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Finding joy in the storm ( trigger warning )

I’m often asked how I stay positive even during my most trying times in life and today I just wanted to take a few moments to address this question and share a few words on my how.

I want to begin by saying that mental health struggles are REAL and it’s not fair, in fact it’s dangerous to tell ourselves that we can simply just think mental health issues away by being positive. It’s also very dangerous for us to tell those we care about to ” just be more positive “. It’s very important to remember that there is not one of us alike, God made us unique so what works for one person will not work for everyone. I do firmly believe however, that anything we can personally do on our own to help, is well worth the effort. The following is what I do in my every day life to nurture positive mind, body and spirit.

I’ll start by sharing that I spent most of my late teens, 20’s and 30″s with little to no self worth and value. I never felt good enough and these emotions clung me me and held me down like oil on a birds wings keeps them from flying. In digging deep and starting to put in the inner work in late 2010 to find, acknowledge and celebrate my worth, I know what’s to lose if I stop this inner work, this will be something I always work on and pay attention to because a me that finds joy in my every day life is a me at my best for myself and all those around me. I fight to find & celebrate the joy and blessings in my life.

When I use the word fight, I’m not being dramatic, I mean I literally fight those inner feelings that say give in to the self pity, I fight the feelings that say having this pain all the time isn’t fair because I know these feelings don’t serve me and there isn’t one negative thing I can think that will help me so why waste time in that space – now don’t get my wrong, knowing this doesn’t mean I never feel anything but joy, like everyone, I experience a multitude of emotions but I do have things I do that help when life sucker punches me in the face. I truly do wake up each day and remind myself that this could be my last day here on earth and I ask myself if this was my last day, how would I want my family to remember me. My husband and I will be celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary next month and we have 4 wonderful children, 3 boys who are 19, 15 and 7 and a baby girl who’s 2. I know that I won’t always be here for them and so something I can do for them that may stay with them long after I’m gone is showing them that even on my worst days, I can feel both happiness and sadness together.. because I want that so deeply for them, I want them to learn a healthy dance between joy and pain. As a mom, I wish with every fiber of who I am that I could keep hurt and pain away from them but I also know that’s absolutely impossible and part of life. I am acutely aware however that I can show them how to dance with the pain and maybe share that out into my online community. If I do this, I feel I’ve accomplished something meaningful, so yes I fight to find the joy, the blessings because it matters !!! This also means sometimes I just need to CRY and let it out and I show this to my children too, a release is sometimes exactly what we need.

If you’ve been a page friend for any length of time you know that I lost my dad a couple years ago. My dad was released from hospital and I went to visit. My mother and I were talking and my dad was sitting between us listening and adding in his 2 cents from time to time, my mother and I noticed at the same time that my dad had stopped talking and to our complete shock and horror, he had died. Only moments before this my husband had called to tell me that our youngest son at the time had gone poo on the potty for the first time and my dad smiled and gave a thumbs up and now he was just gone. My mother and I both gave him CPR for about 25 minutes until the ambulance arrived ( we live in the country so it took some time to arrive ) we knew he was gone but had to do everything we could just in case. Only a couple weeks previous my oldest son was flown to a children’s hospital with back issues, not able to feel his legs ( He can now but still doesn’t have the mobility he once did ) These experiences changed me, even after ALL that inner work I did, in knocked me down and I started to worry about things I didn’t worry about before, like what if my husband just dies in front of me with no warning, what if I see my child one second and the next they’re gone, what about my mom, family I love….. what if I die, I wasn’t ready to die. Months later, I felt awful one night, my hearing went funny, my vision went blurry, my heart was racing and I was honest to goodness afraid I was dying, we called an ambulance and I begged the pore ambulance attendant to not let me die…I later learned at the hospital that I had my first panic attack induced by ptsd. Moving forward, I had a couple more panic attacks like when visiting my mom where it happened but since I knew the feeling, I was able to calm myself down so they were a bit more mild. Panic / anxiety attacks are horrible, such an awful scary feeling so I must add here —> if someone in your life has panic attacks please be kind, loving and understanding ! As soon as I knew what was going on, I did as much reading as I possibly could about them, knowing all the symptoms helped me tremendously. Knowing I wasn’t dying, I was able to talk myself down, ” you’re not dying Sara, breath, calm yourself, focus on something else , focus on things that bring you joy “ ………. you get the idea.

I HAD to find another way because living afraid of dying is no way to live at all and dying is inevitable, I wish will all my heart that wasn’t true but it is, so one thing we CAN do is decide to make every single moment count and we CANNOT do this by staying in the fear, guilt or shame. Notice I said ” staying ” it’s important to know that feeling sad, angry, lost, afraid, mad…..are all normal emotions to specific situations, it’s staying in that place that’s unhealthy. I read books that helped so I could recognize symptoms, some may need to talk to someone, some may need medication, what ever it is you need, it’s important to get the help and not stay in that place !!

I had managed to find a way passed the panic attacks with a lot of inner work and research and something happened, I got pregnant with our baby girl. We were SOOOO happy and excited but I stopped some strong medications I was taking for my fibromyalgia pain cold turkey plus pregnancy hormones and the fears started to creep back in, it was an amazing happy time in my life, pregnant at 41 with our 4th child, a baby girl but it was also a VERY hard time and I fought every day to see the bright side, to celebrate the joy and my blessings. I was terrified something would happen to her ( terrified ) and all of the sudden terrified something would happen to me during my 4th c section. I had to make a choice to focus on every bit of good, notice every bit of joy, absorb all my blessings, this didn’t take the struggles away but it helped immensely and we were blessed with a healthy baby girl who’s now two. I haven’t had any panic attacks or real worries of having one since the week she was born and God willing, I won’t but I know I could which is why every day I push and strive to see and celebrate all the awesome, it’s a priority like having to breath !! I shared the above so you would know you’re not alone in struggles, you’re not alone in having hard times in life, you’re not alone in needing to find help whatever that help is for you…… YOU’RE NOT ALONE !!

The same is true for my every day physical pain….. I work hard to not focus on what’s out of my control and this doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck for the lack of a better word, I obviously wish I didn’t have pain to deal with but I can’t stay in the place of over thinking it because it will steal my joy. Why do I fight so hard and make it a point to see the joy over the storm and dance in the rain ? Here’s a video, it’s me with baby girl shortly after she was born, loving every moment, absorbing every moment which I just COULD NOT do if I was weighed down constantly in fear, guilt and shame. I make a choice and I choose to see my blessings, I choose to see the bumblebee on the dandelion and celebrate it, I choose to talk to the deer that walks in my yard like it’s a long lost child of mine, I choose to smell the apple blossoms, I choose to laugh at myself when I mess up, I choose to live every day like it could be my last, I choose to get help if I need it …I make a CHOICE to do what needs to be done to not waste a moment in this God given life of mine. Is every day roses ? Of course not….NO !! but there are beautiful roses every day living simultaneously with the thorns.

Things I know that bring me joy that help me celebrate and find the awesome —> I love time with nature or time in worship music or both. This time with God grounds me, set’s up a great foundation. I make a point to see the good, I’ve been doing this so long now that it’s second nature for me but it took years to get to this point. I will say it’s well worth the work and fight !!! In closing, I know this positivity annoys some people hehe they feel like it can’t be real but I have to choose to not care about that and do what I need to do to live MY best most blessed life ! In light and love, Sara Bown

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