How To Get Through A Hard Time
On July 10th of this year my dog, Kona, jumped right through my second story glass window. The fireworks in my neighborhood led him to believe he was in a war zone. Unfortunately for both of us he developed severe separation anxiety, and he hasn’t been able to be alone for the past six months. When I try to leave him in the crate he bites the bars until his gums bleed. When I leave him in the living room he climbs onto my bed and presses his 90lb body against the window as he cries. He chews the trim on my door trying to escape. He sits on his hind legs pawing at the door knob, probably silently cursing himself for not having opposable thumbs.
My life suddenly transformed from doing pretty much anything I wanted to needing someone to watch my dog so I could simply go to the supermarket. I hired different behaviorists. I have used every possible anti-anxiety tactic from the Thunder Shirt to medication. Nothing worked. These past six months I have been on a rickety old rollercoaster slowly climbing me up to hope and swiftly shoving me down to the depths of despair leaving me wondering whether I’ll even make it off this ride in one piece. I will be in one piece, of course, but I won’t be the same person who stepped onto the ride.
Losing my freedom has left me questioning everything.
It has forced me to see things from every possible perspective. I have thought that maybe I should surrender to what’s happening, not fight for what it is I want but listen to what the universe is telling me I need. And maybe it’s true that I needed this in some way. I have thought that maybe this is a lesson in letting go, as difficult as that is. Finally I simply surrendered to the fact that I don’t know what the hell is happening, and I also don’t know how this ride will have changed me yet because I’m not out of the woods. But I know each time I look back at the most challenging times of my life I can see immense growth.
It may have a different face for you, but we will all encounter this kind of challenge in our lives, the kind of challenge that leaves us broken down and broken hearted. At this point my nerves are shot. I find strength and then lose it again. These are the dark places we find ourselves in at times, a place of hopelessness and despair. A hollow place with no escape. Reflecting on the past six months of my life I see three clear things that have gotten me through. They are:
- Unconditional Support: Throughout this process I have found myself questioning everyone’s words and intentions. I have felt judged and alone. I have learned that not everyone can handle ongoing problems. Some people can’t be in the trenches with you for the full run. And that’s ok. You don’t need everyone to be in there with you. But you need someone. There are some things you just can’t do alone. Luck is a word that doesn’t do justice for having Keith, the guy I call my boyfriend, in my life so I will use the word blessed. I have found myself in a few yoga classes, out on a Saturday hunting through yard sales with my cousin, at a supermarket buying groceries, getting a much needed massage, and selling doggy things at a craft fair — all thanks to Keith. And it’s not just the things I’ve been able to do while he has stayed with Kona. It’s the feeling I have about being able to do these things. I don’t feel like I owe him anything. I don’t feel like he is tallying up the times he is supporting me. I don’t feel like I’m burdening him. I don't feel like there is a limit to how many times I can ask him for help. He is supporting me in my difficult time, and I support him when he's going through it. I also have friends and family who have continued to call and ask how I’m doing, who have listened to the scenarios and offered compassion and support, who have told me I’m doing the best that I can, who have given me love even from afar. I have a mother who I called each time my hopes were crushed, who gave me love when I thought I had no choice but to give Kona up, who listened to my ideas and contemplated solutions with me. I have had newly blooming friendships with people who have offered to come over and watch Kona. I have found salvation in my support system. Without them I would have been left in a deep depression, no doubt.
- Restoration: As strong as we are we can’t tough our way through everything (or anything really, that shit sticks to our bones). Time and again I have had to admit to myself that my nerves are shot, that I can’t continue to go on like this. I have a practice of checking in with my body to see what I need, and through these past six months I have needed an overdose of restorative activities. It’s something I didn’t realize in the beginning, something that wasn’t clear to me until I found myself unable to handle the small stressors of daily life. So I began to do a lot for myself. I gave myself guilt-free time off, extra meditation, restorative yoga, hot detox baths, reading in bed, binge watching Making A Murdered and Transparent, writing, sleeping in, candles burning all the time, cozy blankets, and all the comfy vibes I could get. I needed to feel good. It’s so important to take extra care of ourselves, spoil ourselves even, when we’re going through challenging times. I needed all the extra relaxing time to attempt to balance myself out.
- Processing & Rising: Every time something didn’t work out for me I would let myself feel it. I cried. A lot. I talked about it. A lot. I wrote about it. I let myself feel it deeply, I looked at it to try to make sense of it, I breathed the pain out, and then I looked at my options. I chose something, and I tried again. I never accepted that I would just live this life, and I knew I couldn’t just leave it either. So I felt the repercussions of my circumstances, reflected on my feelings, and made a choice to move forward again.
Sometimes in life there is no easy solution. Sometimes we ask for help, receive, and it doesn’t work. So then we’re forced to ask for help again, receive, and sometimes it doesn’t work again. And then we hit a low we’ve never hit before, and we feel despair and loneliness and helplessness. And what I’ve found is that from there we need to ask for help. Again. I wrote this full story about what we’ve gone through and sent it two two different people. One of them passed it on to someone who passed it on to a behaviorist who has a huge heart and is going to help us for the long haul. It's not over yet, but I have more hope and support than I've ever had before.
When we’re in our darkest moments we need each other more than ever. When we’re in our deepest despair we need to give ourselves so much love, so much care, so much goodness. We have to feel it all as deeply as it goes, process, let it go, and then try again. Sometimes that’s what life requires of us. And when you ask for help, and it doesn’t work out that time, don’t let it stop you from asking again. Keep on asking until you receive what you need.