Allow Yourself Time to Heal from Bad Things and See What Happens
Because you shouldn’t limp through life with emotional overuse injuries.
*Originally written 10-01-2019
People say that major life-altering events like divorce, death of a loved one, a move, or job loss can cause major stress for anyone.
Well, let me cut to the chase by saying: It’s me. I’m anyone.
Here’s a brief rundown of the major events in my life during the last 18 months.
- My spouse and I decided to separate that he’d move out in December.
- My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer right around Christmas.
- My husband moved out.
- I quit my new job that I really enjoyed and was now facing divorce jobless.
- I began to drive my father to all of his appointments. I saw with him during chemotherapy and did a lot of hospital visits. I waited for him to get an endoscopic procedure that would allow him to have a bit more comfort and be able to eat again. I watched him lose 40 pounds.
- I got involved in a long-distance relationship with a mad man that I met on Bumble.
- I continued as the primary caretaker for my young daughter during the wake of the separation and her grandfather’s illness.
- I ran constant errands for my mother because she doesn’t drive. My dad always did the driving.
- I moved out of the house I shared with my husband into a smaller house in the same neighborhood.
- I filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy because I couldn’t pay my bills.
- The hospital discharged my comatose father to go home to die because we couldn’t pay for anything else. I helped my mother and brother nurse him, clean him and administer morphine. I threw my back out while rolling him onto his side so my mom could clean waste.
- My dad died
- I began a job as a high school English teacher at a “high-risk” school.
- I floundered in my new position because I couldn’t control the students at all
- I quit
- I decided to sell the house I bought in March and will be moving in with my mother.
While enduring all of this, I never failed to get out of bed to do what I needed to do. I never took a day off. I didn’t go to my doctor to get more antidepressants. I didn’t fight with my ex-husband over our separation agreement. I didn’t even cry very much. I was trying to use mindfulness to stay sane. Well, as sane as possible.
Eventually, something caused me to crack. It was my teaching job.
I was teaching high school freshmen. I knew that they were from disadvantaged neighborhoods and that I would likely run into some discipline problems. But I wasn’t prepared for what it was actually like. Not at all.
I didn’t have enough desks in the room for the 39 students I had to teach. I was told to shut up. I was video recorded on a student’iPhone while lecturing the kids about their behavior. I had a school security guard ask me if I’d considered teaching elementary school.
And my administrators weren’t very sympathetic.
Eventually, I was either yelling at the kids until I lost my voice because I couldn’t get them to be quiet or do any work at all; or I was sitting at my desk in a daze, totally defeated, letting them run amok. I was totally ineffective as a teacher.
One day, I got angry. I got angry at these disrespectful kids. At the patronizing administrators who hired a teacher with no experience and threw her into a lion’s den. At my ex-husband for pressuring me to go back to work as soon as possible so I’d get out of his pocket. At my crazy boyfriend who dumped me the day after my dad died over politics. At myself. At myself for so many things.
Once the anger erupted, I wasn’t sure I would be able to contain it. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle myself on the job. That’s why I quit.
I said to no one in particular:
“OK, universe. I cry uncle. You did it. You won.”
But through all of this I learned something
A human can only take so much. And that’s OK. In fact, that’s normal. If I had zero reaction to all of these traumatic events, there would probably be something very wrong with me.
I learned that I am strong as hell, a champion of a daughter and mother, and I’m able to navigate situations that seem impossible.
I also learned the importance of letting ourselves heal. When the world beats our ass and we’re down for the count, you don’t have to play the hero and try to get back into the ring. You can take time to heal.
You need time to heal. You deserve time to heal.
I was talking with my mother after I quit the high school job and I said “I feel embarrassed and like a failure for quitting my job. I hate that I’m damn near 40 with a law degree and no career to speak of. But right now, I think I just need time to heal.”
She responded “I think you used the right word. Heal. You need time to heal. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
And so here I am — healing
I’ve totally accepted where I am. There are many things that I can’t change. But I can give myself the gift of acceptance. I can give myself the gift of time. I can give myself the gift of love. And I can give myself the gift of accepting the love, support and nurturing of the friends and family who love me unconditionally.
Once at a recovery meeting, I fought back tears, wiping the inner corners of my eyes with the cuffs of my shirt. Then a beautiful, wise, white-haired woman told me:
“Sometimes tears mean that your frozen heart is melting.”
I’m ready for the thaw.