How do you remain healthful when everything around you is falling a part?
I have been thinking about writing this post for a few months now but kept going back and forth about whether I should, and (obviously) have decided that I should. I want to share my experience with this because everyone suffers in one way or another at some point in their lives and I hope to provide an honest account of someone who tries her best to take care of herself even in the darkest times.
I’m not equipped to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do in these scenarios because:
A) I am not a liscenced therapist or psychological professional
B) Everyone is different
By sharing what has worked for me, I hope that you can find something to relate to, or gain hope or inspiration from my experience.
You never know exactly how you’re going to respond to tragedy. Whether it be from death, sickness, loss, or a near-loss, is tough. Losing anyone or anything is terribly difficult and painful. In my earlier years, aka pre-mid 20’s, I experienced a lot of death and tragedy in my life. It was sort of the norm. I used to be crippled with fear, waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I honestly thought it was normal, having thoughts like: ‘oh, it’s been x amount of time since that bad thing happened, it’s probably time to have another bad thing happen.” It felt normal for me to think this way; to expect the worst. Not that I could have controlled any of these things from happening, but my mindset was not healthy. I hadn’t learned the power and magnitude of mindset and how a shift in perspective really can transform your life.
Over the past four years or so, I’ve worked on this a lot. I’ve overcome a lot of my fears and anxieties and a lot has shifted for me. Sure, it wasn’t easy, and there were most definitely breakdowns along the way, but I have come very far from where I used to be. So I thought I was totally equipped to “deal” with something bad happening because I had a healthier mindset around these things…
A few months ago, my friend and mentor was tragically killed in a terrible accident. I was in shock. It was unimaginable. It was terribly sad and not a day has gone by where I haven’t thought of my friend and her amazing life that was taken from her far too soon. I was furious.
I found myself going through the motions, not wanting to eat, sleep, or do much of anything. I felt completely numb. I had angry, irrational thoughts:
How could this happen?
Why couldn’t this have happened to someone who was mean and didn’t contribute to society?
Why am I alive and she isn’t?
Why are any of us alive?
How can any of us live when we know we can die in an instant?
It really shook me.
Then last month my beloved cat, Piper, almost died. It all happened so suddenly. One day she was her normal, silly, self, and the next she couldn’t walk, was having mini seizures, and meowing in terrifying pain. We had to rush her to two different emergency Animal Hospitals to get her the care she needed. We were so lucky to live in an area that has Animal Cardiologists that are on-call through the night who were able to come in at midnight to do an emergency procedure and give my poor little kitty a pacemaker to help her heart beat properly.
It was so intense and rattling. I was traumatized from the whole experience. It all worked out for the best and I told myself that I should have been happy and relieved when she survived, but I couldn’t shake it. I wasn’t eating, my anxiety was through the roof, I was crying at anything and everything, I couldn’t concentrate-I was numb, again.
So what the hell do you do? Honestly, I can’t say I have It all figured out- so far from it. I don’t know all of the answers, probably never will, but I did everything that I needed to do to get through those tough times and came out on the other side.
The main thing I learned was to GO THROUGH IT. Don’t tell yourself, or let anybody tell you, you should be “over it”. Screw that. The feelings that you’re feeling are honest and true. They may feel out of control, scary, overwhelming, and irrational, but they are yours. Own them.
I wasn’t eating. I couldn’t bring myself to drink water. I would lay in my bedroom in the dark mindlessly watching Gilmore Girls, or just staring into space. I was certainly not the picture of health. But I chose to go with how my body was feeling. I accepted it, as hard as it was. I knew that I should eat so I would make myself something to try to eat, even if I didn’t finish It; at least I made the effort. In a way, I felt like forcing myself to do the things I normally would do was working in opposition of how I was feeling and perpetuating the sensation that I should move on and “get over It”. So, I decided to throw my routine out the window and do what felt good in the moment. Not that any of these feelings felt good, but you get the idea.
As long as I made some form of conscious effort to nourish my mind, body, and soul in whatever capacity I could muster, that would have to be good enough. So if that meant skipping dinner to make myself a cup of calming tea at the end of the night, I was honoring my feelings and accepting where I was in the moment. If I didn’t feel like talking to anybody and all I wanted to do was lay in bed and watch Gilmore Girls, then god damnit that’s what I was going to do.
I’m not saying that not eating or accepting dark, depressing thoughts is normal. I totally understand these sorts of thoughts can be triggering to those who have struggled with eating disorders and depression, which I have, so you can imagine going through this brought back those feelings too, which doesn’t help when you’re already going through so much.
What I am advocating for is: accepting where you’re at, and to listen and be patient with yourself.
Another important thing to do is to surround yourself with people that love you and are around for you to talk to when / if you’re ready. People that are on the outside, not going what you’re going through, can give you a shoulder to lean on and be the voice of reason if you let yourself get too far into a dark hole and need to pulled out.
Now that I type this all out, I realize that all of these things are tools that you can use to cope, but they are also tools you should use on a daily basis. We are all human and we all need to listen, love, and take care of ourselves. We are all different and we deal with things differently. Emotions and feelings are totally OKAY TO HAVE. Our culture and society is so repressed that I think we forget that feeling these things are a part of human nature and that it’s okay not to be okay.
If you’re going through a tough time, do what you feel is best for YOU. That is the healthiest thing you could possibly do for yourself.
Listen to your gut.
Surround yourself with people who will look out for you.
Love yourself fiercely even if it hurts, even if it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do, because your love and care and attention will ultimately help bring you out of the cave and into the light.
There will always be light, the journey to get there may be long and hard, or there may only be tiny glimmers of light along the way, but the light will always come.