Posts tagged ‘grief’

Downshifting from Overdrive: Accepting Myself

On most days, my appearance would give you no clue that I struggle with my physical and mental health.

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Occasionally, though, I can't hide my biology's battle against me.

Does anyone remember how in the “way back days” (a boy who I once had guardianship of used this to refer to my younger days), even in an automatic car, you drove in Drive sometimes and in Overdrive sometimes? The two weren’t synonymous. Well, no matter, I’m sure you can fathom what I mean. I keep trying to live my life in Overdrive with the Parking Break on. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. I want to drive, but my health keeps applying the parking break, because I’ve been unwilling to downshift. I’ve been afraid. I’ve been thinking that if I downshifted, I’d be in Neutral and that wasn’t acceptable. You get pushed in Neutral. You get towed away in Neutral. Sometimes in Overdrive with the pedal to the metal and going nowhere because the Parking Break is on, I’ve thought shifting into Reverse was going to help me somehow, like when you rock a car to get yourself unstuck from an icy, three-foot high snowdrift (I grew up on the Chicago latitude). But it hasn’t ever worked because (unlike when I’m driving a car) I’m still in the habit of putting that pedal to the metal so I lurch backwards and slam myself into a tree trunk. Then I’m really going nowhere! All this to say, I don’t want to be lead-footed anymore in Overdrive or Reverse. It’s incredible how long it took me to realize why I wasn’t going anywhere or going so slowly.

Have you driven with your Parking Brake on? The first few times you try, your car holds you locked in place and you realize it. But, imagine the Driver’s Ed teacher keeps secretly setting it because he wants you to quit speeding. He knows you aren’t really in control when you are going so fast. We’ll suppose he’s tried to tell you in other ways, but you just weren’t getting it. It’s not necessarily your fault. It turns out he speaks with a heavy accent; you have to listen really, really hard to catch half of what he’s saying. Well, if he keeps setting it but you don’t know when, you keep pushing that pedal to the metal when you feel that drag. He means well, but sometimes you speed even worse because you anticipate the drag of the brake being on. You are in even less control than before. It’s a strain on you and the car. The brake starts to give. Eventually, when you do it, your car moves but my gosh, it’s like trying to push it uphill all alone! You get so frustrated. Everyone’s passing you by. You can’t get where you want to go. You want to give up, but you won’t. I mean, after all, at least you’re still moving. But inside your engine is burning hard, wearing down. Let’s just say, I’ve really been killing my engine!

I’ve got a lot of updating to do to my “About” page, but to put it briefly, I’ve got 20 chronic health conditions. I use to be an “overachiever”, but I’ve been disabled for many years now. I struggle with activities of daily living, but looking at me and even being around me for a day or two, you probably wouldn’t have a clue. I’ve been in various degrees of denial, not intellectually but emotionally for the most part. I still have found reasons to rejoice here and there, but I’m not happy and I know I’m the only one who can change that. I have the power to choose joy, but it is an “attitude in action” and my attitude, though positive, has been pretty stagnant. I’ve decided I’ve got to try downshifting from Overdrive to Drive. I had to trade in for an older model, one that has that option. So, I may not fit in at first. I don’t like that, but if it means I might start making some progress, it’ll be worth it. This past year – it’s been so hard! I realized I wasn’t going forward, no matter how cool my sports car life looked. I realized how burnt up my engine was. I realized shifting into Reverse didn’t help. I wanted people to pitch in and push. That didn’t work either. I’m so angry. As much as I hate being angry (I mean who really likes it), I’ve got to admit it. I’m angry I didn’t understand what my health problems were trying to tell me. But I’m not going to waste anymore time being angry at myself. Well, that’s probably not true; it’s a hard habit to break, but I, at least, am going to do something different too.

My downshifting is starting right here, with this blog. I’m sure sometimes I’ll still blog my philosophical musings or spiritual meditations or inspirational reflections or political rantings or artistic expressions, but here out this blog is foremost going to be a chronicle of my choice to live my life. That sounds so ordinary, but the key words in there are choice, live, and my. I reminded myself recently when I emotionally vomited an email to someone that my mind doesn’t process things well inside. If I’m going to write, it makes sense that I should use it to help myself, not just others. Often, I’ve shared the lessons I’ve learned but not the process of how I’ve learned them. I look over my blog and sometimes it just seems so stiff and formal, so unapproachable while inside I’m crying out for someone to not only approach but to hold me. Well, how can I ever face writer’s block again if my mind is always going. I’m not going to worry about getting things just right or being right. I’ve known for a long time I’m not “Super Molly,” but I wanted everyone else to think I was. Funny thing is it wasn’t because I needed people to see me as “Super” but because I needed them to see me and since I haven’t figured out who I am yet, I thought I had to show them me as “something”. I didn’t trust they could figure out who I was right along with me. Actually, I think I was a bit afraid they’d figure it out before me and I’d feel like I was being passed by. Hmm, the irony.

I truly believe God speaks through other people and I think it’s important to let people know when they are a vessel of Spirit’s voice in what they say or do. So, many people have contributed to this moment, this particular instant of awakening, but aside from my therapist Tina Marie Dale, LCSW, I want to thank a few special people who probably have no idea how they have touched me. Honestly i don’t know if I can explain except to say that their “being there” and/or genuineness is emboldening me to expose my Self, to love myself enough to slow down. I may have to add to this list as I remember people but here are the people off the top of my head right now…
Barb Efflandt, Rev. Kathleen Thomas, Frankey Landon, @aeTyree, @Read2Write10, @JillMarieinFL, @tetka, my friends at Poetry here And Now, Deborah Helm, Jill & Jo O’Brien, Lady Dawn, Alice Puckett, Jesleen92 (blog: 91 Odd Socks), “Bananas” Charity (blog: charityjh.com), and Wendy Holcolme (blog: Picnic with Ants: Living with Chronic Illnesses). Those names beginning with “@” are the Twitter usernames by which I know them. Many people on Twitter have blogs and I encourage you to check out these Tweeters and their blogs.

Surviving Loss: Unexpected Death of a Close Loved One

Inconsolable grief

Image via Wikipedia

Originally published November 27, 2010

Everyone grieves in a unique way.  You can’t do it wrong.  You will do it even if no one tells you how. Any change presents a loss.  One of the losses most difficult to manage is the unexpected death of someone we love dearly and rely on heavily; most often this is a spouse, sibling, parent, or best friend.  You may feel completely overwhelmed and question your ability to cope.  People may be there for you but you can’t even think straight about what you need.  You go through motions that seem like living, but nothing seems real.  Life in rich Technicolor high-definition 3D wide-screen now seems to be trapped in a 12 inch black-and-white TV with poor reception.  You can’t imagine how you’ll carry on.  Luckily, reality doesn’t need to be imagined.

The reality is you will survive.  You will recover . Things won’t ever be the same, but they won’t be worse – just different.  You will struggle.  You will change and you will grow.  You will accept the loss, not because it will mean any less, but because it will become a part of you and your journey.  How do I know?  I know because you want it . You asked for help by reading this article.  Some are content to be miserable.  You aren’t.  You are willing or at least willing to be willing to do what needs to be done to find contentment again.  You are willing to surrender to a power greater than you, even if it is just the people about you with whom you’ve shared this piece of your pain.  You have the will to be filled with and to share what all those who know and have ever known you love.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  The way is your personal journey of healing.

Because much of life does not come with an instruction manual, including dealing with loss, we can only rely on our own experience and that of others to work through such difficult times.  We will discover some people want to help, while others are too emotionally fragile.  Bear in mind that while you are struggling with your loss, you will not be able to fulfill some of the needs others have relied upon you to fill.  Whether purposeful or not, relieving yourself of some of your responsibilities is necessary to muster the energy to deal with your loss.  As you may be struggling to find the support your recently passed loved one provided, others near you may realize they need to build their support system as well.  Though painful, this is one small way in which a significant loss can bring about good.

In today’s society, where family is spread far apart and friends are often few and superficially squeezed into our busy lives, we very often rely too heavily on just a few individuals to meet all of our needs.  We must learn to reach out and connect.  We must learn to identify our needs and search out multiple ways of meeting them.  We aren’t looking to replace the one we’ve lost but rather to join in community with the larger web of existence.  We are meant to be interdependent as a species.  No one or few people should be our sole support anymore than we should put ourselves in that role for someone else.  The sooner we began this journey of self-discovery and connection, the sooner the devastating effects of our loss will subside.  Remember, too, that no one leaves the world untouched. The imprint of your loved one is pressed into more than your heart and memory. How you travel this journey will be unique to you. As a starting point, I’ve offered below what helped me most in my earliest days of grieving different losses in my life. I wish I had had them all at my disposal from the beginning, but surviving loss continues to be a learning process for me. I only hope that my experience will make yours more bearable.

Connect With Your Emotions
*Use art to express your emotions (you don’t have to be an artist).
*Journal, write letters to your departed loved one, or write stream of conscious about one emotion you pick to focus on.
*Make some dates with yourself, maybe 30 minutes twice per day (to start), to fully honor your need to feel your feelings and equally honor your need to take a break from them.
*Attend a grief support group or see an individual therapist specializing in grief;

Connect the Past & Present
*Reminisce aloud or write about happy memories, especially ones that make you laugh, as much as possible.
*Make a list of what you learned from the person who is no longer with you.
*Try to get to know better the younger generation whose genes your loved one passed on.
*Contemplate your loved ones legacy and continued presence: donations s/he made to charities, something s/he helped create, words s/he wrote, causes s/he supported, traditions, etc;

Connect With Others Who Shared in Your Loved One’s Life
*Ask other people to contribute to the above or below.
*Gather some help to put together a memory box or scrapbook of your loved one’s life for a younger generation of your family or his/hers.
*As you are confronted with handling your loved ones belongings or things s/he gave you, consider what you might part with knowing how it could touch someone else’s heart.

Connect With the World Around You
*Force yourself to be around people as much as possible, but don’t force yourself to interact if it’s too exhausting.
*Invite people over; let them know you don’t feel like being alone but don’t necessarily want to do anything particular.
*Visit museums or library events or explore other out-of-home interests, especially ones your loved one may not have enjoyed, that don’t expect anything of you.
*Fully engage yourself in whatever you are doing, redirecting your attention to your five senses if you become distracted by your inner turmoil.