Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Diagnosis

The test results are all in, and a diagnosis has been made. I’m afraid it’s not good news. Apparently, I have had this for many years and it’s gone unchecked, ignored, and brushed off as other issues. In fact, it appears that many of my health issues—eczema, depression, weight gain, digestive issues—are actually caused by this very same problem. It can lead to other problems too—heart attack, stroke, auto-immune disorders, memory loss, and others.

It is also very difficult to cure. There is no pill to take that will heal it. Treating this disease will take major changes physically, emotionally, and mentally.

I suffer from overwhelming stress. Telling you that is, sadly, very difficult. That’s because I don’t like being a burden to anyone, I don’t want anyone to know I’m not as tough as they think, and I am a perfectionist. I take on too much, I am a workaholic, and I enjoy taking care of other people to the neglect of taking care of myself. It’s not just the amount of stress I take on, I also do not respond well to stress. I withdraw, I obsess, and/or I get angry. Pretty much, if there is a bad way to respond—that’s what I do.

I’ve been told by several people that I am intimidating. Not that I’m threatening or mean, but I do seem strong and confident all the time. A woman spoke to me today, and she is one of the few people in my life who was unabashedly forward with me—not intimidated in the slightest. This was remarkable to me. I want to share with you some of the things she said to me.

If you’re perfect, why are you here?

This is going to stick in my head for a long time. She said, “If you’re perfect, than why are you here? You might as well be in heaven.” Wow. I know perfectionism isn’t right or God’s desire for me. I know in my heart that I was made perfect through Christ’s blood—HECK, I even told a friend that recently! I’ve got the words, read the scripture, and KNOW what’s good and right. Try telling my head to follow along though. (If you can’t tell, or didn’t know—I tend to be a bit stubborn & hard-headed.) Her point was to make me understand that I need to accept my own imperfection.

Leaders need to be real.

This woman also told me that people are more apt to follow when they know their leader is real. Let them see you cry from time to time, she said. It makes them feel they can relate to you, and they are more willing to follow someone that is real. This was a novel concept to me. This has never been the picture of leadership I’ve held in my mind. I don’t have to have it all together all the time, and people appreciate that.

Those are choices YOU made.

I’m such a hypocrite. I say this all the time to women I counsel. I often feel as if I don’t have a choice. My mind easily twists things to make me believe that I must or have to do this or that. I mean, if I don’t, who will? Even my GI doc said, those things will get done. To which I responded, Yes because I will get them all done. Yikes. I struggle with saying no. I am getting better, even my husband told me that today, but I still choose daily to take on as much as possible. I carry the load for all because it’s my nature to take care of everyone. Then when it’s overwhelming, I suffer physical pain.

I also choose to RESPOND the way that I do. This will be the most difficult thing to change. Even though I’m getting better at saying no, I’m horrible at responding well to stress. I typically shove it down or burst out—depending on the situation.

So, here’s where I show vulnerability *gulp* and ask for help. How do you choose to respond to stress? Let’s make a good, long list of ideas for me to try. Do you count to ten when the boss is screaming? Do you have a special prayer? Sip some tea? When the bills need paying, and the kids are fighting—what do you do? (Please, let’s also be realistic. I’m a working mom of two—though I’d love a good soak in the tub, it’s not going to happen on a daily or evenly weekly basis. Especially since our bathroom is still being repaired.) Let’s make it an experiment. I’ll give each idea a try every week, and then report back. While you come up with some ideas, I’m going to go do something that relaxes and stresses me at the same time—knit.