interesting to see what I wrote in a different light and to see how far I’ve come. Also, it’s pretty hilarious to read about my past crushes—glad I ended up with Sidney.
Another huge benefit for me is that it sheds a bit of light on one of the questions I identified my previous post. “Why do children not share the extreme of their emotions with adults?” One reason for me was an inability to express my emotions. Two phrases I see over and over in my journals are “It feels so dark in my body” and “I am losing control of my mind”.
I was never able to describe that feeling better—but instead wrote it over and over. I knew I was feeling awful, but I didn’t know how to express it. I would tell my parents, “I’m stressed” or “I’m sad”. Or I’d cry and scream but was not able to explain why I was doing it. Or I’d give a reason I was crying, but it did not convey the intensity of the feeling.
One friend of mine tells a story of sitting on her front porch crying uncontrollably before school. Her dad promised her she wouldn’t have to go if she would only tell him what was wrong. But she couldn’t. All she could say was “I’m sad”.
In therapy one of the first skills Rick and I worked on was learning to identify my emotions. Rick claims this was to help me, but I’m pretty sure that he was bored listening to the same conversation.
Rick: “How are you today?”
Rick: “Anything else?”
After about three weeks of that, Rick introduced me to my feelings list. I have a sheet of 100 feeling words that I am can use to identify in various situations. There are 30 words alone that go under the “anxious” category. If they would put these words on the GRE I’d knock that out of the water! Instead there’s words like noxious.
We teach kids to write descriptive paragraphs about scenery, explain how to perform mathematical operations, support a thesis with detailed evidence…yet do we teach them to identify feelings? I’m not even sure how we would start to do this—after all, many adults are not good at it. But I think it would be a big step towards helping kids manage their emotions!