Coping with adversity is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. While I can only talk from my experience, I want to share this. I discovered that by working hard at it, I could change the way I thought and behaved – thus managing to turn the tide of my rather negative feelings.
I forced myself to take long walks which I did not particularly like previously until I discovered that walking made me feel better physically, emotionally as well as mentally.
Our dog was a tremendous help. This Belgian Shepherd offered me unconditional love. She gave me undivided attention and affection as well as compassion thus helping me reduce the focus from myself and my problems caused by my son’s mental illness.
I was very angry at this stage – angry with my son for daring to contract schizophrenia, angry with the doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists who seemed unable to help him – angry with the people who simply did not know what to say and did not know how they could approach me. When I realized that my anger was destructive I found other outlets for my feelings, a process, one that took a lot of time and effort. But, it was worth it in the long run.
Then I had to turn my attention to the repetitive, negative thoughts that kept percolating in my brain. I had to help myself by finding distracting thoughts and activities to take their place.
I tried hard to focus on the present only and not to dwell on the future or the past; or on the what ifs that are so easy to dwell on, but this took even longer to achieve. But, in the end, after a long, uphill struggle, I managed.
Planning something that I really wanted to do, helped a lot. It didn’t matter whether it was a day trip, a walk along the beachfront or obtaining tickets for a good play or a concert. It distracted me and I felt so good doing something other than worrying about schizophrenia. For a change, I had a purpose.
I went on an organized day trip and on my return home felt as though I had been away for much longer. The break from routine and the change of scenery was the important issue here.
Spending time with people who accepted me the way I was, who were non-judgmental and who loved me, provided an outlet for heart to heart talks. Best friends are a reflection of one’s good taste.
It helped me to see an inspirational movie. A good book kept me away from negative television programs and web sites. Listening to classical music was uplifting and to this day, I get carried away even in my car when I listen to classical music or opera, sometimes, on full volume.
I gave affection wherever I could and was not reticent about receiving affection. I told my loved ones how much I needed and loved them and how I appreciated their support.
A psychologist told me that it was a good idea to spend time with people who did not bring me down or drain me of energy. She suggested that I let them slip gently from my life and advised me to surround myself with loving and supportive people who valued me. How right she was.
It was a good idea to cut out the complications in my life that led to stress and also to stop worrying about what others thought of me.
What I did learn was how to ask for help. Till then, I’d always said I preferred to be the one to help others rather than to seek help. It worked only when I understood that it was not a sign of weakness.
My late husband was an accountant who worked on balance sheets and it was he who suggested that I make a balance sheet of my own and write down the things I was grateful for on the left side of the page including my blessings. And on the right, I wrote the things that worried and upset me. Believe it or not but the side showing what I was grateful for on the left was far longer than the other. So, I realized how much I had to be grateful for.
Not everybody is a writer but it helped me to write notes every day about my son’s deterioration into paranoid schizophrenia and psychosis. Every night I dropped another note into my bedside drawer and eventually, those notes turned into a book.