I met with a patient who was tearful and overwhelmed. She was experiencing very usual emotions after a cancer diagnosis. It was difficult for her to understand why she was feeling this way. She was uncomfortable with the waves of emotion she could not control.
We all tend to feel we have control of our lives, then something shakes that notion and our control breaks into a million pieces. A part of feeling in control stems from our trust and reliance in ourselves, our independence. “I can do anything I set my mind to,” “I am the one who helps others,” “I am the caregiver.” Those thoughts are admirable, and characteristics of strong, successful, caring people. But “people” is the key word here. People are flesh and bone, thoughts, feelings and essence. We can silo off those aspects of ourselves for a short time, but at some point they will flow over our walls and mingle again, as they should.
Find a safe place to experience these uncomfortable waves of uncertainty, sadness and fear. Take a walk, talk with a friend, or listen to music, whatever calms you. Let the experiences happen, know you are safe and begin to recognize what can be controlled and what to let go.
It won’t all happen at once and the waves won’t stop altogether. But be assured the waves will not always be hurricane force. Your waves will become a gentler, soothing mingling with your shore. Learn to fortify your shoreline, and you will withstand the waves.