Friday, December 30, 2011

It's Not Good-bye, Just See You Soon

Many years ago I worked in an estate planning department at a law firm and during those years it became apparent that there were more deaths during the holidays.  I'm not sure why, the colder weather, family issues during the holidays, etc.  What I do know, is that the death of a loved one is not easy.  Even years later we still mourn their company and sometimes wonder how we have gone on without them. 

Death isn't an easy thing for any of us to experience.  Logically, for those of us who believe that there is life after death, we know that our loved ones are in a wonderful place and not that far away from us.  But emotionally, it seems more difficult for our hearts to understand.  This week was difficult watching a family I care about trying to deal with the death of a beloved son, brother and uncle.  I felt so helpless as I spent time with them and wished there was more that I could do for them.  I know it isn't much, but I did share the following poem that I wrote for my Aunt when my Uncle died with them:
 Heart Pieces
Like a quilt with its many pieces
My heart has many too
I’ve shared small pieces with others
But the biggest piece I shared with you

Our lives and heart pieces
became stitched together
Just as quilt pieces do
Joined completely to each other

We shared our heart pieces
As our little family grew
Yet our heart pieces never emptied
They increased and grew and grew

Time has passed too quickly and
My Father has called me away from you
My heart I take Home with me
But pieces I leave with you

Keep my heart pieces close to yours
To remind you that I am near
That I’m watching over you
And soon everything will be clear

Our heart pieces will join again
Never more to separate
In Heaven where I wait for you
Our hearts will celebrate

 
Last night I went to the funeral and saw so many people who loved this young man, it was truly touching.  One precious moment that I was witness to was seeing a young family with the parents kneeling next to their children in front of the young man's coffin.  The parents were holding their children, loving them and trying to help them understand what was going on.  I wished I had had a way to silently freeze that moment in time along with the feeling of love that was in the room despite the sadness.  I stood in the doorway with tears flowing as I watched this sweet family trying to come to terms with the death of someone they love. 

How do we come to terms with the death of a loved one?  I truly don't know.  How do we go on without them?  One step at a time.  One of my sisters had told me, "you do the dishes."  At first I thought she was crazy, but then I realized she meant that you face each day just doing the little things until you can start doing bigger things and until you feel like you can breathe and live again. 

I don't like the thought of saying "good-bye," I prefer "see you soon" instead.  To say good-bye implies a permanence and I know we will all be together again someday.  To me saying "see you soon" just makes more sense.  So to my Grandma and Grandpa Petersen, Grandma Zimmer, Uncle Keith, Aunt Nina, Sheela and many more, see you soon!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Be Like the Wind

When I read this quote from Marie Osmond, I just had to write it down:
For women, depression often means that we can no longer rise to the occasion of making it look easy, cope with the struggles, or use any of our energy for keeping peace.

It's so true isn't it, life is not easy, but before my emotional issues rose to the surface and demanded to be dealt with I could handle things.  I don't know if I made it look easy, but I do know that often these days I think about how I could get so much done before this.  I could power through my days accomplishing a huge list of things to do.  I had two small children, worked a full-time job and a part-time job, kept the house clean, the bills paid, etc.  Now, I'm lucky if I get the dishes done.

Earlier this week I was talking to someone I hadn't seen in a really long time and I ended up sharing with her some of my story of the past few years.  She said she had experience with it and understood.  It is interesting how as you first start dealing with buried emotions, anxiety and/or depression, you feel so alone, you honestly feel like no one else in the world is with you.  Your world feels so small, then as you reach out you find many who have been there or are there.

Yesterday my visiting teachers came over and we had a great conversation.  We were talking about experiencing our emotions.  As I was trying to describe how we need to feel our emotions, I ended up describing it as feeling like the wind.  We must acknowledge them and let them go through us in order for them to move on otherwise they stay stuck in our body.

As I was thinking about it this morning, the Patrick Swayze song, She's Like the Wind, kept running through my mind:

She's like the wind through my tree
She rides the night next to me
She leads me through moonlight
Only to burn me with the sun
She's taken my heart
But she doesn't know what she's done

Feel her breath on my face
Her body close to me
Can't look in her eyes
She's out of my league
Just a fool to believe
I have anything she needs
She's like the wind
I don't think it's quite what he meant, but we really do need to be the tree and let our emotions be like the wind and let them move through us.  During the summer as I was working in the yard, as a breeze would touch my skin, I would stop, close my eyes and feel it.  I would pause and thank my Heavenly Father for that cool blessing.  Sometimes our emotions can be very scary because they are intense, but if we could just pause and feel them, then like the breeze (or sometimes the wind for stronger emotions) they will move past us (just don't be like the hurricane, it leaves destruction in its path).
One of my visiting teachers was giving an example of going out into the garden to work when trying to deal with her emotions.  I asked her if she was going out and feeling the emotions as she pulled weeds, or was she just doing something to avoid feeling the emotions.  In the past, I was definitely the person who did other things to avoid feeling emotions.  How much better it would have been for me if as I did things I expressed how I was feeling instead of blocking them.

Taking control of my life has required me to stop trying to control my emotions.  It is true that we may need to let our emotions out in a controlled way to make sure that we don't hurt ourselves or others, but that is very different from trying to control them completely.  I love this quote by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

It isn't until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are that you can begin to take control of yourself, you will get control of your life.  If you want to move the world, you first have to move yourself.

I have learned that controlling myself means acknowledging me, my wants, needs and feelings.  It means allowing myself to be human and that means good moments and bad moments.  It means making mistakes and learning from them.  I was stuck and I didn't even see it, but now I feel the wind on my face and I pause and I really feel it and it feels amazing!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trapped

Trapped is another one of my therapy boxes that I have been working on.  I don't think I realized until I started working on feeling my emotions how trapped I felt.  I had trapped all my feelings inside from a very young age.  I felt like I had to lock up my emotions and not let them out.  My mom had a way of letting her emotions out too freely and it was scary for me as a child so I felt like it was safer for everyone if I held mine in.  She was one extreme and I was the other.

I remember only feeling real anger once, I was probably around the age of 10.  I was at a friend's house and her cousin was there and he was being mean to us and hitting us.  I don't know to this day what happened, but the next thing I knew I was standing there with his shoe prints on my thighs (I was wearing shorts and I could literally see all the lines from the bottom of his tennis shoes imprinted in my skin) and he was yelling that I was crazy.  My friend told me that I just started screaming, yelling and hitting him.  That was such a scary moment for me to not even remember what I had done that I decided to never let myself get angry again.  I don't know if that is what my mom went through when her anger was unleashed, but as a child I imagined that it was and I never wanted to feel like that again.

As a teenager, I would find myself being angry with my little sisters when I would find them in my nail polish with it spilled every where, or some other situation, and I didn't like the feeling of yelling at them so I made a goal to tickle them instead when I felt anger toward them.  I suppose it was a good plan in many respects, I wasn't yelling at them and was turning my anger into an action, but I still wasn't finding a way to face the anger and then release it.  I had felt like it was safer to not feel my feelings or voice them as I didn't want to hurt anyone or make anyone feel the way I did when my mom was upset.

I had such a desire for peace and calm growing up, I sought it every where I could, but I felt like I couldn't get it, physically or emotionally, anywhere at home.  With a large family, lots of kids and a worn out mom, our house was usually a huge mess.  At the age of 17 I finally got my own room which, as a neat freak and previously sharing rooms with different sisters who didn't share my same senses of neatness, was a huge deal for me.  Even though I finally had a room to myself, my sisters kept going into my room and messing with my stuff and messing my room up so I still didn't feel like I had a space to feel the peace I craved.  Then one day my dad gave me one of the best gifts I have ever received, a door knob with a key.  I would lock up my room and none of my family could get in there and mess it up while I was gone.  When I would come home, I would unlock my door, go into my clean room only to turn around and find my family right behind me.  One day my mom said that it just felt so good in my room.  I agreed, I felt so trapped in the rest of the house with all the mess, but I didn't feel that way in my room.

Another way I trapped myself, was by feeling like I had to solve all my family's problems.  Many years ago one of my sisters told me that they all thought I was judging them.  I told her that wasn't it at all, I felt responsible for them, I felt like I had to help them, to save them.  In my head, I was the "2nd mom" and I needed to take care of them.  This was a role I had adopted at a very young age.  I remember in my early 20's telling my current bishop that I felt like I was hanging off a cliff and my whole family was holding onto my feet and that I was their only hope.  I realize now that that was just my co-dependent thinking, but at the time, it felt very real and very exhausting.  Many of them did reach out to me to help them with lots of problems, but it wasn't until one day a few years ago when my Dad called about helping one of my sisters and I was up all night with worry about how to help that I realized how co-dependent I was being with them.  I talked with my Dad the next day and we worked out a way to help without me being co-dependent about it which was a huge relief for me.  Admitting to my Dad what I was doing and him understanding was a huge freeing experience for me.
I continued trapping my emotions through my marriage and with my children because I believed that I was protecting them from me, I thought I would hurt them if I let my emotions loose.  I didn't realize that I was making things worse for all of us, because you can only trap things inside for so long and then the body refuses to do it any longer.  My body started showing signs of anxiety through panic attacks and later depression.  If I had had the skills to let my emotions out in an appropriate way as I felt them, my body would have had no need to shut down.  It is entirely possible that the last few years of therapy and health issues could have been avoided if I had known how to properly feel my emotions.

I have learned that emotions need to be released, to be set free.  I have learned that when I feel anger, I can let it out by hitting our punching bag and saying how I feel.  When I feel sadness, I can cry and talk to someone or write in my journal, I know I will feel better when I am done.  When I feel fear, I can write it down and then imagine the opposite.  And when I feel happy, I don't need to feel guilty, I can recognize it and relish it.  Emotions don't have to be wild and extreme, they just need to be felt, acknowledged and allowed to move through me and then I can move on.  I know I don't have to trap them inside any more, I can set them free and freedom feels good!