“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will” Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
These words stay in the back of my mind as I walk my path. We are 15 months on from our daughter’s incurable diagnosis and it is a journey that twists and turns, meanders then rush only to meander again, like a river making its way from mountain to sea and we are seemingly the leaf or the log that moves upon it. Or are we?
Unlike the leaf or the log, I believe I have more control of the journey because I get to choose how I journey. And in the unknown of what the future brings I offer here a few things I have taken on that help me immensely.
LIVE THE DASH – Headstones record a birth date and end date. Like my daughter, I intend to live the dash in between. We don’t waste time on “why us?” Thoughts are energy. We are all on this earth together, and how we live our life is a stronger testament to the length of our life. My energy goes into thoughts and actions that add value to life.
BELIEF/FAITH – I have beliefs, I have a faith. It doesn’t matter what my faith is, having it guides me to have beliefs that help my journey and support my daughter. Positive thoughts, affirmations and resourceful beliefs are a part of my life. The mind and the body are infinitely connected, good health relies on mental health more so than physical health.
TALK – My daughter asked me to go to counselling and I would walk on fire for my child. She wants the best for me as I do for her. I don’t think I needed counselling, but I have found just talking, an hour of being able to talk my inner thoughts to an empathetic ear has been magic.
LAUGHING –is undoubtedly the best medicine. It is a great mechanism for coping. Research has shown that when we laugh our parasympathetic tenor is improved and our sympathetic nervous system becomes less active. It increases our immune system and therefore keeps us healthier in general. It releases endorphins, dopamine and high concentrations of other hormones that enable us to feel happier, to feel compassion and tolerance. This enables us to deal with pain and stress more easily and improves our cognitive processes. Laughter produces brain waves very similar to the state of trance or hypnosis. Self-hypnosis creates possibilities, solutions and outcomes – it talks directly to the unconscious mind. Laughter a part of every day.
PLAY – Play with young eyes. Get out the board games or the cards or play mini golf, or just be playful. We recently spent a wet weekend playing games. Although my daughter was unwell we still found it possible to laugh, and chat and delight in our company together.
PRESENCE – As a supporter of a cancer patient there is always a lot to do and a lot to think of, particularly if you work as well. When you are with someone you care about though be present. Turn the TV off, put the phone away and truly spend time with them. I hear and see and therefore understand so much more when I do this, and my daughter feels heard and understood too.
LOVE, GRATITUDE AND COMPASSION. Hold these in the heart space constantly. See beauty in everything! Give compliments, practise random acts of kindness, sing, dance, be crazy. These all release wonderful endorphins and dopamine that aid our own wellbeing. Give love and accept love from others; there is always someone worse off – ALWAYS. Heartmath research has demonstrated that love and compassion emanate more powerful electrical pulses from our heart than relaxation or anger, so it has to be better for us.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF – or as the airlines say – put your own mask on first. I eat reasonably healthy daily but if I feel like pudding or a biscuit I will have one – I simply keep it under control.
Exercise regularly, even if it is a 30 minute walk each day. I celebrate the world outside of the home and I take delight in my daily exercise. Stress stiffens my body, exercise and stretching frees it again.
Give yourself some time out. Sit in the garden, walk, paddle at the beach. Taking time out recharges my batteries which can get very flat. Journalling helps me. Not weekly, just when I need to get some thoughts out of my head. It also logs the journey when I reflect back I realise how far I have come and how well I am doing.
Keep yourself presentable. When my daughter was first diagnosed I lived in slouch pants and didn’t put makeup on for two weeks. This wasn’t me. When I started taking pride in my appearance again my attitude changed and therefore everything changed.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. When the going gets tough the first thing to go is my brain. I can’t find the words I want, I start a sentence and then lose the topic. So what! I facilitate workshops and have had this happen, I laugh it off. I am not a robot, I am a human being doing the best I can.
I am a human being choosing to embrace my independent will for strength, grace and to learn from this journey that fate has set me on.