As much as I didn’t want to write this post I have to admit that it’s been a difficult few years around here lately. Bad days, weeks, months, or years are sometimes the reality more than good times. And as hard as we try to maintain a positive outlook- stuff happens. For me, there have been a number of events over the past few years that have been really hard on me. In May 2014 my mother passed away from bone cancer and years of complications following a double lung transplant. This event was very hard because my mom and I were very close. This year marks the third anniversary of her loss, and it still hurts.
It was even more difficult to cope with the loss of mom because I was in a stressful and unsupportive job when she was dying. I was able to change that starting in January 2015 and I remained in that job until the end of last month. It was a good job but the commute of one hour one way was too much to manage. Thankfully I have been able to pick up another contract job that I like and is much closer to home.
To top it all off, on April 7, 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Right now I am cancer free. In spite of a really rough time with the chemotherapy it managed to kill off any cancer in my body so that none was found after my surgery last July.
As of today I am in my first cancer-free year of recovery. While I am extremely grateful to be cancer free, there are new issues with my body that are part of the healing process. I developed shingles recently which delayed some final reconstructive surgery until May. I have also developed two frozen shoulders and will be starting physical therapy on April 12 for that issue. My hair is growing back VERY CURLY and VERY SLOWLY. I am so ready for it to be longer.
In addition, my dear husband has been sick off and on all winter because he has gotten so run down from picking up the slack on household jobs that I can’t do very well for now. And, to top it off, he has given up getting out and doing things for fun because he has needed to be here for me. We are in the process of working on rebuilding a new normal for our relationship that is respectful of my decreased energy level and his love of activity.
So you are probably wondering why the person who is creating a website and blog dedicated to all the good things in life is pouring out her sob story of the past few years.
The reality is that life isn’t perfect for anyone all the time. We all have struggles. The good news is that none of the struggles are permanent. The nature of life is change. I also wanted to share with you some thoughts on coping with the hard times. Here’s what I have learned…
- Feeling sad is just as okay as feeling happy. If you are sad, go with it. Get it out. It does more harm if you hold onto it than if you let it go. Remember, all feelings are fine and we don’t have to be perfect all the time. I am in the process of learning how to let go of the need to put on a happy face all the time.
- Nothing is permanent. The nature of life is change. This includes our moods. Our feelings come and go just like the seasons change. No bad situations ever last forever.
- Open yourself up to receive support. It can be hard to ask for help or show your vulnerability when you are down, but having the support of a good friend, family member, or partner is extremely important. One of the most destructive emotions to carry is shame. Shame isolates you and leaves you feeling hopeless, helpless, and worthless. When we open up to support from the right people we neutralize shame. Author and Shame Psychologist Brene Brown has some awesome TED talks and books on how to normalize and manage feelings of shame. Her TED talks are available on YouTube.
- No matter how hard it is, try to find something positive every day. I am not saying you need to be a Pollyanna. There are times when life really stinks. But there are also good things around us no matter what our circumstances. Think of beautiful sunsets, a loving pet, a good book, eating a good meal, or whatever makes you feel comforted. Try to focus on these things no matter how hard it is. You may not feel perfect, but you might feel a little better.
- Mindfulness meditation or any other form of meditation can work wonders. I have come to rely upon various types of meditation techniques to help shift my mood. The simplest form of meditation involves closing your eyes and bringing your attention to your breathing. Notice your breathing without trying to change it or judge it. When your attention shifts off of your breath (and it will), simply return gently to focusing on your breath. Continue this activity for as long as you want- 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes. The amount of time spent is less important than doing it on a regular basis. Over time, your body will learn to relax and you will develop the ability to cope better with stress. In addition to the exercise above, there are many free and inexpensive meditation and relaxation apps available for your smart phone. If you are interested in investing in imagery and relaxation tracks for specific problems, Health Journeys has some great ones for everything from depression to pregnancy.
- If you can’t shake your feelings, seek help. There is immense benefit in working with a qualified therapist, counselor, or coach to help you through the rougher patches in your life. Remember, you never have to fight through life alone. There are also support groups for various issues, such as grief and loss, coping with illness, divorce support, and many others. I was very lucky to find a great friend as I was going through my cancer treatment. She is also currently cancer free. We continue to support one another during the expected moments of freak out that follow cancer recovery. I also work with a psychologist to help me with more difficult stressors. Doing these things help me to live a more joyful life no matter what is going on.
Right now I am eagerly awaiting my reconstruction surgery on May 3. I started the new job last week so it will take me some time to find my balance with that. In the meantime, I am blessed that I have a husband who is committed to being there for me no matter what and a daughter who lightens up my life when I get too serious. The rest is up to me to be open to sharing my true self with him and my loved ones so that they can help me through this first year of healing and third year of honoring the memory of my mom.
In the end, the only thing that really matters is love. Love yourself, love others, and stay open to receiving love from others. We may not be perfect, but we are all worthy of love. Have a PrettyJoyful day.