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Tag: fight or flight

Always Flight

(This post is from several months ago).

I’ve slept twelve hours a night since arriving in San Luis Obispo. This has happened before when I feel under great emotional strain, I retreat into sleep as an escape. I find it quite satisfying to hide out from my day-to-day responsibilities. In slumber, no one can call or email and make demands. While I sleep, my brain can process all the drama I’ve endured under sunlight. Resting more seems a perfect remedy for all that ails me psychologically. I lost so many hours of sleep over the past ten years to insomnia that I am constantly playing catch-up.

The past few days, I have been in a bad mental state, one of catastrophizing the situation and thinking of the worst-case scenario(s). My mind has made that leap so many times that it knows the exact number of steps to the ledge and how far the drop-off is below. My psyche naturally wants to go to the other landing, where doom and gloom live because that terrain is familiar if unsettling. It seems I must go through this elaborate charade before returning to more solid ground and formulating a plan based on hope rather than despair. Once I complete this exercise, my brain can find new, more uplifting perspectives on the situation. When I awoke this morning, I was back on the good ground. I can see possibility instead of every terrifying thing that can occur. 

I consider it a mark in the win column every time I can recalibrate my thinking away from despondency. There were periods of my life where I remained on that far shore for months or even years. I took that leap, and it paralyzed me with fear. I was unable to return to the land of light and hope. I stayed in the darkness, skulking around like someone devoid of the bright spirit that usually buoys me along. I’ve written before about how seductive and dangerous it can be to stay in that particular blackness, and it can swallow you whole. There were so many times when I thought I would lose the battle, that I wasn’t equipped to handle everything the darkness held over me. I wallowed in self-pity and resignation, unable to get back on my feet and wield a sword against the forces aligning to destroy me. I had told myself I didn’t possess the emotional and psychological strength to defeat depression.

But all of those suppositions are lies. They are forged in the part of my mind that looks for easy answers and the path of least resistance. That is the base, simple brain that only seeks survival and not any higher self-actualization. It automatically decides that retreating is always a better option than fighting. Fighting can get messy. Running away is a tried and true method for avoiding most people and animals that want to kill or eat you. I’ve become a master at checking out quickly and silently when the current situation turns sour or intolerable. But I’m not sure this is the best way to build a different, less stressful life.

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