Lying on my bed this afternoon I said to mum, “sometimes I wonder if I will ever feel right.” Time can slow right down sometimes, can’t it? You feel like ‘now’ is all there will ever be. You forget what it felt like to be able to move through the world feeling reasonably capable. You forget that you’ve been sick before and gotten better. You forget that you learned how your brain and body works before, you’ve just been ignoring that knowledge for too long and you need to relearn some of those lessons.
It just feels like now is all there is.
In some ways, that’s true. We can’t know what tomorrow will be like, beyond an educated guess. As it says in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” As well as worries about what we’ll eat, drink and wear, I’d add to that worries about whether we’ll have enough energy to get through the day or whether we’ll be well enough.
But when I’m in it, it can be hard to think I’ll ever feel well again. Back to that impatience. Back to that frustration. And then the fog closes in again. As a friend said to me, “sounds like the burnout is still happening. Just rest.”
I’ve been trying to piece together what has led me to this particular place I find myself in, and of course it’s not hard to see. Even without going into the details of what’s going on mentally, emotionally, and some specifics I won’t talk about in such a public forum, the broad brushstrokes of just what I was doing each week don’t paint a very healthy picture for someone who already knows she needs a lot of rest just to function:
- Start off with the handicap of having lived with depression for a number of years; even though I felt it was under control for the most part, that was always a factor and means I’m working with reduced capacity already.
- A couple of years of working in a high-pressure environment. Unrelenting is a keyword.
- Regular church responsibilities, particularly being one of the leaders in an under-resourced music ministry and wanting to do that well.
- Regular commitments like being in symphonic band. Not a taxing commitment, but still a regular night out during the week and attempting to find time to practise.
- Fun but demanding pursuits like doing theatre shows, which take a lot of energy and time over an extended period; even though they give me joy they take everything out of me whether I’m a lead or in the chorus (actually more so in the chorus, I’d say).
So for someone like me that’s already a pretty busy diary without much room for sustained rest or reflection. Yet I know plenty of people who do all that and more and manage just fine. And when I was younger, that was nothing. I could cram a few more activities in there, plus a very active social life (remember those?!).
But just as there is no use comparing yourself to other people, there’s not much use comparing yourself to who you were years ago, right? (We just watched the excellent Freeman about Cathy Freeman’s 2000 Olympics 400m run; thinking about where I was 20 years ago, standing in Olympic Park, watching the race on the big screens, hearing the crowd roar…remembering who I was back then, she bears almost no resemblance to the person I am now. Except maybe for my devastating good looks 😉 )
With all of those commitments there was also a strong thing in me that I didn’t want to let anyone down. I had to turn up. I had to do what I said I would do. I could not. let. anyone. down.
So, thinking of it like a tower of Jenga blocks (not sure if this analogy works but go with me), each block of time required of me meant that a block of time needed for rest was being taken out from the base of the tower. The higher the tower got there really wasn’t much room for anything else to be added to it, and not many more rest blocks that could be taken out of the base. Or room to deal with anything that might come up. No room for crisis. No room for ill health. No room for anything else. As long as nothing else changed, I would get through each thing as it came and all would be fine.
Oh the delights this year has wrought and the way it has messed with all of us — destabilised us, threatened our sense of safety, changed the way we do everything, even the simplest things. The mental load of this year has been immense. It’s no wonder I’m struggling really. We’re all struggling.
And so the guilt keeps washing over me with that voice again, just as I knew it would. Why do you think you’re special? You’re just making it up. So many people have it so much worse than you. You don’t even have kids to look after, what are you complaining about? As if you’re sick. No one believes you. Everyone thinks you’re faking. Two months off work, you bludger. GET IT TOGETHER. PULL YOUR SOCKS UP.
It is a luxury and a true blessing to be able to rest, to be able to get by without freaking out about money, to be able to live in such a peaceful and restful place. I just have to trust that my body and mind are repairing themselves, I have to be gentle and not trample all over this fragile work going on in me. I need to remember the importance of leaving space and time unfilled as I get better, and not rush to cram all those things back into my life.
Most of all I have to trust that God has it under control and loves me and I am safe in him. Even if I can’t get out of bed, these things are true.
Edit to add:
The sobering thing is seeing what related posts my blog throws up underneath this one and realising I’ve been basically writing the same thing for so many years…it’s just that this time the jenga tower was so unstable there was no way to go but crash.