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 themselves...in 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'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 today...so 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 !!
Posted by Patti at 11:58 AM