(By Corey Rotella, CNA Extraordinaire)
I can’t breathe. It’s too much. EVERYTHING is too much…it wasn’t until those words floated desperately through my mind that I realized that I have been on emotional auto pilot for at least a month. The system can only take so many big, dramatic changes before it becomes the new normal. I start to rely on muscle memory and before I know it, I’m living in fear of the imagined wreckage of the future and preparing for the next shoe to drop.
Anxiety, uncertainty, feelings of inadequacy…that three headed beast from within pops up from time to time in an attempt to block me from progress when life gets difficult. The first step to battling that monster is to become aware of it; to recognize that those feelings are not based in truth. Knowing that does not make the feelings go away immediately but it’s always good start.
Ok, Corey. So now you’re aware of what’s going on within. What’s next? ACTION. I don’t feel like writing. Write anyway. I don’t feel like painting. Paint anyway. I don’t want to face work. Go anyway. I don’t want to talk about this. Pick up that phone. See, in the tough times what I WANT to do is isolate. What I WANT is immediate gratification of a quick solution. What I WANT to do is feed that beast of self pity or resentment or fear. What I NEED to do is get out of myself. What I NEED to do is go and help another human being. What I NEED to do is create.
Often, I find that the only solution to walking through life’s challenges is to consistently work against my own instincts. When I am stuck in fear or pain, my instincts are awry and are not to be trusted. Those are the moments I act on what I know rather than what I feel. By doing this consistently, I have found 100% of the time my life improved, the tough times passed and sooner rather than later, my feelings caught up to my reality.
I don’t mean to imply that any of this is easy. It’s work! It’s cultivating awareness and developing tools. It’s the slow and consistent growth that is derived for facing what I don’t want to face and occasionally doing what I don’t want to do. It’s accepting that there are times that I am going to be uncomfortable and being okay with that. It’s recognizing that it ok to need help on occasion and that there will never be a time when I have all the answers.
Adapting to life is a skill and like any skill it requires practice and it will be tested. If I am honest with myself, underneath all the emotional chaos that occasionally rears its ugly head, I would not want it any other way. I don’t want a life that doesn’t challenge me from time to time. When all else fails, I go back to the wise words of that great sage, Yoda. Do or do not. There is no try.
Corey Anne Rotella co-authored the book CNA Edge: Reflections from year one along with Bob Goddard and Hannah Hedges. It’s collection of essays from their blog CNA Edge: A Voice from the trenches of Long Term Care