Back in 2013 when my husband and I sold our boutiques, I did a series of articles called Lessons from the Boutique. They cataloged what I brought home from my years as co-owner of two consignment boutiques.
2015 began with me getting sick. The ten years we’d owned the boutiques, I ran on adrenaline. Constant adrenaline. When we sold them, I started doing all the things I’d never gotten to do. I jumped in the deep end of family, church, and writing. Go. Go. Go. More and more adrenaline. I even knew I was doing this. I knew I needed to stop, but I didn’t know how.
(Just writing that gives me anxiety.)
January 2015, my body gave up. It shut down. I couldn’t move off the couch. Reading took too much energy. Showering took too much energy. Conversations drained me. My church had to cook and clean for me. Life had changed, and changed forever.
I struggled with depression. I cried over all the things I was missing. I hated being the weak one. I hated being the one who needed help. I hated saying no. I hated not getting to be part of the lives of everyone else. I felt cut off from everything I loved. Once in a while, I would get a breath of energy, which would immediately wear me out. Being happy wore me out. Being sad wore me out.
I spent the majority of 2015 laying on the couch just trying to eat healthy. That was it. That was all I could do. Stay clean, eat healthy, and try to make it to church. Life was small. Tiny.
2016 saw some progress. We discovered my body’s need for Vitamin B and red meat. So much red meat. I got off the couch and started, slowly, taking life back on. By the end of 2016, I had enough energy to get a small, part time job. It seemed horrible to me at the time to take what little energy I had and gave it to someone who wasn’t my church or my family. Now, I think it was a good idea. It got me out of the house, back in the world, back moving and going.
2017 was the year of anxiety. I had anxiety about everything, and had so much repenting and retraining to do. 2017 was the year of teaching myself double-entry accounting, new To Do lists, and the year to take back control of my home. I started working on my Command Center. I discovered the idea of making my homemaking a career. 2017 was the year of coming home, again.
2018 has started. It’s already almost the end of April. (This year is flying.) I’m not back to the energy level of my days of adrenaline. I don’t think I’ll ever have that much energy, and I don’t want to. I don’t want my body to crash again in a few years because I started back into everything. I don’t think my heart could take it. It makes it very clear when it’s tired. And I’ve learned to listen. I’ve learned to stop when my body says stop. I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn, to communicate to my husband when my body says no more.
Butt on couch, TV on, done.
The first lesson from being sick? How to rest.
Resting is interesting. There are different types of resting just like there are different types of exhaustion.
Level 1: Being Tired. This is just every day, normal tired. This means that it’s been a busy day and I’m ready to be done with it.
Rest: Quiet evening and an early Bedtime. The best fix for this type of tired is to not have any after dinner projects, and get to bed about 930. If I’m consistent with this, I lay a good foundation for the coming day.
Level 2: Go Away. Being social can be exhausting. Running errands can be overwhelming. Getting dressed can seem like too much.
Rest: Hide. The best fix for this type of tired is to move my schedule around so that I don’t have to get dressed or go out. Generally, I don’t have to put all my work down during Level 2s. I just have to stay away from people. Sometimes, it only takes a couple hours of being alone to recharge. I never knew how exhausting being dressed and with people could be until I had limited energy.
Level 3. Done. This is when my chest starts to hurt, and my brain gets clogged. Everything overwhelms me. (My poor husband.) Every conversation, every decision, every chore, every commitment, everything overwhelms me.
Rest: Rest. The only fix for this is to move everything that can be moved, everything that doesn’t involve just staying alive, to a different day. This is when I spend hours in my PJs binge watching TV. This is when I re-watch my favorite shows. I usually can’t even read at these times, or on these days.
When I was first sick, my life was Level 3. As I got better, it was Level 3 and 2. Existing at Level 3 and 2 caused unexpected anxiety. Driving, getting out, the simplest errands, things I’ve done a thousand times, took a great amount of effort and planning.
Now, I’m mostly between Level 1.5 and Level 2/2.5. My Level 3s are hours instead of days, unless I’m coming down with something or had a major stressor. I couldn’t be more thankful for God’s generous kindness to me each day as I try to balance between all the ordinary demands of the world and my body’s abilities. The same is true of my husband, and all the friends who have stuck by me for years while I have had to hibernate.
Permission to Rest: I’ve spent my whole life working, working, working, working. I get up at 5:00am and hit the ground running. Honestly, I think I was quite proud of my work ethic. (Oh pride.) Now, I remind myself that sometimes the best way I can serve my church is by stopping. It isn’t going to help my husband, my home, or my family if I break down again. Instead, I admit that I have to stop, and stop. Not all rest is laziness.
What is Restful for Me: Pajamas and TV. There is something about watching TV that keeps me more down. If I try to read, I start thinking of everything I need to do. If I try to do on-the-couch-work, at Level 3, I can’t focus. If I sleep, I won’t sleep when I go to bed, and tomorrow will be worse than today. So, I watch TV. Sometimes, that’s just one episode and I’m good. Other times it’s six or ten.
Project Management: Before I got sick, I would start a project and I wouldn’t stop until I finished it. If that meant not eating for hours, even if I was starving, that was fine. No matter what, I didn’t stop.
No matter the project, I stop, eat lunch, and watch an episode of whatever show I’m watching. If I start to feel tired, I take a break, go do something low-energy oriented. Sometimes, I’ll have several projects going at once because I have to do what I feel like doing.
Resting is stopping when my body says stop, resting how it’s restful for me, and taking breaks. I don’t push through things anymore. I don’t plow through life. I stop.
It took me years and years to learn this lesson. In fact, I had to get very sick to learn to stop just going and going. My husband, and my friends helped me learn that resting is how I take care of them. It doesn’t help my hubby if I go all day and don’t have the energy to make him dinner. Or if I push and push until I breakdown in tears and have a huge Level 3 relapse. It doesn’t help my church if I overdo it during the week and miss church on Sunday. Sometimes this does happen. I’m thankful people are gracious.
Learn to rest.
Listen to your body.
Find out what is rest to you.
Learn the difference between needing rest and being lazy. Don’t be lazy. Rest when you need to.
Take a break.
Don’t push through.
Eat what your body needs.
I learned to rest through the journey of being sick for two years. Today, I continue the work of dealing with my new abilities, my limits, and my smaller world.
Have you ever dealt with a life changing sickness? How about a life altering event? How did you process how to deal with this? What helped you carry on?