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Life tests in so many ways. Watching a loved one who is sick can be one of the hardest. But how to find courage during this time is the most challenging part. These a personal ways that I’ve managed to keep courage while my brother fights brain cancer.
They’re great tips on how to find courage in any difficult situation.
Take Care Of Yourself
I’m sure a lot of people would be surprised to see this one first. But one of the biggest learning curves I’ve had that stays with me is – you can’t take care of someone else unless you take care of yourself.
Don’t forget yourself!
I know when things get hard we don’t feel like eating, we lose sleep or we don’t even keep our fluids up. We are consumed by the guilt of what’s happening and the helplessness we feel.
Even in these challenging times, we need to remember the small things to help your mind and body as you go through the stress and emotions your feeling.
To give them the best care and most importantly to give them strength, you yourself need to stay strong. And that’s done by making sure you’re eating, drinking and doing your best to try and get some restful sleep.
The first few days of my brothers’ diagnosis were so surreal. The feeling of waking up and remembering that he’s sitting in a hospital bed still makes my stomach turn.
I’ll never forget the night he got diagnosed, coming home from the hospital to see his bed still made and his door wide open. It’s one of those visions that gets etched so deep in your memory, it’s like when someone writes in concrete. It’s always there. Perfect & clear.
But going into the hospital as a hot mess was not going to help him. Was it going to make me feel better – maybe. Because we humans have this amazing quality where if someone we love is in bad shape, we feel we should be too.
But it was such an important time to give my brother strength & resilience.
I ate and drank as I normally would.
I took care of myself so I could be in my best shape to take care of him.
I did this and reminded myself every day that being a mess was not going to help him.
Having my shit together would.
So take care of yourself.
Face Your Feelings Head On
Our biggest fears come up during difficult times. We all know what cancer brings doesn’t it – the nagging reminder that we’re not immortal. That we are given life, but we also have to give it up at some point. And so do our loved ones.
Years before all of this, I read of a Buddhist technique to deal with emotions. Instead of avoiding or rationalizing with it you sit with it.
No fancy, new age jazz of replacing the thoughts of dying by being “positive”. Not only do you still feel like shit doing that, but those damn emotions come back. Time after time.
The only way to truly deal with things, is to sit with it. Surrender to it. Let it consume you until it has no power of you anymore.
After shoving the thought of my brothers’ diagnosis and all it could bring down the deep part of my brain, I finally had enough.
How do you know when it’s enough? When it’s time to face the music?
When it starts to bubble up in other areas of your life. It starts to come out in relentless, unexplainable frustration with your partner or loved ones. When you find yourself getting annoyed at things you usually wouldn’t. Or when you starting treating the person you’re watching go through this, with misdirected frustration and anger.
When all this started happening to me, I knew I needed find courage by just sitting with it. By letting it be and then letting it go.
I sat with my fear of losing him. I let my palms get sweaty. I let myself get panicky. I sat there and I thought about it and all it could bring. I pictured the nitty gritty details. My mind wandered. And I let it. Until it didn’t anymore.
The best bit about emotions (as well all know) is they don’t last forever.
But we avoid facing them because we worry if we sit with it, we’ll be consumed by it. The emotion will be a shadow, following us everywhere.
But there’s something about the brain, the mind, the soul, all the cool, unexplained parts of yourself that science can’t fully explain, that finds strength in sitting with the worst. Letting it be there and realising it’s just emotions. You eventually get past the flight or fight mode. The emotion kind of just dissipates. That’s the point where you find courage.
Once you’ve dealt with what’s sitting at the back of your mind, you free yourself from it.
Know your limits & stick by them
I don’t read life statistics and I don’t see scans.
I grew up in a strong Italian culture. My grandparents came here and faced huge challenges.
No money. A new language. No family. Too much family that they had to support.
You deal with shit as it comes. There’s a stigma that you need to deal with everything and find courage through resilience.
But I learnt through everything, knowing your limits is also strength.
There is nothing wrong with knowing that some parts are too much for you.
So if there’s a book you can’t read, a movie that’s too close to heart, that’s also okay. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to your limitations in that respect.
Not just that – sometimes by reading the stats or Googling things, we end up limiting our thoughts. That’s a problem too.
So once again – it’s OK. If there are some things that are too much, then don’t do it. At the end of the day you know what’s best for yourself.
Learn from others
One of the best things I did was learnt to read through my challenges.
Related content on books & challenges:
When I found that my fears were starting to become overwhelming and bordering on daily anxiety, I found books that would help me face that.
If you’ve read my book posts you’ll know one of my favourite writers is Pema Chodron. Reading her stuff was what really helped me find courage.
The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times saved my ass to put it honestly.
I even read it twice.
Find a book that works for you!
Something that can give you support and help you solve some of your emotional challenges.
Have your bad days
Some days are going to be outright shit.
There’s no doubt about it.
And sometimes the best thing you can do is have the bad day.
Sit and allow yourself time to sulk.
These are usually the days I know I need to face the music (so to speak). The days I sit with my emotions if I feel they’re really getting the best of me.
If you can, take a day out. Have a day off. Give yourself room to sulk first before you try to let the emotions go!!
Related content: 4 Things To Do When You’re Ready To Give Up
Positivity is not about trying to replace every “bad” thought with a good one. A truly content life is one where we can sit and own the days we’re off.
But I do give myself a set time. It’s not hard for a bad day to turn into a bad week. Give yourself a day or two before you make a conscious effort to get yourself back up.