Staying strong during the holiday season
December is hard for many people. Some because of stressful family dynamics. Others because it reminds them of loved ones who are gone. For me, it is the anniversary of when my father abducted me on my 9th birthday. What followed is a large part of my upcoming book, to be published in the Spring. I also write about in other posts here.
I know I must be vigilant in protecting my mental and physical energy. I know taking on too much can throw me out of whack. Some of my limitations stem from my bipolar disorder and C-PTSD. Too much stress and I can end up abruptly depressed.
Less often, I get mildly manic.
I also have generalized anxiety. It can make stretching my limits extremely uncomfortable. It used to be I would have panic attacks that paralyzed me. Most of the time, now, I can catch it and turn to my coping strategies.
The rest of my limitations come from my body. The litany of things wrong with me is absurd. Many of them are structural. From herniated discs and stenosis thorough out my spine to joints filled with arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis. Others impact how my body functions, from chronic kidney disease to severe GERD.
Physical stress brings pain. I no longer take pain medication, so I need to stay aware of how much I do. Too much can leave me sidelined. Too little, and my body becomes weaker.
This is one time when my body is getting weaker. I have had, in quick succession, fresh problems in my knee and shoulder, along with my chronic pain in my neck, the other shoulder, and my lower back (which radiates into my hips and down my legs). My back and shoulder doctors are both making noise about surgery.
Those surgeries have recovery time between 4 months and, possibly, a year. That would mean having to leave my part-time job as a nanny for 2.5-year-old twins, which is the most fun and challenging part of my week. It has been my career for most of my working life. Even when it is hard, it keeps me motivated to keep it together.
The last time I had to stop doing childcare it was a disaster. It led to a crisis that put me back on disability. I felt unimportant. Given all I have lived through, I felt I did not want to live just to get by day to day.
I ended up spending the better part of three months in the partial day program. I went to prove there was no hope for me. Once they saw there was no way out, I’d be justified in taking my own life. Instead, I found new hope by earning my bachelor’s degree in psychology.
I know I won’t go there this time. Still, I get frightened when I feel I am losing control.
Now, I recognize my mood changes as a warning sign. I am pushing myself very near my limit. The problem is, so many things I do are important and/or I really want to do. Which do I give up?
I have taken some steps to reduce the stress in my life. Every other week, I teach Sunday school at church. I asked if I could get a co-teacher. The bishop thought it was a good idea and asked me who I would suggest. So, I suggested a woman I like, but haven’t had the chance to get to know very well. She is excited about the idea and there is no reason for them to say no. Just expecting the help has reduced my stress.
My publisher has been pushing for me to go big with the Facebook group and getting myself out there. It is becoming too much. Rather than quit or suffer in silence, I found the courage to tell him so. He was open to my concerns. We will focus on editing and setting a date to launch.
I was so scared to speak up for myself. I was up half the night, unable to calm my mind enough to sleep. Finally, I got up and wrote out my points. Then, finally, the voices were quiet, and I could fall asleep.
When I read them the next day, it all seemed so reasonable. Still, my heart was in my stomach as I waited for his reply.
I was so proud of myself!
One thing that must get done, but I’ve been pushing to the side, is exercising. With 4 sets of PT exercises, it was so overwhelming I was ending up doing nothing. So, I rejoined the Y and arranged for three sessions with the personal trainer. When I mentioned this to my sister, she offered to give me three months of coaching for my 55th birthday present. I am beyond excited.
This truly is a hard time of year for me, like so many people. I will jealously guard my physical and mental health. I am on the cusp of so many amazing things. As Barbara Streisand said in Yentl, “… Watch me fly!”