Saturday, September 8, 2007

Chicken soup is not enough

Wow, you're incredible. You wouldn't know quite how much your overwhelming support means to me. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Some people say the internet is a cold, heartless place - it's everything but that! Thanks for making me feel cared for - each and every one of you made a difference in my life with your heartfelt comments.

I haven't been posting much the past 2 weeks even though I had much to say and talk about. But since it wasn't positive and upbeat, my posts never got past the first 2 paragraphs. Thank goodness blogging is paper friendly - I would've had a forest worth of wasted paper from all the restarts!

Why I didn't just write what I felt and get over with it? Well, you might have realized that I have this thing about trying to be positive, seeing the bright side of every trying situation, to keep my chin up, look for the silver lining on the dark cloud, pull a stiff upper lip, let it go off me like water off a duck's back - I can go on almost forever using the phrases we have, but I'm pretty sure you get the message.

Growing up in a family of strong people (maybe it's part of being human, not just an Afrikaner thing) we were taught from a very young age not to bend under pressure, but to be tough, get up and go on. No matter what. So that's what I've been trying to do.

"It's not all that bad." OR "I'm stronger than this, there are worse thing that can happen." OR "Tomorrow the sun will shine again." OR "There is a lesson somewhere in this, I just have to keep on looking for it." Phrases like these have been part of my artillery of bounce backs whenever something upset me. All of the above mentioned phrases have truth in them, and yes, they have their own respective place in self-motivation. Sometimes they work, but sometimes they backfire terribly.

I've always thought that I have some kind of personality flaw when no amount of positive self-talk worked to keep the sadness and heartache away. Or that the black dog of depression was scratching on the door, looking for the smallest of openings to force himself into my life again.

And then I found this book on my brother in law's office desk when I was baby-sitting their kids earlier this week. We were playing "Prime Suspects" on his pc, and I had to be close-by to translate the difficult English words so their bright little eyes could find the hidden objects. At first I thought it was a new edition of the very successful "Chicken Soup" books, but "When Chicken soup is not Enough" proved to be something totally different.

"When Chicken Soup is Not Enough is a down-to-earth, bottom-line look at how our thoughts, emotions and attitudes affect our health, sometimes dramatically. This book demystifies the mind-body connection. It will empower anyone seeking higher levels of health and fulfillment in their life." Dr. Larry Dossey on Ralph E. Retherford's book.

The following paragraph struck me full force:

"Often, experts tell us that all we have to do is think positively. They tell us that emotions like anger, grief, and shame are harmful to our health. They aren't. These emotions are harmful only if they are denied, minimized, or suppressed into our unconscious. There, the energy persists and builds unseen until it becomes powerful enough to wreak mischief on our bodies.

If you try to use positive thinking to avoid bad feelings, you risk pushing the feelings into your subconscious. If you permit them to surface and can work through them, in time they disappear. Joys are short-lived, and so are negative emotions, as long as you are willing to feel them and let them go."

Now I know why my mom has been suffering from terribly painful, itchy hands that look very much like chilblains, except that she has now developed big blisters all over her knuckles and fingers too. She is the text-book version of positivity and strength - smiling, laughing - being super-positive despite being very, very sick from the chemo therapy she has been receiving. Her oncologist says it might be from the cortisone and chemo combined, and maybe just an allergic reaction towards the drugs she is receiving. No ointment has helped, and believe me has tried many! (She needs to read this book too!)

I also understand why I've been suffering from blinding migraines and other unrelated health issues lately - and here I was blaming everything on spring. Actually, our winter disappeared overnight and it's hot, hot HOT - very suddenly. So forget about spring, we skipped that - summer is here to stay. (Ok, I just did it again, changed the subject when I try to face the facts!)

*Sigh* - I'm sorry for not being happy and smiling and upbeat. Sometimes we can handle reading about other people's sorrow and grief because it helps us in understanding our own emotions. And sometimes it's just too hard to handle. I'll try my best to get this out of my system as soon as possible, but until then I need to write about it.

I also need to cry. LOTS. It is sitting there just behind my eyelids, high up in my throat too. I'm scared to give in to the emotion, but I know it will be better to work this through. You have to fill the bath before you can pull the plug to let the water out... maybe I just won't plug it to start with. *wink*

Thanks for being there, and thanks for listening - you're very special to me!


Fertilize Me said...

That book sounds very necessarry for me to read also. As much as i wish for your happiness, I do think it is completely necessary, and normal, to have seasons of sadness to allow yourself to deal with the dissappointments in our lives. I think we can even take away something positive from these dissappointments at some time in that season and then continue on trekking the journey. Hoping this makes sense. Thank you for all your posts and comments for me

Pamela Jeanne said...

Perfectly timed post. I was trying to convince myself I am being foolish for still grieving. That it's time to be happy. That may be premature. Your excerpt reminded me again that submerged emotions must be addressed, not ignored.

We'll do so much better in the long run if we stop denying those tough emotions. Cry all you need to, feel and release the energy so you can then start on the path to feeling more whole. That's what I intend to do, too. We'll keep each other company.

Furrow said...

Please continue to work through these feelings on your blog for as long as you need to. You don't need to be cheery for us, even if you feel that you do for everyone in your face-to-face life.

Kami said...

I think that sounds like a great book. I have a wonderful therapist who has been telling me the same thing for a couple of years. It has helped me a huge amount. I hope it will work well for you too. It is scary to let ourselves feel those strong, negative emotions sometimes, but I think it helps.

Sorry I haven't been commenting in awhile. I got so far behind on your blog that I was avoiding it because I felt guilty. I guess that is another side of the suppressing-negative-emotions coin, huh?

Lori said...

You're dealing with shadow emotions. The more we push them away, the more they persist. But they are as essential to wholeness as the more sunny feelings.

How do I know this? Because I'm the queen of push!

Thinking of you as you become ever more whole.

lady macleod said...

There are times we need to give ourselves permission to be sad. There is nothing inherently weak or wrong in being sad, and you have cause - not that I think there needs to be justification.

Speaking for myself, you write what you need to write - I think you will find all of us still here.

Keep breathing.

Char said...

Karen, you really will feel better after you start being honest with yourself, and not put pressure on yourself to be "upbeat and cheery" just for us blog-readers. I've given up trying to write beautiful, lyrical posts. And I feel WAAAAAY better than before. It helps to let it all hang out. I hope you won't feel we inhibit you in anyway. You DESERVE to be honest on your blog. And you DESERVE to say whatever you're feeling. And to feel what you're feeling. So often we conform to society's standards of behaviour. "Putting on a brave face" for the sake of people who don't really care. Or saying it's ok when we don't really mean it. I'm so glad you're reading a book that's allowing you the freedom "to just be", if you know what I mean. And really, editing our feelings is for the birds anyway. You go ahead and vent. And vent. And vent. Until you're ready and your anger/frustration/pain totally spent. And while you do so, remember, there are bunches of us who really care for you!

Carole said...

I'm going to get a copy of that book. It sounds like what I need. I've been keeping you in my thoughts...

Schatzi said...

Girl... don't start writing only happy things on your blog... we wouldn't believe you anyway :-) no one is happy ALL the time. and anyways-- I would then feel guilty about kvetching on my blog!!!

I am a total believer in not stuffing emotions (only a recent convert). I once spent about 16 hours over 3 days crying in a bubble bath. Incredibly cleansing. I'm hoping you find a healthy way to start releasing the tears building up behind your eyes.


Mands said...

I am so sorry to hear about your mom. I am very much like you , always trying to put on a brave face (I call it eldest child syndrome).
We actually have to give ourselves permission to lose grip, cry uncontrollably, take a sleeping tablet and just feel sorry for ourselves. Infertility has taught me that it's really okay to be sad, and to let everybody know it!
Big Hugs from Lonehill JHB
Mands xx

Geohde said...

I admire your strength. You deal with a lot, gracefully.

Pamela Jeanne said...

Where are you my friend? Thinking and fretting about you...