Elaine: Sources of Support
Elaine has found support through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-anon programs. She has friends that listen to her and husband, Mark is supportive. In her current work, she focuses on mental health and creating change. She has developed a technique called Meditative Movements™, which involves using physical exercise to improve emotional well-being. The goal is to reduce anxiety, depression, and fatigue. She teaches classes at an organization that supports complementary healing strategies and she participates in meditation retreats. Elaine is doing work that is consistent with her philosophy about the importance of the mind-body connection and the interaction between physical and emotional well-being. She is excited about how her work helps people.
Elaine tries not to respond out of guilt or fear in her relationship with her daughter. She is creating change in past patterns of family dynamics, is more open to recognizing emotions, and is moving on to healing. She reflected on Terry’s past suicide ideation.
Because she didn’t commit suicide, I don’t want to take her success. It’s hers, so I think that is an important part in parenting. We have an impact yet how do you let them do what they need to do? Because that would be too much for anyone to take someone else’s behavior and say that if she did try to commit suicide, it’s my fault or my responsibility. I think that’s part of mental health—what is my responsibility, what’s yours? Because you interact and there’s that whole piece when you think that you’re in control of somebody else; I think that’s similar to the alcoholism. What I experienced with my ex-husband is that you’re not responsible for that.
At the time her mother died, Elaine reflected on losses from the past. One of her siblings, a three-year old brother died when she was seven years old. She talked about the importance of expressing grief because “it’s physically in your body.” Her intention is “to live life loving life and not fearing death.”
Although Elaine expressed that she is generally happy with the U. S. healthcare system, she is wary that the use of drugs bypasses one’s ability to “listen to your own thoughts” and “pay attention to what you are supposed to be learning.” Yet she acknowledges her daughter needs medication for managing bipolar disorder. Her husband Mark has said that he will not help Terry if she stops taking her medication. Elaine is curious about the impact of emotions, such as anger, on physical health. She talked about her own experience with skin cancer and the emotional work she needs to do.
It’s for me to be present with myself and to be aware and to separate thoughts that are inaccurate and harmful. When we are children, we do what we need to survive and most often repress our emotions. Your body will respond because you’re not meant to carry that negativity.
For the future, Elaine hopes that Terry will find a life partner. Terry likes to cook and do things for other people. Elaine would love to see someone in Terry’s life who cares for her and is hopeful that the relationship with her daughter will continue to grow. She is thankful that they do things together. She wants a different relationship with her daughter in comparison to what she experienced with her mother. Elaine is interrupting the negative family pattern and attributes this change to the emotional healing work she is doing. It is more than “putting a band aid on the emotional hurts.” Reflecting on her own response to past challenges, Elaine observed,
To me the divorce solidified I was a failure. Because of that I really had to look at where I could heal my life. That was a critical change for me. The pain was so great that I knew I needed to make a change. Had I stayed married I probably would have been worse. . . I had a choice. You can say something different, be something different in this moment. And your future will change. With that, I’m willing to be in the moment.
Elaine shared her story about Terry’s suicide attempt at a mental health conference, consistent with her advocacy for being open to talking about challenging life experiences. She explained, “I believe that if you heal something now, it can impact past generations as well as future. From a spiritual standpoint, if that’s the purpose that I’m here for, then I think I’ve allowed that to take place.” She is a staunch advocate for accepting “where it’s at” and seeking help. She emphasized the importance of taking care of self.
It’s being compassionate with yourself. If you expect a different result than what you’re getting right now, you’re in for a rude awakening. To be able to really have compassion for what’s happened in the past and have some hope. That’s why I think it’s important to talk with other people about what’s possible. I feel fortunate with my experience with Terry because I know it can be much more heart wrenching.
Her willingness to examining her motivation and the impact of her life decisions has led Elaine toward seeking acceptance and opportunities for growth.
For me now, it’s that life wants me to be here. That I didn’t create myself. I’m saying yes to life on its terms. I believe I’m an eternal being. I have a purpose here. Spirituality for me is the essence of why we’re here. I think it’s to appreciate everybody else’s contribution. This is what I have learned. I have a purpose. I have learned to appreciate everybody else with no judgment on what they’re doing.