Dear Meltdown: Meet My Friend Mindfulness

Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I recently received the honor of having one of my articles accepted for publication by Elephant Journal. I was inspired a couple of months ago by blog posts which are letters openly written to others. For example, Dear Person at the Grocery Store, Dear Lady in the Bookstore, Dear Stressed Out Mom, and the like.

Upon seeing these I knew I was to write something like this. At that same time, I also knew I wanted to share something meaningful about the meltdowns that Lillian is experiencing. The next thing I knew, I was writing a letter to her meltdown. I was pouring my heart out to that meltdown. This is the result and this is what Elephant Journal published …

Meltdown (per Merriam-Webster) – an accident in which the core of a nuclear reactor melts and releases radiation, a very fast collapse or failure, a very fast loss of emotional self-control. (emphasis mine)

Mindfulness – (per Merriam-Webster) – the quality or state of being mindful, the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also such a state of awareness.

Letter written to the meltdowns that my 14 year old special needs daughter experiences:

Dear Meltdowns, Welcome and Meet My Friend Mindfulness

Sometimes I’m able to sense when you’re lurking in the shadows. Sometimes I’m not. And you sneak up like a cat stalking its prey.

You penetrate the peace of an otherwise tranquil day like an earthquake suddenly rocking and rolling in the middle of a quiet night’s sleep. You are the complete opposite of fun and joy.

You are loud, aggressive, physically harmful, and verbally malicious. You lack compassion, empathy, and kindness. You take all actions and words personally.

What I want you to know is that I welcome you. Not like I’d welcome my best friend coming over for coffee and chatting. I welcome you like one later appreciates a grumpy relative during the holidays knowing that being around this person can help us to learn more about our own triggers.

You are helping us to know what emotions and situations Lillian has resistance to fully experiencing. You are the red flag that goes up as a warning that THIS is where she feels vulnerable.

So, I welcome you. I meet you with love.

When I am in a peaceful, mindful state, going with the flow of life, I handle you just as easily as a leaf floating in the wind. I choose not to accept your meltdown hook.

When I’m resisting life, choosing grumpiness, and having an off day, I accept the hook you’ve thrown out and jump right in with both feet. These are the times I learn more about myself.

Either way, one thing I know for sure is that you are not the true Lillian. The true Lillian is there, and you are simply acting as a buffer so she doesn’t have to experience the rawness of life. It is my hope that as I meet you with kindness and compassion, you see that it’s okay to move aside.

Lillian can handle the unexpected, the discomfort of not getting her desires, and the “letting go” of learning to be flexible. It’s okay to release your grip.

I will continue to meet you with a calm voice and compassion as often as possible, until the day you realize it’s okay to become dormant, slip into an eternal sleep, and allow a miracle – the miracle of Lillian fully experiencing emotions and going with the flow of life.

Camilla (Mom to Lillian)

Lillian has a rare genetic condition called 18p-. This means that she is missing the short arm of chromosome number 18 and it affects about 1 in 50,000. The main way this manifests for her is that she is speech impaired, and has balance and motor skill issues. Also, for the past year and a half she has struggled with experiencing anxiety and difficult emotions.

Situations that can cause Lillian to meltdown:

  • Events not unfolding as anticipated
  • Schedules being adjusted
  • Communication difficulties
  • Being reprimanded
  • Teasing from her sibling

In July 2015, Lillian had the worst explosive meltdown we’ve ever experienced. We made a quick stop at the grocery store to get a few items.

As I paid for our items, Lillian caught up with me, and once I was finished, I could sense her energy shift. Apparently, there was a miscommunication between us about looking at more gluten free desserts.

This quickly led to a volcanic explosion for Lillian. Fortunately, I was close to the exit doors, so I made my way out and headed to the car with Lillian melting down behind me. I quickly got into the car and invited Lillian to do the same if she was going with me. She was not open to doing any of the mindfulness techniques we’ve been learning.

I decided to start making our way home even though she had not calmed down – not the best choice in that moment. She was scratching, pinching, and pulling my hair from behind.

I pulled the car over, turned to Lillian and screamed some ridiculously outrageous comments. I quickly realized I must get out of the car. We needed space between us as I was bleeding and in a great deal of pain from the scratches and she was a big hot mess.

Once out, I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and asked to see the situation differently. Upon opening my eyes, I saw, shining up at me from the rock and dirt filled ground, a beautiful red jewel heart. There was my answer, a reminder to always respond with love.

At this point, Lillian was ready to do a calming, mindful technique and I requested that she do it on her own. She got out of the car, chose to pick up a couple of rocks and studied them. After a few minutes we got back into the car and drove home.

We’ve not had anything of that magnitude happen since and I am hopeful this was simply “one step backward” before more steps forward. When this happens, one of us must be fully present and mindful or things can escalate.

Lillian has been seeing a psychotherapist since April 2015. We are working on cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness training. Additionally, I work with her on physically feeling the emotions within her body.

She has made great progress. It’s slow going, yet I feel we are closer to the ultimate goal.
The miracle of Lillian truly experiencing negative emotions and the rawness of life without the buffer of a meltdown.

At some time or another it’s possible we’ve all experienced our own version of a meltdown. Mindfulness is a miraculous practice to bring into one’s life. Once we become practitioners of mindfulness, more often than not, we are able to remain calm and peaceful when we or our children experience the rawness of life.

With mindfulness we are able to tune into our body and notice the beginning signs of a meltdown; clenched jaw, increased heart rate, tight shoulders or neck, stomach pain.

At this point we can say or think to ourselves, “There is anger inside of me.” This is the opposite of thinking or saying, “I am angry.” These two statements have completely different meanings and will take one down different paths.

Once we acknowledge there is anger (or any other uncomfortable emotion) within us, we can then put our focus on how this physically feels in the body. Is it tight, rolling, moving from place to place?

Let’s be real here. This is absolutely not fun and can be extremely uncomfortable. Yet, if we stick with this practice, it will become more of a habit and eventually the uncomfortable emotion will release.

If we wish to help our children, special needs or not, in this area, we must first practice this for ourselves and model this to them. Why would they meet a meltdown in this way if they never see us do this?

Examples of mindfulness techniques used with Lillian and her sibling, Thomas:

  • Focusing attention on a favorite rock, gemstone, or crystal. Concentrating on how it feels, looks, smells, and sounds.
  • Breathe work. At times with no phrase and at times with different variations of phrases.
  • Focus on in and out breath.
  • Breathing in, I am calm. Breathing out, I am peaceful.
  • I am in control. I can handle this situation.
  • Guided 5 minute mindful exercises.
  • Relaxing each area of the body.
  • Focusing on different areas of the body.
  • Walks in nature to include focus on flowers, trees, birds, ducks, etc.
  • Thinking or saying a peace mantra, Om Shanti Om.
  • Taking turns describing in detail another family member (remembering to use non-judgmental words) and similar family exercises.

These techniques were learned by me during the past 18 years of reading, studying, and practicing the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Lao Tzu, Pema Chodron, Raphael Cushnir, and The Dalai Lama.

In between monitoring the debut of the article yesterday, there was a meltdown. Lately they are brought on by disagreements with her sibling .. Thomas. So, as I sat sharing, responding, and getting the word out; my hands were stinging with fresh scratches.

I have faith that with the mindfulness exercises we practice, discussions of recognizing emotions, and time spent in nature; eventually Lillian will succeed in going with the flow and simply letting things go ..

I must share with you that when I received the email from elephant journal Sunday night, I panicked. A wave of anxiety and fear swept over me and I felt as if I was drowning in sadness. Thoughts of what others would think of these words straight from my heart weighed heavy on me.

I went to bed Sunday night connecting with these feelings, focusing on how they physically felt in my body. The feeling had subsided some by the time I got up the next morning. After an hour of meditation and a solo walk in the fresh snow, it had completely lifted and I was free to allow and receive joy. I felt it was important to share this with you.

Would you like to help spread the word? Here are ways you can help:

  • Have me speak to your group about mindfulness and emotional connection
  • View the article on Elephant Journal’s website
  • Leave a comment on their website by scrolling to the bottom of the article
  • Share the article using the share buttons near the bottom of the article (feel free to tag me if you share on facebook)
  • Blog about the article on your own blog (like Tania Marie did on her blog)
  • Leave a comment here
  • Share this article using the share buttons
  • email the article to others
  • Share with parenting groups, including special needs parenting groups

See It. Share It. BE IT … Spread Love Everywhere You Go!

“Words of Alchemy”, published December 2019, is a free-verse poetry memoir covering the last 6 years of my life. The poetry of nature, the poetry of healing, the poetry of appreciation, the poetry of love, in one beautiful book.

Amazing news! My 20 year old daughter, Lillian Darnell’s debut book, “Where Would You Fly and Other Magical Stories” was published January 2018. Learn more and order here

Wonderfully exciting news! My 16 year old son, Thomas Darnell‘s book, Biggest Little Photographer is published. Be inspired! Learn more and order here.

Mindful Christmas Countdown 2015

This year Team TLC is experiencing a mindful Christmas countdown. For the past few years we’ve done a “spreading happiness and kindness” countdown. I felt moved to add another layer to it this year.

My printer is out of ink and my handwriting is sloppy, sloppy, yet, here are a few pictures to give you an idea of how it’s coming together. I am inspired to share it with YOU in case you would like to adopt our theme of the day.

  1. The word of the day is “Joy” – “Find Joy, Bring Joy, BE Joy” …. in everything you do today. Take at least 5 minutes, or more, to think about a person who brings you joy. Then spend some time bringing joy to someone today. You can do this with a smile, a kind word, helping them, or whatever you feel moved to do. On the outside of the heart the following words are written, “Keep this with you all day”. My son, Thomas, tucks his into his pocket. He says he pulls it out at least once per day to remind himself. My daughter, Lillian, is home schooled so she keeps her heart on the table next to where she works and eats.
  2. Word of the day is “Silence” – “Embrace the Silence”. Spend 5-10 minutes of silence focused on your in and out breath. Or you can do this with or without holding a favorite rock, gemstone, or some other earthly item and focus on that item. Plus, sometime today take a few moments of silence, then repeat this prayer: “Let all beings be happy, loved, and peaceful. Let the whole world experience these things.” (This prayer comes from a Chopra Center blog post).
  3. Word of the day is “Mindfulness” – “The Mindful Way”. When brushing your teeth, think only about brushing your teeth, nothing else. Focus on how it feels and tastes and smells. Try to remember to do this all day … when you wash your hands, wash dishes, brush your hair, wash clothes, wash your face, etc. Plus, pay someone a mindful compliment today.
  4. Word of the day is “Food” – “Truly Experience Food”. Taste a food with your eyes closed, being sure to use all of your senses to experience the food. Even better if you involve a friend and try this with a surprise food that your friend serves you while you keep your eyes closed. Today is about savoring. Although the word of the day is food, take time today to savor any beautiful, creative, kind, love-filled, accomplishing moment you experience.
  5. Word of the day is “Forgiveness” AND Arts & Crafts Day (Make a Paper Tree) – “Finding Forgiveness” – Think of something that you are disappointed with yourself about. Spend 5 to 10 minutes to feel what this physically feels like in your body. Once you have felt it and focused in that area of the body, forgive yourself and let it go. If 10 minutes isn’t long enough, keep re-visiting and connecting with it until it releases. If it feels right, use this same technique to forgive someone else.
  6. Word of the day is “Peaceful” AND Arts & Crafts Day (Make a Paper Snowflake) – “Peaceful Thoughts” – Take five minutes to meditate on peace. Put your attention on your heart and inwardly repeat these four words: peace, harmony, laughter, and love (these four words are also from the Chopra website). Keep this thought with you all day, “Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?” and make peace your mission throughout the day.
  7. Word of the day is “Creativity” – “Be Creative”. Free Choice! Choose your own word of the day, your own mindfulness activity, and your own way of spreading loving-kindness. Share with your family if you’d like.
  8. Word of the day is “Water”. “Nourish this Life”. Drink a glass of water in silence. Focus on how the water is nourishing your cells and how it feels in your mouth, the glass on your lips, and going down your throat. Every time you have a drink of water today, fill your heart with feelings of gratitude.
  9. Word of the day is “Gratitude”. “Practice Gratitude”. Write something: a poem or a story about something for which you are grateful or make a list of 24 items for which you are grateful. Whichever you choose, share with your family. Write a thank you note to someone you forgot to thank and mail it to them.
  10. Word of the day is “Imagination”. “Use Your Imagination”. Think of your imagination as an infinite universe of creativity which contains the best way to respond to others, and the perfect answers and solutions. Remember this throughout the day when interacting with others. Create something – a poem, story, drawing, model – that seems the perfect item to create in this moment.
  11. Word of the day is “Non-Judgment”. “Practice Non-judgment”.  Stop yourself every time you begin to judge yourself or someone else with thoughts such as, “I can’t believe he/she did that. He/She is so unkind.” or “I can’t believe I did that! I’m so stupid!” Feel what this physically feels like in your body, connect with it until it releases. Focus on the in and out of your breath for 3 to 10 in and out breaths.
  12. Word of the day is “Kindness” and Arts & Crafts Day (Make a Card or Other Creation). “Spread Loving-Kindness”. Be open all day of ways in which to spread kindness and act on it when inspired. Don’t hold back!!
  13. Word of the day is “You” and Games & Puzzles (Christmas Puzzles) – “Know Your Self” Today is your day! Ask, “What do I want to do right now?” Listen to the still, small voice within, your intuition. Do that. Plus, share with someone: If you could have one wish come true for Christmas, what would it be? Spend from now until Christmas (and longer) imagining and living as if the wish has come true.
  14. Word of the day is “Awesome”. “You are AWEsome!” No comparing yourself to others today. Stop yourself with every thought of comparison and focus on your breathing for 10 counts of in and out.
  15. Word of the day is “Laughter“. “Invite Laughter Today”. Choose a time during the day and choose a person or two to just spontaneously laugh with .. Here’s how: Stand up, make eye contact, and start laughing. It’s truly magical how it transforms from forced laughter to genuine belly laughter. Have FUN!
  16. Word of the day is “Earth”. “One with Earth”. Spend at least 5 minutes outside (longer if your toes aren’t freezing off!) with your shoes and socks off in the grass, sand, dirt, or snow and focus on how it feels.
  17. Word of the day is “Surprise” and Arts & Crafts Day (Make a Paper Snowman). “The Joy of Surprise”. Surprise someone today with an act of loving kindness. Get centered in your heart with 10 minutes of mindful breathing. Then direct this question to your heart, “What person should I surprise? What would really, really, be a happy surprise for this person?” Do that.
  18. Word of the day is “Nature”. “Nature Inspires and Soothes”. Go for a 20 minute walk alone or with someone else. Be in silence the entire time with no thinking of what happened in the past or what you will do when done or tomorrow or the next day. If thoughts enter, release them, and replace with “Life loves me”. Describe in detail (in writing or with your family) your favorite things about nature.
  19. Word of the day is “Love” and Arts & Crafts (Write a love letter or make a card to send or leave anonymously). “Love is the Answer”. Make several love notes and spread them around town – in books at the bookstore, restroom mirrors, inside magazines, car windshields, leave with tips, etc. Share loving kindness with someone.
  20. Word of the day is “Sounds”. “Feel the Sounds”. Have a dance party. Listen to the words and beat of the music and let your body move in tune with the sounds. PLUS: Sing Christmas songs together!!
  21. Word of the day is “Focus” and Extra Movie Night. “Focus on the Moment”. Discuss the movie after it’s over. Favorite parts, least favorite parts. What would you have done the same or differently.
  22. Word of the day is “Sight” and drive around neighborhoods to look at Christmas decorations. “Gratitude for Sight”. Spend 5 or 10 minutes focusing your sight on something of nature, a tree, a lake, a bush, the grass. Fill your heart with gratitude for nature.
  23. Word of the day is “Improv” and Extra Movie Night – “Life is Improv” – Act out your favorite scene from the movie adding your own improv.
  24. Word of the day is “Presence“. “There is Only the Present Moment”. Do your best to stay in the present moment all of today. Focus on whatever you are doing, whoever you’re talking with, whatever your reading or watching; with no thoughts of what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow or next week or next year. This can seem difficult if you’re new to the practice of keeping your thoughts in the present moment. To take a break from staying in the present moment, share a favorite memory and why it means so much to you. Focus on it for a few minutes before sharing so as to remember every detail possible .. smells, sounds, sights, textures, etc.

Latest “Mindful Living” Articles:
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See It. Share It. BE IT … Spread Love Everywhere You Go!

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