Trapped: What to do when you feel there’s no way out

 

It’s 06:45 as I’m writing this. I’m sat next next to my window. I can just about make out the rustling leaves on the tree across the driveway. I mention this because only a few weeks ago, I would have been sat here at the same time with daylight outside. The equinox is here and Autumn is now upon us. This means that winter is coming.

As a Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferer, this should surely spark dread in my core, but actually after the couple of years that I’ve had, I find this change welcoming now. It’s a gentle reminder that change is always upon is. It’s constant. Life on earth is one mass of constantly changing energies. They ebb and flow and transform. This is extremely comforting to someone like me, who’s greatest inner demon is the tendency to feel trapped in a pool of stagnant water. A pool with no way out.

I’ve mentioned it before, but these past couple years have been monotonous on the life line. I suppose if I were to break them down and analyse them week by week, I’d be able to pick out the enjoyable experiences that I should have been having. The holidays, the festivals, the get-togethers with friends… But actually, I look back and see stillness. And it’s as if I’m looking at a life happening underwater from the surface of a pond.

Everything changed in the spring of this year for me. It’s as though I ripped my way out of the sticky chrysalis that was my brain and awoke one morning a changed person. Things suddenly started to seem interesting again. Hope was restored.

Call it depression, as in retrospect I guess that’s what it was. But to me, I see it as a mistake I made, having let my anxious brain run riot – thinking it knew best of course – and completely overruling my body. All it could focus on – the theme it made of it’s life – was that there was no way out.

It’s a strange feeling and one that thankfully not everyone has to experience all the time, if at all: feeling trapped by your life, even though you’re not placed under physical constraint. This is because, a person placed in an isolated room – unable to escape and see or do anything else – can allocate a reason to their feelings. And reasoning is everything: it’s how we cope. A person who technically has free will in her life tends to struggle to find a reason to explain her mental claustrophobia. She instead suffers the onslaught of guilt for not simply just being happy with the way things are.

Now, I believe there is a reason behind every situation where a person feels this way. It could be debt, it could be past trauma with memory triggers left, right and centre, or it could be a hellish relationship. You may be ignorant to the source, of course, but there’s always a reason that you’re suffering in the way that you are. It comes down to unresolved problems.

But whatever the issue, a strange thing starts to happen when you make the choice to let your brain overrule: it gets addicted to the suffering. It doesn’t actually want you to rectify any problems. It further affirms your negative belief and thought patterns, continuously propelling you in the direction of pain. When what you feel is uncertainty, the brain will find something to give you relief. It’s certainty of pain that it’s offering, but we seem to view that as a better option that no certainty at all.

What changed for me was two things:

  1. I started making decisions that I thought a person who was being kind to themselves might make.
  2. I repeatedly told myself that my brain does not control me. It is a tool that I can use to help me do life.

The result? It’s been an upwards climb ever since. Remarkably, I’d say I’ve had less bad days than I can count on one hand; all because of the decision to be nice to myself and to remember that my brain isn’t allowed to always call the shots. It doesn’t always know best.

Think about the way that your brain makes decisions. It uses knowledge it has accumulated from past experience to come to a logical conclusion about what to do when faced with a similar situation. But let’s say that a past experience was somehow misconstrued or tainted or didn’t work out how you want it to. What then? Does that mean that you should never do that thing again? No. And that’s why you can’t always make decisions based on what is logical. You should always ask yourself how it feels.

I got into the pattern of expressing certain opinions about people or things simply because it’s what I did. It was a habit. One day a few months ago I found myself coming out with a statement and noticed a sensation in my stomach that said, ‘hey Kat, you know you don’t actually believe that, right?’ I suddenly realised that I was allowing my brain to put words to my mouth before I’d even had a chance to digest the arising thought and question if I really believed it or not. That’s no good way to be, spieling what isn’t even your truth.

Alongside these opinions, I found that I had trained myself to believe that life was all planned out. I had convinced myself that my life consisted of x,y, and z and that was simply it. I’d never be able to have the a,b and c that I longed for. That’s no good way to be either.

The feeling I’m describing is that of being trapped. And when things started to feel better based on the two action steps I listed above, I asked myself what I could do to make myself feel less trapped. I suddenly started to bring options onto the radar that I hadn’t even thought possible before. This was all because I began to ask what somebody who cared about themselves would fight for. I re-shuffled my work week around to free up time to do things that were meaningful to me – activities that fed my soul what it needed: more time outside spent giving something back to the community. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So if you feel like there’s no way out. If you start to feel like life no longer holds that magical essence of possibility for you. If you begin to lose hope, you need to train your mind to think differently. Start asking what someone who cares about themselves might do. Where might they go from here? Then, start taking action based on what answers arise. You’ll be amazed how things pan out.

Photo via Unsplash

 

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