When we teach children to swim we tell them that when they get tired and they don’t think they can swim any longer to flip over on their back and float. As adults, we aren’t ever taught what to do when things get hard and we don’t think that we can go on.
2017 was a very hard year for me, a year where I was in a fetal position crying on the floor on more than one occasion. That year my mother was fighting breast cancer and my sister and I were leading her care, my wife and I were trying to adopt a little boy from foster care and I was dealing with harassment from a yoga student at my studio.
Each of those events in my life involved time and emotional turmoil. My mom got an infection that required hospitalization, the little boy that said he wanted to be in our family was having second thoughts and raging his anger in my direction both verbally and physically, and the harassment situation involved lawyers, meeting with the chief of police about getting a restraining order and made me look at the world a bit differently. I was pulled thin in so many directions. On several days after dropping the foster child off at the school across the street from our house, I would close the front door and crumble to the floor and cry for hours. I’d lay there in our narrow entryway in fetal position and sob, my whole body would shake and the tears and snot would form a puddle staining the old wood floor. No one ever saw my breakdowns. I never advertised how difficult of a time I was having holding all the pieces of my life together. I pretended that I could handle it when I really wasn’t.
I knew this kind of darkness though. I’ve been here before, at a different time in my life, but I was familiar with these feelings of loss and desperation. In those moments of darkness, I know that I need an anchor, something to hold on to that will just keep me at that moment until I can get to my therapy appointment or until a solution presents itself. Something that won’t allow me to sink deeper into the dark hole of depression but will keep me present in my life and sober.
Notice I didn’t say that the anchor will make me “happy” or will completely shift the way I am feeling to an opposite feeling. Anchors are to hold you in the space that you are. I don’t have an illusion that there is a magic wand that could totally alter what I am experiencing and magically flip it to something good. The reality is that I need something to hold me in this space so that I don’t sink deeper. Crumbling on the floor crying for a few hours is very different from laying in bed under the covers with the curtains drawn for days, two very different experiences of sadness, and depression.
Brandi Carlile’s music has been and forever will be my anchor, her voice is the reminder that I need to flip over and float here for a while to just be in this moment. It won’t last forever and soon enough it will pass. What could your anchor be? Right now we are living in a pandemic and many people feel at a loss, many people are crumbling on the floor crying and some may be under the covers with the curtains drawn. What could you use to hold you at this moment so that you don’t sink further?
We are just holding, we aren’t pretending that we see the rainbow but we are acknowledging that we can see the sky if we just hold here for a little while. Anchors allow us to stay just as we are until the emotions pass and we have moved through that energy.
Anchors can be a routine that you do daily. Anchors can be music that you listen to, to remind you of moving forward. A movie that you love or a tv series. A hike on a favorite trail. A bike ride to a particular destination. Anchors can be honestly anything but it’s important that your anchor always be the same thing or activity. That way your body and mind know and can recognize what it is and the tool it is used for when you are falling into the well of darkness. Anchors should not be pouring the third glass of wine or eating the entire bag of Oreos! Those activities are not anchors, they are numbing you not to feel. Take a moment and think about it, start building your toolbox so that you can rely on those tools when you need them. Share in the comments what you play to use as your anchor, I’d love to hear them!