Finding Grace In Hard Times

Finding Grace In Hard Times

Years ago, a mentor advised me that my primary task was to pay attention to the good things happening all around me if I wanted to last.

Otherwise, she cautioned, it’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming “emotional shredded cardboard.” At the time, I was so young, that I was not even sure what she was trying to tell me.

She recommended a middle way, in which we resist choking off our natural empathy, and instead cultivate a rich inner life that is able to attend to, work with, and release the emotions that accompany our work.

I AM Peace.

I AM Peace.

As we wander through life's thicketed forest, we encounter over and over our mental, emotional and spiritual selves. Standing alone in the wild exposes us to shadowy perceptions capable of disorienting us. Our energy can becomes disturbed. We may attach ourselves to the disturbance. The phenomenon called "anxiety" is one such attachment. Anxiety erodes our strength and inner vitality.

How Tragic Endings Inspire Courageous Beginnings

Guest post: Kristi Horner, Executive Director, Courage to Caregivers

He shared that he wanted to end his life.

I was booked on the next flight with him. We then worked together diligently for 2 more weeks to get a workable care plan in place. We struggled mightily to somehow get his life back in order.

My family and I eventually came to realize that the trauma of relatively minor surgery left our brother with chronic pain. The minor surgery aggravated his underlying depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What followed next for our family was 4 years of becoming his primary caregivers. In the trauma of this time we found ourselves treading water, always waiting for the next call. My sisters, parents and I were his primary long-distance caregivers. We provided untold hours of emotional support on the phone. His first real caregivers were his wife and small children who provided his daily physical and emotional care. In the end, his inability to manage his mental health challenges ended up in divorce and a custody battle.

May 30, 2014
Our lives were changed forever. We received a very different call.
Our brother ended his battle with mental illness by ending his life.

So you see, as caregivers and family members for someone we loved very much with mental illness we learned a thing or two about not only how to provide care, but ultimately, how we needed to take better care of ourselves.

Self-care for the Caregiver – Is it possible?

For me, it’s ALWAYS easier to OFFER help. This impulse is at my very core. I love helping people get smarter, grow stronger, feel more empowered, and become more independent.

If someone says they're sick, I offer to get soup. If someone has a flat tire or gets stuck in the snow, I call AAA or come to the rescue. If someone is having a bad day, I offer to come over - take a walk with them - or just listen. But where my own well-being is concerned, I'm the first to downplay my feelings. I like to be a problem-solver. I don't like to feel “needy.” I've had to be strong and independent my entire life. I don’t like to admit when I feel vulnerable because then I open myself up to feelings that I’m not strong or independent enough.

Does that sound like you, too?

Finding a comfort zone with self-care starts with the mask.

Owning your own story of being a caregiver to someone you love living with mental illness is the first step.

Owning your own story of being a caregiver to someone you love living with mental illness is the first step.

Self-care often gets a bad “rap.” It's become a “buzz-catch" phrase. It might even sound selfish. And yet, we know that self-care is NOT selfish. In fact, it’s like the flight attendants’ message to “put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping those around you.” Often, we want to help everyone around us FIRST and then put on our oxygen mask. Yet, did you know you have only 18 seconds of “useful consciousness” after the oxygen mask deploys? So, if you don’t put on your oxygen mask first, what help can you be to those around you?

We now recognize that self-care is a literal “oxygen mask” for the mental illness caregiver. Our webinar will help you recognize caregiving's effects on wellbeing. We will identify barriers to self-care, and review a self-care checklist to ensure the caregiver has the resources to stay strong and healthy.

The tragic ending inspires a courageous beginning.

Courage to Caregivers is a nonprofit organization founded in Cleveland in 2017 to provide education, support and empowerment for the caregivers and loved ones of those living with mental illness. I founded it after four years of providing emotional and mental health support to my brother living with his mental illness

Following his suicide in 2014, I realized there had to be a better way to support mental illness caregivers. I had allowed his mental health and well-being to take priority over my own. And yikes! I gained forty pounds in the process. I’ve learned a lot about improved self-care practices for caregivers as we’ve diligently worked to create program models for Courage to Caregivers.

Courage to Caregivers was formed to help people like Nancy, who found herself in need of personal support as she cared for a family member. In Nancy’s words:

I was scrambling for tools and understanding on how to respond. I called Courage to Caregivers and was given immediate and ‘lifesaving’ attention. As I practiced and utilized the tools and tips, I also developed greater confidence and learned the importance of self-care as a caregiver. I am forever grateful for Courage to Caregivers and their tools for life!

Courage to Caregivers launched its first pilot program - the One-to-One Caregiver Support program -in November 2018. The program connects caregivers with volunteers who have experience caring for someone living with a mental illness. The purpose of the program is to provide participants with training and resources to help them take care of themselves both physically and emotionally so they are better able to take care of their loved one. Good news – this program can also be virtual!

We have launched our next two pilot programs – Breathing Meditation and Support Groups on the East and West sides of Cleveland.

Free Live Webinar!
Join Kristi and Rita for a free 1 hour continuing education webinar: Essential Tools for Mental Health Caregivers for social workers on February 12, 2019, 10:00 a.m.

The Joy of Connection

The Joy of Connection

Thanks to Apple, the “Me” movement is bigger than ever ... and growing. Gadgets, apps and social media drive greater focus on the almighty Me, Myself and I. Corporations with their social media extensions feed our hungry ego's wants to acquire and proclaim itself. We need to find the roadmap to joyful connection and remember how we can change the world together with love.

Avoiding Holiday Meltdowns

Avoiding Holiday Meltdowns

Holidays can bring out the best - or worst in us. Amid commercials depicting cheery families dressed in matching pajamas, there is often a quiet melancholy that drifts into our psyches. We mix fantasy, memories, guilt and mild skepticism into a seasonal beverage that we consume in large quantities. Take extra loving measures such as moving the body, relaxing the mind and planting light into the heart.

Talking to the Spirit World

Say hello! :)

The Spirit World wants to help us grow, heal and recover from setbacks.

The Spirit World wants to help us grow, heal and recover from setbacks.

The Spirit World has a strong desire to connect with us living in the Physical World. Just because they don't jump in the car or meet us at the Cheesecake Factory for lunch, they still sincerely (and literally in Spirit World) continue to see us every day.

The Spirit World is comprised of Beings who have left their physical bodies due to stress, disease or old age. Their earth bodies completed the work on Earth, and it was time to re-enter another form. They can show up in more than one place at a time since they’re not limited by a body. These light-filled beings travel in and out of form. When needed, they are able to assume the forms of an animal, a body of water, a land mass or a human.

Without a physical body, Spirits are free of the restrictions around time and space. They don’t need to run through the airport to catch a plane or speed on the highway to make it to the next appointment. They rely on flow and Universal Rhythms to call upon a specific energy to assist humans. They nudge us to slow down and to detach from the stresses that cause fear, drama and illness.

Sprits join with other Spirits to help humanity. Global shifts from the mundane to the miraculous occur in co-creativity with the Spirit World. Thanks to this special partnership we are able to:

  1. believe in the power of love, peace and joy.

  2. see past egos and into unity consciousness.

  3. circulate healing energy to repair minor wounds in the Self and release major brokenness in communities.

What do you require from the Sprit World?

  • Guidance/Reassurance

    Navigating the rocky road of life can lead us down paths of loneliness, betrayal, pain and desperation. We encounter periods of suffering when thoughts and feelings overwhelm, stress and rock us to the core. When the way forward isn’t clear, the heart pursues answers beyond the practical and rational. It heads off the beaten path (pun intended) in search of light. We call out to anyone who can hear our urgent petitions. In the midst of our pleas, voices arise out of seemingly thin air. Although we may or may not decipher the source of these sounds-we feel better, assured and hopeful.

    We are somehow more welcoming and less intimidated by an extraordinary presence in tough times. Be certain the Spirit World loves to help us in any way they can to boost our morale, nudge us in the right direction and offer insights for gaining wisdom. Through them we transcend the egotistical, practical and typical ways of moving out of the muck that keeps us stuck.

  • Healing/Divine Timing

    The diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, the death of a loved one, hurricanes and other tragedies spin us into crisis mode. Although we lean in on our tribe or community to assist us, recovery seems monumental and endless. Normally, people spend time with us during the height of crisis and then walk away when things have subsided. For those of us in the hot seat of crisis, the transition back to ordinary life contains many unanswered details.

    When unexplainable moments happen, we are disturbed and detoured from what we understand as normal. The fear of the unknown can relentlessly fill our minds with erratic ideas. The turning point seems nowhere in sight. The looming and overwhelming questions appear in our heads:

    Who’s time clock am I on?

    Will the veil of suffering lift?

    Can I survive this crisis?

    The Spirit World holds Divine space for us. It is capable of seeing beyond crisis. In this spiritual container, we are embraced by Enlightened Beings who care for us every minute of every day of our human existence. They are committed to transforming our entire being to stand up and find strength in whatever unstable and unshakable experiences that come our way.

  • Messages/Opening to Wisdom

    When we open ourselves to Spirit, we serve as channels of love and light between the Spirit and Physical Worlds. By joining their efforts to raise awareness, create flow and step outside of ego, Spirits boost our internal tanks with lasting messages and wisdom.

    The Spirit World constantly delivers messages of Peace, Love and Joy straight to your imagination’s inbox. They are capable of teaching us how to practice sacred truths within this chaotic and time-based reality. When we allow our intuition to join with Spirit's essence, we realize we have unlimited access to holiness, deep compassion and spiritual intelligence. With a willing mind and an open heart we can step more fully into the Divine version of ourselves and use human experiences to help other beings in positive ways.

What Energies Block Clear Communication with Spirit World?

When we are in states of grief, hopelessness, bitterness, hatred and hostility, the ability to sense the Spirit World seems non-existent. Because we invest time in existing in adverse circumstances, we are blinded to possibilities and hope. Eventually we experience a Divine wake up call (or two) from the Spirit World that pokes us out our “ego coma.” At that point, the Spirit World (a place without deadlines or pressures to succeed) begins the process of unblocking us. For some the trail may feel like a series of miracles and others a set of coincidences destined to create these internal shifts.

What Experiences Does the Spirit World Shield for the Human World?

  • Experiences which significantly alters one’s life path, i.e. winning lottery ticket numbers
    We are encoded with learning specific lessons in life. If the request alters or derails someone from their earth school studies, the Spirit World does not intervene. When I do an intuitive reading for someone I am able to find out what his/her life theme is and the events contributing to their lessons.

  • Experiences in which you don’t believe the dream will happen
    If we are not 100% devoted to your dream or vision, a part of us is afraid of the outcome. Unclear requests generate confusing and misaligned energy. Ask the Spirit World for a way to gain clarity so you can be heard and answered. For example a client wanted to decide which job opportunity would be the perfect fit. The guided message I shared with her: “What is your intention for your work? How does it line up with the mission of the organization? How will it contribute to your spiritual expansion?” The point of this example is the client had to pause and reflect before a clear response would be presented to her.

  • Experiences in which you seek revenge/harm/pain on another being
    We cannot look to the Spirit World to avenge another. They are 100% pure love and light and do not have the means of assisting our damaged egos to participate in such destructive acts.

Encounters with negative energies - what to do?

We may feel unexplainable sadness or frustration when we are stuck. We may be attached to unhealthy substances or feel strong, uncontrollable urges to watch pornography, gamble or shop. We may feel so empty and lost in the deep and darkest ocean and have decided life is not worth living. Beyond the clinical assessment of depression, suicidal thoughts, addiction and pain, it is possible that lower energies are around us. Empaths and intuitives are easily susceptible to negative energies. They need to pay close attention when they fall into a mysterious slump and their fears take over. Choose one or more of the following ideas to bring light into yourself or your space:

  1. Set an intention and light a candle. Say these words: “Dear Spirit World, I call upon your love and light to release any negative energies present in my life right now. I ask for your infinite wisdom to provide me with any tools or guidance to eliminate any energy that is expired and not serving my highest good or the highest good of all. I am sincerely grateful for your intervention and for your powerful efforts. Blessings.”

  2. Open imagination. Perhaps none of these suggestions feel right to you. Spend a few quiet moments and pay attention to what is being said to you. Record the message and follow instructions.

  3. Clear energy with sound. Clapping and chanting raise the vibration of a space.

  4. Smudge. Using incense or holy water opens the channel of communication between you and the Spirit World.

  5. Go outside. Hugging a tree, breathing fresh air, walking along the water shakes off negativity.

  6. Open windows to let out stale and inert energies.

  7. Contact Rita! If you’re still unsure about what to do or you just don’t want to deal with negativity, I offer remote Spiritual Clearings for individuals, pets, places and businesses.