Tuesday, February 18, 2014

True Empathy

One of the most beautiful blessings that has come through my battles with Bipolar and Anxiety is the glimpse into my Sarah's head.

Yesterday I got another phone call from the school saying that Sarah was having an out right tantrum at her teacher because the little snack they were having wasn't what she expected.  I kid you not, Sarah was yelling so loud that when the teacher called I could hardly hear her.  After I got Sarah on the phone and did our little ritual of deep breathing over the phone, reminded her that her mom was on the same team as the teacher, and then helped her to see that the snack really was just right for what she needed then I could hear a calm come over and feel a smile on the other side of that phone.

These little experiences are so familiar to me now.  I always knew that Sarah didn't understand and that I needed to basically treat her like a preschooler when these things would pop up but I have a new understanding now.

I have felt and know what it feels like to not be able to control your own emotions.  I know what it's like to have a disturbing moment that is propelling me over a cliff when all it truly is is a small hiccup.  I understand feeling way stronger and much more capable of taking something on than my physical body can in reality handle.  I know what it's like to have nervous and anxious feelings take over me even though someone is there telling me it's okay.  I've felt racing thoughts over and over again when I'd like to have calm.  I know too well what it's like to feel so happy I want to dance and then the next second "snap" into an angry, sad spiral.

All of these are probably familiar feelings to everyone at some degree but bipolar, anxiety, or mental disabilities are absolutely more extreme cases.  I get this as I watch my own 3 children--two very healthy children and my Sarah with the "extreme cases."  These emotions and feelings are present in all three but if graphed out on a sheet of paper much higher peaks and slopes for my Sarah by far.

I believe that one reason why I have these battles in my own life are to be able to understand this daughter of mine.  I'm able to walk her through her own struggles in such a way now that I feel empathy, love, understanding...oh, how much understanding is there when you've felt and suffered the same way.

I never have these thoughts without thinking of my Savior.  He not only has glimpses into my head but has felt and suffered every bump, every sad, every hurt, every lonely dark feeling, every racing thought, every guilt...every weak moment of mine.  I can not even explain in these typed words how calm and peaceful I feel to know that He is "walking me through my own struggles" with complete understanding.

We are not meant to learn and struggle alone.  Just as I teach the children at our church to sing...Absolutely, our Heavenly Father has given us families to help us become what he wants us to be. Absolutely, our Heavenly Father has given us His Son to help us become what he wants us to be.  He's there.  All we have to do is use His Atonement.

The Family Is of God

Our Father has a family
It's me, It's you; all others too--we are his children.
He sent each one of us to earth, through birth
To live and learn here in families.

God gave us families.
To help us become what he wants us to be.
This is how he shares his love
For the family is of God.

A mother's purpose is to 
care, prepare, to nurture and strengthen all her children.
She teaches children to obey, to pray, 
to love and serve in the family.

God gave us families,
To help us become what he wants us to be.
This is how he shares his love
For the family is of God.

A father's place is to
preside, provide, to love and teach the gospel to his children
A father leads in family prayer
to share their love for Father in Heaven

God gave us families,
To help us become what he wants us to be.
This is how he shares his love
For the family is of God.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blowing Things Out of Proportion

Absolutely one of the best tools I came out of my therapy with was my "ABCD" cards.  I'm constantly going back to this daily.  Justin is so great at walking me through this too.

One of the tendency's I have is to blow things waaaayyy out of proportion.  Sound familiar?

Then again, maybe it doesn't sound familiar.  Maybe you're like me and had no idea that you were making such a "huge shadow" out of something that was "really so small" or not a big deal at all.

So, I was told to take any situation or any event that I was experiencing or thinking about and write it down.  Especially those events or situations that were bringing on my panic attacks/stress.

I was taught how to check these events and situations for my subjective beliefs and then against the reality in how it really was.

(I would literally carry 3x5 cards around until I had it down)

Let me show you how it works:

A- Activating Event 
(What's going on to stimulate me?)
B- Belief 
(What is my belief about the situation?)
C- Consequence 
(How do I feel?)
D- Dispute the Belief 
(What's reality? What would an outsider with facts say? take away any emotion.)

So, what would said "activating event" be to a mother named Megan?

A- I'm leaving on an over night with my husband and my 2 year old does not fall asleep FOREVER besides waking up ALL night long!
B- My friend won't get any sleep.  She will never ever volunteer to do this again. Their whole family will be interrupted.  My 2 year old is going to be so sad.
C- I'm worried and stressed. I can't even enjoy this overnight.  I'm causing my husband to not enjoy his overnight.
D-My friend could have said no.  There's no school or schedule for this family to be to tomorrow.  They like having a little kid around again.  It's way better for the 2 yr old to have happy parents that get out--without stress!

So, what would said "activating event" be to a women with Anxiety Disorder?

A- Driving to unfamiliar airport alone/brand new parking plan.
B- I'll get lost.  I'll be late. I'll look like a crazy person.
C- I'm sick to my stomach, tight muscles, tense jaw, can't breathe, can't commit to my trip.
D- I can leave early just in case.  It'll be nice to finally figure it out.  No body else cares.  I can drive in circles until I figure it out.

So, what would said "activating event" be to a Special Needs Parent?

A- Sarah's starting to yell at me hysterically.
B- I can't keep her calm.  She's going to be like this the rest of the day.  We're going to be late.  The other kids don't need to listen to this.  The neighbors are going to think we are crazy over here.
C- I'm crazy stressed. My patience is gone.  My heart is pounding and teeth clinching.  If yell maybe it will catch her attention.
D- She'll eventually stop.  She can not control it.  She does not realize what she is doing.  The other kids know she can't control it and if they don't they will understand some day.  My calm will bring her calm.  I will regain control with acting bored and completely untouched.

It's been my experience that practicing this little exercise daily has brought more control and far less anxiety about situations that occur in my everyday life.  I don't need to carry 3x5 cards with me anymore but I promise you that these ABCD's come up all the time between me and my husband.  It's been so helpful to bring those "crazy big shadows" back down into reality of the "small sweet little mice" that they probably are.

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