Wednesday, April 24, 2013

repost: bathtub of emotions

**this was originally posted on august 17th, 2011 but it's been on my mind lately as I've been thinking more about dealing with chronic pain in the midst of other general life stressors.  hope you enjoy the read!


This has been one of the most helpful communication tools in my life so I thought I would share.  I think it's especially good on those days when I am in deep pain and working with people who don't understand what that's like.  I've explained this over and over again when I was an RA and working with girls.  Mr. Mays uses this a lot to understand what I'm thinking and why I'm responding a certain way.

Imagine that you have a bathtub for your emotions and for stress.  Each time something is stressful or upsetting, it adds to the tub.  When the bathtub is full, the reaction comes.  That's your personal limit and you response in anger, frustration, tears, or shutting down.

Each situation of life adds a different amount (and each person can handle different amount of stress).  For instance, if you lost your keys and were late to an appointment, that might have only filled up your bathtub 1/10 of the way.  Another day, your car may have been stolen and that is especially stressful to you, so your tub is half filled by that situation.

Here's the key:  Life piles up.  Stress piles up.

When you lose your keys and you suddenly melt into a puddle of tears, it might be hard for you (and others!!) to understand why that small situation was so upsetting.  After all, it only filled up your bathtub 10% of the way!   But what you've forgotten is that it's not just the lost keys....  Before that happened your emotional bathtub was already filled to 95% with other issues so that last 10% pushed you over the edge and your bathtub was overflowing.

Caleb knows when I'm upset about something to ask how full my bathtub is.  It sounds silly, but it really has helped us!  When my pain levels are up, my bathtub is already filled to about 80%!!!!!  So when something that is seemingly small happens, I can get upset quickly.  It has helped our relationship a lot for him to understand how many "little" issues are filling up that bathtub.
It's a very simple word picture.  But it's proven to be really helpful for me.  Hope that this can help others (especially those dealing with pain).  Chronic pain is debilitating.  When others can't understand, it is isolating.  And it's even worse when you can't even understand yourself.

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