I thought 2020 was going to be my hardest year ever. Then 2021 hit like a train wreck.
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Most of us thought things would improve in 2021! Yet for me, my husband, and my children, 2021 was even more disruptive in some ways, and threw challenges at us that we never could have anticipated.
Table of Contents
From January 2021, here’s what our family personally has been dealing with:
- Recognizing that we needed to move away from our current living situation next to family
- Preparing our house for sale
- Selling our home
- Finding a new area and new home to buy
- Purchasing a new home
- Packing for eight people
- Continued disruption due to pandemic mandates
- Moving to a completely new, unknown area
- Ongoing conflict with my family of origin, who also attended the same church as us
- Panic attacks and debilitating migraines from the conflict, for myself and more than one of my children
- Deciding to leave our church, and our position as ministers, due to the ongoing spiritual and emotional abuse that continued unaddressed
- Being jobless a month after completing our new home purchase
- Launching a new blog and several other streams of income
- Having to go “no contact” with former church members and family who continued to harass us
- Taking on a new role as volunteer Director of a women’s ministry
- Continuing to be active on the Board of our homeschool co-op
- Various home repair projects
- Loss of adult friendships
- Loss of children’s friendships
- Exhausting our savings
- Adjusting to Dad and Mom now working full time
- Difficulty in finding employment
- Having our dog stolen
- Helping our children through all of this
@dinkumtribe My parents finally acknowledged the problem, but we were in the middle of moving. We also connected with the elders to let them know what was going on. No help from them either. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #SpiritualAbuse #EmotionalAbuse #ReligiousAbuse #EmotionalManipulation #MentalAbuse #AbuseRecovery #BoundariesAreHealthy #boundaries101 #CycleBreaker #nocontact #nocontactwithparents ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel
Whew! That’s a lot of stress!
Last week was Thanksgiving, but thankfulness was hard to come by. It was our plan to rest and enjoy some family time.
While we did have our traditional family meals, and spend some time together, we also spent a significant portion of our day (and the week preceding) in dealing with ongoing harassment from family and former church members.
We set our boundaries, and were ready to move into the Christmas season with peace and joy.
Then last Sunday, a pipe broke downstairs and flooded half of our lower floor!
We’ve spent the first week of December with the downstairs furniture all over the place, and over a dozen fans trying to dry things out so that mold doesn’t set in here in the moist Pacific Northwest. The noise is deafening, and school, work and sleep are hard to make happen.
One thing after another
Yesterday, I had a breakdown. I started crying, and it just kept coming. This was NOT how I planned to spend Christmas in our new house, and it was looking like we might be in a hotel for several weeks to complete the work.
I just became overwhelmed. My complex-PTSD kicked up and the decision fatigue hit me all at once.
Thankfully, Brian was home and had the good sense to send me off to get out of the noise and get some time away. My introvert personality is recharged from being alone. When I returned a few hours later, everything at home was the same, but I had space and energy to keep going.
Have you ever been in that space? Life becomes too much, and even the strongest person becomes overwhelmed by the cares and difficulties of life. When that happens, there are some strategies I have found that can help me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues are real, serious, and often require professional care to resolve over the long term. What I share here is not intended to be medical advice.
The Big Picture
In writing these tips, I don’t want to minimize pain or grief. Nor am I suggesting that anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other issues can be solved easily by following these steps. That would be simplistic and unhelpful.
@dinkumtribe #realmomtalks #TalkingTree #lookingformomfriends #momswhostruggle #depressedmoms #depressedmomcheck #youareenoughtoday #youmattermama ♬ S31 – Samuel Ifeanyi
I have spent several years in counseling and support groups. I have also taken medication as necessary to help with these issues when needed.
PLEASE do not hesitate to make use of every tool available to you! The feeling of overwhelming grief and pain is difficult, and even when you try everything, relief may be hard to come by. That’s okay.
Feeling overwhelmed? Not a failure!
It is not a moral or spiritual failure to feel overwhelming grief and pain. Even Jesus, perfect as he was, and strong as he was, wept at the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35)
Another time Jesus suffered so much emotional distress that he sweated blood (Luke 22:44). That’s more intense than I’ve ever experienced! Our feelings are real, and not something to be ashamed of.
The list below is meant to give you ideas and direction when you find yourself too overwhelmed to think about how to feel better.
If you’re not currently feeling that way, a really smart idea is to create a written plan somewhere for which of these actions you can do when you are feeling overwhelmed. This is called a self-care plan, and I recommend it for everyone.
1. Call a Friend
I have often been completely alone— God has been the only constant in my life. I have lived through some truly unique experiences, so it is not an exaggeration to say that no one will ever truly know what it’s like to be me.
However, in the last few years I have learned that just because no one else has been through the same things, doesn’t mean that my friends can’t provide comfort and acceptance. In the last year, I have learned who my faithful, ride-or-die friends are, and I am privileged to be able to reach out and talk to them when I become overwhelmed. We are not meant to go through life in isolation.
2. Text Support Group
I have been a part of a support group for the last four years. I highly recommend support groups! Throughout this crazy pandemic, we have all been there for each other while marriages and family relationships failed, and lives have been altered completely. We hold each other up.
When I am feeling overwhelmed, I share it with them, and know that they will encourage me and pray for me. When they are having a hard time, I pray for and encourage them too. And when we have something happy, it is a joy to share it with my group!
3. Change Your Environment
The space where you experience difficulty can start to affect your emotional state! There are subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that can keep hard feelings around longer than they need to be.
For me, hearing the fans going all day long is a constant stressor—getting out of the house made a HUGE difference to my mental and emotional state.
4. Move Your Body
Even a walk is good enough! Fresh air, a change of scenery, stretching, even going to run an errand at the store can create an emotional and mental boost. I went and picked up some prescriptions, and hearing Christmas music at the store and seeing the Christmas decor lifted my spirits just enough.
5. Basic Body Care
Hydrate, eat well, sleep. Take care of your body, and your emotions and thoughts will tend to be more positive.
I get migraines when I lack sleep, or am dehydrated. I also get hangry when my blood sugar gets low. Doing these basic functions reminds my body that I am safe and cared for, and this helps reduce the overwhelmed feeling.
6. Relish the Familiar
Last night when I was still feeling low, we watched Holiday Inn. I grew up watching this movie (recorded with commercials from the 80s, and missing several scenes, 😂). I can practically quote every line. That predictability is exactly what I needed.
When you suffer from anxiety, either chronically or just as a temporary situation, routines and predictable things (like a favorite book, or movie, or music) help your brain to feel safe. They are familiar, and there’s no anxiety because you know how it ends.
7. Let it Go!
I let my husband make the kids dinner— PBJs were perfect.
We had a mini-date, with our old memorized movie.
We ordered take-out, instead of me making something special for date night.
I postponed a zoom call that I had on the calendar.
These are things we did to help my mind let go of some of its stress and processing.
8. Be Real with Safe People
I’m done with faking being ok. I did that for a long time, because I thought people didn’t want to know, and I “existed to serve others”. That was from my ministry upbringing, and from a misunderstanding of the Christian faith.
What I’ve started to realize is that people want REALITY, not nicely packaged life lessons.
If I never talk about my struggles and difficulties, how will people who are hurting know that I can understand their struggles? It’s not complaining to be real about the difficulties of life. It might be just what someone else needs to hear.
9. Give Space to Feel Your Feelings
Allow yourself to cry, rage, whatever! Strong feelings that are pushed down or away start to physically affect the body.
As I started to look into treatments for my migraines, I realized that ongoing anxiety was a HUGE cause and ongoing trigger for the migraine pain. When I started to eliminate sources of stress, my migraines became less frequent.
Anger that is not expressed and released can cause all sorts of physical issues. Don’t keep it inside! Some great ways to get rid of anger are strenuous exercise (think kickboxing, running, swimming), punching pillows, ripping paper… Look into rage rooms in your area if you are really needing some release!
To relieve stress and anxiety, learn how to meditate, do yoga, or even simple breathing exercises. These practices can help dissipate the anxious feelings and chemicals from your system.
10. Hugs/ Physical Connection
Hugs from safe people (or pets!) can release a lot of stress. If you have kids, or a pet, or a friend, ask for a hug. Perhaps they need it too!
11. Pray, Sing, Listen to Music
There have been many times in my life where the only thing that has kept me going is the knowledge that God will never leave me alone. Sometimes, He has been all I have.
When I talk to him in prayer, or sing, or listen to music that reminds me of God’s love for me, and how much God has already brought me through, I remember that these difficult times will not last forever! And he walks through the difficulty with me.
12. Practice Gratitude
When so many things are hard, it’s easy to start to think in a downward spiral. The best way I’ve found to turn that around is to start thinking of all the things I have to be thankful for.
Sometimes I ask my husband to help me think of things. Pollyanna was onto something with this concept!
I have lived through depression and anxiety. To some extent, both are still present from time to time in my life. I have also lived with people, and had close friends who have walked through some of the most awful experiences life has to offer. LIFE IS HARD.
@dinkumtribe #griefandloss💔 #giveyourselfspace #survivalmodeon #learningtofeelagain #grieftakestime #cptsdtiktok #sasurvivor #migrainestories ♬ original sound – dinkumtribe
If you are in the space where you are currently feeling overwhelmed, please, reach out! Even if you don’t feel safe with anyone you know, there are so many anonymous stress lines available now to help with those feelings right now. This site lists many resources for help.
None of us is meant to go through life on our own! Feeling overwhelmed eventually passes and gets better, though some of us will struggle with them more often than other people. It’s worth getting good help and finding solutions that work for you.
© Copyright 2021 Jennifer D. Warren