For When You Can’t Function


Now here’s a subject I know a bit about – not being able to function. By which I mean not being able to engage in normal activities like writing or cleaning or answering emails or having conversations which require saying something other than “uh huh”, “you don’t say” and “I need to go lay down for a little bit”.

So, my apologies for the long silence. And double apologies to those of you whose emails I haven’t answered. I’ve been too focused on enduring to figure out things to say. Sending pages and pages of uuuuuuugh and grrrrrr and uroawooonmnuuuurg didn’t seem appropriate.

It’s always uncomfortable and a bit embarrassing to find yourself unable to do anything other than endure, but it turns out that enduring is a skill that God holds in high regard. Romans 5:3 says that endurance leads to character which leads to hope. Timothy 2:12 says that if we endure, we will reign with Christ. You look at me and see a big blob doing nothing, but God looks at me and sees me being prepared to rule the universe. Or something.

Anyhow, my point, such as it is, is that enduring is something we have to be able to do sometimes. Life is hard. Depression’s a nasty bitch. Beds are soft and brownies are comforting.

So, for those of you who are struggling to endure, I’d like to share this bunch of words I miraculously strung together that I use to keep myself enduring for just a little bit longer. I hope they help you as well. If they don’t, that’s totally cool. Feel free to say, “eff off, Rebecca. You have no idea . . .” Just do it in your head and not in the comments because while I totally understand, I totally don’t want to hear it.

Anyhow. Here you go:

You are fine. And you can do this. Maybe not right this very moment, but that’s OK. You don’t have to be able to function and overcome every single moment of your life. You’ve been able to function and handle life plenty of times before and at some point, you’ll get a few moments where you’re able to do that again. And that’s enough. A few of those moments are more powerful than all the hours when sucking air takes all of your strength.

When you sit down and find yourself unable to move again, it’s OK. You don’t have to fight it. You don’t have to feel weak or guilty. It will pass. We all get too sick to move sometimes; this is no different. Just sit and when the moment passes, you’ll get back up. No use beating yourself up in the meantime. Nothing wrong with just sitting for a spell.

Don’t tell yourself that you can’t function any more. You can. Just not right this moment. It’s OK. You don’t have to function well all the time. There are times when you function just fine. And sometimes you may not be fully functional, but you’re also not immobilized. If you can’t move or think or function at the moment, it’s no big deal. There are other moments, moments when you don’t have to think to breath or struggle to move while the pain blanket is smothering you. And in those moments, you are downright amazing. It’s no wonder you sometimes hit a wall – being that amazing takes a lot out of a person.

It doesn’t matter if right this moment, you can’t feel or believe it, but you are fine. Don’t fall for the guilt and condemnation. You don’t owe anyone a clean house or folded laundry or three blog posts a week or dinner at 6 or a face with make-up on it or anything at all except, so far as it is in your power, to be here tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. So just make that happen and it’s enough. The people who love you want you more than they want anything else in this world.

Don’t tell yourself that no one loves you and that you’re not important. It doesn’t matter if you can’t feel it or receive love right now. When the wind blows against the window, you don’t say it’s not real because you can’t feel it moving against your skin. You know the wind is blowing even when you can’t feel it. It’s the same with the love people have for you.

Not being able to feel or receive love or joy or the good of the world doesn’t means you are wrong or broken. It’s not always a sign that you need to change or do something. I’m sure a massage isn’t particularly enjoyable to someone who’s been hit by a Mack truck either. It can take a lot of time and meds and healing for the pain to get thin enough for the good to get through.

Sometime today or tomorrow or the next, you will see someone who is joyful. A child who made a painting for you. A dog who is so happy you’re home that they can’t control the urge to jump and run. A teen who laughs until they cry at a joke about bodily functions. A spouse who’s elated at having nailed the presentation. When that happens don’t regret that you can’t feel or share their joy. Instead, take a moment to stand in awe that such joy exists. When all you can do is endure, you understand better than anyone else what a miracle and wonder it is that joy exists at all.

Hi. Remember Me?

Ugh, I’ve been struggling to figure out how to write this post for several days, but no clever ideas have come to me so I suppose I may as well just dive in and vomit it out.  The last you heard from me, I was going to go curl up in the fetal position. Which wasn’t hyperbole. I was probably a couple of days out from complete nervous breakdown. As regular readers know, the last few years have not been kind to me and my family. It all culminated last summer with my husband leaving me with 5 kids which was a fairly stressful and traumatic experience. Around the start of the year, I felt like I was turning a corner. I went days at a time without crying and even felt happy for at least part of every day.  I knew that there would be bumps on the road, but for me February was more like running into the side of a mountain and then being hunted down by a pack of Chupacabra. I mean, under more normal circumstances, I could handle emergency gallbladder surgery and my mother almost dying within 10 days like a champ. I could maybe even weather not having my parents – particularly my mother – readily available to talk to when I needed to vent. But this time? Not so much.

I told my mom later that it felt like the only time I went skiing and crashed so hard that I never did find the rabbit fur ear muffs I had pressured my brother to let me borrow. I just crashed. It sucked to be me. But is that ever enough? No, of course not. Because I could see that the whole thing was part of a massive, cosmic set-up. You see, for several months, the ex had been making noises about moving back in. Seeing as he was still picking fights with me to argue that “humiliation is too a good parenting tool” and responding to my requests for a break from the kids that lasted more than 2 hours by accusing me of using the kids as an excuse not to create a real life for myself, this wasn’t a particularly tempting proposition. I did finally tell him that if he wanted to move into the basement I guess that would be OK, but I wasn’t prepared to raise so much as an eyebrow in order to help him move the boys out of their room so it could happen. Which meant that there was a close to 0% chance of it actually happening.

But I had also told him that I found his continuing crazypants talk frightening and perhaps he would want to get some counseling before I signed the kids up for lessons in self-defense. Which he finally did. So, right around the time that my mom was near death and I could feel myself coming completely unglued, he came and apologized. Apparently the counselor had given him an emotional intelligence test that he scored a zero on and it opened his eyes. Actually, I have no idea what he scored on the Emotional Intelligence tests, but just 3 sessions in he felt compelled to come and beg forgiveness and offered to help me recover from having to live with him the last couple of years. Which I may have rolled my eyes at if at that moment I wasn’t afraid that I was going to wind up like that Kony 2012 guy and run out into the street in my underwear to bang my head on the pavement.  Which would have been really bad because I’ve had 5 kids and look much worse in my undies than that guy did. Well, OK, I probably wouldn’t have ended up like that anyways – it takes too much energy to have a psychotic break. I’m more given to catatonic posturing; that only requires me work up enough energy to suck air. At any rate, I knew that I was close to losing it and needed help and lacking any other reasonable volunteers, he moved back in.

For the first few days I kept him up half the night with my sobbing. Because the idea that I was going to have to wake up to another day was that awful just then. He had promised that he was done complaining, criticizing and demanding – particularly when it came to my crappy house keeping. So I took him at his word and didn’t do shit for a couple of weeks. I got my anti-depressants and slept a lot. Obviously, I didn’t (couldn’t) write anything. And slowly, slowly, slowly after much time spent staring at walls, I started getting better. I stopped spending most of my time hiding in my room (or bathroom). I took the kids on walks and met people. The last few days I’ve felt almost normal. My house is cleaner than it’s been in ages. And I can actually think about writing again.

So, the qxh (quasi-ex-husband) has become the qh (quasi-husband). Quasi because I’m still not convinced that this is going to work. We had our first argument since he moved back last night (which isn’t too bad considering that it’s been almost a month and a half). But frankly, I’m just not at all confident that the man even likes who I am as a human being. Which is a real deal breaker donchano? And my tolerance for people whose views of me and my actions are delusional, negative and/or psychotic (a good description of his stance for the year before he left) has been reduced to just about nothing. I have family members I’m not speaking to for just that reason. There’s no way in hell that I’m actually going to live with someone who is likewise inclined to hyper-critical, reality-free thinking when it comes to me. I make NO claims to perfection, but frankly, I think I’m a fairly awesome person and have done a pretty admirable job with my life which is also completely imperfect, but pretty awesome nonetheless. Anyone who thinks otherwise can feel free to STFU. Or barring that, allow me to suggest a long walk off a short pier in the Everglades. I promise not to miss you when you’re gone!

I referred earlier to this whole thing as a “massive cosmic set-up” because reality is that it was going to take me being knocked flat on my ass before I would consider letting the qh move in or attempt any reconciliation. We were utterly done. Heck, we don’t even have our wedding rings anymore. The only reason he was the quasi-ex-husband and not just the ex-husband was that there was no money to file the papers I have all filled out and working out child support was going to be complicated by his already existing child support orders.  It could well be that with continued counseling for the qh and eventually for us together, we’ll be able to work things out. In which case, we’ll be able to look back and be happy that I had finally hit my wall. If not, I’m at least glad that he was able to step in when he did and get along well enough with me and the kids to give me time to recuperate.

So, yeah, that’s what’s been up with me. Anything interesting going on in your world?

Allowing Rest to Restore

I have said for years that if only I were someone who dealt with stress by throwing myself into work, I could be a gazillionaire by now.  Unfortunately, just the opposite is true; as stress piles on, I just sloooooooow dooooown.  Stress just saps my energy.  Over the years this fact as much as anything has propelled my attempts to find healthy ways of dealing with whatever life throws at me.  I cannot afford to let things stress me out if they don’t have to; if I did I’d never get anything done!

Of course, sometimes life can overwhelm even our best coping mechanisms and I can feel that familiar lack of energy creeping in.  And I fight back the best I can.  I see my doctor and take my medicine and exercise and try not to spend too much time in bed and maybe even drink more water and eat less sugar.  I push myself to keep moving even when I don’t want to.  I make myself talk to people.  I try to be kinder to myself and everyone around me. 

But every once in a blue moon, the stress gets the upper hand and nothing I do helps (more…)

Hanging on by a broken toenail

“Hanging on by a broken toenail” was the description I gave of my mental state earlier today to a friend who, thankfully, listened to my overwhelming mess of a life until I felt better (thank you, Mary!).  If you haven’t been there before, just give it time.  It’ll come to most all of us, unfortunately.  Which is why years ago certain worship songs started to bother me.  They were songs that promised God faithfulness, worship, prayer or whatever “forever”.  Not songs that spoke of God’s forever faithfulness, but songs in which the singer/worshipers promised forever.

What a foolish, arrogant promise to make to God, I thought.  Forever is not in our ability to promise anyone, much less God.  Even wedding vows are only promised until death.  Not to mention that it is foolhardy at best to presume that your faith is so sure that you will not waver in it, much less abandon it, for all eternity.  That’s just asking to have your faith put to some terrible tests.  (And I hate to be the one to tell you this, but that’s pretty much how God works.  Tell him what you’re going to do or what you won’t do and he’ll set you straight.  There’s a reason that scriptures say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.  God doesn’t have many boundaries on what he’s willing to do to redeem us.)

One of my favorite characters in scriptures is the father seeking help for his son who tells Jesus: “I believe.  Please help me in my unbelief.”  I think that’s the best promise we can give of our own faithfulness.  Philippians refers to Jesus as the “author and perfecter of our faith”.  It’s not something we can choose or decide to have on our own.  If we think that we can create and nurture a faith capable of standing up to life’s blows through good intention, bible study, worship, prayer, good works and self-improvement, we are sorely mistaken.  The sort of faith that will actually lasts into eternity comes to us just how this wise, desperate father says it will: in desperate times when there’s nothing else to do but to ask for help just hanging on.

This past fall during some particularly dark days, I stumbled to the only promise of faith that still makes sense to me:

“Lord, please, I hope you will hold onto me, because I can’t hold onto you anymore.”

I had this picture of my faith as a limp, dead body being picked up like a stuffed animal in one of those claw machines by God.  My poor faith has been so battered that it was beyond anything I could do to put more life into it.  But as Jesus told that man who cried out for help for his son, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”  And even when I can’t, God still believes.  It is still possible for Him.  So now when I hear a song promising forever to God, I smile.  Because you know what, they are right.  But it’s not our commitment which will lead to the fruition of these promises to God.  It is a promise which has meaning because even when the day comes that we cannot hold onto God, he will always be able to hold onto us.

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,

the Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast

and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget,

I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”

~ Isaiah 49:14-16

Making Friends With Me

I have a tendency to be very hard on myself.  I had to learn to stop being my cruelest critic and become a friend.  To do this, I started thinking of how I would talk to, support and encourage a friend and applied it to myself.  I would never tell a friend, “well, you’re sure an idiot.  No wonder no one likes you.”  I don’t blame my friends for every problem that comes their way.  And when they do screw-up, I don’t give them a critic’s eye view of exactly how they screwed up and why this is a reflection of a very serious character issues.  So I won’t do that to myself either.

This was a very hard thing for me to learn.  Somehow I had deeply absorbed the idea that being excessively harsh and critical of myself was part of being a good person.  But while struggling to overcome a serious bout of depression, learning this lesson became a matter of life and death.  For a while I would force myself to write down a list of everything I did that was at all positive each day without criticism or commentary.  When things went wrong before berating myself, I would stop and ask myself, “what would I say to a friend in this situation?”  If I were beating myself up because I had done or said something which was met with disapproval, I would stop and ask myself if my actions were something I would get upset with someone else over.  Pretty much always the answer was no, so I decided that I wouldn’t apply the standards of the most negative, judgemental and intolerant people I run into to myself.  Thankfully, it’s gotten easier as time goes on.

So if you tend to be too hard on yourself, remember: be nice applies to how you treat everyone – even you!

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