Driving across the dusty desert in Arizona was the last place I had expected to be that February morning a few years ago. I can’t say that I ever expected to be in an abusive marriage or that I would ever have to flee for my safety. But, here I was, running for my life and praying he wouldn’t find me.
My family and a few close friends had sent me messages, keeping tabs on me and checking to see how I was doing. But when they asked, “How are you?” I didn’t know how to respond. My life, at that moment, had imploded. I was operating on the absolute basics. But sometimes, even those basics weren’t enough. Was I alive? Yes. Functioning? If you can call it that.
My phone rang somewhere along I-40. The first smile I’d felt all day crossed my face when I heard my boss’ voice on the other end of the line.
The first thing she asked me was, “Are you safe?”
Yes. At that moment, anyway.
Then she asked this: “Have you eaten today?”
Eaten? I blinked. I had forgotten to eat for three solid days. My body didn’t feel hungry and was running on an excess of adrenaline, so I hadn’t remembered it needed food or more than a few sips of Gatorade.
Her following questions were, “Have you showered today? Did you brush your teeth?”
Those sound like silly questions for one adult to ask another adult. But in that moment of trauma and flight-for-life, they were easy to neglect and forget.
She stayed on the phone with me until I pulled over at the first restaurant I spotted and got something to eat. She didn’t hang up until she could hear me chewing and swallowing the first few bites. She created an easy accountability system for me, having me text her when I had accomplished the other basic tasks. If I didn’t, she followed up with me.
Those little things ended up being huge for me in those first six weeks after I had left my home. They made me feel infinitely better, cleared my head, and kept my body healthy. But even in the months and years after, I was living under constant stress, and I tried to navigate this new normal. Leaving sticky notes around the house or keeping myself accountable with a friend did wonders for me. And step by step, I was able to keep moving forward.
Have You Eaten Today?
Hopefully, you have never had to experience trauma at that level I just described before. My heart reaches out to you if you have, but I promise you can make it through. One step at a time. One moment at a time.
Maybe you are in a situation where every day is a challenge. Life seems to be falling apart, or every day seems like an uphill climb (through the snow, in all directions). When these seasons are happening in our lives, it’s so easy to neglect caring for ourselves and make good choices. If we continue that pattern long enough, our bodies will wear out and break down, and we will find ourselves getting sick, exhausted, or facing medical issues. It’s critical that no matter what we face, no matter how difficult or traumatic, we try our best to take care of ourselves.
If Someone You Love Needs Support
If someone you love is going through a difficult time, you can support them. Here are a few ways to get started.
- Instead of asking how they are, ask them if they have done some of the day’s basic things: showering, eating, brushing teeth, getting out of bed, and putting on clean clothes.
- Offer a meal, babysit (or pet-sit), or bring them a care package of things they like. If you ask them what they need, their head might be spinning too much for them to know how to answer.
- If you live nearby, see if they would like to go for a walk or share another activity you both enjoy.
- Be a listening ear. Sometimes when going through challenging seasons, a person needs to talk through things. Remember: you do not replace a trained counselor, and it is essential for your loved one to seek additional help if necessary.
- Be consistent in checking in with your loved one. If a tragic event has happened, make sure that you set a reminder to keep checking in regularly. After significant events conclude, such as funerals or divorces finalized, most texts, phone calls, letters, and other support starts to disappear. Having a continued presence in your loved one’s life can help.
What other ways can you think of to support a loved one who is going through a difficult time? Let me know in the comments! Remember, your ideas can help others support their loved ones.
If You Need Support
- If you are in a domestic violence situation or are feeling hopeless, reach out for help. Here are the links and phone numbers where you can find support:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline:
- (800) 799-SAFE (7233)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- (800) 273-8255
- Say something. Reach out to trusted friends, family, or your church and let them know what’s happening. It’s easy to feel alone when going through complicated situations, but remember that you’re not. Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, but it is healthy. Be proud of yourself for having the courage to ask!
- My favorite quote is, “One impossible thing at a time.” Sometimes getting out of bed, eating a meal, taking a shower, and putting on a clean shirt can feel impossible. Take them on one at a time, one moment at a time. Put out a sticky note or checklist where you will see it if that helps you to remember what you need to do.
- At some point, find a certified counselor who can be a help to you. If you have gone through a traumatic experience, you may want to consider one who is certified in EMDR therapy. A counselor can be a valuable resource as you talk through the overwhelming and challenging situations in your life and offer wisdom and guidance as you navigate things.
- Try to make wise and healthy decisions, especially where meals are concerned. When you’re tired and stressed, it’s easy to order out for pizza or eat a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough. Your brain and body need good nutrients to function and make critical decisions. Try to cook at home, even if it’s something basic, and get a good balance of protein, carbs, healthy fats, and vegetables. Some nights, exercising a little culinary creativity might give your day a little boost. Click here for 21 fun recipes to get you started.
- On the topic of healthy decisions, try to get some exercise. Go for a walk (even to the mailbox and back) or do other activities you enjoy. Exercise keeps your body and brain strong, healthy, and focused. A counselor once told me that walking, in particular, helps the brain process events like the EMDR therapy used for PTSD. Need to clear your head? A walk is a great place to start.
What other ideas can you think of for getting through the day when experiencing challenging situations? Tell me in the comments! Remember, your ideas may be a page in someone else’s survival guide!
Ⓒ 2022, Lainey La Shay.