Mental Breakdown

I had a mental breakdown.  Fueled by the stress of many jobs, family and internal emotional distress I completely broke down. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I couldn’t remember conversations I was in the middle of. I had trouble remembering faces and names of long standing friends. I would spend hours driving around trying to remember what it is I was supposed to do. My brain became useless for anything but surviving from day to day.Because of all the stress I couldn’t sleep. I was mixing vodka and xanex in unsuccessful attempts to get some rest and relief.  I masked all this for as long as I could. And then I couldn’t.

Four years ago I had a busy church, charity work, a business consulting job, writing gigs and an occasional photography business.  In addition we had four busy teenagers with lives filled with music, sports and church activities. I worked hard from early morning until early morning. I cleaned the house in the middle of the night, often mopping and doing laundry until 1-2 in the morning. I worked until my chest hurt and would curl up in a ball on my office floor until it stopped.

Since a young age I have worked to exhaustion. Church, school, work, family – balancing it all precariously and not always successfully.  When I was in high school a science teacher told me that I was not the kind of person who burned a candle at both ends but the kind who broke the candle in two and burned all four.  For the entirety of my life people have asked me what I was running away from that I would work that hard.

I resented those kinds of comments because I loved working and loved my jobs.  I was good at them and they gave me deep satisfaction. The real question isn’t if I loved working it is WHY I loved to work so much and why I needed to keep up that busy pace. I was convinced I wasn’t running from anything, until I crashed.

Working hard wasn’t without it’s benefits. People gave me accolades and recognition for being successful and working so hard. I was highly regarded in my work but I was, in fact, running. Running hard to out run a burden I carried with me everywhere I went.

After four years of intense treatment I now know that I was in fact running. My busyness kept the emotional pain of a tragic childhood from me. If I was busy I didn’t have time to consider myself.  But then I couldn’t outrun the past anymore.  My brain and nervous system won’t allow it. I was arrested by crippling emotional pain and fatigue.

My brain will never recover from that breakdown. My memory hasn’t returned to full capacity and my concentration remains stilted. I struggle to read a book, trying to remember characters from page turn to page turn.  Throughout the day I often have to pause to remember details that should  be easy to recall. I exhaust easily and cannot handle groups of people or lots of frantic activity. I have to make accommodations just to go out in public and interact with the world.  I have been repeatedly warned that if I crash again I will not come back to even the working capacity that I am at now so I work significantly less. I work smarter and I focus on my own self care.

But I am missing a part of my self esteem. I found value in being known and receiving atta-girls from my work.  My other-esteem craves someone to call me out and pat me on the back for something. I feel like I have disappeared from the sight of the living, breathing, thriving world.

I want to be happier, more settled and more satisfied with my new way of life but that will be a longer time coming. I will wait for that patiently.

Life’s Delicate Balance

I got a mid morning gym work out in and burned 350 calories. But now I’m hungry and want to eat 3000 calories.  I’m considering for settling for a cool 2000 calorie breakfast. Such is the stuff of life.  Weighing and measuring for balance.

Balance is an elusive concept.  We work, play and yes, eat, with abandon.  We go hard at everything, often without recognizing the costliness of living a life of imbalance. I can work out all I want but if my food intake is too great or too little in comparison to my calorie burning it will lead to a unwanted weight loss or gain in my body. I can stress myself out and expend all my energy but if I don’t replenish or recharge myself I’m left spent.  I have the freedom to use all my time giving to others but if I forget to express generosity and care to myself my mental health and emotional health suffers.

I once heard someone say the self-care is not a Biblical concept which I respectfully disagree with.  Caring for ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically is crucial to our experience as believer. Scripture is replete with examples of heroes of faith, even Jesus himself taking time to pray, meditate, eat and rest.  My ability to care for and maintain this flawed, earthy body I have been gifted with is directly related to my honoring Christ.

There are seasons in life where we are called on to give sacrificially to those around us but in order to retain a sustainable life of worship we need to balance those times with active and intentional care of self.  In my opinion this isn’t about living life selfishly but about living wisely using the resources available to us.

So, I continue to press on towards delicately balancing my life with an active reminder in my spirit to give and act generously to those in need, including myself.

Parenting Priorities

I wan’t parented. I was bullied through childhood and into adulthood. I only heard my mother say she was sorry one time. My childhood was filled with fear and angst.  Being raised this way taught me a lot of things about parenting. In addition to hoping our children would be people of wisdom, character and great faith I have lived with some internal, seldom spoken of goals.

Goal #1. As a parent I place a high priority on happiness. My goal was that my children would have joyful, happy memories, no matter the circumstances, of their childhood. I think kid should enjoy being kids. They should have ice cream all over their face, play dough under their finger nails and endless bicycle adventures. We invested in their eduction but also in their creativity.  They had activities and relationships aimed at creating good memories.

We also enjoy our teenagers. I love their laughter and their groups of friends that eat freely from our refrigerator. Their game nights are loud, raucous and crazy. My happiest times are when they have their friends packed into our little house enjoying one another, whether its playing or singing together or enjoying a campfire. As they have turned into young adults we are proud of them and enjoy seeing them reach dreams and become great people. These children of our have turned into some great adults and I hope they are happy.

Goal #2. I want my children to hear ‘I’m sorry’. I’m not particularly good at this but I try. As parents it is difficult to submit yourself to the inevitability that we will be wrong. However, I am convinced that while our mistakes may be epic our ability to ask for forgiveness is redeeming.

Goal #3. My goal is that our children don’t live in fear. I was always afraid of my mother, convinced my next mistake would lead to a beating or other severe consequences. While I think our children need to have healthy respect and good boundaries I didn’t want them to live afraid of me or of others. I want them to enjoy their lives and for other people to enjoy them.

Becoming a parent is a much bigger task than I anticipated but these are some of the internal principles that governed my thoughts as we were raising little ones. I’m not anywhere near a perfect parent but I love these humans tirelessly and undying devotion.

Season of Stillness

I was raised in a religious environment that led me to believe if I wasn’t striving in my faith I was moving backwards. Stillness meant spiritual death. Not “working out my faith” meant was condemning it the fiery depths. Every time, I “stalled out”, I begged for forgiveness from a God who I thought measured my worth by my works. I served God as if  some spiritual sundial was sundowning on my efforts and I would come up empty handed.

As I have entered a new season of self care I have begun to wonder where in that praxis is there room for self care and peace?  If we are always chasing something how can we rest and meditate on the things of the Lord? How can we enter the  peace and rest of a shepherd that longs only for our presence? Where does ‘abiding’ just being in the presence of something bigger than ourselves fit in?

I would offer this. If one is always chasing a sense of success in their worship of the almighty, their focus is misdirected as to what the roles of God and humankind are. Faith exists as an avenue for worship with firm resolve that our worship is a gift that benefits the giver. Faith is a journey, not a destination.

I have learned to find peace in the stillness because I know God is there. It is in the blackness, the quiet and the silence that I am secure because it is where I feel the most held. There is no distraction of myself and my own feeble attempts to win the grace of One who gives it freely.

This has been a season of stillness. I have not been working at my faith but thankfully it is is working on me.