This is gonna be one of those posts where I just type, and whatever comes out comes out. It might be whiny or depressing. It might not. I'm really not sure. Either way, I've got to at least try to document what's happened during the last year or so.
A couple of weeks ago, I looked in the mirror and it hit me: I'd lost my light. Maybe I was not radiating all that much to begin with, but I like to think that I am inherently a happy and positive person, but this really hasn't been the case for several months now.
Now, before I go any further, please understand this is not a "being too hard on myself" post. It's just an "I've let myself slip" post. I know who I want to be and I haven't been that person, and it's not because who I want to be is completely unrealistic and impossible to achieve right now. I'm not looking for perfect anymore. That kind of attitude and expectation creates an atmosphere for failure, discouragement, and even depression. Ironically, I've sort of gone from one extreme to the other. Now, I glory in imperfection. Warm and fluffy makes me cringe. Contrived emotion and fake sincerity do, too. I want to be REAL. I want to accept and appreciate what I can do and give daily.
The thing is, the part of the equation that's been missing for a while is the "what I can do and give" part, because I'm really not trying very hard at all. I'm not sure if the reasons why are all that important, or maybe they are, but I'm gonna elaborate on them anyway.
First of all, I've been in survival mode for a year now. The harder I've tried to simplify my life, the more complicated it's gotten, largely because of work (and also Grandma's 100th Birthday Party, which I'll post about later). I enjoy my job and most of the people I work with, but I've basically been doing two people's jobs for over a year, which really wasn't a huge deal at first, because it was only supposed to be a few months. Then we hired not one, but two people who did not work out. I don't really need to elaborate on this. Suffice it to say that work created an immense amount of anxiety for a variety of reasons, and I dreaded every day. Each day added up and it was soooo draining. Finally, we hired a new girl to be my work partner in July, and sh eis AMAZING. I love her and we get along and work so well together... so that's a relief.
Anyway, the reason I write all this is because it shows the stress of the situation, and when you add trying to hold this entire program together by myself on top of said anxiety, it really just got to be too much for me to handle. I was ALWAYS behind and working crazy hours just stay caught up with the absolutely necessary things. Feeling like I will never be on top of things is not something I deal with very well. You know how sometimes you are close to a deadline and you go into crazy productive last minute mode where you're doing ten things at once, and the pressure really helps you to get a lot done? And then when whatever you're doing is done and you can take a deep breath and feel all accomplished and say, "I did it. I can relax now." (This is how I wrote every single paper of my college career.) It's kind of like that, except I never got to that last part, because every time I finished one emergency, I was faced with 10 more. I really felt like I was losing my mind all summer long. Miraculously, we met all the necessary deadlines and haven't been faced with any huge disasters, except for the one where I never got the necessary calm moments in between the pressure-filled ones. I like to think of myself as the kind of person who can hold it together no matter how crazy things get, but that's just not healthy or realistic.
Sadly, it took NOSE SURGERY for me to realize how bad things had gotten and how much my job stress had affected pretty much every other aspect of my life. While I've been quite complacent in some areas, I really think the big reason I've slipped so far into this dark hole is simply because I was so drained. I was depleted of all my energy - social, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual. I came home from work every day and all I could do was just stare into space because I literally did not have an ounce of energy for anything else. I stopped taking time to care about my friends and family. I haven't exercised in months. I ate wayyyy too much Mcdonald's! The only good thing happening this past summer is that I have been going to counseling and continuing to work through some family stuff. It's a long and frustrating process, but I AM making some major progress, which is good. (I could write a whole post on why I think everyone should go to counseling. Maybe later.)
Once I had surgery and couldn't even sit up or breathe or do the basic functions of human life, it all started to hit me. I knew I was out of control, but I didn't know HOW out of control. I hadn't been taking care of myself at ALL for way too long, and that left me unable to care about anyone else. For a week, I did pretty much nothing but watch netflix. I didn't respond to texts or phone calls, for the most part. It gave me some time to think about who I've become, and about how a little bit of daily slipping over a long period of time had led me to a sort of dark and discouraging place. This was when I looked in the mirror and thought, "This is not me." Okay, so maybe it's easy to think that when you've just had surgery and you can't poop on your own and you can't eat and you are 100% certain that death would be preferable to the patience of veerrrrrry gradual healing. But really... it was more than just physical. Like I said, I'd lost my light. I wasn't happy. I wasn't all that kind or genuine or caring. I really wasn't contributing anything good to anyone or anything, and not because I didn't want to, I just simply wasn't capable of it.
Healing is a funny thing. About 6 hours after my nose surgery, I was feeling fantastic. I quickly began to believe that this was going to be a quick and painless recovery. What a blessing! How wrong I was. Things went from great to okay to bad to worse and just when I thought I'd hit rock bottom, it got even more worse. And then the next day, worse again. It was really bad, guys. I've never experienced something so horrible physically, but it was more than that. My spirit was broken. Panic and anxiety. Hopelessness. Discouragement. Faithlessness. I really started to believe I was never going to get better. Then, the next day, I was able to eat a cracker. And that was progress. And then I was able to walk outside. And that was progress. And then I was able to talk to another human for ten minutes. Again, progress. I kept having to remind myself, "I may feel 95% like I want to die today, but yesterday was 100%. And if today is 5% better than yesterday, then that's progress." It's been a painful, scary thing to realize that my physical healing is going to take a really, really long time. Longer than I want. Longer than other people. But there's really nothing I can do to speed it up. I can't say, "NOSE, I need to breathe, so I command you to unswell now!" I can't say, "BODY, I have to go back to work so you must have energy and quit it with the migraines!" I just have to be PATIENT. Ah, I love that principle. And when I say love, I mean hate. Mostly because it's just something I've never really been great at, but Heavenly Father keeps giving me these situations where I really have no choice but to figure it out, somehow.
I'm a problem solver. If something is not working, I like to identify the problem and then FIX IT. Plain and simple. When I hit rock bottom after surgery, I saw problems. LOTS OF THEM. I've mentioned a lot of them already. Naturally, I just wanted to fix all of them right now. I wanted my light back. But, like physical healing, all the other kinds of healing cannot be rushed or forced, no matter how bad I want them to come immediately. I am starting to learn to accept that.
I actually don't even know where I'm going with this post from here, because I don't have a plan like I always do. I don't have a spreadsheet called "HOW TO GET MY LIGHT BACK" with all the subtasks prioritized and color coded by timeline.
What I do know is:
1 - I HAVE to take care of myself if I want to be able to take care of others.
2 - It's going to take some serious time and patience for me to heal in all the different ways I want to heal.
3 - I'm getting good at saying no to others, for now, for the sake of giving myself the time and space needed to heal, not just physically, but in other ways too. (I've been avoiding dating like the plague because all I can think of right now is, "Who in the world would want to date THIS version of me?!" Okay, so maybe that's being a little too hard on myself in this regard. But you know.)
That's all I know right now, but it's a heck of a lot more than I knew 2 weeks ago when I was wheeled into that operating room.
And that's progress.