Being in crisis is a bridge that we all have to cross, probably several times within a lifetime. These are the times when our lives are turned upside down, from life changes or death or illness or tragedy.
Being in crisis means it is impossible to sleep. You forget to eat. You lose track of the date. Days are scheduled around crying jags. Personal grooming becomes optional. Forget grocery shopping or driving or exercise or even working for awhile.
Because I’m in the middle of a crisis right now, I can tell you that people can be the worst. I mean this in the best way. Because no matter how many times I cross the in crisis bridge as it cycles around, I have a hard time internalizing the lessons on how to treat others. I end up doing the exact same things that I find so infuriating when I am looking for love and support. And when my family and friends are in crisis, I don’t want to be the worst.
First, the Professionals
When you’re in crisis, the professionals in your life will contradict one another. This is the consequence of everyone being able to have an opinion. It’s not intentional or even personal.
The contradictions are, however, infuriating. Especially when they come from professionals with whom you have worked closely and whom you trust.
I have a lot of health professionals in my life. That is how I roll. My two favorites are my therapist and my naturopath. And because I need my business to stay private for awhile, I’m going to substitute “buying bananas” as my in crisis example.
In working with my therapist, I brought up that I really felt that I needed to buy bananas. I didn’t know how many or how much they would cost, but this was a purchase I needed to make. She agreed, even though buying so many bananas was going to put a strain on every part of my life. We made a plan to work closely together, and she suggested (read: demanded) that I visit my naturopath to help take care of my physical body during this time.
In between therapy sessions, I had an appointment with my naturopath, who was taken aback a bit by my need for bananas. She said, “I wish you hadn’t bought the bananas already. We should have had a conversation about them because maybe there are other issues that can be adjusted so that you don’t need bananas at all.”
Well, the bananas had been purchased. And if wishes were horses, they’d poop all over the place (I think that’s how that saying goes…). I left that appointment in tears, angry, and feeling more lost than I had before. The contradiction was infuriating.
Second, Your People May Not Listen
We all have Our People. These are the friends and family we turn to when everything is terrible and we can’t have a conversation without bursting into tears. When we are confused and lost and don’t know how we are going to hang on.
Even though Your People have your back, they may not listen. And Your People may even include mental and physical healthcare professionals.
Here’s the thing: Your People have a vested interest in your life and well-being. They love you. Whatever you’re going through is going to feel like a threat to what they think and feel and believe not just about your life, but about their own. This is a consequence of being human.
The act of listening is nearly impossible. The shedding of our expectations and desires and triggers and feelings to really hear somebody else, that is divine practice. Most of us do not know how to listen like that.
Third, Advice Everywhere
One of My People was in crisis several months ago, and it was so easy for me to tell her, “You know what I would do…”
And one point she turned to me, looked me dead in the eye, and quietly but sharply enunciated, “And what is it that you think you would do, exactly?”
My heart dropped. I felt nauseous. A day or two before, I had just heard her say that she was sick of all of the advice. But I hadn’t really listened.
I thought of this example every time one of My People gave me advice. We like to think that we know what we would do “in this situation” or “in that crisis.”
But here’s the thing: we don’t know what we would do at all. When you’re in the middle of that in crisis bridge and the structure itself starts to shake and you are worn out from sobbing and you haven’t eaten all day and you just want to lay down in the middle of the grocery store aisle, you simply do not know what to do. Which is the essence of being in crisis.
Fourth, Call People Out on Their BS
I received so much advice and contradiction and non-listening that I wasn’t even angry anymore. Maybe this was exhaustion, or perhaps an increase in compassion. One thing was for certain: with every “should” and “you know what I would do” and “but what about,” I grew in strength and conviction
I knew what I wanted. I knew what I needed. I knew what was right. I would not listen to BS anymore.
The next time one of My People offered a quip of advice, I calmly and simply said, “I just want someone to be on my side now. I have practiced the waiting and compassion and patience for months, and now I am done. This is what I want. This is what I’m doing.”
This person stared at me for a moment. “That was some nice calling out of my BS,” she said.
“No problem,” I answered, and our conversation continued. Without advice or contradiction or non-listening.
Finally, Trust Your Own Mind
In crisis or not, you are in charge of your life. You get to decide what you want.
Sure, I left that first naturopath appointment completely deflated. When I went back a few days later, she remarked that, “My anger was palpable.” I could have tried to let it go, but I felt that this relationship was worth the effort of talking this out, and we did.
I could continue to search for validation outside of myself and not receive it; this is a waste of time. At some point, I’m going to have to trust that this mind and soul and body deserves the very best I can give it. I am worth trusting myself.
Because I do not want to be the worst. I’m also worth trying to grow into the person I want to be when someone else is in crisis.