Divorce is unquestionably one of the most stressful events anyone can experience. Life as you have known it is dramatically and irrevocably altered. Your world may feel like it has stopped spinning or maybe like it is spinning out of control. Fundamental, foundational aspects of your existence—things you may have taken for granted—must be re-evaluated, negotiated, and ultimately may be determined by a third party.
Whether it’s where you live, custody arrangements for children or pets, the division of assets, earnings and memories, or just the fracture of a relationship you expected to last forever, all of these issues are life-altering. When dealing with the dissolution of so many of the certainties you once depended upon, it's easy to move into a place of constant anxiety… becoming paralyzed with ambivalence. This places an unhealthy, unsustainable amount of stress on your mind and body.
The first step toward healing is actually to take a step back. Try to get perspective on the situation. Slow down, give yourself time, and look for ways you can care for you. Over time, fears and apprehensions begin to dissipate, and confidence begins to grow. Life moves forward.
Here are some strategies that I adopted—and the ones I know made all the difference in seeing me through to my own new beginning:
It might sound cliché, but that's because it works. Truly, the best way I have found to relieve stress is through exercise. Whether it’s hot yoga, running or cycling, a workout with a friend, or kickboxing to relieve anxiety and release aggression, I came to depend upon a combination of the adrenaline rush of an all-consuming workout and the meditative inward yoga practices. But what works for me might not work for you. If those high-intensity workouts don't do it for you, try going on a hike or even a walk. Getting out and moving around is beneficial to both mental and physical health—and you get added benefits from doing it outdoors.
Exercise releases endorphins in your brain, which fight stress, minimize the discomfort of the exercise, block feelings of pain (physical and emotional), and are even associated with feelings of euphoria. Exercise and yoga made all the difference in my journey to the mindset of resilience I needed to make it through my divorce and beyond.
It’s important to commit to investing time into taking care of yourself. I could've languished in bed, depressed, when I was in the throes of my divorce, and I did for a time, but I quickly chose instead to discipline myself to fill my empty hours with things that nourish me—mind, body, and soul. I still make time for a workout every day because it clears my mind and gets me ready for the challenges I will face—both personally and professionally. A recent study from Harvard Medical School even shows that exercise improves memory and critical-thinking skills. Make sure, even during the most hectic of days, you set aside some time to focus on yourself and your well-being.
3. Get uncomfortable. (You won't regret it.)
Once you've boosted your resilience through exercise and nurtured your internal balance with self-care, challenge yourself to take on a new endeavor. Learn to cook; travel to a country you've always had an interest in; take ballroom dancing classes. It’s been proven that people who engage in new activities are more likely to focus more on the positive aspects of their life.
“Though it may feel unfamiliar—and maybe even a little uncomfortable—you'll experience incredibly positive feelings if you stick with it. Our minds and bodies are connected. When you take care of your body, your mind benefits, and vice versa. Ultimately, when you feel good about yourself, you’re able to be stronger for others in your life—as a parent, friend, sibling, or partner. Life—especially in the midst of divorce—is undoubtedly difficult. But for exactly that reason, it becomes more important than ever that we put our best, strongest selves forward to face the challenges before us”.
LIVE A BROWN DOG LIFE
It has taken me awhile to write this post, as I am still grieving the loss of our Camouflage Girl "Cammie". In fact, I have started and stopped writing several times.
I know everyone thinks their dog is the best, but Cammie was THE best dog ever!
The name of my coaching business is Tactical Brown Dog because of the effect our beautiful, chocolate lab had on our family. She taught us how to live and in her death we will find life. I always had a unique ability to help others with everything from being a good listener to analyzing options, setting goals and holding my friends accountable. Cammie did the same for me. She was my best friend, my ally and my conscience. This led me to my desire to help others... to pay it forward. I became a Life Coach to honor my dog and to make a difference. My passion has turned into a dream with realization. Helping people find focus and direction, while gaining physical benefits... with the help of nature and dogs. If you stay with me on this journey, you will soon see accessories and bags for purchase. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to provide research, education and awareness of Lyme Disease and Lyme Nephritis in Dogs... in memory of Cammie.
Cammie was only four years old when she was diagnosed and she "hung on", with A LOT medications and food restrictions, for approximately three months . It was heartbreaking to watch her fight a losing battle. I researched and found a vet who seemed to be the foremost authority on Lyme Nephritis. She was affiliated with Penn Vet. I sent her an
e-mail desperately pleading for her to help our dog. She answered with genuine concern and was willing to listen to our current course of treatment, even though she was on sabbatical, overseas.
Cammie was always happy and loving. She was the most loyal dog I have ever had and she was my best friend. My oldest son, Chamber 1, left for the Marines and I will admit, my life was moving way to fast and I just was not ready for the kids to grow up and out. In my search to find peace and get ahead of the anxiety and heartbreak, we got a puppy. That puppy had many "military related" names before we settled on "Camouflage Girl", Cammie for short. She quickly became the heart and positive energy in our home. While she was always loyal and loving with all of us, my middle son seemed to have a special connection with her. He took her everywhere and she slept in his room. My daughter went away to college and another Chamber of my heart was feeling empty. Chamber number 2 had cracks for some time before she left, because she was always "leaving" in some way. Then my middle son joined the Army. Chamber number 3. There are 4 chambers in the heart and I always say that each of my children represent a chamber. Chamber number 3 was a tipping point, now with greater than a 50% compromise, my heart was really struggling. My once open heart, was slowing emptying. My youngest son, thankfully, is only 10 years old and is still home for a bit. That 4th chamber is full! Cammie was always the constant, with unconditional love. She filled the chambers intermittently when the older kids would be away.
When I woke up one morning in April 2016, and she did not get up with me, I knew something was wrong. As the day went on, she seemed to be more lethargic and not herself. She tried to be a good dog and she would rally to follow any commands. She looked at me with an apathetic and concerned look. I knew in my heart and my gut this was more than just an odd bad day. We went to the vet where she was very quickly diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Damn those deer in the backyard! I had always enjoyed seeing them, as I grew up in Florida and we lived in the "concrete jungle", with no wildlife to be found, with the exception of alligators. Moving to Pennsylvania, I always admired it's picturesque beauty with the changes each season. I was always wide-eyed with amazement when I saw all the deer in our yard. I fed them, in fact. Cammie would chase them... and inevitably always come back after they outran her. We followed the recommendations and she was vaccinated per protocol. How could she get Lyme Disease? I was now beginning to not like the deer. My oldest son had also been diagnosed with Lyme Disease several years back. He recovered without incident, thankfully. The vet told me that the vaccine does not always cover the complete 12 months and that is how dogs can get Lyme Disease even if they are vaccinated. The vet said she came up positive very quickly and that she needed to stay there for a few days to receive IV fluids. I was alone and scared. I didn't want to leave her, but I wanted her to get the care she needed. I left her there and I went home to cry. I feverishly scoured the internet for answers and support. I would visit Cammie 2-3 times a day while she was in the hospital. It was very quickly explained to me that she had a very poor prognosis. She did not have a straight-forward case of Lyme Disease, but rather a very complicated case of Lyme Nephritis. Her kidneys were were failing. My heart was broken. Lyme nephritis is seen in <1–2% of Lyme seropositive dogs, with an average onset at 5–6 years. Labrador and Golden Retrievers are predisposed to this condition.
I became determined to find a cure and that she would beat the odds. Over the next several weeks, she would have good days and bad days. Our days revolved around her medications and diet. She was taking 8 pills each morning and 7 each evening. We researched nutrition and followed every holistic approach that we could. Grandma, the kids and I all would cook her fresh chicken, rice, ground turkey, vegetables, etc. All low sodium, low phosphate, protein was a balancing act, etc. She would not eat the special kidney care dog foods. Her medications were very costly and getting her to take them was definitely a process of trial and error, along with trickery and variation. Cammie was eating better than the rest of the family. She was hungry and was still eating, albeit she became very picky. She became addicted to ice... in particular the crushed ice from Sonic that came in the blue coconut water slushy. She also started to only drink from the toilets, which she had never done. Keeping the lids closed became a new norm. When we would go to the vet to have a urinalysis, I would hold my breath. Some days the vet seemed cautiously optimistic. The Penn Vet tweaked some of her medications and she too was somewhat happy with the days when her BUN and Creatinine levels (kidney function studies) were improving, but overall cautioned me that this disease is fatal and has a poor prognosis. The roller coaster ride was becoming nauseating and dizzying. Sleepless nights from my gripping fear that I would wake to find her unresponsive. She was not alone in this fight! But as the weeks drew on she could not keep anything down, no matter what we tried. On July 22, 2016, she was more lethargic than previous days. She was craving ice water only, but then would not even keep that down. We filled the puppy pool with water to let her have some splash time, which she loved. She climbed in and did circles before lying down. She looked at me with pathetic and heart-wrenching sadness. I knew when this day came, I would just know. But my heart was not ready...
I loved my Cammie and could not imagine our home without her, but I did not want her to suffer. I called the vet and took her in that evening. I still held out hope that she would come home again. It was a very short visit. Our vet was very empathetic and honest that "she was ready" and that her body was shutting down. The decision to put her to sleep was the most difficult decision that I have had to make since my divorce. (I am thankful that my cousin met me at the vet to hold Cammie's paw and support me during this horrible moment).
I could not get up off the floor. This all seemed surreal and unfair. The thought of going home without my best friend, the dog who saw me through my children growing up and out, relationships, anxiety issues, all the losses that have chipped away at me... this was unbearable. It was as if 3/4 of my heart were instantly empty. I sat in my car in the parking lot, sobbing hysterically and unable to breath. After what seemed like forever, I drove home in a fog and could not go inside the house with just a collar and leash. I sat outside on the Adirondack chair, watching cars drive up my street, for what seemed like another forever. My daughter came home with my youngest son. I had a brief moment of peace that I was not alone. Cammie will forever be in our hearts and she will always be the strength that carried me through. She was always there for me. My fears were calmed with Cammie by my side, but now she is gone because of some tiny tick. Ticks Suck!!!!!
Tactical Brown Dog's mission is forever changed and we are committed to donating for research, education and awareness of Lyme Nephritis in Dogs.
My heart seemed to have stop that day, along with Cammie's. I felt paralyzed and unable to move. It became a year of losses that were simply too much to handle. In my concerned search to find myself and my purpose, I have been busy getting my coaching certifications, researching life coaching strategies, planning and executing specific realistic steps, studying human behavior, educating myself on the dog/human connection and dedicating myself to helping others who are feeling "lost", in a unique way that includes fitness, outdoors/nature and our beloved friend, the dog... using the life lessons my dog taught me. Walk and talk "off the leash".
LIVE A BROWN DOG LIFE