There is a lot of talk about mindfulness these days, and I have been trying to practice applying it to my daily life, even if just a few seconds each day. Right now things are going pretty smoothly, but when a crisis hits, it isn’t so easy to focus on these techniques.
I found myself in a crisis situation a few years ago when my daughter was hospitalized for an eating disorder and depression that led to her suicide attempt. I don’t think I have ever felt so helpless and sad. Even though I had dealt with similar issues when I was younger and also witnessed my mom’s hospitalizations for her mental illness, I couldn’t imagine how I would ever overcome the fear of losing her.
When my daughter was hospitalized, I took a leave of absence from work for seven weeks and moved to my sister’s house three states away, where my daughter was staying while she was trying to finish college. I did a lot of soul-searching during that time in order to mentally prepare myself for the day I would have to head back home, leaving her behind. I had started reading a book called “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie, a few years earlier after my brother passed away, and it provided the most helpful insight out of anything else I had read. I think it was because it was simple enough to be able to comprehend in my state of emotional turmoil. I read parts of it every night before I fell asleep, and this kept my mind from drifting into the past or future. I also went to Katie’s website and watched some of the videotapes, which showed me how to meet my thoughts with understanding rather than fighting and resisting them. The book gave me a process that I could use at any time to re-center myself when I started to feel overwhelmed.
Recently I came across another good book that could be helpful for those who are struggling with a chronic mental illness. It is called “How to be Sick” by Toni Bernhard and she comes from the same angle of self-compassion and nonresistance.
Accepting and becoming mindful doesn’t mean becoming passive and not taking action to help improve our lives. It is a tool to help calm our minds enough to be able to make better decisions. I continue to turn to these techniques whenever I am struggling or am worried about my daughter, and they help me to sort through how I can best support her.
I have become acutely aware that there are no absolutes in life and I don’t always get a vote on what happens. I feel better knowing I have some simple tools that can help me face whatever comes my way.