Out of the Volcano

I just got home from the most wonderful week with my sister at a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. My sister and I took a hike up to the Poaz Volcano one day and I came upon this sign on the trail. I fell in love with the simplicity of it. Yes. This is it. These are just the steps you need to remember when in the midst of a crisis.

1. Keep Calm.

Adjective (of a person, action, or manner) not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other emotions. synonyms: serene, tranquil, relaxed, unruffled, unperturbed, unflustered,untroubled;

In the midst of a crisis, the first and most important thing to remember is to keep calm.I can remember quite a few times when Megan is in a tough time and struggling to find her way out that I was most definitely NOT CALM. Not helpful.

When do I know I am definitely not calm? When my body can’t eat or sleep. When all I can think about is the problem.

What do you do to keep calm in the midst of a storm? For me yoga, riding my horse, deep breathing and ANYTHING that gets me out of my head. What are your triggers? What do you do to stay calm for your kids?

2. Evacuate quickly on the trails.

In basic terms, move away from the danger. Find the resources your kid needs to keep going forward, find the resources YOU NEED to keep moving forward (see #1 if you are wondering if you need resources.Don’t feel like you can find calm – go get a resource.)

My danger is ignoring the problem. Pretend there isn’t falling ash and that volcano just behind you isn’t really going off. Keep walking the trail. Surely someone else will deal with that smell that is burning your lungs and making it hard to see. Keep walking into it.

Here is the deal. When there is danger I know I need to acknowledge it and deal with it. Some ways I do that include talking to a friend about it (I’m scared and I don’t know what to do to get out of this crisis), see a therapist or trusted professional that will help you figure out a plan to heal. And most important (and my daughters favorite line to say) TALK ABOUT IT. Talk to others on the same trail. Where are they evacuating to? Do they have suggestions about where you should go to be safe?TALK ABOUT IT.

3. Follow the trail.

This seems obvious right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided it would be easier and faster to get to safety by going off trail. So many times I’ve insisted to myself that my stress or anxiety around mental illness will pass if I just ignore it. Work harder. Don’t talk about it (by the time I mention it, it will be over right?)

Follow the trail. Mental illness doesn’t just go away if you medicate alone – I’m gonna tell you something you don’t want to hear – if you ignore it, it will get worse. I promise you that. If you deal with it, it will get better. I promise you that. You have to follow the trail. Therapy, talking about it (damn, there it is again), medication, medication changes, diet changes. All these things take more time than the short cuts – but you will be less beat up by the time you get to safety. I promise.

4. If you have trouble, request for help.

ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT. The end. The strongest, bravest, most authentic people I know call out the calvary when they need help. There is no shame in asking for help. Only strength.And lots and lots of support from here.

5. In case of eruptions, watch for falling rocks.

In the spirit of lets talk about it – falling rocks are the things we fear the most as parents dealing with mental illness. By rocks, I mean those very unhelpful things that can be thrown at us by society. Those rocks can come from the internet, family, friends and even thrown by the one that needs help the most. Dodge those damn things as much as you can. Limit screen time for yourself and your kid if you are able– limit it to websites that make you laugh or get you out of your head for a few minutes. Don’t allow your screen to throw rocks straight at you from websites that tell you how horrible mental illness is, sad mental health stories or criticisms of the trails you decided to take.

Take yourself out of the path of oncoming rocks being thrown at other Moms who don’t understand your trail. Lovingly refuse to catch the rocks thrown by your kid when their brain chemistry needs a refresh.

For me, the rock that I never see coming tends to be overscheduling. If we are in a crisis my first thought is to keep busy, keep moving. And that is sometimes the worst thing for me, my family and Megan. Sometimes it is okay to sit on the couch and rest.

Write down a list of potential rocks that throw you off your trail.Then when you are in the volcano you don’t have to remember which ones to look out for.

It was a luxury I rarely allow myself – to care for me and leave work, family and home in the care of others. When you have a kid that is struggling with health issues, the pull of “I must stay close just in case something goes wrong” is so very strong in Moms. Can I just tell you after last week, that you must resist it with everything you have? I know – it is really hard. But do it. And if you go on a yoga retreat let me know so I can come too!!

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