A few years back, possibly more as I am at the age that time is flying by in warp speed; I used to love the waterslides at World Water Park. They were exhilarating and I felt a sense of freedom and abandon as I was rushed feet first at insane speeds into the cool water. With age comes an awareness of our mortality and that feeling that we are invincible begins to fade away. Some people are very successful in defeating that feeling and proving that age is nothing but a number but as I stood at the top of the slide uneasily awaiting my turn to go on the slide aptly named “Are you fucking kidding me?” I imagined nothing but terrifying things and plunging feet first to my tragic death. My turn came way before I was ready and as I pushed off the side I was thrust into immediate darkness as the sides of the slide were completely enclosed. I struggled with several feelings that rushed to me all at once and though my mind and my body seemed to be going at a wild speed, some things seemed to be happening in slow motion. I coped by balling my hands into fists and squeezing until I was white knuckled, closing my eyes and bracing for the worst. Seconds passed which felt like years and I decided that if I was really going to die right now this would be the last exciting thing that I ever got to experience. I willed myself to open my eyes and embrace the darkness, I took a deep breath and un-clenched my fists and felt my body being rocked from side to side, the rushing water lifting me to the right side and then the left. Within seconds my entire body was dropped into cool water, rushing around my body and head. I felt this feeling of relief mixed with euphoria that filled my lungs and my limbs and shone through my heart. I didn’t just survive, I thrived. I had stared my fear in the face and on the other side of my fear was joy.
So many times over the years I have told my daughters that joy is on the other side of their fears. My oldest seemed to be so unwilling to embrace uncertainty and looking back seemed to have all sorts of irrational fears. Little things would cause an argument or a great deal of anxiety but for the most part she seemed like a loving, smart and athletic girl who had big plans and hopes for the future.
At ten years old when I couldn’t help her with math because she became too frustrated, once flipping the coffee table over or kicking the walls in her bedroom repeatedly when put on a timeout I assumed that it was goddamn hormones. Watching her struggle through the teen years was difficult and I accepted the therapist’s recommendation that she was a normal teen who just needed coping mechanisms. I agreed with that advice and would hear it and agree with it several times over the years; from therapists, doctors, school counselors and friends. I never once considered that my only coping mechanisms were tears, white knuckles or wine.
In her early teens she fell in with a group of girls who had little to no supervision so when I said No to her and we ended up in a screaming match and she later crawled out her bedroom window making me frantic with worry I cursed the damn hormones and those other parents who didn’t set boundaries for their children. At fourteen she struggled with her sexuality, but we loved her no matter what and genuinely just wanted her to be happy. We prepared for struggle as she found her way in the world and a therapist would assure all of us that she was going to be fine. She just had to learn to cope.
Over the years she would suffer ups and downs, I would see her dedicate herself to a sport she loved fully and completely and be filled with immense pride. I would see the amazing things that it did for her self esteem and her confidence but it all seemed like it hung in a very delicate balance, as if one bad game, play or unkind word from a teammate or coach could take it all away. Through it all I tried to encourage her to be herself and embrace her individuality and learn to love her differences and she did for some of the time…and then she didn’t. I saw as friends came and went and I told her that if she became the kind of person she would want to be around the right people would come to her life at the right time. She welcomed new opportunities and challenges; growing and learning new things and finding new passions, but on some of the days everything was wrong, very very wrong. She called herself ugly and stupid and she directed a great deal of her anger at me. She became disconnected from the things she loved and I blamed it on Netflix binges and encouraged her to leave the house and be active. I took her to the woods on a hike recently and she said how great it made her feel. The earth, the air and the trees reconnected her to something she had lost. Her anger in the weeks following seemed to worsen and those in between times when she was my sweet young lady seemed less and less. She started to lash out at her sister and what we perceived to be small things would make her feel rage. She told me she wanted to talk to someone, that she just had a lot to get out. I encouraged her to do her research and find someone she thought she could connect with as she had called the other Therapists stupid. One afternoon she called me after leaving the doctors office and said she had finally found a good doctor that listened to her and he was referring her to a Psychiatrist. We lucked out being the first people to answer the phone on a forty person waiting list and she got in to see the Psychiatrist without the typical five month wait. I took her to the train and she went by herself so she could feel confident in being completely honest about how she was feeling. I held back tears as the Psychiatrist called me and told me that he was shocked that Morgan had not been diagnosed sooner and that his diagnosis was clear without any uncertainty all. My heart broke as he told me that she had ADHD with underlying depression and anxiety, that untreated had also led to conduct disorder. The screaming anger, bad decisions and struggles with school and self esteem were all a part of a larger issue. The diagnosis was a bit of a blessing, but the fact that she had suffered for so long caused me an immense amount of pain. I should have known. I know that we cannot go backwards and we decided together that we would go forward. The doctor said that there was no way around medication; though he fully supports and encourages a holistic lifestyle he believes wholeheartedly the medication is needed immediately to help her, especially in school. She and I both believe that our Western society is way too medicated but we are also both tired and hopeful for a reprieve from the daily uphill battle that rages on and on.
We have been on this road for several years but our journey has just begun. Everyday brings something new and we are trying to find a way to stay connected as a family and face our challenges head on, without curling up in bed with ice cream and tissues.
There are things that are hard for her, things I cannot quite understand but I am trying my best. She is going to meditation classes with me and the first one she was so incredibly anxious I did not think she would make it through it but she was able to control her breathing and her anxious mind and find a little place where she felt safe. She actually fell asleep in class, which was the most amazing result for a first time mediator. She now refuses to go to any classes that are not facilitated by this instructor, she found a bit of safety and I am trying to understand.
She allowed me to share our story with the instructor, who is also a mom, and such a warm and genuine woman that people gravitate to her. When I explained to her that she had been told for years that she needed coping mechanisms she took a thoughtful pause and said “coping mechanisms? I don’t like that. I don’t like that at all. How about thriving mechanisms?”
That moved us and encouraged us at a time when we needed it. We do not want to move through our lives white knuckled, squeezing our eyes shut, binging on ice cream and wiping away tears. We want to be fully engaged in our lives, to encourage and support and love each other, even when things are hard.
When she is ready, my daughter wants to get involved on this blog and in the Podcast so that she can be a voice for other people that are struggling and do not know why. Right now she is busy learning how to thrive.
“Every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise”
I have been working extremely hard on my own mental health, I know that if I am not healthy than I will not be good to anyone else. I find that floating (sensory deprivation) is an amazing way to clear my troubled mind and reset. I go to Modern Gravity in Edmonton Alberta. I have amped up my daily meditation practice by attending unlimited classes with Lifestyle Meditation here in Edmonton. They have a variety of different classes for relaxation, stress relief, movement, creativity and balance. I try to get enough sleep; the absence of good and restorative sleep can be harmful to our bodies and our minds. Our minds are powerful messengers and if something is wrong it will tell us. Stress can manifest in all sorts of ways and make us ill. Not enough sleep can keep us from leading full and happy lives. I do a sleep mediation nightly and I created my own Guided Journey Sleep Meditation as a gift to my Mom but I am hoping to convince my daughter to do it with me tonight after our hike in the woods.
The keys words in the dictionary definition of Cope are struggle, deal and face. The key words in the dictionary definition of thrive are prosper, grow and develop. Which would you rather do in times of stress? The answer is clear for me, even through my instinct during times of stress has always been to curl up in the fetal position and hope for it to pass I am finding healthier ways to deal with burdens and I am hoping to be an example to my family.
This morning I woke to three little birds outside my window singing a pretty song. I know that was the great Bob Marley’s way of reminding me that every little thing is going to be alright.
Be WI.S.E. friends and take care of yourself.
Our minds are powerful messengers and when the burdens that weigh us down rob us of the healing and restorative power of restful sleep we find ourselves sick with stress. Join me for a guided journey to create calm, inviting you to a deep and restful sleep.