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Choppy Waters, Reflections & Lighthouses
Recently, I read a quote that essentially said that we are unable to clearly see our reflection in choppy water. It did not take long to translate that statement to life. Whether we live with type 1 or another “365” health challenge, or enjoy what would appear to be perfect health, choppy waters tend to surface in most people’s lives.
Is it okay to say the words out loud about struggles? We each answer that question for ourselves. My answer is sometimes & with some very select people in my life. When or if we ask ourselves to visualize the faces of people that love us at our best & during our struggles, who do we see? Who can we get totally real with? Who are our “lighthouses?” Who provides a safe haven when we are struggling big time? Can we even say the words “sadness”, “fear”, “depression” or the sentence, “please help me” with some “lighthouse” Dear Hearts in our lives? My heart hopes so for absolutely every person battling any storm in life. In my mind, lighthouse people are not the ones that say cliché things to me like “don’t think about that but rather think happy thoughts” or “hang in there because it will get better” or something like that. Those to me are empty of light. That is just me though. For sure many people’s intentions are good even with those words but really, how helpful is that? Do those words make us feel any less upset at that time? Those kind of statements don’t help me I will admit. Those statements in my mind are brush off statements. They come off as ways of discounting a real struggle & even speak volumes to me of that person not wanting to feel uncomfortable or be a true battle buddy. When I encounter a person that says what I believe to be brush off or denial or flakey responses to a gut wrenching struggle I learn that he or she will not be a person that in future I share my inner thoughts with because they are not my safe haven. That’s okay to be discerning I believe. The great news is that there are a beautiful group of people in my life that are true lighthouses & I feel even more grateful for them through all of life’s ups and downs.
Lighthouses have always been something that I have been drawn to throughout my life. When my husband & I were expecting our first son, we went away together on a lighthouse vacation. It was incredible. We even stayed 2 nights in Saugerties Lighthouse in New York which was the highlight of the trip. As a funny aside, we were a wee bit naïve & timed our arrival at the lighthouse at high tide & were knee deep in the Hudson River on our walk in with our luggage. We stopped at all the lighthouses along the Eastern shore of the U.S. on that trip. You could take such a calming deep breath. One of the other lighthouses that I adored was Block Island lighthouse. To get there, you board a small ferry & the ocean breeze is something that stays with you forever. It was just right that we journeyed over there through a pea soup fog. The Island reminded me of what I think Scotland would be like although I have not yet experienced that trip. Everything tasted so much more delicious there including the perfectly brewed tea.
Just as lighthouses keep ships from hitting rocks, lighthouse people I think are people who lift us up when we are crashing close to being in that too sad approaching depression. Are we allowed to say that word out loud yet? It seems like the stigma of any kind of statement that we are not fully in charge is met with loathing in society. If we are physically unwell, it seems that there is a tendency for people to want to either not talk about it or simply tell us that they hope that we get better soon. To be honest, it bugs me personally to receive written words from someone for instance saying that they wish me the best of health or they hope that I get well soon. If someone has a chronic illness or even more than one chronic illness, does that impress you as kind of a strange & perhaps an insensitive thing to say/write? I have lost track of the number of times people have asked me if my type 1 diabetes has either gone away or is all better because I have an insulin pump. If only chronic illnesses of any kind worked that way, right? Again, the person’s heart may be in the right place yet could they choose words with a bit more care? We each answer that question for ourselves. I am a profoundly sensitive person so what bothers me may not have that same affect on you because we are all after all beautiful originals. How do you think society generally treats or views people who are either sad or depressed? Does the word weak come to mind? It depends right? Does it seem like people who are sad or depressed are either treated as invisible or outcasts at times? Don’t we each have that capacity inside us to feel sad or depressed at times? Even grieving seems to be frowned upon after a very short amount of time from my experience. What is that all about? Why are so many people so afraid it seems of others who admit that they are going through a sad, difficult time? Are people afraid that they are going to get pulled into that state too like it is something contagious? Are people fearful that they will be pulled under the water so to speak like a drowning person reaching out frantically for help to another person. Are others not secure in knowing that they can face struggle & can feel other people’s struggle & be stronger for it?
Life is neither all ups nor all downs. Maybe our lives are at times like the roller coaster graph of our blood sugars. Many people living with diabetes will share that emotions & blood sugars have a correlation. It can be exhausting to have really high blood sugars followed by a dive in sugars physiologically. That is all invisible though so we can be a lot little like ducks paddling our feet like crazy underneath the water to maintain our cheerful dispositions through blood sugar roller coasters. Perhaps you too share with me that you don’t want to be thought of as a moody person due to diabetes. What is the answer though to how do we genuinely yet socially appropriately deal with the crashing emotions that come with diabetes at times? We each find our own way of walking that tightrope.
You may remember when you were first diagnosed with either type 1 or another “365” health struggle that you were supplied with more health information then you could digest all at once. It may have been a steep learning curve. I can say that was my initial experience big time. One of the things that I remember vividly was both being told as well as reading that there is a significant proneness of people living with diabetes to become depressed at times. Even with my background, I took that piece of information very seriously. My background is in the counseling field yet I am only human & while I am profoundly self aware, I know that I am not invincible or immune to this happening. There were a lot of years that I lived my life carrying my feelings very close to the vest. If something was bothering me, I did not share these feelings but rather dealt with them on my own. I did that for many years until one day I felt like I was carrying around a 500lb garbage bag that was about to explode from years of not sharing the feelings with others. Also at times, I felt like a fake. People would comment at times that I had a perfect life. What does a perfect life look like? I don’t personally know but what I did realize is that I detested that many people saw things that way. I felt 2 dimensional. It is difficult big time to let others help me out even to this day but I do it anyways because it is good for that person, for me & for our relationship as 3 dimensional people. I made a decision to be “real” many, many ago but that decision was magnified after November 29, 2007. Now people say things to me like, “I know you will understand because you have been through this or that or something similar.” We have real heart connections. I love that big time. And I love the “me too” feeling that these connections bring to Dear Hearts & to me too.
I find that I have my antenna in full working order when it comes to any signs of tipping in the direction of depression. Thankfully, so far, I have not fallen into the pit of depression. My heart though goes out so much to others who have or are experiencing depression as a result of diabetes or another “365” health challenge. We are not statistics yet we need to be cognizant of them & try our best to have strategies in place to not fall into the pit or at the very least have a battle buddy to throw us a life ring if we do. That means that as a society we just may want to find a way to talk about the possibility of depression happening to ourselves or those we love. And we had best know the signs & have a lighthouse helper to point others in the direction of help if depression finds its way into the lives of people that we know & love. We cannot afford to be ostriches about this.
What brought these thoughts to my mind at this time? Recently I was diagnosed with another chronic illness on top of type 1. Again, the learning curve is steep regarding educating myself on this condition & how it is going to affect my life. At the top of the list of the literature that I was handed, there was a warning that there is an increased risk especially for females with this diagnosis to become depressed. The information package also talked about the spin off conditions that could result from this one. Here we go again I thought to myself. What is this the 7 year itch? I remember being informed about other illnesses that can spin off from type 1 due to the autoimmune nature. Just like at that time though, I choose to live my life in the present versus wringing my hands about what I may or may not get on top of these health challenges. Okay, so I will fight this too it goes without saying. I will not fight something not in existence though right now. I will sure try to make the best physical choices to lower my risk but beyond that, I will not live my life daily in fear of what may or may not happen next in terms of spin off health challenges. I will instead meet them head on with my metaphorical boxing gloves when or if they appear. Did I cry & become sad when I learned that there is yet another health challenge to fight? Yes I did. And truthfully I felt 3 dimensional & real & strong after I did this. And I spoke to a few of the lighthouses in my life about exactly what my fears are & how I am feeling & they caught my tears. And the sky did not fall because of this. I even said right out loud that I will watch out because I do not want this sadness to increase at any time into depression. I believe that it will not but you better believe that my lighthouses will see the signs early on & I will not even have to utter the words, “help me” before they do that already. The storms & rocky shores are out there for anyone. The choppy waters can try to send us crashing into struggles that sometimes we see coming & other times we never anticipated. That is life.
Just like it is difficult to see our reflection during choppy waters, it can be really hard to know how to get out of sadness once we are experiencing it. For me, it is perfectly natural to feel all emotions in life & know that they are all healthy. I don’t need or want to run away from my feelings. I don’t though want to stay stuck for long in sadness which could or may not lead to depression. Thankfully, knowledge is power. I have a full first aid kit of break through ideas & gentle antidotes for myself during struggles. And I have a small group of profoundly trusted, genuine, compassionate loved ones that are in my life. They are the lighthouses. I love them beyond words. They are there for life’s joys & I am there for their joys & we are there for one another for the sorrows, the frustrations, the laughter, and all that is in between. We catch one another’s’ happy & sad tears. That is an indescribable gift that I don’t take for granted on any day.
I could end by saying that I know that I am going to be okay but that sounds pretty flat. And you know what? I don’t want to be just okay on any day anyway. Do you? I want to feel everything & trust that it all means something. My hope is to give hope to others who may be struggling. I know how it feels to be hanging on to hope by my fingernails. Today is better than okay. It is better than okay because I love & am loved. I have these as the reason to fight the beast of type 1 & whatever other illnesses come along. I want for you to also know that you love & are loved too big time.
And I want you & I to both every day put on our imaginary boxing gloves & fight to be as joy-filled & as healthy as we can possibly be. Add to this, my heart’s hope too is that you & I are always open to giving & receiving as much love as our hearts can possibly have & hold.
May the week ahead be filled with countless present moments of joy for you. And may you have a lighthouse person or many for sad days. One of many websites dedicated to helping people who feel overwhelmed with potential depression is www.depressionhurts.ca We cannot afford to be ostriches or add to the struggle though by either denying other’s struggles, labeling people as “less than” or simply doing nothing. No matter what each one of us goes through, we are all part of the human family. Next week’s sharing is “Clouds, Clearing & Finding a Way to Carry Our Own Lanterns.” :D