Learn to Walk in Silence

One of the books that defined me as a young adult was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and there’s a line in the book where Mr. Wednesday makes a comment to the effect of ‘people would be happier if they learned to suffer in silence.’

That line has stuck with me for years, because I agree with it on a level that hits deeper than what I have the vocabulary to fully explain.

However, what I am able to say is that one of the ways that that passage is hitting me this winter is not that we should be silenced when suffering, but that peace will come when I can look at my suffering and not be afraid to sit down with it in a dark room.

I’m terrible when it comes to overthinking. If I can overthink a problem, I’m going to overthink it until it’s so ratty and dirty and torn apart that it’s effectively not even the same problem anymore. I’m going to overthink it until I’m so paranoid and scared of the problem that by the time that the problem surfaces, it has to be better than what I feared because essentially I’ve worked it out in my head to be the end of the world via a flood of iced coffee and lemmings.


Essentially the problem is one of self-comfort. How do you learn to self-comfort when the voices in your head won’t stop screaming?

I’m not a therapist, I’ve just spent a lot of time with them. Unlike last year, this year I’m using a medical method to take care of my anxiety. However, that doesn’t mean that the problem has gone away or that every day is a good day. This is how I [at least try to] stop the mental noise:

1. Stimuli

This one actually works, and I have to admit to playing with ice in public on occasion. Extreme temperature change can help switch off the part of your brain that’s panicking by overloading your nerve endings. I’ve used really hot showers to the same effect as well.

2. Art

Either looking at art or being creative can help by channeling energy.

3. Flow Charts

I admit to stealing this one from The Militant Baker. Working through a flow chart of the problem and what I need to do (or can do, as the case may be) to either avoid or work around the problem.

4. Think It Through

I have been known to pronounce in the middle of personal trauma that in the end we all end up in a pine box and therefore it’s not worth freaking out about. The idea of working more mental energy into a problem may sound counterintuitive but sometimes figuring out what the absolute worst case scenario is and how likely that is to play out can actually be calming by placing things in perspective.

5. Activity

This one is actually on my dealing with depression list from last year, but the idea is still valid. When I find myself panicking or engaging in a lot of negative self-talk one of the things that I find helpful is to act. I start a new project or I cook, something like that. I have to do something that either requires a lot of attention or that I’m not familiar with because if it’s something that I can zone out while I’m doing I find myself right back in the same thought pattern as before.

6. Quit the Game

The game is my number one biggest mental challenge when it comes to emotional difficulties.

You know what game I mean. What do you mean such and such blogger is complaining s/he’s having a slow day? S/he just said that s/he’s only had 1,000 hits today. That’s…a fully quarter of my entire MONTHLY hits. What do you mean s/he’s complaining that s/he can’t take yet another vacation outside of the country? I haven’t so much as been in the Canadian side of Niagara Falls since 2007. What do you mean s/he’s bragging about how great their body is, their kids are, their life is, how awesome and perfect they are all the way around?

There’s a lot of ways to approach this one but the thing to remember is, first of all-when you’re in this thought process you’re already down the rabbit hole. Reality isn’t quite right now. None of these things actually matter, and if they do matter, you’re not in a place to be able to really work through them effectively right now anyway. You’re also not in a position to be able to fully appreciate tone right now. The person triggering you may not know how they’re coming across, they may mean something as a statement of fact, or hells maybe they’re just really happy.

Here’s the thing though-even if they do mean it and they’re being the most passive-aggressive person to deserve a run in with a lemming in the history of humanity, you are not defined against other people. You are more than the sum of your parts and even if -right now- you’re not the center of attention, it doesn’t make you less worthy. Because maybe you have horrible blog statistics, but I’ve never once been asked my blog stats by anyone. Ever. Period. I have however gotten a lot of frantic phone calls because people know that I’m really good at fixing problems.

So don’t play the game, because in the end no one wins. It’s a really hard game to stop playing but if you find yourself playing it, find a way to make yourself stop comparing yourself to the people around you.

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