Learning to ‘deal with it’ easier said than done

I’m at the end of my rope. Six months ago I had surgery to address a medical issue I have. It didn’t cure the problem.

I’m at the end of my rope. Six months ago I had surgery to address a medical issue I have. It didn’t cure the problem.

The last time I saw my doctor, he said that he had done all that he could do and that I now need to “deal with it.” I get that he feels like he has done all he can, but I’m feeling absolutely awful.

Surgery was my last hope. It feels like he has set me adrift, and I don’t know what to do, so now I’m getting pretty depressed, as well. How can I “deal with it”?

Sounds like you have been struggling for a long time. First with your medical issue, and now with hearing there is nothing else medically that your doctor feels that he can do.

Not surprising that depression is knocking on your door. Good for you to seeking to find ways to “deal with it.” There are things to do.

Dealing with it requires some particular skills. It involves somehow managing the actual physical symptoms of your medical condition as best as possible.

Then it is helpful to be aware of the thoughts that come with your situation. They can be about the condition. What has happened in your life as a result of it. About what has been lost or gained. Worry thoughts of where this is all going. On and on and on.

Minds are amazing in their ability to produce thoughts. Noticing what thoughts you are having is important to deal with this situation.

Dealing with it also means recognizing and acknowledging emotions. Often there are many emotions.

You mention feeling depressed. I wonder what feelings are making up your depressed feeling. Sadness for sure, but perhaps there is also regret, fear, anger.

Being able to pinpoint the individual feelings that make up “depression” means that you can be skillful in directly addressing them. It can feel less ominous to deal with the regret part, than to deal with the overall blanket of depression.

Thoughts and emotions show up in how we feel in the body. We speak about a nervous stomach, or clenched hands when mad.  Some people find that when they are stressed their shoulders migrate towards their ears.

Positive emotions are expressed in the body as well. For example, pride is often noted by a person feeling like they are “beaming,” feelings of “funny” making us want to laugh. Dealing with things means recognizing how the body is responding to what is happening.

What people who seem to be dealing with things well are often doing, is noticing what they are thinking, feeling and experiencing in the body. They  have a strategy to skillfully deal with those things.

Perhaps you have heard someone say, “Whenever I think about that, I just tell myself that I don`t want to go down that road, and go do something else.” Or, ”If I feel that way, I remind myself of the things I have to be grateful for” or ”I know that as soon as my back begins to ache I have to stop what I`m doing and lie down.”

Doing these things is part of dealing with it.

Sometimes the condition that a person is dealing with is overwhelming, and there is not much to do but make one’s way through it, one breath at a time. More often, though, bringing awareness to what is going on with thoughts, emotions and physical sensation, opens the door to finding skillful ways to feel better. That is what people who seem to be dealing with things well, often know.

The other thing they  know, is that being systematic and skillful in stress reduction strategies is important. It can improve one’s overall sense of well-being.

It can also pave the way to being able to manage thoughts, emotions and physical sensation — to decrease  pain and suffering — to deal with it.

The Stress Reduction Program is an eight-week program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who wrote Full Catastrophe Living.  It has been around for over 30 years.

It was developed for people for whom medical treatment was all used up. With some added Canadian content, to increase one’s ability to deal with depression, it is training in what we now know to be one of the most effective tools for dealing with a situation like your own: mindfulness meditation.

This program assists people to develop an effective practice of stress reduction, and develop their own strategies to figure out what works for them to manage the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that come with their illness and stress.

Now that is “dealing with it.”

For more information, check out the book Full Catastrophe Living, or call Pacific Therapy and Consulting at 250-338-2700.

If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells and Andrew Lochhead at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Friday in the Record.