Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I can't handle it

So just as I was about to start this little mini series on anxiety, I had a brief moment of ...anxiety.

I am just a little nervous about a) going public with my brain. It is not always a pretty picture. Don't worry- I'm not going to make these posts a tell-all confessional. But you might have a different opinion of me after reading this series. I have sometimes (falsely) been accused of being supermom. These posts will dispel any notion you may have of me in that role. Promise.

I am also a little nervous about b) answering many questions about anxiety or depression...because I think counseling is best handled by the professionals (your pastor or doctor). I AM totally open to discussion in the comment section...or emails just sharing your experiences...or phone calls if you know me in real life :) If you need someone to tell you "yes, I've been there" - I'm your gal. And I can share little things that have helped me when it comes to stopping a panic attack or clawing your way out of depression.

I just don't want to tackle anything like counseling, etc. because I am just not equipped to do so. Not that any of you were trying to do that...I just wanted to put that little disclaimer out there because my husband told me to do so.

Which leads me to the first issue I want to discuss when it comes to anxiety and depression....

... what I can't handle.

Of all the lessons I have learned after nine years of (off and on) battling these issues, this is crucial:

I can only handle so much.

Back in the day when I was a 20-something and 30-something mom and pastor's wife, I thought I could handle it all. And I tried. Believe me, I tried.

I was a young pastor's wife and anxious to help my husband in the ministry. When you read that word "help" you can insert the following : make sure I knew every problem that existed in church so that I could be praying for said-probem, and also so I could make sure my husband was handling things right. Because we were young, and we were inexperienced, and hadn't God called me to be his help-mate ? And what if he counseled people and forgot some crucial thing to say, something that only a woman could have insight into ? So I tried to insert myself into lots of areas that I definitely did not need to insert myself into. I had an open ear to anyone and everyone in the church (and out of it) because I did - truly - want to be there for people. I did not want to be seen as a stand-offish pastor's wife, I wanted to be like Jesus- just totally open to people and their problems.

But guess what I found out ?

I'm not Jesus.

Shocking, I know.

And I also wasn't the co-pastor. Or secretary. Or treasurer.

But trying to be those things - allowing people to come to me with issues that really should have been discussed with their pastor - was more than I could handle emotionally. And the results of living that way did not automatically manifest other words- I didn't have a panic attack five minutes after listening to someone pour out their woes to me. It took months and months- even years- of allowing the problems in church to consume my mind, and for things to affect my psyche, if you will.

But lest you think all of my issues can be traced back to the ministry, I'll tell you another area I couldn't handle.

The problems of the world.

I used to be a news junky - on any given day I could tell you what child was missing where, what current hostage situation was going on, how many deaths occurred because of an earthquake across the world, and how many variations of the flu strain were documented that year. I listened to talk radio constantly, I read the news daily, I made sure I was always mindful of the current state of affairs in the world, because I wanted to make sure I was...informed.

And just like the problems in the church, I found out the hard way that I am only equipped to handle so much.

Maybe you're one of those people who can listen to all the cr*p out there, and you can just shrug it all off.

I can't.

 I'm one of those people who doesn't just read things or listen to things- I have to pretend I am going through it myself. I subconsciously insert myself into every crisis, and I vicariously experience the terror of that little five year old who went missing...or feel the anguish of those Russian parents whose children were being held captive in school for several days (true story.) For some reason, I have a very hard time disassociating myself from the problems I hear, and the results are massive anxiety and fear. Only it is not always immediately apparent (as I said), so I don't always realize how things are affecting me ... until it's too late.

There is so much more, but I want to keep things simple that if you are going through anxiety and/or depression you can digest this little piece of the solution and not miss it. Because it sounds like a no-brainer. Just don't take on what you can't handle. So simple right ? Not if you have made a habit of opening yourself up to other people's problems. Not if you are one of those people whose brain is a magnet for crises.

Here's a little sentence that I had to learn to incorporate into my thinking, that has helped me so much over the past few years.

I can't handle it.

Sister so-and-so wants to tell me about the latest gossip in church- whose marriage is falling apart and help me figure out how we can help them ? I can't handle it. Go to my husband if you feel there is an impending crisis, but do not come to me. I can't handle it.

A well meaning friend wants to discuss every problem going on at work on a daily basis...or another one calls me to ask for prayer about all the drama going on in her marriage ? I can't handle it. I can be a friend and a shoulder to cry on - to a point. But I cannot be the dumping ground, if you will, for everyone else's problems on a regular basis.

I can't handle it.

I have to turn the news off when it becomes too depressing. I have to stop reading magazines and blogs and novels detailing crisis after crisis after crisis. I have to remove myself a little bit from politics- because that can be a source of never-ending grief too. (Can I get an amen?!)

I can't handle it.

I'm going to add here, that I also can't say yes to everything out there, as far as extra curricular activities. I'm a stay-at-home mama, but that is actually a full-time job. I can't run my kids to every single event or sport or game on the planet. I can't hold women's Bible studies in my house, and host weekly fellowships here, and plan ladies' outreaches or what-have-you....and still homeschool 6 children and care for two babies and be available for my older children and have some time left over for my husband.

I can't handle it.

What I have learned over the past few years is that God has called me to be one thing at this stage in my life- a mom. Okay, two things- a wife and a mom. I am those things FIRST. Everything else is extra. If I can fit some extra things in, great. If I put together a ladies' fashion show or invite the church over for a food fellowship, that's a bonus. But it's not a requirement. If I make some phone calls for a local political candidate, or write a blogpost about an upcoming state measure, and I have time to do so - great. If not, there will be someone else out there with less on their plate to do so.

Here's what I've learned : I do have a lot on my plate. And if I'm going to handle the ESSENTIAL things, I have to - I MUST - say no to the extras.

And speaking of the essentials ... I have a screaming baby on my lap and a child who needs help with math and church tonight and a dog to take out.

Happy Wednesday !!


Dawn said...

Thank you. Thank you for your honesty re this. I am newly diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I am learning what I can and cannot handle. I've been doing it all for the last few years and my bidy is responding with anxiety because I can't do it all. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Ellen - SkoMomma said...

I agree - taking on too much has always been a trigger for me. It took me a very long time to realize that I'm happier the less I know about what's going on in the news world...and that too much news became a mental burden. Life has been happier the more I say no and prioritize what's really important. Thanks for sharing this today.

Ellen - SkoMomma said...

I've battled with depression and anxiety for most of my adult life. It wasn't until my mid30's that I realized what a trigger news and talk shows are for me. It added an unseen and unexpected mental burden that was crushing. Thank you for sharing this post.

Megan R. said...

Oh thank you for sharing this! You're so not alone, and I'm grateful I'm not either. I'm struggling right now because it is close to the 1 year anniversary of my Mother's death. I know it's a trigger for my depression, and it is extremely evident right now. I need to follow your example and realize that I can't do it all, and I can't handle it all. xoxo

cathy said...

Absolutely love & relate to your honesty & wonderful advice.
It is OK to say NO, I can't handle it


Joy said...

Wow, I can TOTALLY relate! I also insert myself into every situation. Thanks for these great words. I have a dear friend who would appreciate this. I'm going to share it with her.

MomToThemAll said...

I really admire your honesty. While I don't personally suffer from depression, I do have family members that do. I couldn't agree more with you about the news. I never watch the news. For all the same reasons you mentioned. Thank you for sharing.

Runningmama said...

Wow, we must have been cut from the same cloth, I can really identify with what you said about not being able to be exposed to too much in the news and whatnot because it really take a toll on my emotions, it took me a very long time to admit that to myself and I still sometimes feel guilty for not watching movies about 9/11 or details about school shootings, I simply turn off the news and pray because I really don't need to know every detail in order to pray, my emotions just can't handle the constant bombardment with sad news, which does sometimes make me feel a little bit insensitive, but at the same time, I am better off mentally and that is better for my family :-) I have struggled with anxiety since I had my first child and I am sure as this 4th comes along in a few months I will battle it again, but at least I know what it is now and have tools that I can use to calm my nerves. Thank you for being willing to be so transparent!

Kimberly said...

I don't have as many children and I don't homeschool them, but I am with you on all of this. I can't watch the news or read about it without it keeping me up when I should be sleeping (like now) or giving me nightmares.

Leslie said...

You said what I have thought for a very, very long time. And you just made me realize it's ok for me to think it, but it's also ok for me to say it. I can't handle it. Why didn't I think it was ok to just say it? Why do I continue to inundate myself with problems I can't fix or control? I can't handle it!! It's liberating to say that out loud. :)

Elle's mommy said...

Dealing with this very. same. thing...I am the 20 something Pastor's's draining and full of anxiety. Just this week my husband and I discussed my calling in life as of right now and that is to be Isaiah's mama and Wes's wife and all else is put it perfectly! THanks again for being awesome! :)

crystalkupper said...

I sometimes go on a news fast, because I can't handle it either! Thanks for giving me permission. :-)

Kathy McElhaney said...

This is so good, Patti. Even Christians can say No! The world won't stop if I don't fix that special dessert for the next church potluck.

You know what I can't handle? Those adorable striped legs in the first picture! Love the tights on lovely Lily!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for sharing! I've battled depression for more than half my life (I'm 35 now)...that's a long time. It's still a daily struggle. It's nice to not feel so alone...I can't handle it (all and sometimes any of it) either.

Nina said...

Patti, my approach to life was very similar to yours' because God made me a very caring person; as I've gotten older, much older than you, I've learned that I need to be a good steward of both my time and emotional health. I can't help be part of the "light" in the world if my "flame is flickering" so I've learned to say "no" much more, have established some strong boundaries where desperately needed and am now a much healthier and happier person. Continued blessings on you and your family; all of your readers cherish your honesty!!
Understanding hugs,

fourshoves said...

Great wisdom! I totally agree! Being new to ministry, I will take your words to heart.

cara said...

Thank you for sharing your heart SO freely and authentically Patti! Now having seven kiddos with one of those being a baby and one that still needs me like a baby, plus five active kids involved in things, I just cannot juggle it all. I needed this because I battle trying to do it all!!! xoxo

Mary E. Stephens said...

One of the most important things that we can learn in dealing with anxiety and depression is to say "No" to the things we can't handle. It does take some attentiveness and wisdom from the Lord to learn to recognize those things and control them before they control us. I can totally relate to your struggles on certain levels, though I was not as deeply involved with so many other people as you were/are as a pastor's wife.

I'm a musician (of sorts), but I have come to realize that almost all I can handle is what I get at church meetings and what I make myself. If I turn on music just to listen to in the background I become overwhelmed with the emotions or agitated and --- I can't handle it. I can't go to a concert. I can't watch many emotionally charged movies, even Christian ones. I say this just to point out that sometimes the things we can't handle are not _bad_ things; but, if it's overwhelming us, it's not worth it. We need to save ourselves for the things that are important in life, as you say. :-) For me - background music and movies are not important compared to my peace of mind and body.

I appreciate your frank dealing with the issue of not wanting to get into counseling type situations. I know that one trigger for my anxiety is to get too involved with someone else's anxiety or depression! It's hard for some people to understand that, but just setting out information to help others is not the same as dealing with individuals and their situations. Good for you and your husband for dealing with that from the get-go! It will save you trouble in the long run and that's half the battle with this.

Maria said...

Oh, Patti~ I can so relate to being a news junkie & over identifying with every horror that I either read about, heard about or saw on the news. The problems of the world truly became my own & they were so hard to handle. I know that feeling of waking up in the middle of the night with the weight of the world crushing my chest. I have to say, it is hell that we've lived through with this anxiety, depression & panic. I suffered through this alot of times on my own, not wanting to burden anyone with this but the one constant was prayer. It got me through many a long night. And you know what...the sun always rose in the morning & I thanked God I made it through. Peace to you.

Amy, a redeemed sheep said...

I can't handle it is my motto, as well. I can totally relate to everything you said...My hubby has a much happier and peaceful wife now that I can say "I can't handle it." I am grateful he is understanding...

SoulFull Mama said...

You know,Patti, I feel like God had you write this just for me :D
I just came out of probably a year of extreme anxiety and depression. I had a hard time realizing that is what it was, and as a Christian, I had a very hard time admitting it. After all, hadn't God healed me of my childhood anxiety, hadn't he given me everything I'd ever dreamed of ( a loving husband, safe home, housefull of sweet (rambunctious) babies)?
This summer, I had to hit my rock-bottom to realize that I had even been trying to use my "everything's fine" face with God...silly me. On the tails of a year involving a new baby who arrived with a birth injury and a lot of anxiety of his won, I found out I was pregnant again, barely a year later. I have always wanted as many children as GOd would give me....but I was scared out of my mind. I COULDN'T HANDLE anymore, and God used that baby to how me that was the whole point....of course I can't handle it, any of it, only HE CAN.
The he called that little baby girl back home before we had a chance to meet her. I was devastated and confused. I thought God's perfect plan was to teach me to give everything over to him, through this baby...then take her away? If I misunderstood his plan here, maybe I have misunderstood everything, all along. I hit some frighteningly low places, spiritually and physically.
But he brought me up out of those depths, with more clarity and more peace than I've had in years..........and then I find out I'm pregnant again, at a time that is extremely difficult for us as a military family ( as in my husband will have to be gone for the last trimester and birth.) So here again, relearning a lesson God has taught me so patiently and lovingly time and time again....and realizing that I shouldn't let my apparent hard-headedness be yet another reason for anxiety. It's so hard, but I imagine, God doesn't mind my not "getting" it, if it keeps drawing me back to him.
This is such a good time for me to be getting all of the reminders I can get. Thank you.