I sat in my therapist’s office last Thursday and cried.
I had just admitted that I felt completely lost and unsure how I was going to keep managing all the intense feelings of stress, sadness, frustration and anger that I had been coping with the last couple of months. I had just admitted that I was completely and utterly wiped from keeping it together. I had just admitted that I was so tired of so many hits coming my way these last few months and that I just needed a break; that I just needed something good to happen.
I finally took a breath and stopped talking but the tears, oh the tears didn’t stop. The tears just kept falling and falling and falling silently down my cheeks. I did everything I could to try and keep myself from going into a full on crying meltdown. I bit my lip in hopes that it would keep my mouth shut; I knew if I talked anymore I would just lose it. I rubbed my fingers together to distract me; to help me not focus on all the pain I felt at the moment. I stared at the ceiling, desperately hoping that if I didn’t make eye contact I wouldn’t have to start talking about all the “real” emotions that had pushed me to start crying in the first place. Yes, I did everything but talk to my therapist.
“Orange Rhino, where are you?” my therapist asked.
“I’m here.” I mumbled.
“I know, but where is your mind, what are you thinking? You look like you have gone somewhere else,” she stated.
And she was right. I had gone somewhere else. I was no longer engaged and present in the conversation she and I were having. I was no longer willing to openly share about how I just didn’t know if I could keep handling all the hard shit in my life. I was no longer listening to any of her questions or empathetic, encouraging words. Nope, instead I was fully withdrawn into my own mind, listening and sharing only with myself the same thought over and over and over again: “I am so overwhelmed. I just don’t know how to move forward. I just can’t do it. I can’t. I can’t.”
I would think these thoughts and then counteract them with, “Stop. Stop thinking like this it isn’t productive.”
I would then of course counteract with, “Blech, I know that but I can’t help it. I am so overwhelmed. I just don’t know how to move forward. I just can’t do it. I can’t. I can’t.”
This inner dialogue went on for a good while. And then out of the blue (or should I say out of the orange?) a new, WAY more productive thought came into my mind. Suddenly, I thought,
“Enough already. You CAN move forward. You CAN manage all that is overwhelming you. You DO know how to do both already: just go one moment at a time. Just like you did on your Orange Rhino Challenge!”
And voila! The negative conversation and my tears finally stopped. (And yes, in the middle of my therapy session I thought about The Orange Rhino Challenge. It was just that impactful of an experience for me!) A smirk crept onto my face because I just couldn’t believe that yet again, one of the many lessons I learned on The Orange Rhino Challenge had become applicable to yet another “non-yelling” area of my life.
When I started The Orange Rhino Challenge I was certain that I would learn about how to not yell, how to better discipline my children, and how to keep cool, calm, and collected. I never expected though that all the lessons I would learn to keep me from yelling would also apply to so many other challenges in my life. The realization of the profound impact of taking The Orange Rhino Challenge and the realization that all my hard work and soul searching was so incredibly worthwhile, hit me so hard and so beautifully at that moment that my smirk immediately became a smile.
“You seem better now,” my therapist stated.
And I was better. Much better.
She then continued on and on with some advice and thoughts for me to ponder. The thing is, I didn’t take in any of what she said! All I heard was, “blah, blah, blah” because while I was more present, I was still quite preoccupied with my own thoughts. This time, however, I wasn’t thinking about how I couldn’t manage, but instead I was thinking about how I could manage; how I could draw upon even more lessons from The Orange Rhino Challenge to move forward and feel better instead of giving up and losing hope!
Anywho, I thought more about how I did indeed already know how to move forward when phenomenally stressed; that just like getting through tough days when I wanted to scream at every one and anything, I needed to just go one moment at a time. I needed to not think about every stressor and challenging situation at once, but instead focus on one at a time and move forward slowly.
I thought about how I proved to myself on my no yelling journey that if I believe in myself that I could do hard things, even if I felt a little unsure, that I could actually do hard things! The same lesson applies to this time in my life. Things are hard right now. I can easily say this has been my hardest year out of my 36! But, I know I can persevere and keep going, that I can keep my head up and not quit on myself or my kids, even when I feel like running for the hills if I focus on believing in myself instead of tearing myself down with negativity. The Orange Rhino Challenge taught me that.
I thought about how I needed to make sure that I was taking care of me so that I had enough energy to handle the “hard shit,” just like I had learned that taking care of me kept me from yelling during trying moments with my darling kiddos. If I don’t take care of me, I explode. It is that simple. It applies to yelling moments and trying life moments. Taking care of me isn’t selfish, it’s necessary!
I thought about how I needed to adjust my expectations of what “feeling better” really meant; how I needed to stop expecting perfect feelings without any frustration, sadness, or anger. That just isn’t realistic in my life right now. Instead, I needed to embrace what I realized The Orange Rhino Challenge was all about, progress, not perfection. My stressors will subside over time. It won’t happen quickly, and it won’t happen perfectly as I envision, but it will happen. Every day I progress forward and that matters way more than perfect days!
I thought about how as I progressed forward and embraced an imperfect path, that the more positive actions and statements (and thoughts) I could make, no matter how difficult, the more positive results I would receive, just as I learned on my Orange Rhino journey. Positive attracts positive. My son taught me that; I learned that when I am more positive towards him, he behaves better and my desire to yell greatly reduces.
And I thought about how I simply can not control what is going on in my life, but that I can always control how I respond, just like I can not control my children’s personalities or behaviors but that I can always control how I respond to them. I can choose to yell or stay calm. I can choose to have negative, totally unproductive thoughts in my head about how I can’t do things, or I can tell myself I can. This was one of biggest lessons learned on my Orange Rhino Challenge; one of the biggest aha’s…and one of the hardest to fully embrace. Then and now.
As I sat on the couch in my therapist’s office, all these totally applicable “yelling management” lessons swirling around in my mind, I felt a sense of confidence and calm that I lacked when I walked in. I knew that I had a path forward that would keep me from my crying meltdown. That path? The Orange Rhino journey. I knew that whenever I felt the stressors getting to me that I could think of my journey and what I learned and rely on those lessons for strength and inspiration. And while I also knew it would be REALLY hard sometimes to embrace the lessons, I likewise knew that I could, because again, I am an Orange Rhino. I can do hard things!