A very dear friend asked me recently, “how do you cope on the days where you wonder if your life will always be a struggle?”. Good question. Very very good question.
There was a time, probably around a year ago when I had absolutely no idea how to deal with this exact scenario. I would wake up already feeling low, on occasion dreading the day ahead. I had lost control of my mind, my focus and my emotions. My world was ruled by the fear of being out of control of everything. Absolutely everything. From what room I could walk into, to what activity I was allowed to do, to whether I was allowed to speak. Every action I did had an affect on the kiddo. In fact, it’s happening right now. He just approached me and hit me on the knee because he wanted me to stop typing. It could have been the noise, or the movement, but something really bothered him.
I reached a point last year where I began to feel really low about this lack of control. It’s a well known fact that lack of control is often a huge determinant in the downward spiral that leads to depression and anxiety. And I couldn’t go there again. I just couldn’t. I’ve always been open about my past experience with depression. I believe it not only helps others with their recovery, but it keeps me at arms length from falling susceptible again. It reminds me what I should and should not be doing to avoid a regression.
Getting back to my friends question. What do I do on those days where I can’t see how I will make it through to tomorrow. Where I’m so exhausted from making the world a comfortable and acceptable place for my son. Where I start to wonder if the screaming will ever stop and I’ll hear the birds sing again. I warned her she might not like the answer.
The answer to my survival is this. Mindfulness and meditation. Now to those of you who have just rolled your eyes at the idea of a “hippy” resolution, hear me out, because when I talk about meditation I don’t necessarily mean sitting on a pillow with your legs crossed repeating the “Om” mantra (although that can work really well for those willing to try).
Some time ago I read an article that described mediation as the Buddhist equivalent to sport. How interesting! It went on to talk about how there are so many variations of meditation and that they, just as sport does, all require training and practice. The end result was a clearer, “fitter” mind if you will. At the time I was really struggling to exercise physically due to exhaustion. My husband had really dedicated himself to practicing mindfulness using an app and the results were clear. He was calmer. He encouraged me to use an app but it just wasn’t for me. So I took a different direction. I went on a search for inner peace.
Now I don’t necessarily mean that I became at one with nature and began having conversations with woodland animals like in a Disney film. I started to practice visualising a purple mist that existed inside my body (that’s what immediately came to mind for me, could have been anything). When this mist was still and gently flowing, maybe sparkled a little, I felt like I could cope with anything. Even with chronic sleep deprivation. When I closed my eyes and there was a tornado swirling inside me, I knew that I needed to calm it, and fast. How did I do that though?
There are many ways you can find self calm. Personally for me it came down to walking quietly on my own, even just for five minutes. Feeling the earth under my feet and the breeze in my hair. All I thought of was the natural feeling of the elements around me. I have my husband to thank for that, he introduced me to mindful walking and soon I hope to try mindful running too. The other major thing that has worked for me was making lists of things I am grateful for. Sure my child may have screamed and physically attacked me today. But I’m so grateful to have been granted the chance to parent a child, and with such a loving husband. We have a roof over our head and we are warm. And yesterday kiddo said a new word! This instantly changes my mood to positive. If I had concentrated on the fact that over the last six years mum died of cancer, I experienced chronic pain, my child had been diagnosed with several disabilities and I had had to give up my career… well you can see where that would take me. But I’m not choosing that path, I refuse to.
Kiddo just screamed in my face because he wants something. I could be upset that he can’t use words, or I could be so happy that he has tried to communicate with me. The choice is mine.
Obviously there are days where I do feel low, out of control and angry. I think the odd day like this is actually healthy. Feel that pain, grieve, cry it out. But don’t let it consume you. Because in the end there is only one road that leads to, and trust me, that road will not make you feel any better.
If you’re struggling right now and don’t know who to turn to, see your GP. Ask about cognitive behavioural therapy. Medication also has its time and place.
I for one really need medication to keep me on an even keel. There’s no shame in that, it makes me a better parent and a better wife.
I know sometimes it doesn’t feel like there is a choice to be made. But if you take the time to really look, really search for it, you will find there is always a crossroads where you can change direction. My mum used to say to me “without change, comes no change”. How right she was.
Thanks for reading,