So, I was pondering something this morning. I have always felt like I was a very strong person, which is good, because I have had A LOT thrown at me all my life that required strength. I won’t even go into every detail, those of you who know me well know just about everything I’ve been through from the age of 10 to now, and you guys are the ones this goes out to, for the most part. I have been strong, very strong, but even the largest trees can have weakness deep at the core. My weakness is worry. It hides from view and eats me from the inside out. Not many people see the stress I have been under because I worry about everyone else and never think that I might be in need of help. I am the person nobody thinks has a problem because I so carefully see the potential problems around me and try to fix or correct or nurture first, whatever the situation may call for, I tend to step in long before someone asks for help and just be there. I’m not tooting my own horn, I’m just making an observation.
So, that is a good thing right? Well, it certainly can be. Until you turn around at 27 years old and realize this pattern in your life that you were too busy to notice.
You see, when my childhood basically ended, the carefree part where you never see what goes on behind the scenes, you just laugh and play and your biggest worry is if there will be something for lunch you like, (I was a picky eater) I was 10. I had always been sensitive, but at 10 I became an adult in so many ways, I always thought I had to, but now I see that I didn’t really have to. I just did, because that is who I am. Life called for adult responses to circumstances and instead of saying no, like a child, I stood up and met the demand. Again, just stating facts, this is all as surprising to me as to anyone, I’m literally realizing this for the first time today.
As I took on these cares, seemingly just taking them in stride, my inner worry ate away at me causing emotional stress. At 14 and 15 this manifested in anorexia. The worry and burdens of 16 – 19 manifested in depression, reclusion, and sometimes suicidal thoughts. 20 – 21’s worries came out in the form of not caring anything for myself, kind of a giant ball of disillusionment, wild living, self-destructive habits. Then I found my soul mate and suddenly all the former worries and issues began to be shared on a deep level for the first time and I began to heal from my past. However, marriage offered me new things to worry about.
I don’t have to even go into the worries and ensuing situation surrounding the opening of our first restaurant, my first pregnancy and the birth and death of my daughter, but I suffered severe weight loss while pregnant with her, severe urinary infections during and after that, not to mention grief and depression so traumatic I have a chunk of my life spanning almost a year that is missing from my memory almost completely, save for a few blotchy pieces mostly remembered because of pictures being taken that jog my memory.
Pregnancy with Faith was full of worry, I mostly slept and ate and gained lots of weight, but also became severely withdrawn from everyone and everything.
Then, things got a lot better when Faith was born. I had a joy and purpose that over shadowed any stress and worry. Suddenly, there was nothing and no one who mattered as much as loving that baby and watching her grow and making memories.
Fast forward now to late 2011. My dad finds out he’s sick, he has to stop working. Suddenly, early in 2012 I am faced not just with losing my dad, but worrying how in the world my mom and 5 young sisters are going to go on without him. You have to understand my family to understand this worry. My dad was everything. EVERYTHING. He took care of everything, he made every decision, his word was final law. He made the money and told his family just where it was going. None of it went into a fund for the future because my dad lived in the now and the future was the world ending and Jesus coming back. None of us really thought he would ever die, as silly as that sounds. No one was prepared. Josh and I had talked about the “what ifs” throughout our marriage, but only amongst ourselves, never with the thought it would happen or happen soon. Well, Dad was right, the world did end… the world we had all known was jerked out from under us… from under ME.
I spent a lot of time driving back and forth between Kentucky and Tennessee from January through March this year, spending time with my dad as much as possible, at least the man he had become, because that sick person with deteriorating memory could hardly be referred to as “My Dad”. I wanted to spend time with him, but I was also on a mission to help my mom and the girls begin coping with losing him, long before mom admitted that he was going to die I knew and was constantly looking for opportunities to talk about it and prepare her. I felt like I was the one who needed to do this as I was the only one in the family who had lost someone so close as my dad was to her. There was so much that I felt was left undone, ends that should be tied up, and I worried about that as much as I grieved losing my dad. On top of this, Josh was in the middle of opening another restaurant in a new state (deja vu for me and all the worries of 2008 began to resurface, eerily) and I had a 2-year-old child to care for during all this nomadic uproar.
I broke out in a weird rash. It started mildly enough, a few blotchy patches on my neck, they didn’t really itch, they just looked irritated. That was in the beginning of January. They got worse and worse and slowly started spreading down my shoulders and chest, a few even made it to my belly button. I had no clue what it was and tried several over the counter creams, nothing helped and THAT worried me. By the end of March I had decided to take money I didn’t really have (I didn’t have insurance) and see a doctor. I had buried my dad just a couple of weeks before and I was back in Tennessee. Long story short, upon examination, the doctor told me that basically I had been under so much stress that my immune system was out of whack and had attacked my own body. The best remedy was to try to get rest and reduce stress.
As I came out of the doctor’s office and called my mom to let her know what he’d said, I remember her saying “Honey, what could you possibly be stressing about?” In her mind, the funeral was over, daddy was gone, grief had not yet descended like a vulture on her soul, something I knew only happened after the numb part of the few weeks after the funeral.
I was at a loss for words. I didn’t even know where to begin. My first reaction was to scream, “What’s wrong with you?! Have you not seen my life for the last 6 months?!” But then I realized, no, she hadn’t. Nobody had. In fact, nobody had really seen my life for my entire life. I had been so busy trying to be strong for so many people all my life, doing things nobody expected of me, being the person nobody ASKED me to be but I was anyway, and nobody knew the inner turmoil I faced daily shouldering burdens that I really didn’t have to bear. Of course I thought I had to bear them, but I didn’t. That’s what this whole post is about, my epiphany.
I began to realize something that day. I was doing a bunch of stuff for a bunch of people, and while it was all good and noble and all that, I COULDN’T KEEP DOING IT. And guess what? As I began realizing this and through the complete physical break down I suffered the week following my realization, I found that the world kept spinning without me. Life went on. Mom was going to be ok, one day, eventually. My sisters were going to be ok. They may suffer some really tough things emotionally, but I couldn’t stop that and I was literally going to kill myself trying.
So I was thinking about all this today because since all that, my crazy rash completely disappeared. I worked very hard on letting go of a lot of things and focused on myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I found out I was pregnant and that gave me even more incentive to do what was right for me. The few set backs I encountered over the summer on my path to taking care of me just gave me a stronger resolve to let go.
Then, about a month ago, I started to forget what I was trying to do. Circumstances in my life (and there are always crazy circumstances and things to worry about in my crazy life) began to get to me again. They culminated this past week in one day of such worry and stress that I began having painful contractions every 5 minutes for several hours until the immediate problem was resolved (not the way I wanted it to be, but resolved none the less) and my rash has begun to reappear. It’s only 2 small spots, but they have been getting worse the past couple days through the peak of this stressful situation we’ve been dealing with, and first it was only one, now it’s 2. That in itself has the worry nagging at me.
I am so tired of doing this to myself! I do this to MYSELF! When will I learn that God is holding it all, that through worse things I have survived, that the world will keep spinning without me, that life will continue for everyone whether I am there or not. This is me making myself accountable, letting it be known that I have a problem and I am doing something about it. God as my helper.
I realize most of the people reading this are saying, “Wow! I had no idea!” Well, now you do. Now I can stop being ridiculous about anticipating the needs of every single person I come in contact with before they ask for help. I’m not even sure I HAVE been helping, maybe I just tell myself that to feel better, maybe those people don’t even realize I’m trying to help. None of this is to say I am going to turn into a selfish person and carry out my own agenda from now on. I believe in helping people when you can, but there is a limit to what one person can do, especially when this ridiculous person puts it all on themselves, unsolicited. My problem is not that I need to learn to tell people “no”, I need to learn to tell myself “no, their world will keep spinning, God doesn’t need you to step in and make every little thing better and easier for them according to your own ideas.”
So, that is my epiphany today. It may seem obvious to you, it may not interest you in the least. All I know is I needed to write it out and for once, not WORRY who would take it the wrong way or misinterpret it or care. It is not meant to make anyone feel bad or guilty, it is not directed at anyone. It is just something I had to write.