What's Up With That? ~ Katy Byrne

Katy Byrne Katy Byrne, MFT is a Psychotherapist in Sonoma, editor and animal lover. Her private practice specializes in: life transitions, couples communication, eating issues, moving forward, conflict resolution and the kitchen sink.


The year of living precariously

Posted on December 5, 2018 by Katy Byrne

We’re reminded again of the horrors of fire and smoke. It’s been over a year, but many of us are still dealing with loss of many different kinds. It’s challenging and humbling.

It’s also a time for holiday hairballs….mixed emotions about a lot of issues and relationships. There are great divides and huge debates in our country. It’s not easy to deal with it all.

As Anne Lamott writes, “In general it doesn’t feel like the light is making a lot of progress. It feels like death by annoyance. At the same time, the truth is that we are beloved, even in our current condition, by someone; we have loved and been loved. We have also known the abyss of love lost to death or rejection, and it somehow leads to new life.”

So, keep the faith and use tools for sanity, like: stay calm, take one step at a time, accomplish one small goal each day. Persistence pays off. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not perfect – nobody is.

Keep the idea of self-care nearby. That could mean a bowl of soup, meditation, yoga, a phone call to a friend, good music or anything safe that soothes you. Research shows that family or ties anywhere can be important to your health. And if you feel lonely, try dropping your judgments about other people because we all have stories in our heads about someone else that may not be true.

Trauma, loss and fear can create a loss of hope, temporarily. We long for safety, predictability, or meaning in our lives. Remember that part of post-traumatic stress disorder can include feeling helpless, sad or anxious. Hyperarousal can be part of it with difficulty sleeping and concentrating, being easily startled or angered.  It can result in numbing or robotic behavior.

As the dust settles, so to speak, and things calm down, a process of integration allows the trauma to become a part of normal memory rather than something to be feared and avoided. Recovery includes feeling more solid, acceptance and having memory again, more productivity and increased social activity. Feeling better can include feeling empowered and finding renewed meaning in life.

The thing about sorrow is, you have to regulate your grief and take breaks from the pain. Sometimes it floods your system and it’s unbearable. But at other times, it’s good to allow the pain. As Sobonfu Some says: “Communal grieving offers something that we cannot get when we grieve by ourselves.” Keep social ties, no matter how imperfect; research shows community improves health.

Do whatever helps you feel nourished. Self-care is a job. Find activities that inspire or entertain you. Keep your sense of humor. I was out the other night, while worrying about the toxic smoke everywhere, coming from the fires and ran into a friend on the sidewalk. I asked, “What are you doing out here?” She smiled saying, “Oh, I thought I’d get out for a breath of fresh air.” Then she burst out laughing, “What am I thinking? The air is full of smoke!” It was just one of those moments of waking up to an awful reality that is almost impossible to take it in all in at once. So, just be gentle with yourself.

There are plenty of good people, so reach out to give or to ask for help. Some souls are fed by giving service; others need time to renew their energy with rest. Doing self-care is tricky. Fueling your body and spirit is different for each of us. But, it’s hard to be helpful if you’re running on empty. We will need our full energy going forwards….there is much to accomplish and care about. There is plenty of work to do on this planet – both personally and politically.

If there is one thing I have learned through crisis it is that human nature has great courage and fortitude. We are forever changed, but we are Sonoma STRONG.


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