Saturday, March 31, 2012

The boat won’t sink, and the storm won’t last forever

Life became harder for me when we lost Mikey. It was like he was a new addition to the family and I felt cheated out of having more time with him. We had him for just over a year. Having a dog like him was such a relief for me. I could pour attention into him and was distracted from focusing on myself. Walking him provided me with a way to get out in the world and commune with neighbors and nature. He helped lift me out of depression, which was inwardly-focused, and taught me to lighten up and enjoy more of the world and be outwardly-focused.

Losing him was very difficult. I hadn’t realized how much I needed getting out of my own head, and it caused me to slide back. Other areas of my life suddenly became more difficult. I became anxious. Work stress became huge in my mind. Committing to social events became stressful. I needed to have nothing scheduled. I felt like I was walking around grinding my teeth the whole time, like I was riding in a boat during a storm and I didn’t know when it would end.

“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” Mark 4: 37

I was classically depressed. I did have sad thoughts about not having a family, and thought losing Mikey aggravated these feelings, jarring them loose from a box that I thought I had shut and forgotten about. I began to rationalize that it was probably best to not have kids. Dealing with the loss of a child would be unbearable. Or, I thought of how I could barely handle the life that I had, compounding it with the extra work required to keep up with kids would have put me over the edge. I even thought about what if the child was disabled or was just plain difficult to deal with – at least I didn’t have that stress in my life.

Finally, after talking with my husband, we decided I needed some help. I started visiting my paid friend that I hadn’t seen since my divorce. In talking with her, I learned to focus on improving some key elements in life as a first step – and this was all I needed to pull up out of the nose dive. Here are some of her recommendations that I can share with you - free of charge!

• Exercise
• Play / have fun
• Help others
• Sleep
• Control bad habits which only make you feel worse (in my case, overeating)

Each of the first three have the same result: the release of endorphins helps you feel better about yourself. These activities put my brain on hold and interrupted negative thinking. They gave me positive feelings, positive memories to focus on, and positive interactions with other people.

Friends prayed for me, I prayed, and I was reminded of how God was faithful to me in the past. A friend reminded me that just like the parable of Jesus calming the storm, the boat won’t sink, and the storm won’t last forever. And it didn’t.

Life got easier. I relaxed. Spring came along with daylight savings time and finally the days got longer! Mikey died in February, typically my worst month of the year for negative emotions. Work stress calmed down. Actually, I’m sure it was the same but my concern and worry was reduced.

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:39

Mikey helped bring play back into my life and helped me take my mind off myself. Those are some of the skills that helped me overcome his death, so he taught me a great lesson. That, and knowing the boat won’t sink and the storm won’t last forever, will help me weather future storms.