Maybe this isn’t so much ‘How to Get Through It’ as it is what stood out for me that got me through the tidal wave of awful that overtook my life for awhile. I am not at all trained so please take none of this as medical advice. These are just a few thoughts on loss/tragedy/hardship and overcoming the awful luck life sometimes throws our way. I’m not an expert (please seek the help of experts). I’m just on the other side of a few years that kicked the living hell out of me. I wish I had known what I know now. It still would have been a monumentally terrible time in my life, but it would have been a lot easier if I knew what I know now.
What brings this on?
For one, my friend Scott Spoo just died in a very tragic and public way. While on his run he was hit while in the crosswalk by a man that may have been on his cell phone and we later learned most definitely has multiple cancerous brain tumors (and had a wife that recently died of cancer). Scott had no ear buds. He was being safe. It honestly is just a massive tragedy all around. I didn’t get to know Scott for very long, we were only friends a couple years and more-so last year, but I can tell you that he was a good friend, a genuine person, and the world is a less awesome place for not having him in it and he is very missed. Scott was 35.
Also, recently a dear friend of one of my best friends passed away from cancer that she contracted after serving bravely in our military. I did not know Amie Dahl Muller well, however in the times I did meet her or talk online I found her to be funny, sweet, beautiful inside and out, a great mom, and a real fighter. I am deeply sad that I never really got to know Amie as she clearly was an amazing human being. I am beyond furious that her husband and children are now going to have to live a life without her. Amie was 36.
The past few days I’ve been thinking back to how much pain and strife I have been through in my life and seen in others I care about in the not-so-distant past and the strength I never would have believed myself capable of until recently. It got me to thinking about all the work I have put into my health and wellness in the past few years.
How did I survive? What would be my advice to someone that has had the rug pulled out from them? My experiences are not the same. I don’t have any real answers so my first piece of advice is to find those that can help you find the answers for yourself.
Seriously Consider Therapy
It never really even crossed my mind to get into therapy until a few friends opened up to me that they thought it was a good idea and some that had experience gave me advice. The best advice was that finding the right one is like dating. It is okay if it isn’t a connection. Move on if it isn’t working out. I did find two really wonderful ones. Both I had to leave due to changes in my insurance. There were also two really terrible ones. It was worth it though, because the two good ones gave me so many new ways about thinking through my problems.
The last used art therapy. That really sparked me getting back into my art. I chose it for that reason, but there were some great things she told me that I still think of when I am feeling blocked.
Get Medicine If You Need It
There is no shame in getting medicine to help you be it for sleeping or anxiety or depression. No one would act like you have to walk off a broken leg so why should your mind be any different. Be proactive and push for what you need and what you don’t need. Some doctors will want you to take more than you need and others will go the other way. Work with them and don’t be afraid to be honest.
Take Care of Yourself
When the horrible wave of awful comes over you it can become hard to do even the basic things. Self care often gets equated to just things like painting your nails (which is a totally valid way to treat yourself kindly), but it honestly can come down to much more basic things like taking out the trash, doing your dishes, washing your hair. This sounds super basic, but if you end up in the throws of depression you often don’t want to do anything.
Make sure you are taking a daily walk in nature if nothing else, but I would highly recommend finding something you love. Yoga, running, and Zumba all were wonderful ways for me to connect to my body and health and healing. I didn’t always do the best job of self-care, but the freight train of bad luck hit and I had no idea how much I’d have to fight for myself.
Take Care of Living Things and Let Them Care for You
It is sometimes helpful to take care of others (perhaps that is a bit what is going on for me now), but it is important that you let people take care of you too. This also can be a pet. You obviously care for your pet, but really focus on being a good pet parent and letting them bring you joy (even a pet fish will help). I don’t recommend taking on a new pet until you are doing well again as it can be overwhelming, but if you are doing okay and feel you can take on the responsibility or you already own a pet they can be wonderful. If not, see if there is pet therapy or if you can volunteer with animals. They are very healing (and not just for nuts like me that love animals as much as I do).
For me a lot of my close friends are either far away or have extremely busy lives so it is important to make sure you are reaching out. People get caught up in their own stuff sometimes. It doesn’t mean they don’t care or wouldn’t be there for you if you ask.
Volunteer for Something You Care About and Can Manage
It was during this time that I found out about doing volunteer wildlife rehabilitation. I’m so thankful for all the animals I helped, because through helping them I always had something to look forward to and even when I was super sad and didn’t want to go once I got there I had a wonderful time. I still volunteer there and every time I make sure I take at least a few minutes to really soak up how very lucky I am and the wonder of these amazing critters. I love them with all my heart and they really kept me going. Sometimes it was the only thing I looked forward to the whole week. Find something you are passionate about and see how you can volunteer in a way that feels good to you.
Have Positive Self-Talk and Try to Remove Toxic People
I was very sad for so long that I started to lose myself in it. I think if I had better self-esteem going in it would have been a lot better. Even if you aren’t going through loss being kind to yourself is not optional. You need to be good and kind to yourself and not just in that yah, yah I love me way, but literally talk nice when you think to yourself. Treat yourself kinder. It is much easier said than done, but it is some of the most important work you can do. If you struggle with self-compassion watch these videos from Kristin Neff. There is so much amazing work being done around this. I could go on, but my main point is to seek out this information. Because it is so easy to blame yourself or to feel bad you didn’t do something different. You need to be your own best friend now more than ever.
The truth is the toughest person you could know is the person that knows the power of humor. This has certainly rung true in my life. I have learned over the years that the strong people are those that know it is okay to laugh sometimes. It is healthy. Yes, it is sad and terrible and everything else what you are going through. It sucks. I am the very last one to minimize it. Believe me. But you can’t live in sorrow. We visit sorrow. We don’t build our house there. We don’t move in. We visit, because we must and it is okay to be sad and to cry and it is natural to be angry. But we also need to smile and remember good things even when it feels like there is nothing there. For me it was looking up pictures of funny and adorable animals, talking to friends and my family who get my humor and would understand if I also started crying at some point, and watching funny shows on repeat.
Do Something Creative
Maybe this is a stock answer as an artist, but get creative. Stop caring if it is going to be good or look like what you pictured. Just create something. Don’t hold back. Just explore. It is easier said than done for some people, but really let loose. You don’t have to show anyone. You can throw it away if you don’t like it. Just make something. You need it.
I’m sure there are many more things you can do, but please. If you are feeling depressed or anxious or are just really having a rough go of things get professional help and if the first one doesn’t work out keep trying. And do what you can do to care for yourself and let others care for you. I’m no expert. I’m just an average person. I just hope this can help someone, because I am so grateful for the help and support I have received.