At one point in my life, I was deep in depression. I felt like there was no way to get out of the dark cave I was in. There was nothing in the world that could bring me happiness, much less joy.
I wasn’t taking care of myself emotionally or physically. I was a mess.
I tried a lot of things to pull myself out of it. Self help books, exercise, kicking my own ass. Nothing worked.
Then one day I saw an offering for a two day retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
What the heck, I needed desperately to get out of my head, so I signed up for a weekend-long Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class. I had had a meditation practice quite some time ago, and I was aware of the benefits offered by MBSR founder Jon Kabat-Zinn so I thought what the heck, I’ll give this a try.
The retreat was way up in the redwood-covered Santa Cruz Mountains. I figured even if I only got to get away for a couple of days in the trees I’d be happy.
That weekend I realized that I was not as alone as I felt. Also on the retreat were others who were burned out, fed up, depressed, and ridden with anxiety. Several were also caregivers for family members, like me.
As I got to know other participants, and learned more about the practices of mindfulness to reduce stress i realized that the hole I was in was of my own making. I was caught up in all the things I felt I had to do. I felt I had no time to do anything for myself because that would be selfish and self-focused. I was not letting myself feel happiness because it felt wrong while the person I loved was struggling.
At the end of this retreat, even though it was short, I had new tools to work with. I felt refreshed and ready to start making changes in the way I looked at my life. I took ownership of what was going to happen next.
It was not easy, but as I immersed myself in learning more I started to unwind a bit. I realized that I DID have time for self-care and education and it didn’t feel a bit selfish either.
My family felt the difference, my team and clients felt the difference. Several people asked me what I was doing that was making me happy. How had I changed?
It has taken me several years and a lot of rigorous training in the fields of emotional intelligence, mindfulness, positive psychology and even positive neuroplasticity, but I know that I have found what my true calling really is. To help others who are burned out, fed up, and want more out of their lives. To show the path and bring the tools I’ve learned to offer those who are willing to take steps toward a happier, more fulfilling life. To help teams work better together, with trust and support for each other.
My life’s work has been around building community and connections with people, so it’s natural for me to take all of this and share it. I wrote When Life Hits the Fan for other caregivers who feel they too have no time to practice self-care and are simply exhausted. The feedback from the book and from my classes tells me I am in the right place.
I’m been teaching workshops online and coaching in person and now I lead my own retreats, like this one this November in the mountains near Santa Cruz, Ca. to help others realize how to get off the treadmill of do, do, do and take care of themselves as well as others with an open heart. To find that spark of Joy we all have inside us but is sometimes so tiny we can’t find it.
I’m no longer wondering how to make it through another day, I’m looking forward to each and every one. I even learned to calm my mind to meditate every day, and it’s become a grounding life-saver when things get tough. Life isn’t perfect, but it has become easier for me to get in touch with my joy, my passion and my own sense of being.
I’ll end this post with a wish for you and the world:
- May you be safe
- May you live with ease
- May you be happy