Five Things To Help You In Overcoming Struggles
About three months ago, my family’s life turned upside down. My father-in-law (who lives with us) suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury and is now mostly paralyzed from the neck down. Since he lives with us and his other children live far away, his care falls directly on our shoulders. What was once a man slowing down and beginning to need a little extra help is now someone requiring total care with a long, slow, uncertain recovery in his future. Our already busy schedules have had to make room for long hours in the hospital and rehabilitation centers. Travel plans have shifted. Priorities have shifted. Our world has shifted.
I’ll be honest. We’re still reeling. Part of that is because there are a lot of things we don’t and won’t know until we see how he progresses over the next several months and years. I’ve got to tell you--I hate limbo. I’m a planner and a problem-solver. To just sit and have everything topsy turvy goes against everything in my nature.
But here we find ourselves floating in a pool of uncertainty filled with feelings of worry, fear, guilt, anger, confusion, and did I mention worry? It is easy to feel completely overwhelmed.
In the midst of this, I am searching for…and finding…beautiful streaks of silver lining. As we start to settle down and our new reality begins to sink in, there are so many things to be grateful for. Maybe you feel overwhelmed also and are struggling with some huge change in your life. What I know is that focusing on gratitude in the midst of trial is a key component of overcoming struggles. My hope is that my list can help you learn how to light your own path through the darkness.
Persistence is the key.
My father-in-law is a fighter and always has been. This is just one more thing in his life to overcome…and he’s doing just that. Despite constant complications, he keeps wowing his doctors and his family. He is an inspiration inpersistence. I try to model myself after him whenever I am overwhelmed.
It takes a village.
Going through this tragedy has opened us to the support of family and friends. As many of you know, we are newly back to Texas and, despite our relationships being new and tenuous, we have found neighbors and friends to be overwhelmingly willing to offer help--especially when asked. This has brought us closer in many ways even as it has humbled us. Another new support system has also opened up in the network of medical staff who have awed us with their knowledge, grace, and abilities. And finally, having this experience, we have begun to meet and know other spinal cord injury victims and their family members both in person and via social media and support groups. We could not do this alone…and, thankfully, we do not have to.
Faith takes practice.
Whether you belong to an organized religion or the idea of this makes you want to throw up a little in your mouth, the research is clear. Faith in something bigger than yourself (whether that be in God, a greater good, a belief that things happen for a reason, or whatever) is one of the biggest indicators of general happiness, physical well-being, and overcoming struggles. But this isn't just some general belief that you put on a bumper sticker. It is a faith that gets practiced in times of trial.
So, during our own time of trial, we are choosing to practice faith. For myself, when I feel drained and scared and overwhelmed, I turn towards a core belief that ultimately things will settle down to a new normal. I remind myself in thought and words that eventually it WILL be okay. Breathing and seeking grace become a priority. I refocus on gratitude and ask for help in accepting what I cannot change and refocus on the things I can change.
Take an inventory of the strengths and resources you already have.
One thing that has surprised me is how prepared I already was to handle this. When I really look over my life, I have many experiences that I am able to pull from—working with clients with disabilities, having both personal and professional contacts with medical professionals, working with insurance companies because of my private practice. Taking an inventory of strengths has given me confidence to tackle the huge learning curve that has been thrown into our laps. Your own strengths might be different. Maybe you had to advocate for a child in the school setting. Maybe you had a family member or close friend who dealt with a similar issue. Whatever it might be, in order to access those strengths, you have to recognize them to use them. I have learned that if you seek, you shall find.
Remember to keep living your life.
My final thought about overcoming struggles has to do with remembering to continue living your life even when you are fighting a huge fight. Every day my husband and I try to spend some time remembering and being mindfully present in the knowledge that life is good. The birds are still chirping. The flowers are still blooming. Life goes on and is there for the taking. Even with all we have to do, we choose to play with our kids and enjoy our dinners. This is giving us the much-needed respite to refuel us day after day.
I would not wish a spinal cord injury on my worst enemy. Still, there is strength in the knowledge that focusing on these steps allows us joy and peace even in the midst of such a life-changing and stressful event. How do you find a light in the midst of tough times?