Today I feel weak and fragile. Unable to discern where God is leading me. Overwhelmed by the stresses of the hour that we’re living in. Longing for normal times.
Today I should be writing, working in my yard, reaching out to friends in need. But today all I want to do is relax, zone out, recharge my batteries.
Yesterday was bad. I fell apart. A friend made a comment about a conversation we had a couple of weeks ago. I had no memory of the details that she mentioned. Too worn out from overdoing the day before, I couldn’t handle the shock of hearing her describe a recent mutual experience that didn’t sound even vaguely familiar to me.
My reported statement had involved one of her habits that affects my life and mildly annoys me. I’d decided years ago that I wouldn’t jeopardize our friendship by asking her to change her ways. I could live with her idiosyncrasy, even though it was a bit of an inconvenience for me.
So the problem wasn’t just that I couldn’t remember something specific that I’d said to her. The problem was that I couldn’t even imagine making that comment. When she brought it up, I covered my confusion by suggesting that maybe she’d misunderstood me or hadn’t heard me clearly. She accepted that. To her, it was no big deal. But it threw me into a dark and fearful place where I seriously questioned whether I was losing my mind.
For many years, I’ve struggled with medical issues that affect my brain. It’s mainly related to menopause, but side effects from an over-the-counter medication may have done additional damage. I have to be really careful about overdoing. Set boundaries and stick to them. Or pay the price in stages.
First stage: broken body. Increased physical fatigue. Second: broken brain. The mental fog rolls in. Third, and most terrifying: broken emotions. Irrational fear. Hopelessness about my future. Obsessing over the negatives. Completely convinced that what I’m thinking is reasonable, understandable, normal. In my own mind (never out loud) I've labelled it “my insanity.” It doesn’t reach this point very often, but when it does, it scares me.
Yesterday I was well into stage two when our conversation started. My weary brain took my friend’s statement, red-flagged this alarming new kind of forgetfulness, and ran with it deep into stage three. Do I have periods when I actually black out any memory of what’s happening, never to recall it again? Are there holes in my mind where I thought there was wholeness? Is this a sign of dementia creeping in? If so, what will tomorrow bring?
After so many yesterdays when the same emotional symptoms had occurred, I eventually recognized what was happening and went into response mode, using self-talk in an attempt to short-circuit the panic and the negative thoughts. (One important factor: even though my friend’s cancer has been in remission for several months, her chemo brain continues. It’s entirely possible that she misheard, misunderstood, or misremembered.)
But the anxiety still haunted me. I couldn’t let go, couldn’t stop my imagination from fearing the worst. Praying: Lord, please help me to recall the conversation or to reason through the circumstances. Help me to somehow get a handle on what most likely occurred.
God said no. Hours later, I was just as mystified as I had been when my friend brought up the subject. Instead, He provided a different answer. The Holy Spirit called to my mind other yesterdays when the insanity had clutched my brain with its fierce claws and sent me into a similar downward spiral. On every occasion, the cure was simple: time. Time passed. The symptoms went away. My perspective shifted back to normal. With this thought came peace.
Today the insanity is over. I’m puzzled by our conversation, not overwhelmed. But today I’m feeling weary from yesterday’s meltdown. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to think. I don’t want to reach out to others. I fear a repeat of yesterday if I do too much today.
So what does God expect from me today? According to Jesus, my life is supposed to be one of sacrificial giving. Do I sacrifice my energy, my mind, my sanity by pushing myself to do more, to put others’ needs before my own? Do I plunge ahead, reciting the promise, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13)? He has refused me that strength many times in the past. Sometimes His will includes my weakness.
Or do I give in to the urge to spend even more time than usual relaxing? Can I justify my inactivity by arguing that I might not accomplish a lot, but I will do a few things well, with a clear head and calm emotions? Will God judge me for my negligence, or is He sitting up in heaven shaking His head and sighing with compassion over my tendency to push myself too hard? Discerning His will, hearing His voice, is so much more difficult today than it is on my better days.
Where do I go from here? Take one step at a time. Think and pray over today’s list of to-dos. Quiet my own imaginary voice in my head so that I can hear His instead. Put aside “should,” focus on “could.”
I should work on my profile for my blog. But I’m not thinking clearly enough to have any confidence in my own editing. I could pour out my feelings and frustrations in a new post. Maybe God can use this time of fatigue and uncertainty to minister to someone in need.
I should do some yard work before it gets any hotter. If I skip it completely, I’ll get further behind. But I could just finish up the job I started a few days ago, without tackling a new one. Ten minutes later, I’m back in the house cooling off again. Thank You, Father, for understanding my needs and desires, for leading me to the things that I can do, for letting me experience a sense of accomplishment even when I feel so limited.
I take my usual breaks for eating, napping, relaxing. In between I check my to-dos. I could write one email. Done. Not too tired yet. I could write another. Done. A little bit of energy remains. I could check out a new website. Done. Looking at my entire list is overwhelming. Focusing on one item at a time is doable.
As today ends, I’m feeling whole again. God has restored my emotions, my brain, my body. At this point, I always hope and pray that the insanity will never return. But I know that if it does, I’ll have one more memory of one more time when God saw me through it and grew me just a little bit more. Because of yesterday and today, I will be stronger tomorrow.
Friday, August 28, 2020