If you’re a trauma survivor like me, you may be tired of hearing how grateful you should be for resilience. It’s true that we’ve had to develop this life skill (although I would call it a characteristic but that’s just semantics) more so than most people. A new study from Harvard Medical School shows that resilience may not only be helpful for healing from the damaging effects of trauma. It may also reduce our healthcare costs in the future. Here’s the first part of the article and a jump to the rest for your convenience. Enjoy!
Stress-busting mind-body medicine reduces need for health care
This week, researchers at Harvard reported a potent way to keep the doctor away. And it isn’t an apple a day or a new drug — it’s a life skill called resilience. It’s the adult equivalent of crashing into a hedge during your first bike ride without training wheels, shaking the leaves and dirt from your hair, and thinking, “Okay, that wasn’t too bad. Let me try that again.”
People tend to think resilience is something that lucky people have and unhappy people lack, but that’s not true. It’s a skill you can learn. Anyone can strengthen their resilience with practice, starting with the relaxation response — a physiologic state of deep rest induced by practices such as rhythmic breathing, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, or prayer. The relaxation response was first described more than 40 years ago by Dr. Herbert Benson, founder and director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
I do a lot of guided meditation primarily because my brain is always way too busy. I need help to control it into a meditative state. Maybe that means I’m weak but who cares. This works for me. One of the best YouTube channels I’ve found for guided meditation are The Honest Guys. No clue who they are, but I like the British accent and they do a great job on their voiceover. Here’s one of my favorite ones. Enjoy!
I don’t think there is any linear progression to grief. For me, it’s like a wild animal living inside of me. Sometimes it’s asleep, at other times just growling. And then it wakes up and feels like it’s going to tear me apart with its sharp teeth and claws.
I’ve written about my narcissistic mother before and how difficult she could be.
My mother died on January 8 this year from lung cancer. She could have treated it but refused, insisting that the “Lord” would heal her. That was her choice of course, but it was a choice that created a lot of tension and caretaking on my part.
It’s an interesting thing to take care of someone who feels no gratitude for your efforts and, as I found out later when my sister discovered my mother’s journals, considers you the enemy. Not only was my mother narcissistic it turns out she also had a strong persecutory delusional disorder and believed pretty much anyone that tried to help her, was out to get her.
Although I got frustrated at times, the strange thing was I did not and do not resent my mother. She was mentally ill and therefore tortured both emotionally and physically, especially in the last six months. Mental illness runs in my family and she was also terribly abused as a child. I can only imagine how awful it must have been to be inside her mind all those years and I hope she is happy on the other side and resting from this terrible lifetime.
Last month I wrote about the eye of the hurricane. Since then I’ve found out that even my dog has cancer, apparently a very aggressive form of osteosarcoma. We elected to remove the tumor, which meant taking out 60% of his collarbone. My canine athlete, running partner and studly ski jor partner is now limping around the house with a 14-inch scar running across his shoulder. My heart breaks for him but I know he has more living to do. I’ll have to run without him, which sucks. Also, my stubborn mother who refused to leave her house to move into assisted living fell and broke her hip and her hand. She’s now recovering in a nursing home, the very place she was trying to stay out of.
And that leads me to my latest revelation in this year of challenges. There have been many lessons in 2014 but probably the biggest one is that most of my suffering has come from trying to avoid discomfort. I’ve tried to avoid the grief of losing my dear mother-in-law. I’ve tried to be in denial of my mother’s illness and her lack of love for me. I refused to call my breast cancer “cancer” and downplayed it so much that several people didn’t even realize I had radiation. So many emotions I’ve tried to escape, at the same time projecting the worst that could happen and giving myself the worst anxiety I’ve ever had (and that’s saying something) topped off with a case of hives.
Last week I got a message from one of my guides. “Run toward it,” he said. “Run toward it with joy and wild abandonment. It’s part of a perfect plan.”
If that wasn’t a “DUH” moment I don’t know what is. I have been able to find peace inside of all of this chaos but I’m still hiding in there. What I need to do is jump into it, let it throw me around like a towel in a washing machine and see what happens. I need to stay in the moment and experience every single dirty, painful, “why me” moment of this lifetime. Because there are more miracles ahead of me.
“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” -Kenji Miyazawa