Tag Archives: forgiveness

Coping Strategies When I’ve Forgotten to Take My Antidepressant

I woke up grumpy, irritable, and inexplicably angry. It took me a few minutes, but then I remembered that I had forgotten to take my antidepressant yesterday morning. I didn’t realize until last night around dinner time. I took it then, but that was a whole 12 hours without it.

My four-year-old daughter was whining a lot at breakfast, and just the sound of her voice grated on me. I had no patience for her or her brother. My face felt permanently set in a scowl. My husband seemed to notice the change in me right away but didn’t say anything. It’s likely I would have snapped at him no matter what he said.

My only saving grace was that I was aware that I was being unreasonably angry and impatient. I focused on breathing more slowly and deeply. When I asked my daughter to get dressed, I watched as she futzed around and noticed my urge to yell at her to hurry up. Instead I asked her to “please focus.”

When focusing on my breathing stopped helping, I noticed how my toes felt touching the carpet, or later, the inside of my shoes. I noticed what my knees felt like touching the fabric of my pants.

All of this noticing is a form of mindfulness. We can only pay attention to one thing at a time. We think we’re multitasking, but what we’re really doing is task-switching very quickly. Paying complete attention to one thing in my body helps anchor me in the present moment and briefly pause the rage going on in my head.

There’s usually some story I’m telling myself that I don’t even realize. I feel like my kids are misbehaving just to piss me off. I feel like everything is going to go wrong, and I’m powerless to change it.

I need to be somewhat calm to do this, but I try to come up with another narrative. I look at my daughter screaming at me and think, “She must be tired. She’s struggling to find words to express what she’s trying to say, and she’s frustrated.” My son is making loud noises and being hyper because he wants some attention, not attention for its own sake, but to feel connected to us. Coming up with another story gives me understanding, and that understanding helps me develop patience. I feel powerless at times, but so do they.

I used to feel so guilty for losing my temper in front of my kids, like I was failing them somehow. It took a long time, but I realize now how important it is, how valuable, for my kids to see me not only lose my cool, but then work really hard to regain my composure. I can explain coping strategies to them until I’m blue in the face, but nothing will be as compelling as modeling it for them.

Calming down requires forgiveness

Calming down requires forgiveness. I have to forgive myself for getting irrationally angry in the first place, and I have to forgive my kids and myself for not being perfect.

I’m still going to have to practice calming myself after the kids get home from school. It doesn’t help that it’s going to rain all day, but while they’re in school, I’m going to try to “fill my bucket” with positive experiences so I can start from a more fulfilled place than if I just run errands and “get stuff done” like a workhorse.

A friend is coming over to hang out while her house is being cleaned. I’m going to ask her if we can watch the latest episode of “Castle” on Hulu, which is my weekly Tuesday gift to myself. I’m going to take my dog Maggie for a walk in her new doggie raincoat. The thing that best alleviates my depression is reconnecting: with people, with my dog, and with nature.

I will yell at my kids again, if not today, then tomorrow, and/or the day after that. I will never be “cured” from my depression. It’s a constant, ongoing process. But I’m not powerless or alone in this. That’s what gets me through it every time.

How do you get through times when you’ve just had it but don’t have the luxury of getting away from your triggers?

I’m Losing My Mind Along with All of Our Stuff!

Kids' rain boots

Last week, we lost my son Zach’s red sweatshirt, my daughter Kaylee’s rain boots, and her rain coat. I write “we,” but really I mean “me.” I feel it’s my personal responsibility to keep track of all of our stuff. It’s not like I can realistically expect my husband or my kids to do it.

I get really upset when we lose stuff. If it’s a toy, especially if it came from a goody bag, I don’t stress too much about it, but if it’s something of mine, or if it’s something we use all the time, I get really bent out of shape. I actually got pretty depressed about the clothes and boots because I took it to mean that I’m so out of control, so overwhelmed, that I’m losing our basic necessities.

My husband kept trying to comfort me, saying that it was just as possible that it wasn’t my fault. I’m a perfectionist so it was easy for me to consider him wrong and to insist that it is indeed my fault.

I am happy to report that we have recovered all three items. My mother accidentally took Zach’s sweatshirt home last week with her stuff, I found Kaylee’s rain boots inside the basket of the folded-up stroller, and my husband found her rain coat at preschool this morning.

This should probably make me feel better, but it doesn’t. What bothered me most about losing the stuff was that I could not for the life of me remember where I had last seen the items, whether I’d been the last person to fold up the stroller (it would have felt SO much better if I had remembered my husband doing it. It’s easier to forgive him than myself. I’d also have had the chance to rub it in a little if it had been his fault.) I could have sworn I had brought her rain coat home from preschool, but apparently I got distracted.

I feel like that will be my epitaph: “Accidental death due to being distracted.” Our house is full of things lying around that my husband or I started to deal with, then left when we got called away by each other or one of the children.

The perfectionist part of me says, “See? You write about mindfulness, but clearly you’re failing at it. Get your act together.”

The compassionate, inner knowing part of me says, “This is a reminder to practice Acceptance.”

In dialectical behavior therapy, there’s a slide that describes “Four options for painful problems”:

  1. Solve the problem
  2. Change the way you feel about it
  3. Accept it
  4. Stay miserable

Practicing mindfulness could help alleviate being so distracted, but it’s not realistic for me to aim for not ever forgetting anything. It’s just not possible. I can change the way I feel about losing stuff by accepting that it’s okay, that it happens to lots of people, not just me, and it’s not a sign that I’m failing as a parent or a human being. I actually think these things, which are ineffective and really not helpful.

Dr. Marsha Linehan lists three parts to the skill “radical acceptance“:

  • accept that reality is what it is
  • accept that the event or situation causing me pain has a cause
  • accept that life can be worth living with painful events in it

I can easily forgive my mother for accidentally bringing Zach’s sweatshirt home with her. I can practice forgiving myself for being distracted and be grateful for the many things I do remember each day: picking them up from school, feeding them every couple of hours, and telling them how much I love them.

How do you cope with constantly getting distracted?

Meet Hate with Kindess and Understanding

Don't try to win over the haters.  You are not a jackass whisperer.

I love Brene Brown. She encourages people to be vulnerable because it allows us to develop deeper relationships and to feel both positive and negative emotions more fully. This quote is perfect though in that just because you’re being vulnerable doesn’t mean you should let anyone treat you like crap.

Most of us are people-pleasers. If someone criticizes us, we automatically become defensive and want to fight back and show the other person they’re wrong about us. It’s understandable, and sometimes it is the right thing to do. Sometimes though it really is better to just ignore people when they’re behaving badly.

Especially online, people can be skimming through so quickly they don’t actually read an entire article before they comment. We all view the world through a filter of our past, especially our unresolved pain and grief, and we may not even realize that we’re misunderstanding what someone is saying.

That’s not to excuse anyone from being hateful, but them doing so does say more about them than whomever they are criticizing.

Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about

This quote helps me to accept and forgive people who are being small-minded or cruel. I think we all have the potential to be our highest Selves, but damned if I know anybody who can be that way every waking moment. We are all human, and we all have bad days where we just want to make other people feel as crappy as we do. Most of us probably can restrain ourselves from acting on that impulse, but sometimes we can’t.

Stress permeates our daily lives. We’re all worried about something: paying bills, losing our job, taking care of our kids, taking care of our parents, and practically everyone is TIRED. We’re all working too hard, not getting enough sleep or having enough time to relax.

I’ve noticed that I’m much more judgmental when I think my husband has “screwed up” by not running the dishwasher or misplacing something. Then when I consider it might have been my mistake, I’m suddenly very forgiving, thinking, “Oh, well, it’s not really a big deal, anybody could have made that mistake.”

We all appreciate when other people give us the benefit of the doubt, it’s worth a try giving other people a little slack, especially when they’re really mean. What kind of experiences have they had that brought them to that extreme degree of pain and hate?

The masks of Comedy & Tragedy

We all have the capacity to be kind or to be cruel. It’s a choice we face with every interaction we have: in person, on the phone, or online. The next time someone’s behavior irritates or annoys you, remember a time you’ve behaved badly when you felt tired, afraid, or hurt. Then silently forgive them, and offer them a blessing because they probably really need one. And by practicing forgiveness, you receive a blessing in return.  When you forgive someone else, you also forgive yourself for not being perfect.

A friend once sent me this prayer, which I think about sums it up for me:

Morning Prayer
Dear Lord,
So far I’ve done all right.
I haven’t gossipped,
haven’t lost my temper,
haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent.
I’m really glad about that.

But in a few minutes, God,
I’m going to get out of bed.
And from then on,
I’m going to need a lot more help.

How do you balance standing up for yourself and practicing forgiveness?

Honoring My Dad A Year After His Suicide

A friend told me that when she was growing up her mother would dial her ex-husband’s number and as soon as she heard him pick up, she’d hold the phone out and tell her daughter, “Your dad’s on the phone.” Whatever hurt or anger she felt towards him, she still wanted her daughter to have a good relationship with him.

I wish I had thought to do something like that for my kids with my father. He knew about them because he’d found photos of them online. My aunt said he seemed so happy when he’d talk about them, but he’d never met them. We never exchanged letters or phone calls. I didn’t tell my kids anything about my dad until I found out he’d passed away.

I had my reasons, as people do. I was afraid of my father. He’d never threatened me, but I knew he was capable of violence. The last time I saw him, he was serving time in state prison for shooting a drug dealer who owed him money. Still, that shooting happened over 10 years ago. He did write some mean things about me and my mother, but now that I think about it, he probably couldn’t have hurt me or my kids after he got deported back to Hong Kong.

I can’t reach out to him anymore. He killed himself a year ago. He apparently left a note saying that he didn’t have anything to live for. In my head, I know it’s not really my fault. I didn’t make him swallow the pills, and I didn’t break off communication with him just to hurt his feelings. I genuinely felt scared that he would hurt me after he got out of prison.

Still, I regret that we weren’t even writing letters when he died. I wish I could go back and send him photos of my kids and stories about funny things they said or did. I like to think that my staying out of contact with my dad was to protect my kids, but I wonder a bit of that was just an excuse. He was hard to be around. He was demanding, verbally abusive, and usually running away from the law. But he was also suffering from undiagnosed depression and anxiety. Before I got into treatment, I was pretty hard to be around too.

I don’t know what would have happened if I had reached out to my father. Maybe things wouldn’t have worked out, just as I suspected. Maybe we could have found a way to put the past behind us and just enjoy Zach and Kaylee. I wish I could go back and find out.

I’d like to think that some essence of my father, untouched by his anxiety and depression, is still around. I’m not sure I believe in reincarnation, but as physicists say, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.” All the energy of my fear and hatred of him is gone. What’s left is a deep ache of sadness.

My family will be celebrating the Day of the Dead at a friend’s house and also at Zach’s school. Whatever differences my dad and I had, he still deserves to be acknowledged and honored.

A rare photo of my dad and me happy together

My dad and me when I was about 8 years old

Have you lost anyone that you had a difficult relationship with? How did you cope with your loss?