How do you know what your breaking point is? I’m wondering if it’s possible to know. I’m beginning to believe that it’s not. Really, you find out your breaking point when you actually start breaking. How are we supposed to know that a + b + c – d = uh oh you are broken? These variables are never the same in life.
Let me give you an example of this equation.
My son has been struggling with an asthma flare up for eight days (a) + a family member is currently estranged (b) + my uncle passed away this week (c) – one publisher I was set on using to publish my book didn’t work out (d) = dancing on the edge of breaking and having a full blown anxiety attack. This was my equation this week. It is a unique equation that most likely will never occur again. Hind sight looks back and can see the break coming. Living it was a different story. Why? Because it was a slow build. It took all the events over a period of time to break me and the wisdom of past experience to keep me from actually shattering.
Looking back I can see the build. With my son’s asthma not improving even though I religiously gave him his medications and even took him in to the doctor for an antibiotic for his hidden ear infection, my anxiety over the welfare of my son began to creep up. He was missing school which meant he was behind. Not to mention the anxious thoughts regarding his health in general. I couldn’t seem to do enough to make him well.
Then there was the existing layer of anxiety from the pain, loss and uncertainty of an estranged family member. Not knowing when, where or if you will ever see them again even though you place the situation in God’s hand’s on a regular basis is stressful. Every day.
So, after a few days of these two stressors I received word a beloved uncle had passed away. He was a delightful, caring, humorous man that was a big part of my childhood memories. His kids were our closest cousins on my dad’s side of the family. We had lots of wonderful times at their home and farm and current memories of good times had together. But it was deeper than that for me. You see, my uncle passed away from complications with cancer just like my dad had 18 years prior. My mom calls it the twin effect. Here I have my dad’s brother-in-law in similar circumstances as my dad and I can relate keenly to the loss of my cousins and aunt. This shared circumstance seemed to magnify the loss. It magnified missing my dad.
Finally, on the day following the passing of my uncle I received word from my publisher that they weren’t able to accommodate my style of book unless I eliminated over 45 pictures. I have written a memoir. The pictures are the heart of my book. How did I miss that detail (limited number of pictures) when I paid for publishing? This left me either totally changing my book or getting a full refund and starting my search again for a new publisher with a deadline looming in the near horizon. That did it. That started the breaking. I could feel it.
That morning as I searched for publishers, researched options, reached out to friends for help finding a new publisher and tackled the refund process of my now debunk publisher I began to feel dizzy. Drawing on the truth that in all situations God goes before me and he knew that I would need a different publisher for whatever reason, I charged on in my search. It wasn’t long before I began to feel myself crack. I managed to grab on to a good lead for a new publisher that seemed the perfect fit for me. Shouldn’t that alleviate the stress now that I had a solution to my problem? It didn’t. Things had been set in motion regarding my emotional health and my mind wasn’t going to just get better because an answer was found.
Thinking I was dizzy from lack of food I attempted to balance my body by consuming protein and drinking extra water. This didn’t help. I laid down. That didn’t help either. Before I knew it I had to get up to go to the school to give my son his nebulizer treatment and all I really wanted to do was lay in my bed. The room spun as I sat up and I almost fell back into my pillow. Carefully and very slowly I sat myself in an upright position. What was going on? Was I headed over the cliff again? You bet I was, I just didn’t know how close I was yet.
Thinking I would feel better after I got up and moving (that makes sense, right?) I went to the school a few minutes away to administer medication. I sat very still with my son and assessed my life that week and how I was presently doing. I realized If I didn’t stop now I was going to plummet down the cliff into the deep dark hole. I could see the signs now as I sat next to my son during his lunch hour. The dizziness. The hot flashes. The shallow breathing. I was headed for an anxiety attack and I knew if I didn’t stop right then and there I would have one. When I got back home from the school absolutely everything needed to stop. Every. Single. Thing.
Armed with that knowledge I took up a friend’s offer to bring me lunch and then I asked her to drop my senior off at school who had been home for a half day because of finals week. I sat on the couch and waited for her to come, take my kid to school and return back to help me. I also called my husband who was able to come home early to pick up the kids and allowed another friend to bring me dinner and support me. I needed support. I had to stop and I needed help. I had to say yes to the help.
My mother had called and I was afraid of the torrent that would come out of my mouth, afraid that if I vocalized the truth of everything I might fall off the edge. Something told me if I named what was bothering me that maybe, just maybe the dancing on the edge would cease and I may just roll to safe ground so I trusted my gut and shared. Crying, I put into words what I was feeling about the asthma, my estranged loved one, my uncle passing, missing my dad and finally my publisher not working out. My mom prayed for me and spoke words of encouragement. I felt the fear began to gently slip away. It wasn’t gone, but it was heading in the right direction. Away from me.
Sipping two huge mugs of chamomile tea and laying down with a lavender pack on my head to calm me my friend sat with me. As the near attack passed, I knew that although I was breaking I would hold. I would hold because I saw the signs and I knew that I didn’t have to tumble over the cliff if I stopped in time. If I stopped and reversed direction in time. I had to put on the brakes and take action steps to stop now before I ran out of room to actually stop. Just because you put on the brakes doesn’t mean you still won’t go over the cliff. Hit the brakes too late and you still might tumble over. For me my brakes were breathing exercises, chamomile tea, a lavender pack, eating protein, drinking water, laying down, not moving and asking for help.
Later, when the crisis had somewhat passed, I did the only other thing I knew to do for my son and me. I called his asthma doctor and got extra help for my kid further calming my chaotic mind. I reached out everywhere and said yes to any help offered. That was how I took care of myself.
My backward glance at the signs in my rear view mirror of my life are what helped me recognize what was going on. The signs were everywhere but they were just spaced apart. I just needed to read them together to figure out that I was headed for a cliff. Once I saw and understood, that’s when I put on the brakes and heeded their warnings. That’s when I stopped. It was reading those signs, in that order, on that road in this particular time of my life that allowed me to veer from the edge. It allowed me stop. It allowed me to reverse. It allowed to me to head back in the right direction. I may be driving more slowly, but the danger has passed. Now when I look in my rear view mirror I see a cliff growing smaller and smaller and signs that are flashing, tell me to take heed. – Niki Breeser Tschirgi