Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster of Change

We had a big Friday night. First we went to the synagogue for services. We stayed for supper and to hear Dr. Ann Lapidus Lerner discuss Yehuda Amichai’s poetry.

Friday night services are Kabbalat Shabbat. The tunes are joyous, welcoming Shabbat. Services are short and intimate, with fewer people.

I have trouble with services these days. If I stand during services, I lose my balance, so I sit. And, if I attempt to sing, I can’t keep up with the rest of the congregation. I can’t maintain the pitch for the melodies anymore, because of my hearing loss. When we sing as a congregation, that’s not so bad–who cares about one more off-key person? I suspect it bothers me more than anyone else. But I’m not just one beat behind. I literally can’t sing fast enough. I can’t talk fast enough when we pray in English. So I stay silent and pray in my head. It’s not very satisfying.

If you hear me speak in person these days, I speak more slowly as compared to before the hemorrhage. I can type just as fast. But I can’t get the words out. Even fully hydrated, I’m rarely up to 100% speed. And, at the synagogue, I’m almost always cold, which means I’m even slower than normal.

I can’t pray the way I used to. I can’t sing the way I used to. I haven’t lost my religion. I have lost some of the way I practice. And, on Friday, it hit me when Ann started to discuss Amichai’s poetry.

Satir Change ModelOne of the poems discussed standing still or bending like a reed while praying. Amichai drew the distinction between whether God is bending or the person is bending. Well, that got me close to the emotional cliff.

Then, we went to Melodie, my dance teacher’s, goodbye celebration at the dance studio. (Yes, as assimilated Jews, we walk a very fine line and make choices.) I’d taken my medication, and been drinking extra water all evening. Mark and I warmed up with a few dances, and with all the extra people, I was just slightly cool in the studio.

Melodie had a great idea for her honors dance. Normally, she would have danced with every person, but that would have taken way too long. So she organized snippets of dances with people dancing with other teachers, in pairs, by themselves. It was great. Mark got to lead Melodie out to start things off. When it was my turn, I danced with Istvan.

I successfully danced a foxtrot. My knees bent, as they were supposed to. My ankles didn’t roll. I followed, which is sometimes a feat in itself :-) Istvan and I had not prepared anything special so I really did have to follow him. I only half-fell into him once, and I did catch myself. Considering the dimness of the lights, I’m quite pleased with my first public dance performance on my new knee.

And, then watching everyone else dance, it hit me. I will never dance independently again. I can only dance with a partner to hold onto. I can be rational about this, but when I’m tired or cold or tired or my defenses are down or tired (see that theme?) I’m overwhelmed again.

My life is never going to be what it was. I can never go back. None of us can. But rarely do we have such dramatic demarcation lines.

I was overwhelmed by emotions on Friday night. I was thrilled I performed so well. I was sad to see Melodie leave, and happy that she will be starting a dance school in London.

There are so many things I can never do again. It overwhelms me when I think about it. So when I do think about it, I don’t know how to manage my emotions. I continue to be saddened and stumped by my inability to participate in services. I don’t know how to sing with my congregation. How can I lift up my voice in prayer when I’m a phrase or more behind?

My sadness, what I call my dark times, come less frequently now, which is good. That is because I have been focusing on building my emotional resilience. But when these times come, they hit me hard.

These are problems which are hard to discuss. How do you have the discussion that you are not the same person you were before? That your life is not going to be what you thought it was? And, for your partner, spouse, significant other, how do you acknowledge that person also got cheated–their life with you is changed forever?

When you have the undiscussable issues, you have a choice. You can bottle them up. That’s a recipe for disaster. You can journal about them. You can talk to someone about them. If you write about them or talk to someone, you have more choices for action afterwards. Please don’t ignore them. Take the courage to write them down or talk to someone about them. That’s the first step in developing your emotional resilience.

Just writing this down has made me feel better. Acknowledging that I am not perfect (!), in my thoughts, emotions, and actions makes me feel better.

I know I’m lucky that I have a condition that allows me to live most of the life I had before. But I’m still cheated out of the life I expected to have. No matter how much I try, I will never get my balance back. Working on it will improve it, so it’s worth the work I do. Working on my speech will improve it, so it’s worth the work. Working on my singing will improve my pitch. Everything will improve, so it’s all worth the work.

I joke to Istvan, my other dance teacher, that everything takes me longer. Normal people might take a hundred times to learn a step. It takes me a bazillion. For me, using my sense of humor about the work helps. Acknowledging the work helps.

Here’s a quote from  Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive

The most pivotal difference, though, between those with and without resilient personality styles was their positivity. It was the secret of their success. It was the mechanism behind their lesser depression and their greater psychological growth. In short, we discovered that resilience and positivity go hand-in-hand. Without positivity, there is no rebound.

Knowing I will be positive at some point, and knowing about the three levels of emotional resilience has helped me grow through this period of change in my life.

So, I take another drink of water, and know that it’s time to get more sleep. Because, for me, the first part of emotional resilience is knowing I have to take of me physically. And that’s what I did the rest of the weekend.

For those of you who are having your dark days, acknowledge your undiscussables. Once you start discussing them, they lose the power they had over you. You might not be positive right away, but you might develop the ability to be positive later. And, I recommend Fredrickson’s book. I haven’t finished it yet. But what I’ve read, I like.

9 thoughts on “Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster of Change”

  1. I’m touched, by this text.

    I see you as a strong women.
    And actually, writing so openly about what is difficult to impossible for you and how hard that emotionally is for you, only strong people can do this.

    My godfather, (I wrote about him here: http://www.hanoulle.be/2012/01/my-role-model-as-a-change-artist/) he was a priest.
    And when he asked people to sing in his church, he always said:
    sing as if your neighbours are deaf.

    I hope you will continue to sign and find a way to make it work for you.
    Just like you did for dancing. True, you can’t dance alone anymore. The idea that I would not be able to dance alone, frightens me. Yet your solution: dancing with someone brings me joy. At least you dance.
    Next you need to figure out how to dance with yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-VPgyMAfM4

    1. Yves, Jacques sounds like a man I would have enjoyed knowing. Thank you for sharing your memories of him with us. I like the fact that he said, “Sing as if your neighbors are deaf.” That is an excellent thing to say. In church or synagogue, it’s all about community, which is the beauty of the overall sound, not the beauty of an individual sound.

      And, I love that movie. That movie is toooo funny. I laughed out loud. Thank you!

  2. Johanna, my dear friend, now I know you are walking with a cane and really look forward to seeing this endearing image in person!

    I am a bit concerned that you are using the term “cheat” describing what happened with you. Anything what happens to good people is a blessing. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know why, but one day you or your loved ones will see that very clearly. If you think hard enough, you probably will see already now how it could be a blessing. Then work on bringing out the potential, not just on copying with the obstacles and inconveniences. Please strive to reach new highs in the new areas rather than just to become better in the areas, which may be not so much for you anymore.

    Recently in my family there was a quite scary health incident, which reminded me how complex our bodies are and that we should not expect that they always will function as well as they usually do (isn’t it a mirracle in itself!). I hope this change in perspective will help me taking care of my parents, who are not becoming younger with each year…

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I want to say that it has given me food for thought, but it is much closer to say that it has given me fuel to feel.

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