Lighthouse List: My Guide Through Stormy Seas
I’ve been on an endless quest of forgiveness and self love. I keep getting tripped by various events that suck me into old habits and patterns. I reach clarity only to be pulled back into the fog where I am wounded, raging, and ruminating. To be fair, I am navigating some fairly choppy waters at the moment. The boat is rocking like mad and I have become paralyzed, at times, or am frantically fighting, completely entangled and entrapped.
Initially, I start off swinging, hurling insults here and there, mostly screaming into wide, empty spaces. I have every reason to be hurt and even fearful, but I keep asking myself: “What happen to my promise to disengage?” This on going struggle has been nearly impossible to completely let go of because it involves family members that I love, but continually lose. I’m on an emotional rollercoaster of peaks and valleys that include: hope, rage, self-loathing, forgiveness, despair, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. I would give anything for everyone involved to abandon the rollercoaster and never ride it again. God, I am tired.
After all the mistakes I have made again, I have decided to write a list here to remind me what to do and not do in crisis. Writing may help me navigate more safely through the next storm, a Lighthouse List to guide me.
My Lighthouse List
- Do not stop breathing. Seems easy enough, right? I stopped breathing earlier today and now I am having anxiety and panic which make it even more challenging to focus and respond. Do not stop breathing, remember to take a time out to breath and focus. You will be more effective as a result of doing so.
- Stop and ask these three questions before getting involved. Am I in an emotional state? Is it my responsibility? If I do act, is it realistic for me to expect that it will yield a favorable result? For the record, I have never once stopped to ask these questions and I believe if I had they may have allowed me to be more skillful.
- If in an emotional state, do something active before responding. I tend to be a highly impulsive individual due to ADHD and Bipolar 1. I cannot count the amount of times I have gone overboard in a rage, when angry, and regretted it later. It has caused a lot of self-loathing. Often the anger is justified, the response is not. I am going to try the next time I am truly triggered to immediately engage in physical activity of some sort in order to decrease the intensity of my emotions.
- If it is not my responsibility to act, step back until advice or help is solicited. This can be complex, at times, given the circumstances. But, in general if you are not the one responsible for remedying the situation, then it is best distance yourself. Provide some help and advice if you like provided they are open to receiving it, but keep your distance unless it is requested. This sounds like common sense, but in a crisis, situations emerge that often challenge this reasoning. Emotions are running high making it difficult to execute logically. I believe having this reminder will help in various situations.
- If you are uncertain that your actions will yield a desired outcome, wait to act until you are more certain. I think this is a good strategy to have when deciding wether or not to act in a crisis situation. There are times I am so fearful or angry I react without weighing the pros and cons of my actions. Keeping the end result in mind will help me navigate more safely.
- Take time out to recharge and take care of you. Even in the midst of a very difficult family situation, try to take some time out for yourself to center. Take a bath (you have to anyway!) or a walk and during those times try and take a time out to give yourself a rest from the chaos and emotional upheaval.
- Be mindful and remain in the present moment. Often crisis and trauma will bring us right back into the past and feelings will flood and overwhelm you, making it difficult to act in logical ways. Find time to center yourself and remain grounded in the present as to not bring past habits into the situation at hand.
This is a good list to start with as I navigate the choppy seas over the next few weeks. Maybe I can do better from this point forward. The last few years have been extremely difficult and I have reason to be upset and even devastated. I am going to be starting Dialectical Behavioral Therapy soon and am excited to learn new ways to manage my emotional state and behavior in times of crisis. Until then, I continue to learn from my mistakes and use the above list. I am hopeful that the worst is behind me as I have been keeping my eyes wide open and when mistakes are made, I make efforts to question my behaviors and intention.
In the past, I would not have been able to quickly pinpoint mistakes made. I am growing. I am trying to be patient with the process. Healing is messy and chaotic, at times, but exciting and inspiring as well. Hopeful and happy to be on the path. It feels like home to me.