I’ve felt this coming for a couple months now…
I rely on coffee to bring my body to life every morning and wine to force it to keep going each night, far beyond when it begs me to rest. My diet consists of whatever is closest, easiest and quickest to grab which often means pretty much nothing. Sleep is a thing of the past and especially when the kids are sick, it becomes virtually non-existent. For some, these habits would be more sustainable, but for me, they are leading to complete and total meltdown.
With the added stress of sickness and school absences, combined with losing our respite worker and being overloaded with responsibility, my body has begun to fall apart.
My eye has been twitching nonstop for about two weeks now. The eczema on my hands is cracked open and bleeding so badly that it hurts to pick things up. It has spread to my feet, which hasn’t happened in years, and Bandaids have become my constant accessory. Heartburn and nausea seem to come and go almost daily and red itchy bumps have erupted on my skin. But so far I have stubbornly pushed these things aside and remained focused only on my duties…
The last couple days, however, things have gotten worse. After another sleepless night I got up this morning feeling utterly exhausted. My body aches like I have the flu and each step feels heavy. When I try to eat, there is an awful sensation in my teeth like I am chewing glass. In addition, touching anything frozen has become unbearable to the point that I can’t even bring myself to get anything out of the freezer. I have no idea why such weird issues are arising but they are scarring the shit out of me and are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It seems that this is a sign that all the red flags I’ve been ignoring these past few months have now progressed to the next level of urgency.
Although people talk about the synergy of body mind and spirit, in my own life, I have great difficulty blending the three.
If I were asked to describe what my mind would look like in physical form, I’d describe her as a 6’4” muscle-bound German woman named Helga. She is the epitomy of bull-headed and is relentlessly driven by a deep sense of responsibility and obligation. The comparisons she draws are ruthless. She badgers me for not being as resilent as other women, for being too delicate and unable to withstand the normal stressors of adulthood. She takes no excuses and refuses to stop working until everything is done, which of course it never is. She rules my life with an iron fist of idealism and drives my body forward no matter how exhausted it may be.
My body, on the other hand, would be more accurately represented by a tiny forest fairy. She is small and sensitive to pretty much everything. Not only is physical exertion taxing but even waves of negative energy can knock her off track. She is delicate and fragile, extremely sensitive and does not handle stress well. But she does have many creative ways to get my attention at the slightest missteps. To maintain her ability to function, she requires the most gentle, loving care.
These two parts of me have been at odds with each other most of my life. My driven mind wants to accomplish everything, all by herself. She doesn’t need help and wants to be the gold standard of strength in partnership and motherhood. She never rests and productivity trumps self-care completely.
My body, though, continuously begs me to slow down and take care of her. She repeatedly sends me warning signals that intensify as burnout or illness approaches.
My spirit is the only neutral one of the bunch. She sits quietly, aware of the pleas for help and also of the endless pushing. She watches from a place of quiet centeredness and waits for my evolution to unfold.
In spite of spending nearly a decade learning exactly how to prevent reaching this state of exhaustion, I continue to push instead of listen.
My yoga teacher training taught me to find stillness even as a storm rages around me. My years of Ayurvedic studies taught me to recognize disease progression from the earliest signs of imbalance. And as a massage therapist I advised people on the importance of taking time to bring your nervous system back to baseline. I learned about the importance of freeing ourselves from the desire to continuously live in an amped-up state of being, ignoring the natural urge to slow down and recharge. Our society values absolute productivity and efficiency. Not many of us are taught that, equally as important if not more so, is the ability to hear our bodies speak and respond with care and understanding.
During these times, I always reflect upon all of this training I received. It set me up with every single bit of knowledge I need to heal myself and prevent this. I need only put into action what I already know.
So here I lie in my bed, my body unwilling to put up with any more abuse. I am now being forced to rest.
In the past, it took a lot to get to this point but burnout is becoming a more frequent occurence as the years of stress dismantle the buffers of youth. I know this means it’s time to make serious change to maintain health and restore balance. Because the alternative is not going to be good for anybody.
So today I am making a commitment to myself. Starting tomorrow I will let go of my beloved coffee for now. I know this will bring with it a sense of exhaustion that will be difficult, but so necessary, to face. I’ll try my best to embrace the calm that comes as the silver lining of exhaustion. I’ll renew my commitment to getting proper nutrition and continue to work on setting healthier boundaries for what I can actually do in a day. The work of a mother and householder is never done. And you know what, that’s ok.
I am so grateful to have had this day to rest. Tomorrow begins my next chapter.