Continuing on from the last blog about Bali, here is the second lesson I learnt while I was on my honeymoon. Bali is a very hot and humid country (or it was when I was there). Just walking around was enough to break out into a sweat and I’m not very keen on sweating. Obviously I cut right back on any exercise that didn’t take place in a swimming pool. But you can’t see an island from within a hotel, so inevitably we had to walk. Here in the UK, I’ve always prided myself on being a fast walker. I walk with purpose and stride out to reach my destination as fast as possible. My theory was that by getting there faster, I’d be fitter and more efficient.
Grief is probably something that most of us have had to experience at some point in our lives. The most common and well-know reason is the death of a loved one, but we grieve to some extent for other reasons as well. We grieve for any kind of loss, be it the end of a relationship, the loss of a friendship or even a change in situation.
Some of these events may only require a small amount of grieving; others may need a grieving process that lasts years. I grieved for the sale of my old car - a classic mini that I'd got myself far too emotionally attached to for my own good. I grieved for about an hour after the buyer took her away, and then I was able to move on with no regrets. However when I grieved for my aunt, who died when I was 19, the whole process lasted about 10 years.
There's no procedure for grieving and there's no formula to follow. No-one can tell you how long it will take, or what form it will take. It's not linear and it's not rational. However it is very necessary.
Grief is the process that takes you from the painful state you find yourself in at the point of loss, to acceptance of the situation and an ability to let go and move on. I think the most useful thing to know about grief is that it comes in cycles. You think you're coping really well and then something comes along to knock you sideways - again.
Often we fall straight into the grieving process. If our sorrow is strong and we are comfortable with our emotions, we will naturally start to go through the stages. However, often we block it and this is where we get stuck.
I've heard many people say they just can't cry. Sometimes we can't connect with our emotions as they are too painful so we block them away. Other times, there is a fear that if we break down, we'll never stop crying, so we prevent ourselves from even starting. Maybe we think we need to be strong for someone else - a child or a partner. This might be a necessary protection for the initial intensity of the emotion, but if we don't go back and address it, then we can't let go.
Letting go doesn't mean we are forgetting. Sometimes we don't want to grieve because we don't want to let the memory of a loved one go. But if we have such a highly charged emotional response to them that we can't even think about them, then are we really remembering them in a way they or we'd want.
Going back to my aunt, who was the first person I had to grieve for, I went through a lot of emotions. For years, I believed I could have done something to prevent it, which was hugely unlikely and probably quite arrogant about my influence as a teenager. For years I blamed those around her for not being able to help her. But that is also unfair. Eventually I came to accept that it was just a tragedy and a belief formed that she is probably happier now she's in the spirit world.
The thing that shows I've reached acceptance, is that I can remember the good times we had with happiness and joy. I can remember what she was like with love. I can remember my relationship with her without regrets.
The process was far from straight forwards. After the initial shock of losing her, my days ran pretty normally. Sometimes I'd think about things when my mind was quiet, but because I didn't see her day to day, my routines weren't affected. What I noticed was that every so often waves of emotion would come up and hit me and I'd find myself crying again. Over the 10 years after her death, these happened less frequently and less intensely. Each time they happened my thoughts and feelings processed a bit more and I began to make some sense of my loss.
If we don't grieve for whatever reason, we become stuck emotionally at the point the person died. We have to keep carrying the pain around with us and this can cause us to close up to prevent the emotions accidentally spilling out. Often people may "expect" us to have gotten over the loss by a certain point, so then we can feel it's even more necessary to hide the unresolved grief away. Grief can include many emotions, such as anger, regret, self-pity and others. If we don't complete the grief process, we won't have resolved all the individual emotions.
As you probably already realise from reading my other blog posts, if we have unresolved emotions, then we will likely be reacting to present events rather than making conscious choices. Imagine if you still had unresolved anger within you, you could well find it bursts out when you least expect it. If you are living with unresolved regret, you may find that you are living in the past a lot.
There are many ways to resolve these emotions, but the main one is to intend to grieve. Intention is a great starting point and often just allowing process to follow is enough. We may find we attract supportive people who we can talk to, or maybe we meet someone else who's gone through a similar experience. Even if there is no-one around who we feel understands us, a supportive hug can still help us along our journey. Nothing anyone says or does will make the pain disappear overnight, but it's important to keep the process moving forwards.
So, if you know there is a person or event you haven't grieved for, please consider going through this process to set yourself free and allow yourself to remember the positive memories without pain.
I went to a funeral last Friday. Fortunately for me, it wasn't someone I was close to, but it touched me deeply and I was acutely aware of how much the family and close friends must be suffering to lose someone they loved in such a tragic way. The woman, who wasn't much older than myself, committed suicide after a battle with bi-polar disorder. As I said, I didn't know her well, and therefore wouldn't presume to talk about her case and her suffering, but it does raise the issue in general about how people suffer with these conditions and how often they, sadly, don't find the help they need to deal with them and embrace their lives again. As well as the sadness and grief I felt today, I also felt anger. I felt the tragedy that, in today's society, people still aren't aware enough of these issues to be able to help those that suffer. But I realise that a part of the problem with mental illness is that it's very difficult to understand what someone is going through unless you've gone through a similar situation yourself. How can you know how someone can reach the point where they wish to take their own life if you've never felt that low? How can you understand the bleakness that overtakes everything? How can you even begin to imagine how someone who is well loved would think that their family would be better off without them? How can you believe that every bit of hope has gone from them, that they don't believe things will ever get better? Luckily for me in my story, I never lost hope, even if at times it was only a small glimmer. The vicar at the funeral today read out a quote from Anne Frank -"Where there's hope, there's life". And I truly believe that hope is what keeps people alive when they are in the depths of their suffering. But as well as hope there needs to be professional support. I know that the help I provide isn't mainstream, and I would never profess to be able to cure people of anything. However myself and other such health professionals can provide help to ease the emotional suffering people go through. Kinesiology and homeopathy helped me when I was going through my depression and I wouldn't be where I am today without them. I have no issue with people who prefer to go down the mainstream route of medication but, please know that if whatever you are doing isn't working, whether mainstream or alternative, there are other options. There are many therapies and treatments out there. If one therapist isn't helping, try another one. If one modality doesn't resonate with you, please try a different one. If what was helping, stops helping, it may be time to change to something else. Whatever happens, please don't suffer alone and please don't ever lose hope. I know what I went through with my own depression. I know the emotional pain I suffered. I remember countless times when I phoned my homeopath in hysteria, not knowing what to do with myself. I remember the times I’d lie in my bed in unbearable emotional agony, not being able to find any relief. Back then, I didn't feel I could talk about any of this. At the time I felt that I was probably over-reacting, or I was being weak and crap. Because I never received a proper diagnosis of my condition, I often questioned whether I actually had one. So I did the opposite, I tried to hide it. I tried to present a positive, together front for the world. I tried to be OK. And because I lived alone and I was OK for a lot of the time, it worked pretty well. I expect very few people, know what I went through. I still find it hard to talk about this now, but this isn't about me. I’m sure many people have gone through what I went through and suffered alone too. This is about encouraging people to get help. This is about encouraging people not to give up when things seem so bleak you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is about trying to prevent the suffering people go through when one person feels they have no alternative but to give up. So please, if you or anyone you know is suffering from emotional pain of any kind, please seek help and know that you don't have to go through this alone.
For the last few weeks, I feel I've had no time for working on my business; a thing that I've found most frustrating when my energy has been very present and willing. However the cause of this lack of time was that I've been organising the costumes for a local amateur theatre production. I've loved it, and I feel that my life benefits from interests outside of my holistic work, but I was very concerned with how much time it was taking and this was after I'd delegated some of the work to my wonderful team of helpers. I've been feeling torn. I basically abandoned my work for the duration apart from seeing scheduled clients, but I haven't been that happy with this. So I've been looking at what I can learn from the experience. Firstly, I've learnt that I can manage a project and achieve a result within a fixed time frame. Secondly I've learnt that I can manage people and they've seemed to be quite happy with how I've done it. Thirdly, I've learnt that I'm not good at focusing on more than one thing at a time, when the things require creative energy. And fourthly, I've learnt that I can work quite hard and long without getting stressed - something that didn't used to be the case. I joked to one of my helpers that my goal was to complete the costumes without having a nervous breakdown, but I surpassed this by keeping calm right up to the end and it made the whole process a lot more enjoyable and easier to achieve. We waste a lot of energy being agitated about things we can't change and although we often feel totally entitled to be stressed, it doesn't help us achieve our goals. So now, the show is over, I've refocused back on my work and the very day I got a new client booking. A sure sign that when one door closes and other one opens. If you would like to see some pictures of my lovely costumes, click here. You may need a Facebook account to view.
I'm now well into this new eating plan and I'm really feeling the benefits. I am much more stable emotionally and more resilient to set-backs. My energy levels stay at a useful level enabling me to get things done and I'm actually enjoying life much more. Although I'm still eating the odd bar of chocolate (haven't reached that stage yet), I am also finding that I also have times when I just don't want it and have refused the offer of chocolate on several occasions without feeling I've somehow deprived myself. This is a new experience for me having been a self-confessed chocoholic for years. I'm extremely impressed with how simple this process has been and really believe that a greater education on nutrition is needed in today's society. A lot of this information is still "new" but hopefully in the future this kind of stuff will be taught in schools.
Well, I'm 4 weeks into the new eating programme I blogged about in my last entry - inspired by the fantastic book "Potatoes Not Prozac" by Kathleen Desmaisons. Incidentally she also has a website which provides an overview of the programme and forums where people can send questions or just post their thoughts. I've found it really supportive to read about other people who have gone through similar stuff to me. So, back to my progress. Well it started really well. The first step is to adjust your breakfast, or for those who skip this vital meal of the day, have one. As I have always eaten breakfast regularly, this was a fairly easy first step for me, although I know my friend has spent a bit more time on this stage. The second step, writing a food journal, also seemed fairly easy. So after 2 1/2 weeks, I was feeling fairly upbeat about moving onto step 3. This is where by problems started. Step 3 requires you to eat 3 meals a day with protein at each meal (there's a bit more to it, but that's the basics, for the purpose of this blog). Well, I don't always eat 3 meals a day, so obviously I've been a bit up and down since then. It's amazing how such a simple adjustment can bring up so many "food issues". But unlike "wobbly moments" before, this time I feel I have the tools to recover and I have indeed rebalanced myself quicker than I would normally have done. So while my initial naivety that it would all be easy and really quick has been scuppered again, I am still feeling really positive that this is the eating programme for me. More later...