Rising From the Ashes

 In Weekly Forum Discussion

Written by: Kirsten Frey; Transitions Life Coaching

The most overpowering feelings of overwhelm I ever had were twenty years ago. Within a two-year time span, I experienced:  marriage; the death of my father from cancer for which I was present; the birth of my son; separation from my husband within a month of our son being born, followed by divorce; selling our home and moving, and a career shift due to my new single-parent status.

So many highs and lows. So much transition and change. Significant grief and loss tempered by the incredible joy of my beautiful (but poorly sleeping) baby boy. I didn’t identify what I was going through as grief. It was just life. I was a police officer, I was used to dealing with difficult situations, elevated emotions and “being strong” for others, so of course I could do it for myself. My pattern whenever I was upset or angry or sad was to isolate myself until I felt the emotions were under control. When I could rationalize what was happening, then I would reach out to trusted friend and share my thoughts…but rarely my feelings. But here’s the thing about grief: it’s emotional, not logical. It can’t be reasoned away with common sense and understanding. It has to be felt to move through it and beyond it. Each of these situations was emotionally significant for me. And each new event compounded the feelings from the ones before. It felt like I was boxing with the universe and I was getting knocked down to the mat over and over again. I was emotionally exhausted and numb. My world contracted and all I could do was take it day by day. And some days I felt so overwhelmed that all I felt I could do was breathe.

Fortunately for me, I have loving and supportive friends who never let the fact that I had a moat and a castle wall erected around my heart keep them from showing up for me. They held the space for what I was able and willing to accept. It was the compassion that they, and others, showed me during this time that broke through those walls. I was humbled by kindness. I came to see that in my efforts to “keep it together” I was keeping myself from the help and support I needed. So I began to gracefully accept help and even ask for it when the overwhelm would rise within me.

I began running again after Michael was born. I am not a natural runner but had gotten to a point where I could run 10km comfortably and used it as a way to stay healthy and fit. Moving my body helped me move my emotions so they wouldn’t overwhelm me. I enjoyed listening to music as I ran. It was “me time”. It helped me sleep and I always felt better afterwards.

It was around this time that I also began to dabble with journaling. I could write everything I was feeling without having to edit. It was freeing to rage on the page, or let my soul cry with abandon. Journaling allowed the emotions to move through me and not stagnate inside me.

Over the years I’ve had other, less significant experiences of overwhelm. Now I recognize the signs. It begins as a feeling of anxiety that I feel in the pit of my stomach. My sleep becomes disturbed, my thoughts run rampant and are less positive, I get impatient and I crave sweets.

When this happens, that’s my signal to simplify and bring things back to the basics. Sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise, nutrition, meditation and journaling. These are the tools that consistently help me find my centre and rise stronger and more peaceful than before. Oh, and a coffee date with a friend always helps too!

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