When Time Stands Still…..

Today, I’m writing from a place of debilitating anxiety, just hoping that I can help someone. I have really good days and really bad days. I still go to therapy every 2 weeks. I have been on every medication they can think of to help me get through these times, but sometimes it just doesn’t help and time stands still. It took all I had to move off the couch, get out my computer and write this.

The moment that changed my ability to make it through days like today happened on August 8, 2019. My dad was in a car accident. Car accidents happen all the time. But, when they happen in my family, they are life-changing. In 2003, my step sister was in the car of her twirling director, turning left to go pick up another girl, the car was hit dead on the passenger side of the car and my sister didn’t make it out alive. So when I got the call last year from my dad, saying he had been in a car accident in Macon, GA and was in the hospital, my heart dropped. He could barely talk. I tried calling the hospital, they wouldn’t tell me anything, my step-sister lived 2 hours away and was on her way but still didn’t have any more information than I did. My sister and I were scrambling to figure out how we were going to get to Georgia to be with my dad from Missouri. We couldn’t let him be down there alone. He just lost his wife in May to cancer. He wasn’t okay. He needed us. We got on a plane first thing Saturday morning.

I arrived in Atlanta 3 hours before my sister. I chose to make the hour drive to Macon to see how my dad was, spend an hour there then drive back and get my sister. When I arrived, I went straight to my dads room. He was in BAD shape. He had a broken hip, broken neck, broken ribs, a heart problem and he didn’t have any feeling in his right hand. I went into “survival mode” and just started asking all the questions. When the nurse came in, I introduced myself and immediately asked what surgeries he had, what surgeries he needed, and what the prognosis was. I thought my dad was going to die. This was when he told me that someone else was in the car with him. Who? Who would have gotten in the car with him and drove to Georgia without telling anyone? His girlfriend. No one knew about this person, let alone why she would be going to visit our step sister with him so close to my step mom’s passing. He told me she was in the next room and told me to introduce myself.

This was just the beginning of the questions to come. I went in to meet her, to be “nice” because I didn’t want her to be alone down there either. But she wasn’t alone. Her kids were there. They knew of the accident as soon as it happened and drove straight there. Why didn’t my dad call us until the next day? Why didn’t the hospital call us if he wasn’t able to? I went back to check on him before I left. He asked if she could come to his room while I was gone, so the nurse wheeled her in. Then, I left to go pick my sister up. So confused. So heartbroken. I called my best friend on the hour drive. I cried. How had my dad moved on so fast? Why did he lie? Why did I come all this way when he didn’t even care to tell me about the accident until the next day? Why did I come all this way when all he wanted was her by his side? How was I going to tell my sister who is more protective of him than me? How were we going to get through this?

My sister got in the car, I asked how her flight was. I had to tell her the news. I calmly said “there was someone else in his car.” She asked “Who?” “He says that she is ‘his friend’ but I don’t know why he would bring a ‘friend’ 17 hours away to visit his step daughter and her new son.” She agreed. When we got to the hospital, I took my sister to my dads room, first checking to make sure that his ‘friend’ was no longer in there. She and I met with the nurses, got our dad to sign paperwork saying he could share medical information with us and that we would be his spokesperson for any procedures or new medications. He was very tired so we let him nap while we got checked in to the hotel and got some lunch.

My half sister showed up at this point and joined us on our way back to the hospital. We all knew that we needed each other in this time. It was no longer about my dad. We went back and visited with him for a while, understanding that he needed another surgery for his heart in a couple days and another surgery a couple days later for repair on his neck/spine. We took this time to gather all of the paperwork he needed for work short term disability, insurance and anything else that we could think of. We took detailed notes and updated the family.

My sisters and I spent the next 2 days together, getting our plans aligned and making sure that he was going to be taken care of. I had to get back home to work and my girls. My sister needed to get back to her family. My half sister agreed to be there for his neck surgery since we weren’t able to be. My step sister never went back to the hospital. While we all had opinions on his choice to move on and bring her with him to Georgia, we put those aside to make sure that he was getting the medical care necessary and that he would not be alone.

He ended up being in Georgia for 7 weeks and having a couple other surgeries due to re-breaking his hip while at the rehabilitation center and another complication with his heart. We finally got him back to Southwest Missouri in November, right before Thanksgiving. During those 7 weeks, I spent 5 hours a day on the phone with the Georgia State Highway patrol, his insurance, the girl he hit’s insurance, his employer benefits, every single doctor he had, and way more. I called him daily to make sure that he was feeling okay. It was the longest 7 weeks of my life. Once he got home, I came out of “survival mode” to realize that for the last 7 weeks, I had eaten all of my feelings and gained 30lbs. I no longer could find motivation to get out of bed and had extreme anxiety any time someone called. I went to the doctor for a reaction to my flu shot and failed my depression screening. How did time stand still for 7 weeks? How did I gain 30lbs without even noticing? What is wrong with me? These are all the questions that came to mind.

I started establishing what I know today as my support system. I have an amazing therapist that still reminds me that it is truly amazing that I made it through those 7 weeks doing everything that I did. No normal person would have been able to do it. I have 3 amazing best friends who check on me every day to make sure that I am doing okay. Sometimes time stands still for me, but I have to remind myself that it is okay to feel feelings instead of eating them. So here I am….. crying at my keyboard because this is the first time I have put this all in one place.

I want your takeaway to be that you don’t have to do it all. You just don’t. You can say “I can’t do this” and ask someone else to do it. Survival Mode for me was always just doing what needed me at the time and for those 7 weeks, that was a lot, especially still having 2 kids at home and a husband working overnights. It is okay to feel feelings when they come. Don’t shrug them off. Don’t choose to eat instead of crying because you are overwhelmed. Because I’ve been there and when you wake up on the other side, it is so hard to lose the weight. It is hard to feel the feelings. So you have days like I am having today where all of the emotions are too much and I can’t move off the couch. Feel your feelings as they come and deal with them in the moment. Don’t push them to the side. Time will start moving when you do.

Survival Mode

I have been MIA for a few weeks now. I have been in complete survival mode.

Sometimes in life it is important to disconnect and simply survive. I have been taking time away from my computer, phone and social media to just make it. I have been in a funk and am currently trying to figure out what can get me out of it. I have been baking A LOT.

Some things I have learned during these times:

  1. Social media is my biggest trigger.
  2. Baking releases endorphins in my brain that make me extremely happy and able to cope. (Recipe page coming soon)
  3. Life does not have to evolve around your job. You can make your job evolve around you life.
  4. Finding people who are there for you is important.
  5. I have found my “tribe” and I thank God for them every single day. I literally would not be able to write this post right now if I did not have them.
  6. Your tribe does not have to be made up of all the same type of people. I have very different personalities in my tribe and that works the BEST for me because I have very different personalities based on what I am going through and they all give different advice so I am able to see all sides of a situation and how different I could handle it.
  7. It is okay to not be okay.
  8. It is okay to put yourself first. If you need to take a breather and go for a walk or cry, do it.
  9. The people who are there for you when you are at your worst are going to be there for you forever. They aren’t leaving. They love you.
  10. There will be a brighter day. It may not be today, and that is okay.

I have been using this time to bake, self-reflect and analyze what I am doing in life to determine what is next. I want you to know that you can do it too. If you need to go into survival mode just so you can figure things out, that’s okay. Turn off your notifications, set the phone down, close the laptop, figure out what your soul craves and make it happen. For me, I started baking, working on beautiful handwriting, and just being in the moment with people who are there and it has done wonderful things for me. I am not out of the woods yet though.

Survival mode also means exposing feelings, and for me it has been so hard to realize that I am actually experiencing anxiety and sadness to a level I have no choice but to address. I have been so busy just looking at my phone, on social media, working, or just sleeping that I did not realize I had this sadness and anxiety that I had never addressed. Everybody copes differently, for me, I always thought I needed to just get back to work, get back to being busy in order to “cope” but really, I was in survival mode. I was just continuing to fill my cup and then one day it spilled over and everything was out on the table. In order to prevent that from happening in the future, I have been dealing with emotions as they arise so that my cup stays upright.

Survival Mode is supposed to be a phase that helps save your life. It is not meant to be how you live. – Michele Rosenthal

The Choice

Many times we find ourselves operating on auto pilot. It isn’t until something happens to throw us out of autopilot that we truly realize how bad it is to operate that way.

After operating on auto pilot for years, I found myself in a very dark place. I realized after gaining 30 pounds within 3 months that something had to change. That was the day I went to the doctor and got an appointment with a therapist. That was 6 months ago. In the last 6 months I have learned more about myself than I ever knew before. With this, I have also learned to stand my ground and know that I do have a CHOICE in what I do every single day.

I have realized that the world does not end if I take a day off work or do a little bit less work in a day. I have realized that the world does not end if I choose not to pick up the house before I go to bed. I have realized that the world does not end when I choose to do the things that make me happy and surround myself with people who make me happy. I have realized that I feel better, my kids are happier and my husband is happier when I choose myself every day. If I am feeling down, I choose to take the day off to get in a better mood for my family. If I am feeling overwhelmed, I choose to do just a little less work to lift that feeling. If I am feeling frustrated and upset, I choose to be around people who make me happy and remind me of the good things in life.

It is with these choices that I have found my own happiness. Now, my choices do impact others, but it gives them an opportunity to choose what they want to do with it. My co-worker has chosen to pick up those extra tasks on the days that I choose that they would be too much for me. If someone upsets me, I choose to distance myself because my happiness is important too. This allows them to choose whether they want to make it right or remain distant.

In the past, I always felt the need to do everything and be everything. That caused me to be a very overwhelmed, burnt out, depressed person with a lot of anxiety. I have always done it all. Kids need something? I’ll do it. Family needs something? I’ll do it. Work needs a project done? I’ll do it. I was doing the work of 2-3 people every single day in every aspect of my life. It is absolutely no wonder that I was as overwhelmed as I was. It is no wonder that I was not always the greatest person to be around. I was strung so tight and demanding so much of myself I did not even know what made me happy anymore.

Moral of the story is: You do not have to do everything all the time. Find where your happiness is, and do those things. If you start to feel like you are falling back into doing everything all the time or the mental pressure to do it all, come back here and be reminded that you don’t have to do anything that does not bring you joy or happiness. It is okay to take the day off. It is okay to do one thing less. It is okay to order dinner instead of cooking dinner. It is okay to let that task wait until tomorrow. There is nothing more important in the world than your happiness, and only you can create that. The first step is realizing that you have a choice.

Depression in a time of Social Distancing

During this time of social distancing, one thing is often looked past. That is the mental well-being of those of us with depression and/or anxiety.

You are not alone. We have to make tough decisions about what make sense for our family during this time. Following your heart and your gut can come with a lot of backlash from others who believe differently than you. You have to do what is right for you and your mental health. For me, that means sending my kids to daycare so I can work full time. I tried to work from home with them one day and my anxiety was through the roof and I felt a bout of depression coming on because I felt like I was letting them down by telling them “no I can’t play right now, I have to work.” I realize this is not the decision that everyone will make or is making. That’s fine.

It gets lonely when you are stuck in the house all day. I thrive on face to face interaction with my co-workers day in and day out. They help make the day go by faster, and I can turn and ask them a question at any point in the day and get an immediate response. Now, I am being inundated with conference calls on things that would have previously been a 5 minute conversation that we would have had at our desks. Or, I am waiting on them to tend to their families and get back to me when I can. Work is less efficient.

Do what you need to do to stay sane. Is that going for a walk? Do it. Is it getting your favorite drink from a drive thru? Do it. Whatever your mental health needs, do it. For me, it is getting that snack that I gave up a few months ago to lose some weight, or even taking a nap. Listen to your anxiety/depression and let it tell you what it needs, and do it.

You are not alone, we may be socially distant, but we are all in this together and we WILL come out on the other side.