Tag Archives: stress

Breaking Point: #17

These Breaking Point stories are twin in their theme and have me wondering about the thin line between a “normal” functioning human in society, and what is considered mentally unstable enough for hospitalization.  I think we all have times when we are so broken open that we feel like we can’t do it alone.  We need help.  And I deeply respect people who go out there and get it.  Thank you Michelle and Daniel for sharing your stories.  yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Michelle Roberts

“You’re not allowed to share food!” the attendant barked.

I shrugged at the patient seated across from me then sat quietly without eating. He had offered me his salad when I explained that morning sickness made it impossible for me to eat my gravy covered turkey. It wasn’t the first time a fellow patient showed more kindness than the employees of the mental ward.

Sorry, they don’t like to call it that. According to the sign outside I found myself in a “Behavioral Health Facility” for the first time. That was my biggest hurdle since everyone was treating me like I’d been there half a dozen times. The rules were second nature to many patients so they assumed I must know what was going on. My meal was the first lesson and I should have ordered that morning. Instead, I was three months pregnant, nauseous and eating nothing for lunch.

The horse tranquilizers they prescribed to rein in my mania were making it impossible to sit still. My legs and arms felt fidgety and I still couldn’t sleep through the night. When I left my room one afternoon only to return a few minutes later, a scary blank faced female patient followed me and held my door closed from outside. Maybe she was as tired as I was of my pacing up and down the halls.

So I spent my days listening to the stories of pain and loss from other patients, making promises to contact the husband that didn’t understand and the son withholding forgiveness. Since I didn’t belong here I might as well make myself useful by helping the ones that did. I came across the names and phone numbers recently along with a poem I wrote about the stress and strain that landed me in the hospital.

In the span of six months I was married, lost my grandfather, changed jobs, moved into our first home along with the weight of our first mortgage and tried through it all to process the tragedy of September 11th. My newlywed husband married a capable, intelligent, compassionate woman and was instead visiting someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He brought me a milkshake that I had to spit out into a sink because overmedication made it impossible to swallow. He signed the stack of paperwork as my advocate but must have skipped the pages about side effects.

When I met with my doctor on the third day, I explained that they were giving me too much Thorazine. He nodded and made notes with the same blank face as the scary door holder. I was called over the next morning to take my meds and was strangled by anxiety, unable to ask the nurse if they lowered the dosage. She mistook my reaction for refusal and said, “If you won’t take the pills we’ll have to give you a shot and it will be worse for the baby.” My anxiety turned to panic but I somehow managed to sign “lower” to her. She nodded that the dosage had been reduced and I took the pills.

All I could think about was the phone call with my father years before. He was thanking me for being the easy child that no one ever had to worry about since my brother and sister had both been hospitalized in the past.

“I reserve the right to fall apart one day, Dad!” I proclaimed jokingly.

He laughed, too, but never expected me to cash in my ticket. This was not the role I was meant to play in our family and no one took it well.

 

Submitted by: Daniel Jacob, who blogs here.

The hardest work out there is changing for the better; it takes a tremendous amount of effort, sacrifice, risk, discipline and much more. However, when you commit to your well being you are able to see and feel many wonderful positive outcomes.  I am so strong, so empowered, and so aware of how to manage my well being these days, and it took an intense moment to show me the way.

In February of 2009 I was working for the second largest school district in the nation as a school social worker.  It was a job that was creating a lot of stress for me, and as a result I was not taking care of myself in a healthy manner.  I am going to direct you here to understand where I was.  My work week was typical, although this week I was taking a red eye to NYC after work on Thursday for a family celebration, set to return to Los Angeles on Sunday, back to work on Monday.  New York represented some defining moments for me. It was the place that I escaped to from my abuse (physical and emotional) when I was a teen. It represented reconciliation with my father who over the years was distant and absent. It represented getting to know a brother and sister who shared the same blood, but not much else.  I wasn’t fearful or nervous about going, I was excited to go. By this time in my life I had done some serious self work and had evolved into a healthy well adjusted man. I was all about creating positive new memories with my family and my wife.

What I didn’t see coming was 6 days of no sleep, a trip to the psych ER for a 5150 (code for a 72 hour hold) assessment, several days of the most extreme anxiety that I had ever experienced (the kind where you can not physically move), and a return back to the hospital for a 6 day stay. Sometimes the unknown has its way of showing itself when it wants to, not when you do.  What happened to me happened because it needed to, and I was ready to deal with it, cope with it, and peel back the layers.  By addressing and understanding a past (that exposed me to much pain and suffering) in a manner that I never knew, it created a new me.

The experience itself was intense, but by breaking open I was able to make some choices and decisions that have truly changed the quality of my life for the better.  I resigned from my job and committed to a new job, getting healthy and well.  I survived on my savings, and when that was used up, I went on unemployment so I could continue on.  You see, you can’t put a date or time on your wellness.  To be well you must commit to every day for the rest of your days.   What you have read is obviously the abbreviated version, and there is much more to be shared.  In fact, my “Breaking Point” greatly influenced my decision to go out on my own (professionally) and that is a good thing.

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Breaking Point: #9

A word from Laura:  I want to thank everybody for their vulnerability—my favorite quality.  Your Breaking Point stories are stunning.  Since this series ends on the first day of Spring, I am closing submissions.  But I encourage all of you to consider doing this exercise for your own personal growth.  The people who have shared their breaking point stories at These Here Hills tell me that it was a powerful and healing experience going back to a time that was so painful, and seeing how out of it…they grew into the people they are.  That is good news.  It means that we use pain.  It’s not wasted.  So wherever you are in your life, remember that.  Fasten it to your heart in those early morning hours as you lie awake worrying about the future, feeling shameful about the past, feeling that fight or flight buzz in your stomach that just won’t quit.  You are not alone.  Know that life is ever-changing.  That you can count on.  Have a great weekend!  I will continue to post the already submitted Breaking Point stories until March 20th, so stay tuned for more.  I hope they are helping you. 

Yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Sue Engle, who blogs here.

I turned my back on a 30-year career in Information Technology last year, after yet another “good job” disappeared. I’ve been struggling with this for a long time.  I have a degree in Writing and Editing, and I used it to make my living through business analysis and technical writing, moving my prose from my right brain to my left – from creativity to technology. But it was never the way I actually thought and approached life. It became more and more a struggle to force myself to think logically rather than intuitively. I was fighting myself every day I showed up at work.

The places I looked for a different path during this 30 years were concentrated on the spiritual and psychological – graduate school in counseling, seminary, religious education, developing a web site to provide a life planning service, extensive reading in psychology and spirituality, and active prayer and mediation practice. All of these brought me closer, but none of them completely filled the hole, the drive.

The whole process of learning I had finally left technology took longer than I thought… nearly six months. It was a hard mindset to leave behind. For a few months, I kept thinking I could go back part-time, or do certain tasks that didn’t trigger complete revulsion. Some position that I could use to fund my next life, fill the chinks in the budget that was being destroyed by living on unemployment. What triggered the switch was an interview where I didn’t get the IT job…actually, both the manager and I agreed I wasn’t the right fit. But he was impressed enough by my resume and attitude that he wanted to try to find a spot for me. I thanked him and came home to begin eating my way through the house, even though I’d finally been able to bring my appetite down over the last couple of months and had lost about five pounds. I realized that I was in the middle of a panic attack over the thought of going back to technology, and I knew I was done.

So what could I do? I’d been playing around with the idea of life coaching for a while. For years, co-workers had teased me about the “couch” installed in my office, where there was usually someone parked a couple times a week telling me about their problems. Not exactly a service most technical staff listed on their resumes, but definitely a hallmark of mine. This is what led me into a year of grad school in counseling, but I realized that I didn’t want to spend years letting people chew on their histories – I was far too results-oriented to give that much time to it. I worked too hard on understanding and getting beyond my own past to live in someone else’s story.

Thus the appeal of life coaching, once I found out about it. At one point a friend and I started talking about writing a book together one day, which morphed to developing a series of workshops, then a web site to offer a life planning service. We knew we needed content for the site and as the writer, that became my arena. I began writing from my right brain again on life transitions, and discovered pure joy and the more I wrote, the wiser I became. My own “aha!” moments led to insight I could communicate to all. Once this business was put aside, I knew this was content I could mine for my own site.

But it was so hard to get started.  I was unemployed, and I wasn’t bringing in enough income to cover the bills. At times I was absolutely paralyzed with fear over my prospects. I knew I was following my calling, but how was I going to manage it on no money?  And what should I do first? I couldn’t get past the starting gate.

Then I won a three-month membership in a group for prospective coaches, which included free coaching.  The encouragement inched me a little further forward. I worked out a deal with a friend to do some mutual coaching. A neighbor needed some coaching. But money still wasn’t coming in and I wasn’t writing, either. I worked a part-time temp job to help out a little, but it fell through just before the holidays. Bills were piling up, but somehow I was getting by.

I had a friend come over for the weekend to give both of us some distraction. I moaned for an hour, then she’d had enough. She set my woes to a cheesy C&W tune and through laughter, convinced me that I was born to do this work. Then we brainstormed names, taglines, and themes the rest of the night. The next day, she papered my house in encouraging sticky notes while I was away. I just found another one yesterday!

Later in the week, I was past due on the car and the rent, too. I was panicky again, looking around at my furniture to see what I could sell. Then I realized I had $25 on a credit card I’d forgotten. I could spend it on food, a bill, or I could get started on my life. I got busy, centered myself, and quit panicking.

Nine hours later, I had settled on a domain name, set up a basic web site, ordered cards, set up my blog, written the first blog post, and updated my online profiles. I started putting out blog posts three times weekly. Then the miracles started pouring in. I won marketing tools, more free coaching, and even was published online within two weeks of starting my blog! Money started trickling in; still not enough to pay all the outstanding debt, but enough to keep me going.

Two months later, I’m still seeing serendipity every time I move further forward on my path. If I veer, possibilities dry up and fall away. It’s still chancy… I don’t know anymore where I’ll be in a month and what I’ll have, but I know beyond any doubt I will have what I am building and more. I am flying further every day, soaring on miracles.

 

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Household Rant

I know I am not alone in this: there are things that drive me crazy about the current state of my house. Things that make me so internally berserk that I have stuffed them deep into my toe joints just to make a pass through my house tolerable. Okay, maybe I like to pretend that I’ve actually let them go, but that would be a minor fib. Because, I mean SHIT O. Deer does it piss me off that my garden is still not put to bed and it’s the first week of November. And the hot tub– it’s like the most important room in our house (a family full of back injuries, afterall), it’s been broken for a year and a half, all for a simple, inexpensive, repair job which requires a board being unscrewed…and there it sits. There’s probably a dead racoon floating in it for all I know. But for some reason, that board goes unscrewed, and I’m damn handy with a Makita. What’s my problem??? Oh, and while I’m at it. Why do I tolerate mouse turds on my kitchen counter every morning? Why do I have a sponge that I designate The Mouse Turd Picker Upper sponge, and not call an exterminator to find the actual nest? Why do I just sometimes remember to set traps? Anyone wanna come over for dinner now? Ugh. And then there’s the mudroom. Are mudrooms actually supposed to be as truly muddy as ours is? Like mud from a few seasons ago? And should they contain a cat bed for a cat who disappeared uh– last spring? Again, it’s Novemeber. The cat is coyote food. Throw away his bed. You’re allergic to it anyway. Get rid of it. Sylvester Putty Tat be dead. Deep sigh. It’s giving me a near coronary episode just writing this, but there’s a point and I’m getting to it. Just hang on a second. Also, my office is a mess. There are paper piles all over it. Business receipts and random notes to myself that I can’t decipher but they say PRIORITY and Amazon boxes full of old photos that need homes in lovingly put together photo albums and and and. Isn’t there something called OFFICE MAX? And isn’t there one 15 miles from my very office, where I sit, ranting, sucking the oxygen from the universe with socks that don’t match and an inside out bathrobe? Considering pouring wine into my tea mug at eleven am because not only do I have no idea where my newest working copy of my novel is at the moment, but my computer is telling me that it may have a tropical viral infection, and my microwave is making a sound so weird that I’m pretty sure it’s going to burn a hole through my brain the next time I push Start, and there’s a pack rat living on my front porch, AGAIN (little untrappable fuckers), and I’m afraid to look under my bed, but there’s a certain smell and I’m pretty sure it involves food and a kid and a slumber party that occured when I was on the road promoting my book. That’s what I’m getting to: this house needs a mommy. Six months of being on and off but pretty much on the road is not working. I need to stay put. Welcome summer– oh shit– that’s right, it’s actually winter that’s upon us. How did I lose a season or two?

DEEEEEEEEEP Breath. Do you ever feel like this? Please tell me I’m not alone.

I need to put the garden to bed. That’s where I need to start. I need to write down the top three things that are driving me crazy and check them off. I need to stop passing by them and being overwhelmed. I need to look at them piece meal. Call the exterminator. Easy enough. Find my gardening shears and go out there and spend an hour. Maybe I won’t get the whole thing done, but I can do half, right? Half would be okay, yes? Feel me? What is driving you crazy about your house? Is it easy enough to fix? What won’t cost you a dime but will gain you sanity? Maybe start with a load of laundry. Not the whole Mount Saint Laundry. Just socks. Or maybe don’t do socks. Just find a box and throw the socks in it and grab a Sharpy and write: Sock Box. That’s what I’m talking about. Getting shit done. Solutions. We’ll see how it goes around here, but this girl has a weekend in front of her, and it’s gonna be all about un-driving myself crazy. The end.

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