Note: this blog was written right before my awareness there was a pandemic looming in February 2020. At the time I felt it was insensitive to write about my ‘self-imposed’ stress. Now, sixteen months later, I resurrected it from my drafts.
Last week I suffered the effects of self-imposed stress. Just thinking about it sends chills down my spine.
Some part of me knew I’d let my activities and choices get out of hand. However, it was more obvious to my husband and mother, who live with me. During the previous month, I had whittled away the major contributor, giving away my time and energy to aid causes more than myself. Yes, I resigned my last job as a volunteer. I thought that was enough. It wasn’t.
Stress Manifests in My Life
First, I noticed a small headache, off and on for a few days. Then exhaustion hit me about midday on day one, Friday. Although unusual for me, I took a nap, a two hour nap. Meanwhile, my plan to cook an elaborate dinner with the chops I’d purchased, evaporated. I found some hot dogs in the back of the meat drawer. It sounded appetizing with the leftover, homemade macaroni and cheese. After serving up the Cleveland Red Beet Kraut, I found a spurt of energy, looking at the colorful shades of red and yellow food choices.
I went to bed early and slept over seven hours, meeting my Fitbit sleep goal. Yeah!
Day Two Starts a Little Better
My usual routine in the morning included a breakfast of carefully measured oatmeal, chopped apple, crystallized ginger, and a boiled egg for added protein. I logged it, just as I’ve done for the last three months.
Essential items were getting low; milk, half and half, peanut butter, bananas, and I needed apples for the Waldorf salad I planned to make. As I finally left for town it was close to lunchtime. I opted for the cafe in Bok Tower Gardens and one of my favorite wraps, Buffalo Chicken. Afterward I went for a fifteen minute stroll.
I was feeling unusually tired from my little walk, but there were still groceries to buy. Arriving home, I carried the groceries and headed for the stairs to the kitchen. My legs seemed so heavy. I took each step slowly, first the left foot, then the right, resting the grocery bags on the steps above.
As soon as I put the milk away, I fell into bed, noticing I had two hours before a group coaching call with Connie Chapman. Just twenty minutes before the call, I awoke and hurried to my downstairs office. As usual, my Internet was too weak for Zoom in my office, too far from the signal. I went outside and sat in the carport, directly below the WiFi modem.
A Release Valve
The positive energy of the call with women around the world, left me feeling energized as I walked to the back door. It was locked. I had no key. I carefully placed my iPad on the washing machine and phoned my husband. No answer. I lost it. I pounded my fists on the door, and let out a blood-curdling scream. There were no words in the scream, just a huge release.
My mother, who lives downstairs, opened the door with a look of surprise.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m much better now,” I calmly replied.
Even though late in the day, it was much easier navigating the stairs, until the last four steps when exhaustion set in again. As I headed toward the bedroom, I told Wayne I couldn’t prepare supper, and fell into bed. I slept a few hours, ate a banana smeared with peanut butter, and returned to bed and my usual restlessness.
Day Three Looms
Waking up early, I felt better. However, some of the activities I had accepted as normal the week before, seemed out of place or needed adjustment. Shortly after sitting on the pew in church with my mother on Sunday morning, I felt woozy.
“I’m going to sit a spell in the Ladies Lounge, Mom. I’ll make sure I come back during the recessional.”
“Okay,” she replied.
Sitting nearly alone in the quiet of the supportive, yet comfortable chair, felt like a perfect solution to my ‘spell’. I rested, meditated, and felt somewhat refreshed as the time drew close to my scheduled return to the sanctuary.
I was mildly concerned that my ninety-one-year-old mother might have had some difficulty as I steadily walked down the aisle by the modern, stain-glass windows. However, there she was, turning slowly as the cross held high, went past her pew. I slipped in and found my absence had the benefit of offering up my unused bulletin to a late comer. They had underestimated the number of people coming to worship.
Driving home was uneventful. It was somewhat difficult to get out of the car, but my legs seemed fine, that is, until it was time to climb the stairs. At first, I wasn’t sure I could make it. But I stood tall and willed my legs up each step.
The Next 18 Hours
I slept. Eighteen hours were spent in and out of bed; sometimes tossing, sometimes thoughts invading, sometimes restful.
A New Day Dawns
There was no doubt in my mind I’d had a wake up call. I was a different, calmer person who knew what to do and felt no emotion as I started the routine of my Monday. With my cup of coffee resting on the table, I took my iPhone and started making methodical changes. Notifications were the first cut. Then the Group Memberships on Facebook dissolved. Next I made the decision to quit logging my food, moving the app to a less visible screen. By the time I’d finished my coffee, I felt lighter, calmer, and refreshed.
Right now, however, in my new way of being, I’m feeling the need to sit and stare at the lakeshore, waiting for the resident white egret.
To be continued…
Was Stress the Only Factor?
Now, in hindsight, I realize through my over zealous activity, I’ve been avoiding the one thing I fear most, writing my stories in a book, a memoir. This physical breakdown was like a door that allowed me to walk through to the other side, where my destiny awaits. I invite you to sign up for my newsletter, where I’ll bring you farther into my world of writing.