I always thought my life was on an even keel. In fact I’m ashamed to admit that I *almost* thought I had it sorted – nice house, well behaved kids, holidays abroad, enough money in the bank for a rainy day. But you know what happens when we become a little too comfortable, don’t you?
Life gets messy!
Compared to the things that many people cope with on a daily basis, my 15 year old daughter going into hospital for 5 months due to a mental breakdown, probably wasn’t all that huge. But having been told off repeatedly by well-meaning friends for belittling our situation and comparing my ‘thorn’ to others’, I will just say it how it is – life was a bit pants.
My intention was to keep this blog as a sacred space to ‘find myself’ (another suggestion…by a well-meaning counsellor this time) but as I’ve become so accustomed to sharing online as a form of therapy, I just don’t think I can keep it in any longer. I also have a slight aversion to blogs that always appear so shiny with everything in its place. In my experience, life can be difficult and anyone who says otherwise is lying!
I learnt so much during this ‘messy’ season in our lives that I want to share the things that I found helpful. I am hoping that they might help you too when/if you need them.
Are you ready?
1. Recognise it for what it is
It’s not the end of the world but it is pretty rubbish and it’s ok to say that out loud. I so often see people trying to gloss over what’s going on, painting on a mask and saying ‘I’m fine’. Of course we don’t have to share the minute detail with everyone, but being real is important, not only for others but for yourself too. Don’t you prefer spending time with people who admit that their life isn’t perfect? I know that I do. It’s strangely comforting.
2. Choose your friends wisely
When life is difficult, the majority of people will be 100% behind you, willing you on; others will be there for the drama (you’ll sift out the wheat from the chaff pretty early on!). There will also be those people who mean well but just don’t seem to ‘get’ the situation, thus making you feel worse rather than better. My advice would be to pick just a small handful of people you know that you can trust, to share the detail of your situation. I’m not suggesting you bin off everyone else, but I am recommending that you protect yourself.
3. Embrace your feelings
By this, I mean notice how you feel. Don’t dismiss an emotion on the basis that you shouldn’t feel that way. You do and that’s that. I think by ignoring emotions, the pain goes deeper and carries on for a lot longer. Sit in it a while, cry if you want to and allow the emotion to pass through and hopefully out the other side. Don’t worry, I’ve not gone all Oprah Winfrey on you, just a little observation that I’ve made over the past 6 months.
4. Celebrate the small victories
For a little while, after every visit to my daughter, I would write down three positive things. On some days they would be harder to find than others, – I think once I even wrote down ‘she had taken the time to plait her hair‘. However small they might seem, it’s always better to have the positive memories in your head rather than the negative. Insignificant to some, but small victories to you. Grasp them with both hands.
5. Accept help
If you’re lucky enough to receive offers of help (be it meals, a lift somewhere, dog-sitting or childcare) take it with grateful thanks. I have a tendency to think I should be able to handle things on my own and that will sometimes stop me from accepting help. Your circumstance has led someone to believe that you need some help. This makes it perfectly legitimate for you to accept it. Now what are you waiting for?!
6. Be honest
If you want people’s understanding, then be honest about your situation. Don’t make little hints on social media and then wait for people to ask. Tell them that life is difficult! I would recommend staying off social media altogether if you can think of nothing other than your rubbish situation – it may make you angry and resentful which isn’t good for anyone.
7. Take time out
That’s an order! I know that I often felt guilty about stepping away from the situation and taking time out for me but honestly? It’s crucial.
If someone offers to take you out (and you feel up to it) then do it. Please don’t feel guilty or sit and wallow in martyrdom, your sanity is so worth it. That old adage about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first, is actually true.
8. Trust the process
There will be times when you feel like giving up, when nothing seems to be changing and in fact rather than two steps forward and one back, it seems you’re taking three back. At this point, you have to trust the process. Whether you believe that God is in charge or not (for the record, I do) sometimes no amount of effort on your part, can change things.
9. Give yourself time to recover
When you’re going through something quite big, people are there – the initial shock sends them running to you with (mostly) genuine offers support. As time moves on, the drama dies down and the support dwindles – people just assume that your life is getting back to normal. Of course it will be in a way, but a little like the after-effects of an earthquake, the ricochets will continue for a long time yet. It’s to be expected, so please don’t beat yourself up for not being able to cope better (I’m preaching to myself here).
Know someone that’s going through a tough time? Drop by with a meal, take round some flowers, send encouraging texts of support. Please don’t assume they’re ok just because they’ve gone quiet. If you think they might benefit from reading this post, then do pass it on.
We all need a little helping hand from time to time.