Life is a series of ups and downs and at some point or another we will all go through some difficult moments. What those moments are and how we get through them will differ from person to person. But there are some things that we can all do to get through difficult times.
It’s how you respond in these moments that makes the difference. As you know from my story, I’ve had my fair share of difficult moments.
A cliffs notes version:
hit by a bus when crossing the street (January 2013) sustaining a traumatic brain injury
coded a week later and rushed into surgery #1 (a craniectomy)
Had my right bone flap (piece of my skull) out for 3 months to minimize the pressure on my swollen brain
3 months later had surgery #2 to put the bone back
Wound on incision that wouldn’t heal and kept draining every night for weeks.
3 months later had surgery #3 to remove the bone because whoopsie it got infected (the draining wound was what tipped us off)
6 weeks of a PICC line antibiotics to treat the infection; 6 weeks later the wound opened again
and stayed open for ONE YEAR. Meaning that I spent ONE YEAR without a piece of skull/prosthesis covering part of my brain. 😱😱😱
Finally had surgery #4 to put in the prosthesis and guess what happened 6 weeks later? Yup, the incision opened again.
Lost track of the number of referrals and second opinions to try and treat and heal this wound. But the holistic nutritionist helped me to discover I’m gluten intolerant so it wasn’t a complete waste of time
Eventually underwent 8 weeks (2 hours a day, 5 days a week) of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to close the wound and it worked! 🥳🥳🥳 (FYI this takes us to April 2015)
And everything was fine! I finished my masters in counselling psychology, trained to become a mindfulness teacher and launched my own business. All while dealing with a brain injury, chronic migraines and fatigue and depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Until I sustained a concussion 5 years almost to the day that I was hit by the bus. Honestly, I wish I was joking.
3 years of chronic pain later I ended up needing surgery after my incision opened AGAIN. Of course, this was in July 2020 and we all know what else was going on at that time.
But my healing journey isn’t over and I currently need an additional surgery that should happen at some point in time dependent on a whole host of things outside of the control of myself and my surgeon.
The thing about life is that we never know what is around the next corner. Sure, I could have given up (countless times) along my journey. But instead I made the choice to be better. A choice that I’ve made over and over again.
It was during the initial medical journey where I first discovered mindfulness and it was one of the biggest things that helped me to choose better. And now, I help others learn how to navigate difficult and challenging moments inside my programs and my workshops including a series I teach for brain injury survivors.
Long story short, I know all about difficult moments. And below I am sharing some of the ways that mindfulness has helped me to get through these difficult and challenging moments.
What to do when faced with difficult and challenging moments in life.
I know, it’s a cliche. But it’s a cliche for a reason. As I was going through my first long medical journey 2 different Priests in their homilies (I’m Catholic) spoke about suffering and they said: “Suffering can make you bitter or it can make you better – you choose.” A tough statement to hear but one that is true. The only thing that we have control over in life is our response to things. And when you slow down you give yourself the chance to make this choice.
And it’s a choice that you will have to make over and over again.
Simple in theory but harder to do in practice – 100%. It will take time to learn how to respond vs react as you are literally changing your neural pathways but it can be done. I go more into how to do this inside of my program STOP the Panic.
Let it RAIN
RAIN is a meditation practice created by Tara Branch where each letter stands for a step in the practice
Recognize what is happening
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
Investigate what’s happening with interest and care
Nurture with self-compassion.
Similar to the first skill inside of STOP the Panic, RAIN is a practice that you can pull out whenever you find yourself in a tough and challenging situation.
The first thing you’re going to do is recognize the feeling that is arising inside your body because if we don’t know what’s here we can’t work with what’s here. Next, allow the feeling, meaning give yourself permission to fully experience the feeling. Which for a lot of you might be new. Unfortunately, we were never taught to honour and respect our feelings. A lot of us grew up being told to push down our feelings as we were reminded to “stop being so emotional” or “boys don’t cry” or insert some other toxic criticism and judgement here. Welcoming in what’s here can be done by regularly practicing my welcome mat meditation which you can try out here.
Once you’ve started to allow your feelings to just be here, it’s time to investigate where in the body it shows up for you. Maybe you shift towards thinking about something (like work) where you feel some sense of control. Notice what’s going on inside of your body – what sensations are popping up? Also notice what behaviours or actions you take in these moments? What do you do when you want to escape from uncomfortable moments or situations? We delve into some ways of investigating what’s going on inside STOP the Panic.
Nurturing is simply being kind and compassionate to yourself when you are in pain. Again, simple in theory, harder to do in practice. What are some things you are currently doing when you notice you’re in pain? This past year I’ve been watching tv shows and movies that I know will make me smile and laugh. Cozy clothes and blankets, walks and cuddles with my puppy, and the occasional piece of chocolate or comfort food are other ways that I’ve been kind to myself.
But the big way that I show kindness and compassion to myself? Boundaries. Creating them and enforcing them. I’ll go more into setting boundaries in my next post.
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Hey there, I'm Charlene!
I help creative entrepreneurs with chronic illness create a sustainable business that fits their lifestyle without letting imposter syndrome take over.
Charlene is an entrepreneur, psychotherapist and mindfulness coach living with chronic illness after she was hit by a bus.
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