Tolerating the Discomfort

Years ago, a counselor at Mercy Hospital’s outpatient program in Des Moines suggested that we learn to stretch our ability to tolerate the discomfort of our mental illnesses. Such a benign term—discomfort. It hardly does justice to what really goes on inside a crazy person’s mind. But, it does keep us from catastrophizing the experience. Suffering, agony, or hysteria would be torture to tolerate. Discomfort seems more reasonable.

When I woke up at 2am again this morning, I knew I needed to follow this wise counselor’s advise. My mental and physical discomfort had been overwhelming me, and I needed to find a way to help myself.

So as soon as Starbucks opened at 6:00, I took this small journal and a few pens with the intention of just writing about the discomfort. My Round Robin art journal friends had used this size journal in our last project to send pages to each other. It contained their art, but I didn’t have to make anything. This felt important.

I had started this journal as a book of lists to send around to friends, hoping they would jot down their thoughts. That never happened, but the headings were still there. Some could be useful, Some not so much. I decided to use what might be helpful and leave the rest.

After I ranted a brain-dump on one of the blank pages, I felt a little calmer. I also thought a list of possible ways to stretch my tolerance for this discomfort might be the next step. I brainstormed (Ha! Such an apt term!) for a while and felt a little better still.

I had taken a clonazepam before I went to Starbucks, hoping to beat back the itchy, prickly panic. That little darling started to kick in, and I thought it best to go home and have a lie down. But before doing that, I tried a few things on my list: a nice hot soak with lavender bath salts, a fragrant candle, and a pair of comfy chenille footies. I turned on my new Audibles book (read by Pretend Boyfriend, Richard Armitage), and promptly fell asleep.

When I woke up, I took my little journal outside to sit in the sun and see what else might help me get through the day. As things came to me, I added them to my list, then checked them off as I practiced—like singing the Sia song “I’m Alive” loud enough to make all the neighbor dogs howl. I get so tired of their constant yapping that it felt powerfully naughty to sing so loud that they all shut up.

I took a little stroll around the garden in my bare feet (though my comfy footies waited on the patio for me). This helped my wobbly knee and gave me a sense of grounding. As my sissy bedecks the halls with her tubs of decorations, I needed a sense of myself (the non-Christmas atheist), my feet firmly on the ground, in the midst of the discomfort of my mind fighting its war with psych meds.

I have a new tool. A little journal to write about my discomfort and list ways to tolerate it a bit better. I need to add “Write a blog post” to the list, because this helped as well. It always does.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tina
    Nov 27, 2021 @ 13:59:14

    Sandy Sue! Thank you for your intimate sharing! I so love you, you dear powerful goddess!


  2. Anita Aileen (@GataChica131)
    Nov 27, 2021 @ 19:14:34

    Your blog post helped me as well! Now I have more ideas for dealing with the discomfort I am also feeling today.


  3. TamrahJo
    Nov 27, 2021 @ 21:17:31

    WONDERFUL NEWS! You Go Girl! You’re facing the monsters and standing your ground as you need to! Whether I write, practice caligraphy, doodle, etc., sometimes? I just need to do something that it doesnt’ matter how creative it is, or how pretty it is, just the act of ‘doing it’ helps me to calm down and get focused so I can ‘return to work’ refreshed! Fantabulous to read your good news today!


  4. Catherine Cheng, MD
    Nov 28, 2021 @ 00:02:35

    You are wise and inspiring. Wishing you peace.


  5. Writer Lori
    Nov 28, 2021 @ 06:58:06

    A warm bath with lavender salts and fuzzy slippers…sounds comforting indeed, Sandy. Sending good juju your way…❤️


  6. Kiki
    Nov 30, 2021 @ 12:08:53

    Sandy Sue, you are ill/sick (?) but you are also easily the most convincing writer who brings us mere mortals your illness so near, in such a strong voice, so undeniably convincing. I’m glad that your blogging brings you a sort of relief, and journaling is a great thing for everybody who can hold a pen in their hands. I often think of you and wonder how you are doing. And then, from time to time we get a post from you. Be well, as well as you can be, take those bubble baths, have somebody reading you books, everything to give you temporary peace and a moment of joy.
    Hugs from across the miles.


  7. kirizar
    Dec 27, 2021 @ 18:12:53

    I wrote a post that I never hit send on. So, I’ve cut and pasted it here–but it likely doesn’t fit this particular story and yet I can’t recall which one it went to. Enjoy the whimsy:

    The season surrounding the holidays is frantic, manic, and panic-inducing for me. I’m now in the lull where I didn’t accomplish everything, but I accomplished some of it. Still waiting on the ‘holiday letter.’ Last year it didn’t happen. This year is looking similarly bleak.

    I’m trying to drag myself away from a Chinese soap opera (The Journey of Flower.) Don’t start watching it unless you really want to devolve into 50+ episodes of tense cliffhangers and repressed emotions spilling out all over the place. It is highly addicting. And a favorite way to kill a day watching on my couch. (That plus the frosted cookies are also contributing to my need for bigger ‘fat’ pants. I feel your pain in that regard.) Covid times are still around and living where I do, it is hard to avoid the contagion unless you hole up in your house and avoid humanity completely. I do my best, but it is hard because going years without in-person greetings is leading me to feel trapped and crazier. Or, maybe that’s just being home with the kid on holiday break? I hope you find a way back to your better self–and if you do–please draw me a map.


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