Stay on the boat

A simple, brightly-coloured cartoon drawing of a sailboat on the sea.Image credit: ‘Sailboat’ by Pitr, Public Domain.

“It’s important to stay on the boat for as long as possible,” she said.

“It’s hard to imagine now, but when that emotional storm comes, the one that’s caused by some mistake in your brain’s wiring, you won’t be able to withstand it. Fierce and terrible emotions hammer into you: rage, shame, and terror. The attacks come from all directions, and the painful thoughts flash on and off so fast that you don’t have time to fully think them before they disappear.”

“It seems silly now. You think to yourself: why would I let that stuff bother me when I know it’s not real? But when it happens it is real. You can’t step outside of it. The disturbing thoughts spiral out of control, cycling faster and faster with no grip on reality to slow them down.”

“When that happens, it’s important to stay in the body as long as possible. That connection to something solid will protect you and slow the whirlwind down.”

“Focus on your breathing. Pay attention to the feeling of the carpet pressing against your skin, the soreness in your jaw. Wiggle your fingers, or tap your arm or your thigh. But mostly, pay attention to your breathing. Pay attention to your belly and to the feel of breath going in and out. Practise this often. Practise it when the weather is calm, so that it will be easy to do when the storm comes. And maybe you won’t be able to hold on, maybe you’ll fall into the icy waters below. We can survive that too, as we have done many times before. But stay on the boat for as long as you can.”