Coping Mechanism is a column by Mackenna Manidis exploring the care practices of creative people she finds inspiring.
Morgan McGlothan is someone you can’t miss in a room.
Aside from being beautiful (look at her, she’s the dictionary definition of radiant) she’s always the first person to ask how everyone is doing. Morgan is a bleeding heart and an empath; you can feel her when she’s around. She’s captivating, even more so because she’s a person who openly deals with anxiety, letting others into her experience of the rollercoaster ride that our feelings can take us on.
Talking to Morgan about her brain is easy. When I asked what her coping mechanisms are, she gave me a list: keeping healthy habits before things get hard, identifying source feelings, setting hard boundaries, physical exercises, positive self talk, creating art, regular therapy sessions. But the standout thing she has taught herself to do focuses on prevention above all. “My methods are more preventative now rather than reactionary,” she explained. “I try to do things consistently: keep my home clean, cook nice meals for myself, do things that make me feel proud, like exercising my body and mind. Before, it was a constant build-up of tension and release, which was so exhausting. I figured out that staying on top of my mental health consistently would keep me in a mental/emotional state that I want to be in more frequently.”
Building consistent habits is a powerful way to avoid that most dreaded outcome — a spiral. And though the possibility of getting there doesn’t ever totally go away, analyzing the source feelings is another mechanism she’s developed over time. “I still spiral, definitely,” she admitted. “But I try to zero in on the feeling more, recognize it and work through it. When I was younger, I was more focused on relaxing and getting away from the feeling. Now, I see these tough spots as ‘growth moments.’”
For Morgan — and for a lot of us I’m sure — an obvious trigger for these kinds of spirals is something it also seems impossible to live without: Instagram. So, another way of coping with anxiety and the bad days, was dealing with the paradox that is social media. “Deleting social media is another coping mechanism,” she said. “I remember the first time someone told me they were just going to delete their Instagram I was like ‘Wow, that’s an option?’ It’s insane how hung up we get on an app that means very little about who we are as people. I’m a victim of this, too.”
Ironically enough, I was interested in profiling Morgan for Coping Mechanism because of her social media presence. She’s incredibly open, raw, vulnerable, honest, and when she gives us, her followers, glimpses into her personal life, there’s a certain catharsis experienced along with her. I’m not alone in what I’m going through if this brilliant human is feeling the bad stuff, too.
But, to demonize social media in 2019 feels hack. Get a life, dude — find some real shit to worry about, the earth is melting. Aside from feeling hack, demonizing social media also feels wrong. Social media, quite honestly, rocks. It’s a beautiful tool we can use to connect with friends and family members who don’t live in the same place. You can grow an entire brand from scratch on Instagram. The internet is a vast sea of possibilities and opportunities. The internet is cool as fuck.
Morgan doesn’t disagree. When discussing the trials of being a person on the internet, she shares with me all the good things she’s gotten from these apps, too. “Don’t get me wrong, I love social media,” she said. “I’ve met some of my favorite people on the internet and had so many beautiful interactions though it. But also, there’s so much life beyond that. I try to cherish the moments of socializing I have in real life as much as possible because in my experience, those are the memories that give you the warm fuzzies when you think about them later.”
The warm fuzzies are a feeling I’m incredibly familiar with. I have them when I think about the day last summer I spent with someone I loved in the coves of El Matador in Malibu, swallowing salt water and touching sea anemones together. I have them when I think about my cat and the way she cuddles with me every night, the way she can sense when my day has been tough. Morgan’s right, every memory I have that gives me that feeling is from reality. Not from the endless scroll on the screen.
Despite this, one of the cruelest tricks my brain plays is to make me feel alone in my dark times. I often feel like I’m the first person to feel crippling sadness, the first person to sometimes feel like getting out of bed is impossible, the first person to hit an emotional rock bottom. I watch as everyone around me carries on with their fabulous and beautiful lives; getting engaged while I’m getting dumped, having kids while I’m dreaming of starting a family, getting promoted at their fancy, vague LA jobs that pay them six figures and cater lunch everyday.
My wheels are spinning in place and I’m going nowhere, digging myself deeper and deeper into the dirt as my effort to get out becomes more frantic and desperate. But it’s not real. It’s not true. I’m seeing what everyone wants me to see, the silver linings of their rainclouds. That’s how social media works. Just like how everyone who sees what I post is only seeing the silver linings of mine. The beauty in this is that there are silver linings, there are things worth sharing. There are pieces of this existence that we’re proud of — the people, the places, the things, the victories, the highs. It’s all here for us. And I feel so blessed that I get to see them.
Morgan has a similar sentiment when it comes to watching the people in her world succeed. “So many of my friends are masters of doing new and scary things,” she said. “That desire to throw themselves into something new and hard and scary has been really inspiring to me. I’ve done a lot of things now I never believed I would have when I was younger, and it’s all because I’m surrounded with that energy very frequently now.”
I’ve heard that comparison is the thief of joy and I believe that. I’ve also heard that getting by with a little help from your friends is the way to do it and I believe that, too. Remembering that I’m on no one’s timeline but my own is hard sometimes, it’s something I’m learning how to do everyday. Being brave is important and facing the lows when you’re confronted with other people’s highs is one of the bravest things you can do. Sometimes, you just need a friend to show you how.