Feeling Stuck Sucks (Blog)
By Carley Wright
Feeling Stuck Sucks
The concept of Mental Health hits everyone differently. The idea is that it includes our “emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” It affects how we feel, how we think, and how we act. And it in turn, determines our life choices. But the idea that everyone experiences mental health obstacles in the same manner, isn’t exactly true. Some face them personally head on, some are aware of others facing such obstacles, and some may not be quite ready to admit the obstacle that they are inevitably facing (oh boy does that point hit home for me). All in all, no matter where you may stand on this very wide and individualized territory of Mental Health, know that you are not alone.
Let me fill you in on a pretty well-known secret: feeling stuck sucks! I’m going to go out on a limb here and say a solid 99.9% of the people reading this have had at least one time in their life when they have felt “stuck” in some way. Whether it’s feeling stuck in your career, stuck in your way of thinking, stuck in a rut or a routine, stuck in your home (I know we’re all feeling that one) … it’s quite inevitable. We are all humans, and as humans we are trying to survive in a constantly changing world. A world where things shift when you aren’t expecting them to. A world that throws out obstacles like they’re frisbees, and we’re just trying not to let them smack us in the face, let alone try and catch them. Feeling stuck is normal. But the question is, how do we evaluate our “stuck” feelings and eventually get unstuck?
One Foot in Quicksand
For my entire life, since the age of 2, I’ve been a dancer. I went to school for dance, spent my nights in the studio, and eventually moved to New York to receive my college degree in dance and become a professional dancer. Just before this entire pandemic began, dancers were in the peak of audition season. We were going to call after call, trying to book a summer show. It was the height of the dance world that we knew so well, and then it all disappeared. If I’m being honest with you, I would say I began to feel “stuck” just before it all disappeared. The struggle of waking up early 3 to 4 days a week, to get in line along with hundreds of other dancers, hours before the audition, just to possibly not be seen or not make the cut, all while trying to keep my 4 side hustle jobs in line to pay rent, and remember to call my mom every once in a while so she knows I’m alive; it was tiring. My body was tired. My mind was exhausted. And my spirit was, well …. stuck.
At the point of realization that I wasn’t happy, I realized I felt like I was being pulled in 6 different directions. I had a slight panic attack at the thought that maybe this wasn’t the life I was meant to live. And then the world threw the mother of all frisbees… the Coronavirus. Now while my head is spinning from not knowing what I’m doing with my life, we are now quarantined. And the feeling of being slightly stuck has quickly turned into a feeling of being fully stuck in a never-ending pit of quicksand. Those frisbees surely have a way with timing.
Fast forward from my initial “stuck” feeling to about two weeks later when I found myself hitting the point of no return in the middle of the grocery store.
Trader Joes and Tears
After knowing myself for 24 and some change years, I know that I’m not the type of person to come unglued about every little thing. Instead, I’m the type of person who holds in all of the little battles and allows them to build up inside. Until finally there comes the smallest of bumps in the road, I mean small, like not having any brown rice at the grocery store small; and with not an ounce of space left in me to store that little battle, I implode. We’re talking full meltdown in aisle 4 of Trader Joes, a bag of quinoa in my left hand, couscous in my right, staring through the tears that have sparked in my eyes at the blank spot in the middle of the shelf where the brown rice usually lives. Fully knowing that I need to make an escape before a true scene is caused. And more importantly, realizing that the lack of brown rice at Trader Joes wasn’t the actual problem.
I’m going to go out on a second limb here and say, I’m not alone in this situation. Although it may not be in aisle 4 of Trader Joes, I like to think that there are other people out there who have had their meltdown moments in the not so ideal of public places. Even if you haven’t, it keeps me sane to think you have. So, please don’t burst my bubble.
Now after making my escape home and hoping that anyone who saw me, related my subtle tears (I’m lying they were not subtle) to the frustration of Trader Joes’ well-known lengthy line, I slowly began to calm down. By the time I got home, the stream of tears had slowed down to random individual drops. A feeling of relief washed over me. I stood there in my kitchen, still with no brown rice, astonished by the fact that I had just embarrassed myself, creating a scene in the middle of Trader Joes. And I now somehow feel that everything’s fine. Not an ounce of frustration, or stress within me. (A small dent in my pride but I’ll get over that.) Just an overwhelming feeling of relief, and the all of a sudden awareness that I can now see clearly and begin to wiggle my toes in what once felt like quicksand.
Hallelujah There Is A Science!
Forgive me, but when I reflected on my “what in the world just happened” moment, I had to put a little reasoning behind it. It turns out, we haven’t just lost our marbles when these meltdowns occur. Instead, there is actual scientific reasoning behind the feeling of being “stuck” and the effects of an emotional release.
According to Dr. Jena Field, every emotion has a function. Our brains have different responses in reaction to the possible threats it detects. It is in fact our fear response that is triggered in moments of vulnerability. Such as when we experience that feeling of being physically, emotionally, or mentally stuck. Stress responses also come into play as a slighter form of fear responses. With indicators of defense, withdrawal/seclusion, stagnation, or submission, to react to the problem at hand.
Think back to a time in your life when you felt stuck. Did you ever pick the smallest of battles with someone as a defense, rather than sharing the underlying problem, showing your vulnerability? Did you ever seclude yourself, feeling that you just needed to be alone? Or even completely surrender to the feeling of defeat, allowing yourself to wallow in self-pity for a day? …. No, just me? Well at least science is on my side!
The feeling of being stuck can also occur because one of those frisbees the universe likes to throw out, can lead to uncertainty. Our mind is not able to clearly predict what comes next. And our threat detecting part of the brain is throwing out flare signals left, right, and center, screaming “DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!” No wonder there were tears in the middle of Trader Joes. Our brains are hardwired to create a response in the fight or flight method. This allows us to clearly reflect upon the problem and take action when there is danger. They’re not hardwired to suppress emotions or threats. Nor will they think these responses will just disappear with the wave of Father Time’s magic wand.
A Clear Mind
It is from this emotional rollercoaster of an experience that I was actually able to see, feel and think clearly again. The tears in Trader Joes moment, may seem dramatic to some, but it surely ended up being a needed breath of fresh air for me. I wasn’t ready to admit the obstacle I was inevitably facing. I wasn’t ready to see that the only lifestyle I ever knew, being a dancer, was making me unhappy. That was until my world presented the unhappiness in a way I could no longer deny. I quickly realized that there was no way to get out of your discomfort or feeling of being stuck, without going through it. It wasn’t going to disappear if I decided to keep turning a blind eye towards it. I needed to cry it out over s shortage of brown rice and recognize the reality of how life was making me feel. And then I needed to make a change.
And here I am today. Sharing this with you, my turning point in my happiness, career, and life in general. Writing makes me happy. Giving kindness to my mind makes me happy. And shedding light on the fact that we are not alone when we are facing certain obstacles in our life makes me happy. Being washed over by the feelings of uncertainty and depression; and the overall feeling of being “stuck” is nothing to deny or run away from. It’s something to embrace, evaluate, and speak about. And truth be told, after writing this article and expressing to you my very real “stuck” moment, I couldn’t be happier.
Have you ever felt stuck? Let us know!
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