I’ve been there, friend. I’ve lived with the “why-do-I-even-have-to-get-out-of-bed-today” mornings that pressed me into the mattress and made the down comforter feel like a lead blanket.
Sleep seemed like the perfect alternative to facing a day filled with rejection and crushed hopes and the quotidian routine of eat, sleep, work, repeat.
My guilt had guilt babies. Pedro had experienced a miraculous recovery from cancer, and instead of rejoicing, all I wanted to do was sleep.
I felt traumatized without the trauma. The hospital co-pays and credit card bills stretched like an endless river that we would never find the headwaters of (even with excellent insurance, travel expenses, hotel rooms and food away from home all add up).
Because of the debt, I took on a second job—and discovered that despite the brainless nature of the work, the supervisor and other employees made me feel needed and appreciated. Which made me even more bleak—because I’d invested so much of my life and time into my teaching job that to no longer teach at the school I loved seemed unthinkable.
I lost my resiliency. Every little criticism (and most of them were probably constructive) crushed me for days. If the dog didn’t come when I called her, I felt unreasonably angry.
My husband suffered from my moodiness. My kids suffered. And their suffering only made me angrier at myself. Which made me feel more hopeless.
And then the mysterious pain hit—usually accompanied by a low-grade fever. I couldn’t take a deep breath without extreme pain—and so I stopped breathing deeply. The pain would last anywhere from two to six weeks—and no doctor could figure out what it was or what caused it. My back usually looked swollen, and so I’d try laying on ice packs. They helped. A little. I couldn’t taste food (nor did I want to eat very much, because food hurt my stomach), and life lost its flavor.
Eventually, the band of pain would loosen (it wasn’t a heart attack, I went to the ER several times) and life would slowly return to normal. But the fear of the pain always lingered. I stopped working my second job. I read books on depression (they helped). I should have gone into counseling, because I suspect now that the physical pain was my body’s way of dealing with stress and emotional upheaval.
Somewhere during my year of caregiving, I lost the ability to process emotions in a healthy way, and this is how my body coped—long after the caregiving journey had ended. If I had sought emotional help earlier on, maybe I wouldn’t have had to endure pain for so long.
I haven’t had the pain for one year and eight months now. And I hope it never returns. God gave me a one-year sabbatical two years ago, and the rest (if you can call moving and remodeling a house over a five-month period ‘rest’) from the regular has helped immensely.
God created us to feel—to be fully alive. I think my physical symptoms were a warning light on my dashboard. Often we don’t associate the physical with the emotional or mental, but maybe we should. Our physical aches and pains might mask our emotional aches and pains. Medicating the former will do nothing to heal the latter.
Don’t be like me. Get help! No one should suffer physical pain or depression or live in a state of emotional bleakness. Click To Tweet
If a warning light comes on in your car, you don’t ignore it (unless you want to ruin your vehicle)—you take your vehicle to a mechanic to get it fixed.
If a warning light comes on in your life, don’t ignore it. Take yourself to a ‘mechanic’ (counselor/psychiatrist/psychologist/treatment center) as soon as possible. (click to tweet)
Don’t wait until you’ve slid so far down in the pit of depression that life looks hopeless. You matter. You are infinitely valuable. You are irreplaceable. You have a job that only you can do. And while you can’t see it or feel it, you are loved beyond measure.
(I’m linking up with Kirsten Oliphant and other writers for Not So (Small) Stories. In fact, this story seems pretty big to me, because no one likes to talk about their mental health and what they didn’t do but should have done. I hope that my experience will allow you to take a look at your life and check for warning lights).