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Everything in the past and future has a relationship to now. Where I have been and what I have done in my life has brought me here, to this hour, this second, this moment. And what I will do and become tomorrow will dance before me like an intricate ballet of cause and effect. As I mark the passing of one full year sober and healthy, I can’t help but reflect on all of the experiences I’ve had along the way. All of the ups and downs which have provided me with invaluable opportunities to change. I don’t believe in coincidences anymore…life to me now is more like a platter of perfection, masquerading as irony, at first appearing to serve a dish of disappointment, but if you look close enough, it’s actually serving exactly what you need.
September 23, 2014, I drank copious amounts of wine and ingested a bottle of Benedryl knowing full well that the possible consequence of this could be death. I didn’t care. I didn’t feel. I was so tired of thinking about suicide every day, that having death ‘happen’ would have been a gift to me. I didn’t want to have another nightmare, I didn’t want to watch my relationship fall to pieces, and I didn’t want to feel guilty anymore for all of the inadequacies I believed whole heartedly that I possessed. … I don’t remember that person anymore. She’s gone. She somehow climbed out of the darkness that was suffocating her slowly, breath by breath. It feels like a tornado of emotions and experiences had swept me up, and has finally spit me out; and leave it to me to need a tornado as my healing vessel, I don’t seem to do anything the easy way!
The transformation of my mind has changed me forever. I’m alive. I’m happy. I’m able to feel emotions in a healthy way. I am an amazing parent, modelling a life of hope and love for my children. I am beautiful. And I am free. I don’t blame others for my feelings anymore, and I am not obsessively attached to the fulfillment of my dreams. I now prefer to live a life that maintains the passionate wish to prolong my health and wellbeing, without harsh expectations. I let life guide me, rather than trying to guide life. I’ve realized that when I thought I always had to be at the wheel, I continued to crash into a sea resentment when things didn’t ‘go my way’. Now I breathe. I walk. I smile. And I love.
I consciously try to build a mind of love every day now, which effectively eliminates my previous negative and deluded states of mind. I have learned lessons I never could have predicted in a million years, like how to reframe my experiences so that they remain congruent with my wish to be happy. I see difficulties as my teacher, ever reminding me of the importance of humility. And try to consciously abandon non-virtuous, toxic minds. Life is perfectly imperfect (I forget where I’ve heard that line before), and one day at a time I experience its imperfections, never wasting what they are always trying to teach me.
One day while being enlightened in Buddhist class, the topic of ‘compassion’ came up. I was all ears when the teacher shared how in the Buddhist culture compassion for all living beings comes from a wish that all are well, very much like love. But after listening for a while, I felt frustration bubbling up inside of me, and I was compelled to put up my hand to make what I thought was going to be an excellent point!…My poor sister-in-law pretty much counts down the minutes every time we go until I make my so-called ‘excellent point’. Some things never change… Sorry Mandy 😉 I announced that I agree that the idea of compassion sounds wonderful, but, too much compassion made me sick! Being a paramedic involves compassion to some extent every day! And after 12 years of compassion, I developed post traumatic stress disorder…so how is compassion good for anything? Bam! I thought I had delivered a zinger! But then, like the calm beautiful woman she is, the teacher gently replied, “Compassion never made you sick. Attachment did“. WOW! Put your hand down Natalie!…
What a compelling statement! I had NEVER thought of it that way! But it made complete sense! Compassion is what made me a paramedic…I have no doubt about that! Witnessing my mom being cared for by smiling compassionate paramedics back when she had seizures on a regular basis is what inspired me to become a paramedic myself. But over the years, my attachment to even the potential of the successful outcome of a call, made me sick when I was not able to achieve the happy ending I seemed to always looked for. Even though I was very much aware of the limitations of any skill or directive I possessed, my goal going in to a call was to ‘win’ every time…and realistically, those ‘wins’ can be rare.
So this brings me to another thought. How can I be sure that I am not attached to the outcome of advice I give through this blog? When does it get to the point that I too get pulled under when I am trying to save someone who’s drowning in the dark sea of mental illness? I think I found my answer today while once again chatting with my sister-in-law…drum-roll!…I’ve gone too far when I feel co-dependency has occurred.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what co-dependency is, in short, it’s an excessive reliance on other people’s help which eventually enables the person’s illness, inevitably discouraging recovery. For example, the adult child who still lives at home and has his or her parent(s) provide everything they need to survive lives in a co-dependent relationship. The excessive help these parents give, actually discourages their child’s recovery from extreme dependence. The problem with the development of co-dependency is that it’s usually not a quick double-drowning! It’s more like a slow safe rescue in your rescue boat, but when you’re not looking, during your hopeful journey to shore, the person you rescued is adding a cup of water to the boat, and over time, you unexpectedly both sink! Sigh!…
Yes, the purpose of my blog is to help others, and to deliver compassion; I hope that goes without saying! It’s to help me, and it’s to help you. But what I need to remember is that my help doesn’t give me the right to champion other people’s success. Furthermore, beyond my ability to give you good directions, I have no right to map out your journey…because it’s just that…YOUR JOURNEY. I will never stop cheering you on, and I will wait for you at the finish-line. But by only being your coach, the medal at the end of the race belongs to only you.
Looking back on my years as a paramedic, I WISH I had viewed the outcome of my calls in this much healthier, less attached way. I can hold the wish that my patients are well when I leave the call, be they in life or death, but when I pack up my bags and drive to the next call, I can’t be attached to the outcome. When we’ve done all we can do, compassion should only bring us peace, it should never hurt.
I like to believe that as I drive my rescue boat around looking for people to help, that I have at least started a ripple in the water which will spread for years and years. But when my boat is full, I may have to limit my help to a shout of encouragement over the dark sea. And if my boat starts to sink, I will need to detach in a healthy way, and hope that I taught you to swim. And when you finish your journey and reach the shore, let me know, and we can guide the rescue boat together…Heck, I’ll even get you your own! 😉