Compassion Is the Key to Overcoming Hardship (and Insomnia)


“You
can
never
know
how
many
lives
you’ve
touched,
so
just
know
it’s
far
more
than
you
think.
Even
the
tiniest
acts
of
love,
kindness,
and
compassion
can
have
a
massive
ripple
effect.
You
have
made
the
world
a
better
place,
even
if
it
doesn’t
seem
like
it.”
~Lori
Deschene

I
never
had
trouble
sleeping
until
I
got
divorced.
I
never
had
a
nervous
breakdown
either.
Bankruptcy,
fighting
for
custody
of
my
children,
and
losing
my
business
and
my
home
definitely
pushed
things
over
the
edge.

What
made
matters
worse
is
that
unabated,
stress-related
sleep
deprivation
can
lead
to
difficulty
functioning,
depression,
and
incredible
self-loathing.

In
other
words,
insomnia
completely
messes
with
your
mind.

Having
a
psychiatrist
in
the
family
should
have
been
helpful;
at
least
he
was
well-intended.
And,
while
it’s
not
exactly
best
practice
to
prescribe
for
a
relative,
I
was
literally
frozen
in
my
bed,
eyes
wide
open
for
way
too
many
nights
in
a
row,
with
two
small
children
to
care
for.

I
was
living
in
Las
Vegas
and
desperate
for
help.
He
was
in
New
York,
near
the
rest
of
my
family.
Out
of
love
and
pity,
he
conceded.


We
started
with
Ambien
for
the
first
few
nights.
Nothing.
We
tried
Lunesta
which
made
me
more
wakeful.
I
am
pretty
sure
the
move
into
Restoril
is
what
made
me
break. 

According
to
rxlist.com,
Restoril
can
“cause
paranoid
or
suicidal
ideation
and
impair
memory,
judgment,
and
coordination. 

Taking
Restoril
did
not
restore
my
sleep.
It
caused
me
to
temporarily
lose
my
mind.

Lying
in
bed,
my
eyes
were
glued
wide
open
in
panic.
I
was
convinced
that
my
children
would
be
taken
away
to
be
raised
by
their
father
and
his
girlfriend,
while
I
would
be
locked
up
in
some
random
psych
ward,
forever
wearing
a
white
hospital
gown.

I
would
lose
everything
and
bring
complete
shame
to
myself
and
my
family.

What
had
gone
wrong?

I
was
born
happy
and
easygoing;
nothing
much
ever
fazed
me.
I
was
an
independent,
self-assured
child
who
had
grown
into
a
strong,
grateful
woman.
I
was
a
free-spirited
artist,
always
known
for
“looking
on
the
bright
side.”

Now,
lying
in
sleepless
wait,
taking
my
own
life
frequently
floated
in
and
out
of
my
extremely
messed-up
mind.
Thankfully,
I
always
concluded
that
I
could
never
abandon
my
children
or
destroy
my
family.

Still,
I
was
so
completely
traumatized
that
I
literally
could
not
move
unless
absolutely
necessary.
My
meditation
cushion
was
next
to
my
bed;
I
had
just
started
this
practice
and
did
not
yet
have
strong
skills.
All
I
knew
was
that
after
I
sat,
I
could
gather
myself
enough
to
care
for
my
sons.

I
can’t
recall
if
it
was
two
or
three
weeks
that
passed
in
what
I
now
refer
to
as
my
“psychotic
break.”


I
do
remember
my
relative,
the
doctor,
saying,
“Elizabeth,
I’ve
given
you
enough
sedatives
and
tranquilizers
to
take
down
an
elephant,
and
you’re
still
not
sleeping.
There
is
a
chance
you
are
bipolar.
It
can
have
a
very
fast
onset,
and
it
runs
in
our
family.”

Bipolar?
Me?
Little
Miss
Sunshine??
That
was
all
I
needed
to
hear.

I
had
started
a
business
designing
clothes
that
had
taken
off
too
quickly,
requiring
me
to
spend
time
in
Los
Angeles.
Since
my
children
were
with
their
father
two
weeks
of
the
month,
I
had
rented
a
tiny
studio
in
Topanga
Canyon,
a
beautiful,
peaceful,
hippie
enclave
between
the
Valley
and
Malibu.

I
knew
my
only
hope
for
sanity
was
in
that
canyon,
but
my
lease
was
up
and
I
had
no
money.
My
mother,
terrified
for
my
sanity,
gave
me
the
last
month’s
rent.

I
tossed
out
the
meds,
got
into
my
car
(against
better
judgment),
and
drove
the
four
hours
from
Vegas
to
Topanga.
On
the
way,
I
stopped
at
Whole
Foods
and
bought
at
least
three
different
natural
sleep
remedies
with
clear
instructions
on
how
to
use
them.

The
first
few
nights
I
tossed,
sweated,
and
pitched.
My
meditation
cushion
was
the
only
place
I
could
find
relief,
so
I
was
sure
to
sit
on
and
off,
even
just
for
a
few
minutes,
whenever
I
could
drag
myself
out
of
bed.

During
the
day,
I
forced
myself
to
take
short
walks
because
I
knew
if
I
did
things
that
were
“normal,”
eventually
I
would
be.


After
four
days
and
nights
detoxing,
I
finally
slept.
Not
soundly
and
not
all
the
way
through,
but
the
spell
was
clearly
broken.
I
was
taking
Valerian,
a
remedy
called
“Calms,”
and
melatonin. 

By
the
end
of
the
week,
my
nightmare
seemed
to
be
over.

Months
later,
I
realized
I’d
had
a
nervous
breakdown.
My
nervous
system
was
shot,
and
I
suffered
tremendous
repercussions
for
well
over
a
year.

After
that,
my
meditation
practice
grew
stronger
by
the
day.
And,
while
my
sleep
improved,
the
rest
of
my
life
was
still
extremely
challenged.
My
business
failed
badly.
My
former
business
partner
sued
me
and
put
a
lien
on
the
house
I
had
purchased
with
borrowed
money.
My
ex-husband
filed
bankruptcy,
which
fell
onto
me.

With
no
business,
no
income,
and
no
way
to
sell
my
house
because
of
the
lien,
I
was
looking
at
huge
debt
plus
a
mortgage
I
had
no
way
of
paying.
I
had
very
little
alimony
or
child
support.
The
relationship
with
my
ex
had
become
a
battleground,
littered
with
the
torn
parts
of
our
once
happy
life.

I
had
one
choice:
to
step
up
or
give
up.


I
remember
wondering,
if
I
was
having
such
a
hard
time
getting
through
a
divorce,
how
did
people
overcome
the
worst
things
imaginable? 

How
could
a
mother
survive
losing
a
child?

I
made
up
my
mind
to
find
out
that
answer
and
share
it
with
others.

I
knew
I
could
write
but
needed
help
with
marketing.
An
ad
on
Craigslist
led
me
to
Angela
Daffron,
who
ran
a
small
marketing
business.
She
was
a
stalking
victim
who
had
become
an
advocate
for
other
victims.

Angela’s
story
was
devastating,
and
she
clearly
had
become
empowered
through
helping
others.
But
I
needed
to
understand
surviving
pain
on
an
even
deeper
level.

I
tracked
down
Candace
Lightner,
whose
fourteen-year-old
daughter
Cari
was
killed
by
a
drunk
driver
with
four
prior
convictions.
Candace
had
led
a
one-woman,
grassroots,
pre-Internet
crusade
against
drunk
driving
and
founded
MADD
(Mothers
Against
Drunk
Driving).
Today,
MADD
has
been
estimated
to
have
saved
close
to
600,000
lives.

More
recently,
Candace
had
founded
“We
Save
Lives,”
another
non-profit
devoted
to
ending
drugged,
drunk,
and
distracted
driving.

I
needed
to
know
how
Candace
got
out
of
bed
the
day
after
Cari
was
killed.

I
found
her
email
online
and
reached
out.
Candace
was
incredibly
generous
with
her
time—that
conversation
was
the
first
of
many
that
evolved
into
a
deep,
lifelong
friendship.

Keeping
others
safe
on
the
highway
was
Candace’s
life’s
mission,
and
she
let
nothing
get
in
her
way. 
Cari’s
life
had
to
serve
a
purpose;
through
that,
Candace
discovered
a
path
through
her
pain.


I
continued
interviewing
women
who
had
been
through
hell
and
back,
so
I
could
learn.
So
I
could
share.
So
I
could
recover.
A
pattern
emerged:

Mary
Griffith’s
son
Bobby
was
gay,
and
Mary
could
not
accept
him.
Bobby
killed
himself
by
jumping
off
an
overpass
into
ongoing
traffic.

Mary
became
one
of
the
greatest
LGBT
advocates
of
her
day.

Eva
Eger
had
been
forced
to
dance
for
famed
SS
leader
Joseph
Mengele
in
Auschwitz.
She
survived
the
Holocaust
but
lost
her
entire
family.

Eva
became
a
psychotherapist.

Deanne
Breedlove’s
son
Ben
passed
from
heart
disease
at
just
eighteen
years
old.
Before
he
died,
unbeknownst
to
anyone,
Ben
made
a
video
that
shared
a
near
death
experience
with
all
of
the
peace,
love,
beauty,
and
angels
that
he
experienced.

Ben
passed
on
Christmas
Day
2011.
By
the
next
morning,
his
video
had
gone
viral
around
the
world.

Deanne
devoted
her
days
to
volunteering
at
Dell
Children’s
Hospital,
where
Ben
had
spent
so
much
of
his
life.
She
offers
love
and
support
to
parents
with
sick
and
dying
children.


My
learning
continued.
Writing
stories
about
loss,
rape,
and
homelessness
with
everything
in-between,
made
it
clear:
Compassion
was
key
to
overcoming
hardship.

And,
it
wasn’t
necessary
to
write
a
book,
change
laws,
or
start
a
non-profit.
Compassion
could
mean
showing
up
for
anyone
in
some
small
way…
even
if
that
“anyone”
was
you.

I
became
more
compassionate.
I
meditated,
spent
more
time
in
nature,
and
took
better
care
of
my
body.
I
paid
more
attention
to
my
roles
as
a
daughter,
sister,
friend,
and
mother.
I
learned
to
pause
and
make
sure
that,
if
someone
needed
me,
I
was
there.

I
became
a
much
better
listener,
especially
with
my
children.

I
was
also
fired
up
with
the
purpose
of
sharing
what
I
had
learned
with
others.


With
all
of
these
changes,
my
outer
world
hadn’t
yet
caught
up
with
my
inner
world.
My
spirit
was
stronger,
but
I
was
still
struggling
financially
and
emotionally.
I
still
could
not
reconcile
the
mess
I
had
made
of
my
life. 

I
fell
into
the
bad
habit
of
continually
beating
myself
up
for
my
mistakes,
spending
sleepless
nights
doing
the
life
review
of
all
the
ways
I
had
messed
up,
over
and
over
again.

I
also
did
not
know
that
the
unconscious
mind
cannot
differentiate
the
past
and
the
present. 
Somewhere
deep
in
my
psyche
I
believed
that
difficulty
sleeping
meant
I
would
go
off
the
deep
end
again.

The
anxiety
around
sleep
became
worse
than
the
insomnia
itself.

I
went
to
a
sleep
specialist
to
ensure
there
was
nothing
physically
wrong.
My
internist
prescribed
medication
for
when
insomnia
hit
really
hard.
I
found
a
hypnotherapist
who
helped
re-train
my
subconscious.
When
I
woke
in
the
night,
I
meditated
so
my
body
could
find
rest.


This
time,
sleep
deprivation
was
not
taking
me
down. 

I
was
referred
to
a
website
called
WIFE.org,
which
stands
for
the
Women’s
Institute
for
Financial
Education.
WIFE
was
the
nation’s
longest
running
non-profit
devoted
to
female
financial
literacy.
On
the
home
page,
I
saw
that,
for
$1,
I
could
order
a
bumper
sticker
that
read,
“A
Man
is
Not
a
Financial
Plan.”

In
that
moment,
I
understood
that
if
I
could
personally
help
women
through
their
divorces,
I
would
survive.

Two
days
later,
I
landed
on
co-founder
Candace’s
Bahr’s
doorstep.
She
and
her
partner,
Ginita
Wall,
were
two
of
the
nation’s
greatest
advocates
in
helping
women
become
financially
literate.
They
had
also
been
running
a
workshop
called
“Second
Saturday:
What
Every
Women
Needs
to
Know
About
Divorce”
for
almost
twenty-five
years.

Second
Saturday
provided
free
legal,
financial,
and
emotional
advice
for
women
in
any
stage
of
divorce,
beginning
with
just
thinking
about
it.

I
let
Candace
and
Ginita
know
I
was
going
to
advocate,
volunteer,
and
work
for
them.
I
told
them
they
were
“never
getting
rid
of
me.”
Within
one
year,
I
raised
enough
money
to
help
them
roll
Second
Saturday
out
nationally.

Three
years
later
we
had
gone
from
two
locations
to
over
one
hundred
and
twenty.

Every
Second
Saturday,
I
bared
my
soul
and
told
my
awful
tale
to
groups
of
women
in
the
most
vulnerable
possible
way
I
could.
Just
as
I
had
been,
they
were
terrified.
I
wanted
them
to
know
that
they
were
not
alone,
and
they
would
survive.

I
also
wanted
to
let
them
know
that
their
lives
would
unfold
in
remarkable
ways.


In
sharing
my
darkest
moments,
I
helped
them
get
through
theirs.
From
that
space,
my
true
healing
began.  

When
I
was
helping
others,
I
forgot
my
own
pain.
And,
when
I
saw
how
my
story
helped
others,
my
journey
of
forgiveness
began,
beginning
with
myself.

With
all
of
this
new
awareness
and
an
amazing,
supportive
community,
my
struggles
had
less
and
less
impact.
I
continued
working
with
Candace
and
Ginita,
and
slowly
but
surely,
my
outer
life
began
to
shift. 
I
made
art
to
soothe
my
soul
and
created
a
program
to
share
artmaking
with
other
women.

My
children
were
the
true
center
of
my
world,
and
I
made
the
most
of
every
moment
I
had
with
them.
I
became
more
and
more
grateful
for
every
part
of
my
life,
including—and
especially—the
struggles.

Had
I
not
gone
through
a
terrible
divorce,
I
never
would
have
met
Candace
Lightner,
Mary
Griffith,
Eva
Eger,
Deanne
Breedlove,
Candace
and
Ginita,
and
so
many
other
remarkable
people.

I
never
would
have
helped
thousands
of
women
get
through
their
own
struggles.


I
would
never
have
understood
that
we
are
all
born
with
infinite
gifts
that
we
were
meant
to
share
with
others.

Insomnia
had
led
to
compassion
and
purpose.

Eventually,
I
fell
in
love
and
married
again.
This
time
with
a
man
who
supported
every
part
of
my
being,
including
my
artist’s
soul.
My
purpose
in
helping
others
transformed
to
our
joint
purpose:
sharing
the
healing
benefits
of
art.

We
founded
“The
Spread
Your
Wings
Project,”
a
non-profit
with
a
mission
of
being
an
uplifting
response
to
the
tragedies
faced
by
our
nation
today.
We
are
blessed
to
make
massive
pairs
of
angel
wings
in
community
with
children.

We
are
humbled
and
grateful
to
have
worked
with
Dell
Children’s
Hospital,
and
the
city
of
Las
Vegas,
in
honor
of
lives
lost
on
10/1/17.

Today,
we
are
incredibly
honored
to
be
partnering
with
Dylan’s
Wings
of
Change,
a
foundation
borne
of
the
Sandy
Hook
shooting.
Ian
Hockley
lost
his
beautiful
six-year-old
Dylan
on
that
tragic
day.
In
Dylan’s
honor,
he
founded
DWC
and
“Wingman,”
an
educational
curriculum
that
teaches
children
compassion,
empathy,
and
inclusion.

What
could
be
more
important
than
that?

We
are
launching
“Spread
Your
Wings
with
Wingman,”
where
we
will
build
massive
angel
wings
with
schoolchildren
across
the
country.

What
an
incredible
gift
for
someone
who
believed
her
life
was
worthless!


Two
weeks
ago,
I
had
a
few
rough
nights.
Instead
of
spiraling
down
the
insanity
vortex,
my
older,
wiser
self
took
over.
I
embraced
my
sleep
struggles
as
a
sign
to
practice
more
self-love.

I
slowed
down.
I
listened
to
the
trees.
I
created
more
boundaries
with
people
and
technology.
I
counted
my
blessings
that
everyone
I
love
is
healthy
and
well,
at
least
in
this
moment.
I
sent
more
prayers
and
gratitude
to
the
amazing
people
who,
through
their
stories,
helped
me
re-write
mine.

I
dove
into
preparation
for
“Spread
Your
Wings
with
Wingman,”
and
remembered
everything
I
learned,
beginning
with
this:

Compassion—beginning
with
self-compassion—is
the
key
to
a
good
night’s
sleep.

About

Elizabeth
Bryan-Jacobs

Elizabeth
Bryan-Jacobs
is
an
artist
and
bestselling
author
of

Chicken
Soup
for
the
Soul:
Count
Your
Blessings
and
Soul
Models:
Transformative
Stories
of
Courage
and
Compassion

She
founded
“Creative
Awakenings,”
a
transformational
creativity
program
that
she
teaches
nationally.
She
and
her
husband,
artist
Bobby
Jacobs,
founded
“The
Spread
Your
Wings
Project,”
a
501
(c)
3
to
share
the
profound
benefits
of
the
arts
and
art
therapy. 
To
learn
more,
visit 

www.elizabethbryanjacobs.com
and

www.thespreadyourwingsproject.org.

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a
typo,
an
inaccuracy,
or
something
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