Neat Little Boxes

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I have been in the process of organizing most things in my life. A month ago, I was in a severe depressive state where I could hardly get out of bed, let alone clean my bedroom, do laundry, clean my bathroom. Mind you, I am naturally a very clean and organized person who collects minimal clutter. But I let things get out of hand because I let my depression control me and my actions. Some might say that you can’t let mental illness control what you do. With that, I would agree. The other half of you, many who have experienced depression, may say I am being too hard on myself and I have no other option than to let it control my actions and my life. With that being said, I would also agree.

I am so torn between being sympathetic towards my own mental illness, like I am to others with various mental illnesses and being hard on myself because I know I can do and be better. Usually I choose the latter. When it came to cleaning, I buckled down, swallowed my pride, and asked for help. With the help of Diego and my parents, we got 8 loads of laundry done, folded, put away or hung up; everything is color coded. We moved furniture around, made the bed, vacuumed the carpet, got two, huge bags of trash and recycling out of the room. Mind you this room can’t be more than 400 square feet, so before the cleaning began, clothing, trash, bottles, canvases, and paint covered the floors; no floor in sight.

It’s been a month since we had that overhaul. I cried afterwards because I was so relieved. Like I was finally getting my life back. Now I vacuum and clean my bathroom weekly, do laundry every other day, along with putting it away, and make my bed daily. I make sure to take my dishes, food, and trash out daily so it doesn’t become a problem again.

Organization in general makes me think of neat, little boxes. In other words, compartmentalization. It has me thinking about what else I compartmentalize in my own life.

Work / Life Balance

I think the most frequent use of compartmentalization is with work life balance. You have a “work box” and a “home life box”. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the time frame for the “work box”. Anything work related whether it be your job duties, co-workers, stress, etc. belong in this area of your brain; kept under lock and key. The other “home life box” opens up for the next 16 hours after you clock out for the day and before you start your next shift. The “home life box” contains family, kids, friends, social life, hobbies, home life, chores, to-do list, shopping list, etc. This box is also kept under lock and key.

So why is it that two boxes so fundamental to who we are as humans are kept under lock and key and kept separate? Because if mixed, the results could be damaging to both areas of life. If you’re focused on family at work, your job performance could go down while if you are focused on work at home, your family life will be hindered.

But there has to be negative effects of compartmentalization, right? What if we say you had a trauma in your life; whether you were hit as a kid, raped, emotionally abused, bullied, etc. So we have a “trauma box”. This box is however different from the other two. The box is protected by lock and key, has a gate around it, and was put into a bank vault. It is so well hidden in our subconscious brain that eventually we forget about it until a trigger ignites a fire, burns the vault and the box, and all your left with is trauma.

Once your traumatic triggering experience is under control, you are left with the originating feelings of the trauma. Without properly addressing these feelings from your trauma, your box will then slowly move back towards your subconscious brain, under more protection, so when you get triggered, it hurts even worse.

For example, when I was raped anally two years ago (well, two years ago exactly on June 13th), I built a fortress around my own “trauma box”. I didn’t want to deal with it and every time Diego went near my asshole during sex, I screamed bloody murder and would burst into tears and fight the urge to become violent. I went into fight mode every single time because during my trauma, I suffered in silence and took the ‘flight’ position.

Every incident or trigger set me back in my recovery that much more. Until I spoke about it at therapy and to select people, I wasn’t ever going to get past it. So compartmentalizing feelings isn’t always good, and to me, it’s never good to compartmentalize traumatic events in order to cope.

Take Away

Overall, I think organizing your feelings and emotions can be very effective when it comes to balancing the many aspects of life such as home, work, school, friends, family, and what not.

But when pushing aside (compartmentalizing) your emotions, you must allow yourself time in the day to comprehend and as I often say, “feel your feelings”. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same day, but the longer you hold off on addressing and responding to your emotions, the deeper your box will be in your subconscious mind or you could forget altogether until something triggers the memory.

A good way to do this is to keep a feelings journal. I often blog to decompress my emotions on a certain subject and let my heart and soul be apart of it because that is the only way that I can move on from a certain topic. If you don’t blog or just have some more private issues, you should journal in a notebook. If you have an hour to spare, you can write all your feelings and emotions about the day or a certain topic and organize them to certain compartments of your life. If you only have 10 minute to spare, then you should write bullet points about your feelings, about the day, or about the topic and give yourself time in the future to come back to it and truly write it out and resolve your feelings.

Another way to resolve compartmentalized feelings is to do an activity that you enjoy, whether it be running, working out, painting, cooking, talking to a friend, cleaning, etc. and think about why you are compartmentalizing your emotions. You can ask yourself a series of questions in regard to compartmentalizing feelings like the 5 W’s; what, who, when, where, why, and how? By following this format you can get a basis of where your head is at and can go from there.

Til Next Time,

Dani

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