Categories
health life

#WritingPromptWednesdays :: Exhausted

“She’s strong, but she’s exhausted.”

This quote perfectly sums up this last week, and also why this week’s Writing Prompt Wednesday post will be short.

I have been plagued with all sorts of health problems over the past year or so, and am not much closer to any answers. I just start to feel better, and then something else hits.  Most recently, it’s a stress fracture in the spine and some other likely-spine-related symptoms that haven’t been properly addressed yet.  I will write a more detailed post at some point, but here’s the quick version.

I was sent to physical therapy.  I went to one appointment and was told by the therapist that she’s referring me back to my doctor because, essentially, some of the effects from the exercises she was having me do were “concerning.”  I know it sounds crazy, but I was looking forward to PT and the possibility of relief from my incessant back pain.  Now I not only DON’T have that option for the time being, but there’s likely something else going on. 

Add to that a small bout of anxiety that has had me rattled by a mind full of worries that won’t shut off and… I. am. exhausted. Tired of fighting – for my health, against my anxiety, for my sanity, for everything. Just… tired.  If you’ve never experienced the racing mind of a bout of anxiety, you don’t know what that kind of exhaustion is like. Logic can slow it down sometimes, but inevitably, something hits the accelerator again and off it goes. It’s usually nonsense.  It doesn’t start off that way, but it almost always reaches the point of absurdity.

Ouch my thumb hurts look there’s a small spot there I wonder what it is oh my god I had a cold sore last week maybe I touched it and now it’s on my hand what if it is and I touched my eye and I go blind or what if it’s in my brain and I have to go into a medically induced coma while they treat it and what if I die oh my god no I don’t want to die I have too many things left to do but what if that’s the cause of all the nerve pain I’m having maybe it’s in my spine or what if it’s a tumor and I am going to be paralyzed and then I can’t drive anymore that would suck I love to drive so much and let me look at my thumb again yep there’s definitely something there maybe I should take some medication what if I get it somewhere else what if I can’t walk anymore what if I can’t use my brain and my memory starts failing I couldn’t handle that I love learning so much and my intelligence is my best quality I need to be able to know things I don’t want to lose my ability to think that’s what makes me so special oh no I don’t want to be a burden on Tony if I am disabled that’s not fair to him would he still want to be with me if I was in a wheelchair or couldn’t remember things I don’t want to lose him he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me I don’t deserve him who would want to be with someone who thinks like this It’s so not fair I just don’t understand why he wants me I bet he is just going to leave me and I will be alone so I need to get my shit together but I can’t stop feeling this way if I could I would I guess I just have to try harder I still don’t understand why he puts up with me I’m such a pain in the ass I wouldn’t put up with me I don’t know why he does everything is such a project with me why can’t I just be normal…

As hard as that was to read, it’s equally as hard to feel and think that way, I promise.  You are in a constant state of fight or flight, and it’s so tiring.  You also KNOW that your thoughts are ridiculous, but you just can’t make your brain understand that.

But here’s the thing. I always get through it.  The cloud lifts and the thoughts slow and I become “normal” again. It’s not easy, but you just have to hold on and let it pass.  Find ways to keep yourself occupied and throw yourself into something so that your brain doesn’t have a chance to keep running on.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but either way, you prevent yourself from being consumed.

I pray, I listen to music, I clean, I talk.  I cry.  I hold on to Tony and he talks me down and reassures me.  Side note: If you are with someone who doesn’t reassure you and support you during these bouts – I tell you now, you are with the wrong person.  They don’t need to baby you, but they need to be your soft place to fall so that you feel loved, protected, secure. Remember that.

This is not something that you ask for or did on purpose.  It’s an issue that you have to fight, contend with, get through, overcome.  And you are stronger each and every time you overcome it.  Do not ever let anyone make you feel otherwise. Today’s post was a little ”all-over-the-place,” I know, but I wanted to be sure you understand that anxiety or depression or any other mental health issue does not make you weak – and NO ONE, including yourself, should ever make you feel that way.

It takes a strength and courage some people will never understand, but once you get through it, you shine.

Categories
life

#WritingPromptWednesdays :: Respawn.

“Start over, my darling.  Be brave enough to find the life you want and courageous enough to chase it. Then start over and love yourself the way you were always meant to.”

-Madalyn Beck

This quote is currently hanging up in my office.  I am currently in the midst of doing just what it suggests – starting over, finding the life I want, and loving myself. It was a long road, and it’s still going on, but I feel like I found the GPS, and now I just have to pay attention to where it’s taking me.

If you read my post I am a divorced Christian, you know that I have recently undergone a major life change in the form of a divorce.  It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary, and that is where one of the “start over” points has occurred.  You can read about that renewal point in the aforementioned post, but there’s so much more.  There’s also a new job, a new relationship, a new home… phew. That’s a lot of “starting over.”  But I tell you, I’ve never felt better.

In the interest of not making the post a million words long, let’s focus on the job. Last year, I had the opportunity to feel a little bit like those main characters in all those underdog movies I love so much.  I had been a secretary for 7 years – and loved every minute of it.  Perhaps it wasn’t the job itself that I loved so much, but the position – the ability to be surrounded by faculty and students who made me want to be a better person from top to bottom.  Or maybe it was the chance to return to school and redeem myself after such a pitiful performance the first time around.  Whatever it was, I enjoyed it.  I loved going to work every day, and that was a first for me.

Then I started getting restless.  The same people that made me love the job also showed me that I was better than the job, that I could be better – work at a higher-level position.  They made me see that I was more than I give myself credit for, and I needed to own it. I always took a look at the internal job postings to see if there was something open that might allow me to make a bit more money, but nothing really piqued my interest, or else it wasn’t in my skill set.  Then, last July, a position opened in administration.  I looked at all of the job duties and qualifications and thought, “I think I have all of those qualifications.”  I then proceeded to print out the job description and show it to everyone at work and asked them if they thought I was qualified.

It seems silly, but you have to realize that this position is about 5 pay grades above my previous job, and I just couldn’t believe that I was qualified.  I still didn’t see myself at that level.  In my brain, I was a secretary.  A smart secretary, maybe an executive assistant, but not an administrator.  So, after a few weeks of everyone saying “YOU ARE QUALIFIED – GO GET THIS,” I decided to go for it.

I prepped my arse off for the phone interview – dissecting each part of the job description and figuring out how my current experiences would fit and transfer to the new job.  I learned all about the mission of the institution and thought about how my work fits into the mission and would continue to do so.

I rocked it.  That initial phone interview was a chance for me to shine, to get past the first hurdle, and I did it.  My hard work paid off.  I even made the hiring committee laugh with my slightly irreverent humor.  It was an amazing feeling, but then, as I realized I really had a chance at this, things got real.

I was chosen for the next (and final) round of interviews.  This included the preparation of a presentation about a data set I was given.  I had to look at the data, identify trends and anything else important that I could report regarding the data, and then present it to a large group of people.  I also had to meet with the two individuals who would be my new supervisors and have interviews one-on-one with them.  The whole affair was about an 8-hour event.  It was a long, nerve-wracking day.

So, I go through the second round of interviews and my presentation – which I ROCKED so hard even I was impressed with myself.  I’m usually a very humble person – I never, ever, think I did that well, and I tend to dissect every minor flaw –  but in this case, I just knew there was no way I wasn’t getting this job.  I was right.

I started the job with an air of excitement and confidence, and then I crashed, hard. I was stressed out, working long hours, and got sick, which led to a vicious circle of recurring health problems and anxiety.  It was NOT fun.

A friend of mine asked if I was possibly self-sabotaging.  What does that mean, you ask?  Well – things were going well.  Despite some slip-ups, I was successful.  Life was going well, overall.  Was I, perhaps, waiting for the other shoe to drop?  Turning small things into big worries because I was convinced that all these good things are going to be taken away from me?  A case of imposter syndrome, maybe?

Maybe.

In fact, probably.

For so long I envisioned myself as nothing more than a secretary.  Because I am intelligent and was holding the job I was, people were constantly “impressed” with me, telling me I should be doing bigger things.  Then I was doing bigger things.  Would people still be impressed?  Would people think I am as smart?  Would someone find out that I’m NOT THAT GREAT?  OMG!!!  Throw into the mix the fact that the same people FOR whom I was working – who were asking me to do things FOR them, became the same people who I would be asking to do things FOR ME!  ACK!!  Am I good enough?  Will they think I have no idea what I’m doing?  WHAT AM I DOING? OMG!!!!!!!!!

The initial onset of anxiety was the worst I have ever experienced IN. MY. LIFE.  Almost unbearable.  I wanted to crawl out of my skin on a daily basis.  I worried constantly that each thing I did at work was wrong; that someone was going to “find me out” and realize I shouldn’t be in the job; that if I made a single mistake they were going to fire me; that every time someone even asked me to clarify they were “out to get me” and I had to defend myself. It was exhausting.

Yeah.  Anxiety is a heartless bitch.  She comes along and tricks you into thinking you don’t deserve all of the things that are going so awesomely well for you.  She takes that one small failure or issue in your life and turns it into the dark cloud hanging over all the good stuff. Anxiety is from the devil – and the devil is a liar.  I remember when I got the job, I was met with nothing but encouragement and congratulations – sometimes from people I didn’t even realize knew my name!  That should have been my first clue.  I quietly made a name for myself as I did my job, and people noticed.  They noticed without me having to shout about it.  They simply noticed because I was that good at my job.  Why would this be different?

Here’s the thing I realized:  It’s a new job.  A job I’ve never done before.  It’s a job in higher education.  I am surrounded by people who TEACH for a living.  I am surrounded by people who hired me for what I CAN do, not what I’m doing already!  They are expecting me to not know what I should do in some circumstances.  The important part is that I ask for help and info when I need it, and just keep learning and getting better.  As long as I am not making intentionally bad decisions or not showing up for the job or mishandling information or anything that is grossly incompetent, I’m not likely to be fired.  As long as I’m learning from any mistakes I do make, I’m growing and getting better.  So no matter how much Satan tries to convince me that I have to defend every decision and worry that everyone is out to get me, it’s simply not true.  I may take a while to make the same name for myself in this job, but it will happen.  Of that, I am confident. I did it before, I will do it again.  I just might need to speak a little less softly this time around.

A year has passed, and am finding my place here, and my strength.  I feel like I am coming out of my shell and people are starting to realize what I have to offer.  I am spearheading some research and taking part in some new projects that will hopefully make a difference.  And I am respected.  I was brave enough to get here and courageous enough to stay here, and I feel like I am doing what I was “meant to do,” as the quotation says.  The best part is, that’s just in my career!  The rest of my life has been equally as phoenix-like.  The anxiety has lifted, I am feeling fresh and new, I am enjoying life and making new memories.

I’ll tell you all about it in an upcoming post. Be sure to stop back!

Categories
health life

#WritingPromptWednesdays :: It’s Heavy

@wordporm on Instagram

“Just because I carry it all so well doesn’t mean it’s not heavy.”

This quote resonated with me so very, very much.  I think strong people are often forgotten.  At least, they aren’t thought about in a way that’s helpful.  I am not one to hide any trials through which I am going, but I think my ability to be crushed under their weight and still show up for work and wear a smile makes people think whatever is going on behind the scenes isn’t really “a big deal.”

OK, sure, sometimes people exaggerate issues for attention or sympathy.  But let’s not be so cynical, shall we? When someone’s life is falling apart, and they say “Eh, I got this,” and manage to get up every morning and show up for the day, it takes a strength some others will never fully understand.  It requires a level of concentration and voluntary, temporary amnesia that some people just do not possess the ability to achieve.  You have to forget about whatever is happening behind the scenes and focus all the remaining energy on work, school, kids, whatever.

There is simply no time to cope or deal, there’s only time to do what needs to be done, and the energy and force of will it takes to not only bury those things until later but also face the day with as much competence as you need – it’s astonishing.  I am not saying you need to pity anyone who has a burden to carry.  I am instead asking you to recognize that heavy burdens sometimes fall on upright shoulders, so they go unnoticed.

Over the past couple of years, I have had my share of hindrances – divorce, health issues, heartbreak, unexpected responsibilities, and crippling anxiety problems.  For the most part, I’d tell people I was “fine,” when in reality I was breaking apart, little by little.  The anxiety seemed as though it would never go away – I was scared and worried every minute of every day – and I just couldn’t shake it.  I couldn’t “logic-it-away.”  I felt as though I was struggling to keep my head above water and someone kept tying weights to my ankles.  Not enough to pull me straight down, but enough to make it harder and harder to tread water.

…heavy burdens sometimes fall on upright shoulders, so they go unnoticed.

I was told to “get over it,” to “just pray about it,” to “buck up,” and of course the multiple comparisons to other peoples’ life problems.  The intentions were all good, I understand that, but they were not at all helpful.  I felt like no one understood that if I could get over it, I would have already!  I felt weak, small, incapable, and like a failure.  In response, I shoved it all away, and showed up for work, and carried it with as much grace as possible – all while trying to move and set up a new home, to help take care of family, to navigate a relatively new job, and to try to maintain my sanity.  For those who didn’t bother to look past the “I’m fine’s,” I seemed to be managing OK.  I wasn’t.

Then someone came along who held my hand and held me up and carried me… whatever I needed, from the small encouragements to the place to turn when I couldn’t take anymore. He untied the weights one by one and handed me a life preserver.  I never asked for help, but he didn’t buy it when I said: “I’m fine.”  He showed up and helped out and took away some of the everyday worries and chores so I could focus on the big stuff.  I was never placated or belittled or minimized.  I was allowed to cry and scream and sleep and be quiet.  I was allowed to trudge through without being told to “get over it” or told I was overreacting or told that what I felt wasn’t valid.  And it saved me – my health, my sanity.  Readers, I encourage – no, implore – you to be that person for someone else.

Does someone you know have a particular burden to carry and they seem “just fine?”  Do me a favor and ask them how they are doing – and do not take “fine” for an answer.  I’m not asking you to pry, simply to push a little harder.  Let them know that you are there if they need someone.  Sometimes just one gentle push can have someone unload a weight they couldn’t carry alone any longer.  Sometimes the lightening of that load can mean the difference between sanity and insanity, illness and wellness, or even life or death.

I also ask you to not offer tired cliches and mottos and sayings.

“I promise it’ll get better.”

“I know exactly how you feel – and I got through it.”

“It’s not THAT bad.”

And my personal favorite:

“If it doesn’t kill ya, it makes ya stronger!”

First of all – maybe it won’t get better.  Maybe this albatross will be with them forever.  You simply don’t know that for sure.  Second – no, you just don’t know how they feel.  Each person processes difficulties differently, so do not assume you know how they feel, even if you’ve been in a similar situation. Third – yes, it is THAT bad.  It’s that bad for that person, and you have no right to determine the hierarchy of malady.  It’s however they feel, and telling them it’s “not that bad” is basically telling them that their feelings are irrelevant.  Instead, be honest, be supportive, and be kind.  That’s what I’d want.  Try this:

“I have no idea if or when this will get better, and I cannot even imagine what it’s like, but I am here for as long as you need me.  I know it seems bad, really bad, right now but maybe with some support, we can work through it all together.”

Be a pallbearer for whatever hardship they are trying to put to rest, and do so with dignity – yours and theirs.

And for the love of God, stop using the “if it doesn’t kill you” line.  The truth is, some people never make it out of that first category.  Second, you’re basically telling the person that their tribulations only have two possible outcomes: death or self-improvement. This couldn’t be farther from reality.  Sometimes people don’t become stronger after a trial.  Sometimes they realize their limits and know they can’t handle it.  Sometimes they are shattered.  Not dead, but broken – and that does not feel like strength.  Yes, to be that broken and still move forward does take an unbelievable amount of strength, but that’s not always how it feels in the moment.  Trust me, I know.  There are also times that people are broken and they can’t move forward.  No one is asking you to be a life coach, they are asking for your shoulders so you can share the load.

Instead, say something like “I’m going to do what I can to help you get through this and to pick up the pieces.  I’m here for you.”  Offer to aid with everyday burdens – cleaning, cooking, babysitting.  Perhaps if they don’t have to worry about keeping the house clean or going grocery shopping, they will find the strength to deal with whatever issue is at hand.  Stop offering advice, and instead offer real, tangible help.

They may not accept it right away.  They might not accept it at all.  But they will know that you’re there, and knowing, sometimes, is half the battle.  It’s a lot less scary to walk the tight rope when you know there’s a safety net underneath.  Be the safety net.  Just be there, without pity or judgment.  Be a pallbearer for whatever hardship they are trying to put to rest, and do so with dignity – yours and theirs.

Check on your “strong” friend. They often are the ones who won’t ask for help, even when they need it most.  Don’t minimize someone’s heaviness just because their shoulders seem strong enough to hold it up.

I am not affiliated with @wordporm in any way.  I’m just a writer who is inspired by them.

Categories
nerdiness

Introducing “Writing Prompt Wednesdays.”

I love Instagram. Sometimes it’s a giant dumpster fire that makes me want to throw my phone away, but most of the time, it’s full of gorgeous photos and cool personalities and a bit of escape from reality.

Along with fashion or makeup bloggers, Christian pages, bands, etc., I follow quite a few “word” accounts, @wordporm and @wordables to name a couple of them. These profiles are just a series of quotes or sayings that are sometimes inspiring, sometimes funny, and usually thought-provoking.  I love these posts and often share them to my story.

What I don’t do, however, is write about them.  I’ve decided that this is a travesty because they almost ALWAYS make me ponder and wax philosophical, but I never really use that thought process as a writing prompt.  I intend to change that.

So, for the foreseeable future, you will see a “Writing Prompt Wednesday” blog every week.

I will choose a quote that reached me, let you know the account from whence it came, and then use it as inspiration for a new blog post.  I’ll do my best to post not only things with which I agree or that are all super positive and energizing, but also some things with which I may not agree, or that may resonate on a less-than-positive level with some folks.  The point is to make people think a little, and hopefully, even discuss (civilly.)

Stick around, this should be fun!