Tag Archives: mental health

Hard things are not easy

I’ve noticed a theme in my reading lately. Over the last three weeks, I’ve read Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis, Women Who Run With The Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs and I’m in the middle of Untamed by Glennon Doyle.

I’ve also read The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce, which I wasn’t going to list here because it’s a fictional story about a woman who is dying, not a self-help book. In retrospect, it fits my theme: doing hard things.

Also, over the last three weeks, I’ve been working from home, supporting my children as they do school from home, parenting in the usual way and navigating new parenting rules, keeping up with friends and family, trying to keep space for my marriage and managing my mental health (but not very well). These are hard things. And I thought I was doing OK. I really thought I was doing OK.

Things seemed almost easy. For sure life was different. But I was once told by a therapist that all my stories and everything I’d talked about in therapy led her to the same conclusion: that I was good at adapting to and solving problems.

And this physical distancing COVID-19 thing is simply a problem to be adapted to and solved.

But then my chronic pain flared up, a bad case of hives and additional joint pain jumped on board and proper sleep evaporated. Oh and my body won’t stop buzzing (whether or not a I drink coffee).

So, not doing so well after all.

I haven’t written on the blog for a few days because I’ve been filling my journal with dark thoughts, paranoia and self-defeating lies.

Today, it’s raining. It’s gloomy. The weather kind of matches my mood. It was sunny yesterday and I tried really hard to let the sun in, but it was just.too.damn.hard. I went for a walk, which only made my pain worse. I tried to focus on work and enjoy the sun beams streaming through the windows. No luck there either. The bright and sunny day brought into focus how little time my kids were spending outside and how much time they were spending on their various screens. Which spiraled into a vortex of parenting guilt.

I know, I know. These are different times and we should go easy on ourselves. But boundaries still need to exist otherwise there’s chaos.

Today, I’m giving myself permission not to do the hard things, like fake it ’til I make it. I’m going to be sad and in pain and exhausted. And I’m going to nap and drink water and go for a walk on my treadmill while listening to a podcast I enjoy.

And I’m going to start to heal…again.

(Because books are always a good balm for my agonies, I read a lot. And this past week, the sweetest and most beautiful story that has kept me going is The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. It is so tragic and uplifting and sad and real all wrapped up in a person’s struggle. I really recommend it, but read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry first; also a very good story.)

My vision

Weekends are always nice, aren’t they? The pressure was off for a couple of days and it gave me some time to recharge.

This is week three and I’m thinking that it’s time to really kick it into gear. Despite having a plan each day and doing small things that are keeping us on track, I mostly feel like we’ve wasted the last two weeks. I recognized that this weekend when my very motivated husband finished installing the baseboards in our laundry room in a matter of hours.

I asked myself how whole days could go by with no visible accomplishments (besides my work, because that has to get done and nothing has really changed for me whether I’m working at the office or at home).

So, with the pending announcement from the school board that they are trying to set up ways to keep school going virtually, my goal this week is to get my kids back on track.

They’ve been doing some school work each day and keeping up with their reading and some writing projects they had, but I haven’t been good at keeping them focused on those things and I’ve been lenient about internet access and what they are doing on the internet (some math and logic games for sure, lots of chatting with friends , and watching lots of random YouTube videos). And I think the time they spend doing these screen activities is wearing them down.

So this morning we will have a meeting at 9:30 to discuss the new plan. On our whiteboard, I’ve outlined the rules for screens and the expectations for school work, chores and skill practice (soccer drills, rehearsing lines/songs for spring play).

The key to sticking to this plan is for me to set the right example and keep a cool head. My daily walk with help with that.

The next thing I have to do with my family is work out what our goal is for this time of social isolation. My vision is for us to come out the other side as a team who works hard and works together and treats each other with respect and understanding.

We’ve been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of family since the beginning, with me holding us together by pure will and digital scheduling know-how. That might have worked when the kids were little and they couldn’t be responsible for themselves. But I felt like I was falling apart for many years.

At Christmas this year, on our way to my parent’s house, my husband asked if I was okay (I guess I looked shell shocked [I certainly felt shell shocked]). I jokingly replied that I felt like I was falling apart. He laughed and said that I couldn’t do that because I was the only thing holding us all together. It made me cry. He was right. And we’d all come to expect it. But I didn’t know how to do it any other way.

I’ve thought a lot about that little exchange since then and I’ve realized over and over again that nothing has changed…and nothing will unless I change.

And with the social isolation imposed by COVID-19, I might have that chance. The extras in our lives that were keeping me so busy and away from doing the hard work of changing have been subtracted from our lives. There is nothing but time right now to do that hard work.

I’ve been here before.

Some years ago, I had a surgery on my foot. I was as busy then as I am now, and I remember my doctor telling me that I would have to be off my feet for 4-6 months. I had a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old. I had put the surgery off for two years already, but I couldn’t put it off any longer. Leading up to the date of the surgery, my doctor told me that I should start giving up some of my activities so that after I had the surgery, I wouldn’t be hit with so much emptiness in my life at having nothing to do. There’s a huge component of mental health to consider when you take yourself out of the life you’re used to living.

So I started to remove myself from committees and volunteering activities, and I enrolled my kids in fewer after-school activities. In time, I got used to having down time and much less stress. When I got back on my feet months later, I was hesitant to take on much of anything because I had come to appreciate and value my time. Eventually, as the kids got older, they got involved in more things and, as a family, we’re back to being about as busy as we were before my surgery. I have a better perspective of it all now, though, and it doesn’t drag me down as much. That could be because my kids are older and are better at managing themselves, so I’m not quite so hands-on.

But I’m still the glue and we can still do better as a family to support each other. And that’s my vision: work better together, work harder and smarter to reach personal and family goals, and treat each other with respect and understanding.

This social isolation time feels like that pre-surgery time years ago: where there is an expectation of change, but no one really knows what that will look like yet.

Today, I start to sketch that out for me and for my family.

How are you feeling heading into week three?