By Liz Braithwaite, with Heather Hoyt (in italics)
Chapter 1: Understanding Emotion
Chapter 2: Vibrant Experience
Chapter 3: Be Wise
Chapter 4: Thinking Traps
Chapter 5: Enjoy Challenges
Chapter 6: Love Filled Lifestyle
Chapter 8: Mindfulness
Chapter 9: Manage Distress and Trapped Emotions
Final Notes and Resources
I sat at the table with a range of thoughts and feelings racing through my mind. I knew that something was wrong: that I wasn’t thinking straight and that I probably needed help. I had been talking to my husband, my newborn baby asleep in the other room. Our discussion had started off normal enough, but by now my tone was agitated, loud, upset. I can best describe what I felt as pain: deep emotional pain that seemed devoid of any logical sense and solution. My whole being wanted to run from the pain, to fight it and make it go away. I was so upset and frustrated that pounded on the large table in front of me. The action didn’t make sense, but I felt like I had to do something, anything, to relieve the pain.
This wasn’t the first-time circumstance put me in a similar state, but at this certain point, it was the most overwhelming and tumultuous I had ever felt before. To me, this was the starting point of years of being unable to properly regulate my emotions. During this time, I added two more boys, raised my three sons, moved eight times, started a business, and watched my husband go through graduate school while often working part-time. It was a turbulent time in my life: but even after life finally settled down, when we had a permanent home, and stable job, I still found myself at times at odds with my emotions.
My heart was broken. Not because of lost love, but because my emotions betrayed me and led me down paths that I would never consciously choose for myself. My heart needed healing.
I don’t have a reason or a cause: I’ve read about mental disorders, gone to therapy and researched on my own. And ultimately the reason was unimportant. What was important was learning the skills and techniques that I need to go from being overwhelmed by emotion and experiencing pain, to experiencing a calm and happy life. And the hardest and most important step: to learn how to love myself and practice self-compassion. I learned truths and practices that help me heal.
This is a discussion of what I’ve found that worked for me, what I still continue to work on so I do not find myself in a place of overwhelming emotional pain. I’m not a psychologist: I haven’t thoroughly researched everything in this book and I don’t have tons of factual information to back it up. It’s just me and my experience as I worked through one of the largest and most terrifying problems I have faced.
I walked out of my house, out of my yard, and I collapsed onto a piece of sand far enough away that I couldn’t hear the cries of my children; I could only hear my own cries as I sobbed so hard that my face started to tingle, my thoughts racing in so many different directions, eventually spiraling downward until the only conclusion was despair, a feeling without hope completely.
That is my moment that I always remember when I think about the mental health issues I have dealt with: sitting in the sand and sobbing and feeling like the world was closing in around me in darkness.
Over the years, I have not really dealt with persistent sadness or depression, but a sometimes intense roller coaster of various emotions that has seemed unrelenting, confusing, and simply hard.
While the roller coaster hasn’t ever completely stopped, like my sister, I have found better ways to deal with my own thoughts and emotions, and most of all, to find a hope in the despair that never goes away. With that hope, I keep going and have been able to find an intense happiness in contrast to that intense despair. And the intense happiness is much more lasting.
I’m glad that my sister has let me add some of my own words; we are similar in a lot of ways (though not completely the same), and often our journeys have intersected in phone calls, emails, and supporting and understanding one another.