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Finding Balance in Crisis

By Erin Isaacson

May 2024

At the end of last year, the unimaginable happened. I lost my teenage child. She was not my biological daughter, but she was my niece and the daughter of my late brother-in-law and one of my best friends. At the beginning of last year, I became her California mother, offering stability and a chance at a new future. Tragically, on December 13, 2023, she took her own life at only fourteen years old.

When my niece first came to us, our only experience as parents was with our own 5-year-old daughter. By the time my sister-in-law reached out to us, saying that our niece needed help, she already had a history of drug use, self-harm, and suicide attempts since moving to Oahu after her father’s passing. However, despite the challenges, we knew that giving her the opportunity to come live with us was the best choice for her and her future. One I will never hold regrets over. 

Losing her has been one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. But through this healing journey, my eyes have been opened to what living in a state of crisis means and how practicing the right habits can help you survive.

Tropical Beach

Living Life in Crisis

I have faced many crises throughout my life, beginning with the loss of my brother at three years old. As a child, I found myself stepping into a role where I had to help my parents as they navigated the aftermath—a burden I am trying to not pass to my daughter. However, when a crisis unfolds, the mind and body instinctively put-up protective shields. These shields can manifest as depression or an excessive tendency to help others to avoid what is happening around you.

Personally, my response to crisis varies, depending on the day. Fortunately, I identified this pattern within myself long before facing the current situation. This experience has given me a greater level of gratitude for the habits I formed early on. These habits have helped me navigate the emotional toll, allowing me to manage a business that supports my family financially, all while fulfilling my roles as a wife and mother.

When challenges exceed anything I have faced before, I take comfort in returning to the basics I learned long ago. 

Creating a Mental Health Base

It was in 2018 when I finally acknowledged the urgent need to shift how I managed my mental health. I was commuting over an hour and a half each way to a workplace filled with daily bullying and belittlement. The weight of feeling trapped, defeated, and underpaid pushed me into a deep depression, where intrusive thoughts began to consume my mind. It was then that a friend recommended a book called “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod, and I was introduced to the framework of the life changing SAVERS.

This framework consists of six simple habits.
1.    Silence: Meditation, prayer, or self-reflection.
2.    Affirmations: Repeating positive phrases or sayings.
3.    Visualizations: Picturing your goals for the future self.
4.    Exercise: Intentional movement of the body.
5.    Reading: Engaging the mind with written material.
6.    Scribing: Journaling thoughts and reflections.

The most important impactful lesson I have learned from these SAVERS is finding peace in the present moment. I began to understand that my work environment was preparing me for a better future. I gained the confidence to freelance on the side, which led me to build a business that fully supports my family, even after my husband’s layoff. It has fostered patience, learning and growth, and has provided to be a crucial anchor, especially during times of crisis.

Incorporating these habits into my life, in a way that worked for me, changed the entire path of my journey—both professionally and personally. 

When Crisis Hits

My niece had developed coping mechanisms that were both unhealthy and dangerous. Rasing her was difficult, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. In the beginning, we worked with her, shared stories of her father, and showed her a different life. We encouraged her to find a passion and had the joy of watching her grow both as a young woman and a boxer. We talked about her dreams and helped her develop healthier habits that she could lean on.

However, the pressures of starting high school spiraled her into making decisions that endangered our young daughter. Leading to the heartbreaking decision to send her back to her mother, hoping that the lessons we taught her were enough to change her path. Sadly, less than three months later, she made the heartbreaking decision to end her life. 

The Importance of Daily Mental Habits

This past year has pushed me beyond what I thought were my limits. It has taught me invaluable lessons on resilience and strength. It has also taught me the importance of understanding our traumas, and of giving ourselves grace for how we navigate through those challenging times. To know, and truly believe, that it is OK to not be OK, and acknowledge the strength to be brave enough to seek our own light.
I’m thankful for my habits and depend on them daily. I have bad days, and I have good days. But I always try to remind myself that:

  • Consistent effort is crucial. History repeatedly reminds us that life can change in an instant, whether it's on a personal, professional, or global level.

  • It is never too late to develop or change your habits. Our journeys are not meant to be linear. Develop the basics and tweak them as necessary. 

  • Be forgiving of yourself and take time to embrace the emotions you need to feel. Without embracing the present, progress is impossible. 

  • Anchor in gratitude. Constantly remind yourself of what is going right in your life rather than the struggles and be thankful for them. 

The journey is worthwhile. Not just for yourself, but also for the next generation. They observe, listen, and learn from our actions. When we lead by example, share our stories (even the difficult ones), and keep going despite life’s challenges, our youth will learn to become more tenacious. It is our responsibility to nurture this, and we can’t do that just by talking about it. We must live it every single day. We must be resilient. 


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