8 PIECES OF ADVICE FOR THRIVING DURING A CRISIS
My daughter, Carianne, was hospitalized and diagnosed with a rare kidney disease – MPGN C4D. So rare that the Mayo clinic said she was only the second person worldwide to be diagnosed with it…which explains why it took so long to get a diagnosis in the first place. Suddenly, not only was my world turned upside down, but so was my adult daughter and her husband's. She was only 23. We were all facing shifting priorities and a new reality.
A personal crisis can look differently for different people. You may be experiencing an unexpected divorce, the diagnosis of a chronic illness, a job loss, the death of a loved one, or losing your home to foreclosure. These moments can leave you feeling scared, overwhelmed, or angry.
While there’s no magic wand that can be waved to restore your ‘normal,’ there are certain things that can be helpful to remember when you’re facing a crisis…
1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PAIN
Some people try to get through a crisis by stuffing down the pain. You may do this, too. Perhaps you ignore the emotions you’re feeling, burying them deep within yourself. Or maybe you cover them by engaging in self-destructive habits such as binge eating, self-medicating, engaging in retail therapy, or numbing yourself with alcohol.
But while these habits temporarily make you feel better, they can worsen your problems in the long-term. In fact, they may even prolong a crisis situation for you, creating a bigger mess for you to clean.
Instead of trying to quiet the pain, acknowledge it. Allow yourself to experience your feelings without judgement. That may mean taking time by yourself to cry, scream, curse, pray, or yell. It’s better to find an outlet for these deep emotions than to experience the frustration of having them “pop up” when you least expect it.
I did a lot of crying. Our family did a lot of praying and we still do. Carianne has complications from the disease and is on medication that are usually taken by people 3x her age. The biggest complication? Her second, unplanned pregnancy after she was told she could never again get pregnant because it would risk her life.
2. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Being kind to yourself is an important part of getting through a crisis. During a crisis, you may be tempted to be harder on yourself than usual. For example, you may berate yourself if you forget important project or task.
You might find it difficult to concentrate and focus as you normally would. You may have difficulty with simple tasks that normally don’t take you a lot of time or that don’t typically challenge you.
In these circumstances, it can be tempting to beat up on yourself or let these moments affect your self-esteem. But during a crisis, it’s essential that you remember that it’s important to be kind to yourself and to speak lovingly to yourself. Try writing positive affirmations on the bathroom mirror to remind yourself that you are good, talented, smart, loveable, strong, powerful, enough, etc.
Talk about how what you’re going through is temporary and believe you will come out on the other side of this current crisis.
This was hard for our family because we honestly didn't know and still don't know a lot about this disease. Corbin is in the Army and every time they transfer the new nephrologist assigned to her care is thrilled to have her because she's so rare. What's good for them isn't so good for her. She's a guinea pig and they're experimenting, although the Mayo Clinic is still very involved in her care.
3. EMBRACE ROUTINES THAT COMFORT YOU
During a crisis, try to hang onto routines that you personally find comforting. For example, if you always walk your dog after lunch and find that soothes you, then continue to do it. It's going to be hard to do, but try to push yourself because it will make you feel better to do so.
With all the doubts and the fears that can come during the crisis, it’s essential that you embrace routines that comfort you. They can help you concentrate, find your flow, and give you a feeling of control in the middle of all the chaos.
For Carianne, routines were hard. She couldn't be physically active and was on bed rest early. For this reason, and because the hospital near her home refused to see her because she was too high risk, she moved in with Scott and me. I took care of the baby – Oliver, and took care of her, too. She did a lot of reading, binge watching her favorite shows, chatting with friends, and did what she could with Oliver – snuggling, reading to him, changing him, playing with him on the floor. Her new normal was being seen by the doctors 2x a week for the duration of the pregnancy. She was still able to find routine, even though she had to make some adjustments.
4. CLING TO YOUR SUPPORT PEOPLE
There are certain people in your life during a crisis that can be vital and necessary to helping you make it through this time. These people may be friends, family, or even members of your community that have wrapped their arms around you.
Don't be afraid to reach out and let them know when you need something. For example, you may want to reach out to a friend when you're having a bad evening, just to call and chat. You might want to meet up with a family member for coffee after a particularly difficult day making decisions about end-of-life care for your aging parent.
Reaching out is difficult in a crisis, but if you let your family and friends know what you're going through then they'll have an opportunity to reach out to you, too. The last thing you want to do is hide from everyone and isolate.
Our family here in Oregon – Scott's side of the family is small…so is Corbin's. But, we all came together – family and friends, to take care of Oliver when Carianne needed to go to the hospital in the middle of the night – several times because of high BP. Or, when she was admitted 5x during the pregnancy and I needed help with running errands, or a babysitter when I had an appointment.
Family and friends want to help. They just don't always know we need help.
5. ESCAPE FOR A FEW MINUTES
Spend a few minutes each day consuming content that allows you a brief mental escape from your current situation. This content could be any form that you like. It could be a sparkly vampire romance novel. It could be your favorite Korean television show, or it could be a soundtrack that always lights you up and makes you feel good about yourself. Of course, meditation, or any other hobby…coloring, crocheting, knitting, baking, can be good, too.
When you do this, you’re giving yourself a mini break from what you’re dealing with. However, it’s best if this content is not related to what you’re going through.
If you’re caring for an aging parent that has Alzheimer’s disease, then a TV show featuring a plotline about dementia could be triggering and may make you feel worse. So, carefully consider the kind of content before you choose it.
Carianne found comfort spending time with Oliver. Imagining whether the new baby was a boy or a girl – they didn't find out ahead of time. She shopped for more preemie clothing – boy's and girl's. Oliver was a preemie too, but we weren't prepared. She snuggled with Oliver, read to him, and rocked him to sleep. He was only a baby himself.
6. REMIND YOURSELF OF YOUR STRENGTH
What you’re going through now may feel like the worst thing you've ever encountered. That's a valid feeling and you have a right to your emotions/ No one has the right to tell you you're wrong for feeling a certain way.
But if you lean into negative feelings and give them value, you may find yourself collapsing under the weight of your crisis. You don't want to do that.
When you start feeling that this is the worst moment of your life, remind yourself of your strength. Try to look back at your life and see where you were strong. These are moments when you chose to take back your power and your control.
Perhaps you left an abusive marriage in your past. Maybe you walked away from a job that wasn’t a great fit. Or perhaps you moved to a new city, even when all your friends and family were against it. Remember the itty bitty icky committee?
Tell yourself that you are strong, and you have come through worse. You will get through this, even though things are difficult in this moment.
When everyone else was afraid, Carianne was strong. She knew this baby, would make it. She wasn't going to lose it. I however, was afraid I was going to lose my grandchild and my own baby in the process.
7. FORGIVE YOURSELF
It's harder to manage your life during a crisis. Some things will fall between the cracks and you may find yourself easily forgetful. You may also not be able to do everything you’re normally capable of doing. You may fall into a depressive episode. If you've never before been diagnosed with depression than it could just be episodic.
For example, if your child was just diagnosed with a serious illness, you may temporarily step back from some of your responsibilities at work. You might say “no” to some community commitments you normally enjoy.
I was wrongfully terminated from a federal job after becoming a whistleblower. It was one of the hardest things I ever went through. I fought it tooth and nail. I was eventually reinstated and then retired. However, now, looking back, I know the termination gave me an opportunity to stay home and take care of Carianne during her extremely high risk pregnancy – so high risk she was begged to abort by two doctors at the large teaching hospital in the state before I contacted a friend who is an OB who specializes in Maternal Fetal Medicine at the second largest hospital – that happens to be 5 minutes from my home, and he agreed to take her on as a patient. God was in control the whole time.
Forgive yourself for the things that you can’t do right now. Release them and be kind to yourself during this time.
8. LET GO OF OLD EXPECTATIONS
Things will be different in the middle of a crisis. Even after a crisis, sometimes things are never the same again and this might hurt. For example, if you suddenly lose your spouse, obviously, celebrating holidays will never be quite the same.
If you face a foreclosure, your old routines may be disrupted. You may not be able to participate in your normal neighborhood activities and this can be painful. Understand that it’s normal to experience pain with shifting traditions. But at the same time, it's important you allow yourself the space and the grace to embrace new things.
This could mean starting new holiday traditions now that your spouse is gone. If your home has been foreclosed and you’re no longer in the same neighborhood with the same friends, it could mean investing in a new community.
Carianne and Corbin planned on having 4 children. After she gave birth to Ryder, her second son, she was told she'd surely die if she got pregnant again. Suddenly everything and every way that they defined family was different. They've considered surrogacy. They've considered adoption. They've considered remaining a family of four.
IT'S OK TO FEEL SHATTERED
During a crisis, you might feel broken and alone. These feelings are completely normal and understandable. But it’s important you don’t get hung up on these emotions and listen to them.
I think that although Carianne is still dealing with her rare disease, the pregnancies caused the crises. It was during the pregnancy with Oliver that doctors realized something was wrong and did a kidney biopsy as soon as he was born. It scared me. It scared Scott….her brother, Shane, her sister, Cassy…..Corbin.
The second pregnancy sent us all into a tailspin. Carianne cried when she told us, but she was more concerned with having two children in diapers at the same time. I collapsed onto the couch and remember saying, “that's the least of your concerns.” Everyone around her felt shattered, but she remained strong. Like a mama does.
Believe that right now you are loved by God. Let yourself feel that love and find comfort in his arms surrounding you, like Carianne did. You already have everything in you needed to fight this battle and He is with you. You will rise up again and overcome these dark days because you are an incredible warrior made in His image.
Ryder was born by emergency c-section like his brother, Oliver, 4 weeks early. He weighed 5 pounds 9 ounces – just like his brother. It's a miracle that he made it beyond 26 weeks gestation – the goal the MFM and nephrologist were aiming for.