“Mom, can I pleeeeease stay home with you today? My belly really hurts. And I miss you. And I just want to cuddle with you… Do you have a lot of appointments today? You said when you didn’t have so many appointments maybe I could stay home with you. I’m just tired of school right now. All we do is stand up, sit down, stand up…its sooo annoying. Pleeeeease can I stay home?”
It would be so easy for me to say, no. I’ve been telling him no for over a week already. And I do have a lot to do today that I can’t do if he’s home. And quite frankly, he needs to be in school. And he isn’t truly sick (thankfully). And standing up, sitting down and standing up again surely doesn’t sound all that overwhelming to me. But the reality is, it’s a big deal to him. And he’s crying out for help. And I get it.
We’ve all been there. Those moments where we just feel overwhelmed, tired of the routine, and we just need a break. We are seeking rest, comfort and reassurance that yes, we can do this. But how we deal with those moments matters. And how we teach our children to deal with those moments matters.
Too often, we try to ignore our feelings of overwhelm and simply view them as normal. We tell ourselves that we just need to suck it up, drink more coffee and deal. We start to place blame for our feelings on outward circumstances – people, jobs, busy schedules, etc. Clearly, we are overwhelmed because of everything being done to us or around us. It’s not our fault. It is what it is, it’s just life, we say.
We stuff our feelings of overwhelm in hopes the circumstances will change soon and relieve the pressure. And this is where so many people end up in trouble. Because while those circumstances may change, other stressors will quickly take its place. And before we know it, it takes less and less to overwhelm us as those things build upon the existing stress we never dealt with. Simple things will feel unbearable. People will drive you crazy. Work will make you nuts. You begin to feel like you can’t escape your unhappiness and your world is crashing in on you.
I know this, because I’ve been there. Stress started early for me in life. Growing up in a broken home I saw things I wouldn’t wish on any child. I heard things that still play on repeat in my thoughts when I allow them too. I was confused by my circumstances, I struggled with not feeling loved, I felt like a failure, I felt ugly, I was lonely. I was so many things, but mostly I was just overwhelmed and hurt with no idea on how to process those feelings.
It took me YEARS of personal development and hitting a complete breakdown before I finally realized that the reason I could never get ahead, the reason I could never find relief, the reason I could never truly be happy wasn’t because of my circumstances or bad luck or because I didn’t have the skills to do those things – it’s because I had 36 years of baggage heaped upon my soul like giant anchors to a sea of despair. I was emotionally drowing. Sound extreme? Perhaps. But I promise you, anyone who has been in this place knows exactly what I’m talking about.
So what do we do? How do we escape this place? First, we must admit where we are. Then, we have to start pulling the baggage off – one piece at a time. Some of it will be light and rather easy to let go of. Others will feel like they are chained around our neck and weigh a ton and it will take time. But, if we don’t sit down and start pulling them off we are going to struggle with these feelings of suffocation for the rest of our lives and this is a miserable place to dwell. Trust me.
But friends, there is another place that is just as exhausting. And that’s where I was for the past 3 years. And I want to help those of you who might be there now. This is the place where you have let go of a lot of baggage…but you are still holding onto a few pieces. They are heavy, and they have probably been there a very long time. And while most of the time you feel like you are above water and breathing fine, it doesn’t take much to bring you back down. You feel like you are on a roller coaster of emotions because you are above water, then not, above it, then not. You have felt the peace and joy of being alive…but you feel like you are constantly on the verge of drowning. You can’t rest. You’re always on edge – knowing that at a moment’s notice that feeling that takes your breath away is only one piece of baggage away. A missed appointment. A hurtful conversation. A failed attempt. Traffic. Kids fighting. Financial stress.
If this is you, I get it. And I want to encourage you, to take some time for yourself to reflect. Think about all that it is burdening your soul. Dig deep. Look for hidden packages. Look for things that you have refused to deal with because it makes you uncomfortable and deal with them. One by one. Pray. Seek wise council. Forgive. Let go. Because the only way to find true freedom is to relieve yourself from those things that are weighing you down.
So today, when my son said he needed a day to rest, I said okay. Because I want him to know that it’s normal that he feels overwhelmed. But instead of telling him to just deal with it and keep going, I’m going to show him how to rest, recover and refocus – a skill I’m certain will serve him well in the years to come when he struggles with things much harder than standing up, sitting down, and standing up in class.