“How do I cope? It’s a question I get asked a lot and an answer that really stumped me. Surprising, since I should be an expert on this. After all, I am an alphabet soup of everything that can go wrong with a person: sexual abuse, statutory rape, depression, cancer, death of a significant other, special needs children, miscarriage, and so much more.
My knee-jerk reaction is that you just stand up and show up when things go awry. What other choice do women and mothers have when tragedy strikes? But the more I reflect, there’s some tangible things I’ve actually done to survive life’s brutal battles and I think they are worth a mention.
If you’re not okay, be not okay. That’s perfectly fine. Give yourself grace to cry, and feel angry, or be sad. It doesn’t mean you love your child, or your life, or yourself any less. You have permission to feel awful about your situation because likely it is awful. Let’s not pretend. Feeling it all is part of moving forward—so the fake-it-until-we-make-it mentality is not applicable here. It’s okay to not smile on cue or stay in bed all day. We can grieve and still believe. We can accept and still be angry. Give yourself the space and grace to be in the moment—and then let go of what doesn’t serve you. Your rise will come when you’re ready.
Ah, self-care. The savior of sanity.
I’m not referring to spa days and trips away because who has the time, money, and resources for that when you’re dealing with something difficult? Start small with your self-care. Get a new flavor of coffee creamer. Listen to a podcast. Borrow a book from the library. Eat whatever you want for an entire day. Curl up with a soft blanket. Clean out your junk drawer. Find the little joys and hold onto them for dear life. We need to recharge, and no one is going to gift you with the time to do that but you.
We are in charge of our thoughts. I know, that’s a loaded responsibility but it’s actually kind of cool because what we focus on, we feel.
Admittedly, this is a tough one for me because my little sidekicks, anxiety and depression, make me feel a lot of things I shouldn’t. So, it takes extra effort to combat the negative and start seeing the silver lining.
My husband has an infamous (and rather annoying) saying he likes to toss around, ‘It could always be worse.’ This is usually met with an exaggerated eyeroll from me because my realist personality believes the opposite, ‘It could always be better.’ But I’m smart enough to know that that outlook can be detrimental. Because if you’re always looking to improve your circumstance, you may never be content with your reality. So here comes the power play: perspective.
When my son’s face was spasming uncontrollably and we were undergoing brain studies, I was venting to a group of women about our struggles when one so wisely said, ‘But thank God he even has a brain to study!’
When I see groups of children playing together and my autistic daughter is off by herself, it kills me—a straight dagger to the heart. But that’s me. That’s me who has a mind that craves friendship and social interaction. And guess what? That’s not her. She defines relationships and friendships differently than I do. Her happy is not mine, and until she shows me, she’s upset, I have to stop getting upset myself.
My husband’s heart may have stopped beating (twice), but after he flat-lined he was revived. We may be awaiting a transplant, but for today he is alive—we are all mostly well.
Damn good perspective.
We always think pain is going to last forever, but it won’t. It’ll lessen. Life is hard but fair like that. It’ll give our minds something new to obsess over eventually. But if you find yourself walking a road you rather wouldn’t, try the three steps above: give a little grace, love a little more, let your mind rest free from worry—even for a second.
I may not be able to change my circumstances, but I can control how I feel about them.
Grace. Self-care. Perspective.
(Also, wine, reality television, and Taco Bell).
Those are the keys to cope when you’ve lost all hope.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hanrahan. Follow Stephanie on Facebook here, Instagram here and visit her website here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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