In her book, McGregor suggests writing down things the estranged parent can do to help themselves that are specific to their situation. So here’s my list.
Ways I Can Help Myself:
Don’t drink. In my case, it can actually be life-threatening because alcohol is a dangerous combination with some of the medications I take. Alcohol can also loosen inhibitions which can cause a loss of rational thinking. A dangerous thing when you’re feeling suicidal.
Seek counseling from professionals. Fortunately I was already seeing a counselor at my university to help deal with some issues about returning to Grad school. After I spent a week in the hospital on Suicide Watch, I also started seeing another counselor in my community because I knew as soon as I graduate in June, I’ll lose access to the school psychologist.
Stay in closer contact with people who previously were on the edges of my life. I was so close to my kids, I didn’t feel the need for many other relationships. Now I see this was a huge mistake. It left me almost completely alone to deal with things. I need to make an effort to rekindle friendships.
Set up an emergency contact person. Due to my tendency to slip into severe depression and suicidal thoughts when the pain gets to be too much for me, one of my counselors recommended I have someone set up who I can call, day or night, who can come over and keep an eye on me. Not to counsel or to help, but to be there and help me make the decision if I need to go the hospital or not. Last time I had to drive myself to the hospital which was super scary now that I look back on it because I was very tempted to drive off a bridge or crash my car the entire drive.
Get exercise and fresh air. I joined a local gym and work out several times a week now. I try to take regular walks, and when the weather’s nice, I go to a local beach and bask in the sunshine. I live in rainy Western Washington, so sunshine is essential to combat Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD) which I don’t need to add to my current list of overwhelming emotions and sadness.
Ever since the estrangement from my three adult children began six months ago, it’s been difficult to even get out of bed.
So I thought I’d make a list of things I actually accomplished today. Definitely not an earth-shattering day of events, but at least most of it involved being upright and out from under my bed covers (and out of my pajamas).
Today, I ….
got dressed (although I never did get around to putting on make-up. I hope I remembered to brush my hair before I left the house!)
did the dishes
fed the cats and fish and rabbits
watered the plants
talked to a couple of my neighbors about nothing important
wandered the aisles at my local store looking for nothing in particular
picked up prescriptions at the pharmacy
picked up my mail (found more prescriptions there, too)
ate three semi-healthy meals
worked for several hours on homework (I’d been procrastinating)
watched a few back episodes of shows I’d gotten behind on
diddled around on Facebook
… and cried … in the car
… and cried … in my house
… and cried … while chatting with a friend online
Once the crying starts, it feels as if it will never stop. But usually it does stop.
Sometimes it stops simply from sheer exhaustion.
Sometimes it stops because I’m all cried out and the tears have done their cleansing work.
Sometimes it stops because I drink myself into a stupor (yes, I unfortunately sometimes choose to self-medicate).
Sometimes it stops because I’m distracted by something else.
The one time the crying didn’t stop (at the end of this past December just after the holidays), I ended up in the hospital on Suicide Watch for six days. Because of that horrible awful no good very bad day, I always feel a twinge of fear that the crying won’t stop. I never want to feel like I did that day when I admitted myself to a psych ward so that others could protect me from myself.
Today’s crying ended after I spent several minutes quietly watching the baby fish who live in my aquarium on a low shelf above my kitchen sink. I knelt down on the floor, rested my head on the counter, and just watched the tiny living beings swim around. At first the tears were so heavy, I could barely see the fish. But soon I was smiling at the little lives in front of me. I realized my eyes were dry and my sobbing gone.
So today was eventful and uneventful. Happy and sad. Full of meds and fish, people and writing.
But the most important things today? I got out of bed, kept busy, survived a major crying jag, and will head to bed in a few minutes.
Yes, I have made it through another day.
One day at a time.
That’s the only way I’ll survive this estrangement.
Just take it one eventful/uneventful, happy/sad day at a time.
I wish I cried gracefully
dabbing tears softly
a quiet sniffle
a gentle sob
a lone teardop streamng silently
but not me
nope, I’m an ugly crier
a snot-stained pillowcase
a pile of soggy Kleenex
much more my style
As ugly and snotty and noisy
as my crying may be
the grief behind it
is no less profound
than the gentlest sob
of a lovelier crier
over the tear-stained pages
of an unfinished