Never Alone….I woke up and was fine. After rising and starting my day it did not take long and the tightness in my chest was back. I was walking around my house and would find myself taking deep breaths like I was trying to get more oxygen. I would start to feel my heartbeat accelerating and soon would feel pain around my heart. I was confused, nothing was “wrong,” at the moment. I had all really “good” things happening, I was excited about the new opportunities and felt so grateful. Why was my body reacting like this?
It immediately took me back to two years previous when things were not “good” when I went through the hardest season ever and somehow survived. Where this feeling in my chest, the tightness, the pain, the deep breathing was a common experience. But two years previous I had an explanation. I knew the pain and the stress I was enduring and the “reason” for the reactions in my body. At this moment it was my marriage, and it was obvious what I was dealing with. But now, I was perplexed.
Am I pushing things down? Are there things I am repressing? Why is my body reacting like this? It was three weeks of this. Every day waking, then slowing my chest tightening and my heartbeat steadily increasing. I talked to my soul mates that have been with me through it all, I talked to Dr. French but I could not figure it out, and it would not stop. I was running one day and started to consider all the things I was trying to manage and maybe even emotionally taking responsibility on myself. I thought about little things that were putting extra pressure on me and big things I felt I was juggling. I have a full-time job in HR and Leader Development and had just been offered a job at a church as their music minister, a dream come true, and……pressure.
Because of the experience I had been through two years previously, I knew my threshold for stress had been lowered. I had learned even scientifically that chemicals in your body that help you deal with stress get depleted in difficult times as I had experienced. I could see in myself that I was still recovering and regaining my strength. So, the question and the thoughts spinning in my mind were, “Am I ready to handle all this?” And “I don’t know if I can do this?” Then my body started reacting with anxiety-ridden, stress-induced symptoms, and I answered those questions with, “See, you can’t handle this, you are not ready, you are not strong enough yet.”
On my run that day, I realized,” I CANNOT do this all on MY OWN, it is impossible!!” I have too much responsibility at work and home with my family, to take on every responsibility on my own. But… if I would vulnerably ask for help and allow myself to be unapologetically dependent on the spirit of God and OTHERS, I COULD do it ALL!
Right then and there, I decided I had to act. I had to walk out vulnerable asking. Sweaty and red-faced I finished my run and walked straight to the neighbor’s front door, knocked. I asked the teenage daughter if she would like a job helping me clean my house. She said YES! This was one stressor that was an easy fix. Keeping up with my house with three boys and a full-time job, now two jobs is not NATURAL! I had been telling myself for months I needed to find a teenage girl to help me clean and keep up. It just took me asking.
I then created boundaries for myself and what I would allow myself to be emotionally responsible for. I realized there were some things I needed to ask my husband to help me with and allow him to help me. I put some boundaries on my screen time, social media, and things that had my focus spread and were possibly putting unnecessary pressure on me to keep up.
With a perspective change, with the realization of the internal dialogue I was entertaining, and taking action immediately, within the day the tightness in my chest left and didn’t return. It is never YOU can’t do this! It is always, YES you cannot Do this ALONE! I am convinced our mental health is so tied to our isolation and the western culture of individualism, that we are killing ourselves. We have to enter back into the vulnerable, scary, exposed, yet completely natural place of the village or community. Until we do, we will suffer. It is NOT good for Man/Humankind to be Alone.