Don’t you just wish some days that you could pack a bag and head off to someplace sunny and beautiful and remote? Where you could sit on the sandy beaches and let your feet touch the foamy waves? Most importantly, someplace where your bills and responsibilities cannot find you? Today is certainly one of those days for me.
This month has brought about the dreaded STRESS. The details don’t really matter, they change every time, but the STRESS is always the same. For someone in recovery from mental illness and/or drug addiction, stress can be particularly damaging. We tend to have a more difficult time coping with the stressors of life compared with people who have not endured our struggles. After all, we got high mostly to avoid whatever uncomfortable emotional state we were in.
For those of us with mental illness (of any kind) stress is a big trigger for symptoms. It is extremely important to know what you can and cannot handle, and ask for help if you are overwhelmed! I have made this mistake before.
As mothers, we tend to feel the need to take care of everything. We are caring for little ones and running around from here to there, hardly taking notice of our own needs. Some days I just collapse into bed without having done a single thing for myself because I have been meeting the needs (the many needs!) of these little people around me. However, this is not good! Especially during stressful trials, it is essential to care for yourself and ask for assistance where you may need it.
When my oldest child was only a baby, I endured a lot of hardship in my marriage and actually ended up in a family homeless shelter for a few months. I was under a tremendous amount of stress to find a place for us to live and enough resources to live off of. I held it down while at the shelter but once I found a tiny closet of an apartment for us to move into, I just fell completely apart.
I was incredibly depressed. I was hardly functioning at all. I was lost in my head all day long tormented by my PTSD. I was taking care of my daughter in only the most basic of ways; her clothes were clean, she was getting bathed, she was fed, her diaper was changed—but I was NOT okay! I really needed help, but what held me back from asking?
I was scared of disappointing my mother and everyone else. I was constantly in psychiatric units as a teenager and young adult but I had finally been doing well ever since I got pregnant with my daughter. I felt embarrassed to admit that I was no longer doing well. I was ashamed.
I was fearful of what kind of reactions I would receive. Would I be deemed an unfit mother? Would I be seen as a hopeless case? Would everyone be terribly disappointed in me?
I was also very reluctant to leave my baby daughter, who was very young and very attached to me. How could I leave my baby, even for one week? How would my mother take off work? It just seemed impossible, and I didn’t want to burden anyone with helping me.
I have to tell you; I really regret not asking for help. Although I didn’t start getting high again (by the skin of my teeth), I did fall back into some very destructive behaviors. I also realize now that the best thing possible for my daughter at that point was for her mother to be mentally healthy. It didn’t matter that I was with her physically if I was distant and unable to care for her emotionally. Maybe only one week of rest and therapy would have improved my situation.
I wish I could tell you that now I always ask for help whenever I need it. I wish I could say that I learned my lesson and I don’t need to learn it again. This would not be entirely true. There have been other times since then where I really wasn’t doing so well and had put too much on my plate. I still do not like asking for help.
However, I have gotten much better at knowing my own limitations. If something is just too much for me, I acknowledge that and remove it from my life. I am currently in school with the goal of getting my R.N, but I am going to school part-time because I know my limitations and full-time school plus caring for my children is just too much for me to handle. I felt bad about that at first. I felt like a failure. I felt like I would never be “normal”. Now I understand that this is just who I am and these are the struggles that I have. Learning to work with myself rather than hating myself for failing to meet the expectations of others has helped keep me mentally healthy, and improved my ability to perform well in school and other areas of life.
So, back to this being a particularly stressful month. Sometimes the stress in our lives is not something we can control! This is the worst kind of stress, because we can add the feeling of helplessness to it. Again, this is a good time to ask for help. If you don’t have a person to help you (keep trying to find someone!) there is always One who we can go to for help to endure our trials—our Father in Heaven! Our Savior, His Son!
Pray. Pray. Pray. And then pray some more.
Read psalms. Read stories of how Yahweh has helped His people over and over throughout time. Take comfort in His ability to help us. There is a lesson to be learned. There is something, somewhere, that is good to come of this trial.
I hope you take comfort in that if you are struggling. I know I do.
And you know what else really helps stress? Hugs from your children. There is nothing that can more quickly change my heart from fearful and stressed out to calm and peaceful than hugs from my baby girls.
I wish you peace. Shalom.
*Relevant Scripture Verses, brackets inserted by me*
Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love
God[Elohim]: those who are called according to His purpose.
1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God [Elohim] of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ[Messiah], will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. [words of Messiah]
James 1:2-8 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. …