Remembering “how to save myself” from 2013. Reminding myself how important mental health is in 2019.
I wake up wondering what day it is. Rolling over, I look at the clock which says 9am. Wow, I really slept in. My little dog stirs beside me and looks at me expectantly and I ask, “I guess you want to go out, huh?” She rises and stretches and waits for me to get her down from my bed high off the floor that feels like sleeping in a cloud. Then, she follows me as I walk through the house opening drapes and filling the house with sunlight. She runs around my legs while I open the door, and darts outside to bark at the birds and remind them who is boss of the yard. I suddenly remember and say to the wind, “I had to save myself.”
Watching Janie prance and run through the leaves, I feel odd. My mood is somewhere between peaceful and feeling cut off from the rest of the world. I feel, what is the word? Maybe, … separate or not a part of things sometimes.
However weird I feel, getting to this point was intentional.
Other than the stray bark from Janie, there is very little sound in the morning here in the doorway. It has been quiet since I dug in and retreated into my house (hiding in my bunker). Dealing with the aftermath of the summer, it appears that autumn came while I slept. There is silence in the rooms, on the porch, in the air.
It is what I needed. God helped me stop the world for a little while and save myself.
For years I used to say that I wished the world would slow down so I could rest. It seems that I have finally slowed my own world enough to do that. I follow young Sophie the cat out into the back yard where the colors are starting to appear and watch the two friends greet each other. Lifting my face to the sun, I stand there for a minute letting the warm sunlight give me some comfort.
After a few minutes, I turn back to go into the kitchen. I am also reminded that I used to be involved in so many activities that I did not have time to think or sleep.
Surrounded by people constantly and the joyful clamorous noise of family and school things with my daughter, at first I was happy. The deaths in our family were difficult mile markers and life events, but we were able to move forward over and over.
I filled our lives with church events, weekly music practice and band issues. My various jobs and volunteer work covered every waking minute until I started to slow down on the inside. For years, I just kept going past the deaths and Doing. Finally, in the midst of another home renovation, another move, and the crazy real estate market, I cracked.
My life was a blur of to do lists and my house came down around me. Activity and a busy life of my own making was fulfilling in some ways, but eventually became overwhelming.
Confusing matters further, I was physically ill as I dealt with my marriage slowly suffocating. Eventually my only choice was to save myself. I knew I had reached a serious place.
My head hurts when I think about it all, so I don’t anymore if I can help it. I push the thought trail to the back of my mind and put some water on to boil to make coffee in the French press. Waiting on the water to boil, I hear little Janie barking and go back to the glass door. She is running back and forth in the yard chasing Sophie. The two are tearing through the yard rolling over each other then hiding behind the bushes or timbers in order to leap onto the other. I start to laugh when Sophie runs up a tree and stops to lick her paws as if she is bored.
Janie is still running in circles with her ears pinned back and a cool breeze ruffles my hair at the open door. There is a brilliant blue sky with puffy white cotton clouds floating lightly overhead and yellow leaves drifting to the ground. Beautiful.
The kettle starts to whistle and I go and pour the boiling water over the coffee, stir it and let it sit for a few minutes. I am thankful for today’s peace and quiet. Remembering the resolve to simplify my life, I also recall that I wasn’t sure how to do it at the outset.
I knew deep down that if I kept going I would crack in some horrifyingly public crash and be carted off by strangers to a white padded room. To save myself, I began by slowly removing things from my life until I made enough space that I could breath again. I used to apologize for it as if I needed to explain where wonder woman had gone. “I just needed a break,” I would say or “I am sorry I don’t feel well right now, maybe next time?”
It took some time to extricate myself from the myriad activities, responsibilities, overwhelming stress, and traffic of everyday life. Surrounded by a group of successful people, I was constantly defending myself, but I have done it.
I think the problem was that for a while my family life was incredibly busy, and then I added more busy-ness of my own. Kind of a “I do, therefore I am” thing. If I had too much time, I might feel all of the losses. It was easier then to overwhelm my mind with activity than to think and let the pain take over, but I am stronger now.
My quiet days are a luxury that few understand. Those who knew me before I packed and moved away from my old life seem puzzled by the life I live now. Working from home without constant activity or hobbies, the occasional trips I take are exclamation points. Instead of interruptions, they are highs that I savor. Although every time I get back home, I need a couple of days or so just to get back in the rhythm of my life.
I pour a cup of coffee and remind myself again that it is ok to rest. It is okay to say no and it is okay to be myself. I say to the future me, “Remember how I had to save myself and set boundaries? Don’t let it get that far again. Save yourself everyday. Breathe, rest, relax.”
Six years later. 2019
The unexpected friend in all of the aftermath was my ex-husband. We both benefitted from counseling and life apart for several years. Then, we found each other again and remarried.
It is amazing that we let each other heal and helped each other through, but first I had to step out of the chaos and save myself.
Mental health is not an after thought. It is a necessity. If you are struggling with anything or just feeling overwhelmed, see a licensed professional and get some relief from your own mind. Sometimes we need to talk it out. Help is available. You are not alone.
Read also: overscheduled, overextended, and exhausted
Barefoot, breathing, and still writing,
Scripture can be a balm, a healing salve of promises. Combine it with beautiful music and you will begin to feel whole again.