This time last year, I was in the final throes of a personal crisis, one that broke my spirit and my heart. My personal crisis had been brewing for quite some time, leaving me mentally and physically exhausted. I worried I might never mend. It wasn’t a tragic event, like the loss of a loved one, but rather was the culmination of years of defeats that knocked the wind out of my sails. As the defeats and setbacks accumulated, making a comeback seemed impossible.
During the past year, there were many mornings when I had to force myself out of bed and just as many when I got up but never left the house. There were days when I engaged in non-stop, frenetic activity but more often I closed the door to my bedroom and shut out the world.
The things that had always sustained me…family, friends, music, dance, etc…seemed pointless so I spent a lot of time this year watching bad TV and eating drive-thru fast food alone. Over the past few months, I’ve gradually come back to life. I credit a support group, a great counselor, my husband and my students with special needs for the renewal of my spirit.
I kept a list of the things that have helped me during this rough year…thought it might come in handy if the dark cloud over my heart ever lifted. Since I’m through the worst of it, I decided to share my list of Ten Ways To Get Over A Personal Crisis:
- Give yourself permission to wallow. Literally. In your bed, under the covers, maybe with your pet or an infant. Preferably not your own infant, because if its yours, you’ll have to take care of it. Borrow one from a friend or high-jack your grandchild. Keep the infant just long enough to snuggle that sweet bundle and smell his/her head…the most comforting smell on earth. Wallow as long as you need. It make take a while. Do not feel guilty about this wallowing (see #4 below). I frequently borrow this precious nugget! On this day, the only reason I left my house was to see him.
- Only do those things which are critical to your job or your life. Prioritize! Answer emails that need immediate attention and leave the rest alone. You’d be surprised how many things can lose their urgency…or be solved by someone else…if you just ignore them for a while. Pay your bills, make sure you have clean underwear – you get my drift – but if it’s not hot-potato urgent, ignore it.
- Delegate anything and everything possible to anyone you can – to your kids, your spouse, your co-workers. If you tell folks you’re having a hard time and need their help, I’ve found people are more than willing to oblige.
- Forgive yourself for needing a break. I’ve struggled with feeling guilty for all the things I’ve neglected but I shouldn’t. There is absolutely nothing wrong with stepping off the merry-go-round occasionally. In fact, if I had taken breaks from the merry-go-round before the crisis came to a head, I might have been better able to deal with it.
- Lose the mindset that “busy” is an acceptable lifestyle. We glorify being busy. “How does she do it?” we ask ourselves. “He’s involved in everything so I must be a loser,” we tell ourselves. But busy just means we’re overloaded, over-obligated and spread too thin. Busy is what we are when we forget that life isn’t supposed to be about crossing things off a to-do list, enrolling our children in every possible activity or throwing elaborate parties. I know some people who are chronically “busy” and from the outside, they may seem happy, involved and engaged. Before last year, I was one of those folks myself. My experience is that when we are too busy it’s not because we have a fulfilling life but rather because we’ve bitten off more than we can chew or chronic procrastination has caught up with us.
- Vow to say “no” to everything that doesn’t lift your spirits. And I mean everything. Whether its a wedding, an informal get together, a committee, extra work projects – just say “no.” This may be hard for if you suffer from what my young friends tell me is a condition known as FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. Sure, you may miss something but if you’re having a hard time coping with everyday life, going to a party or taking on a big project won’t do anything but make you feel worse. “No,” is a complete sentence.
- Stay off social media! I’ve been working my way through feelings of failure – as a wife, mother, friend, professional woman. The last thing I needed was to see heinous political posts or pictures of a fabulous vacation someone took while I was wallowing. When your heart is broken, you’re susceptible to buying into the notion that everyone else has their life “together,” as evidenced by what they curate onto their pages. Or susceptible to being irritated by those obnoxious people who have “started a business” (code for, “I’m selling tacky clothes or sheets or skincare products or strange kitchen implements you will never use”) they want to tell you about by adding you to groups or sending you unsolicited messages. When you’re ready to dip your toe back into the social media vortex, delete from your newsfeed anything that doesn’t make you smile.
- Avoid making big changes during your transition from broken to mended. Like, don’t cut your hair off or dye it a crazy color or redecorate the living room. Now is not the time to be adventurous.
- Do not go shopping. For anything. Not even online. Especially not online. You will only end up buying things you don’t need or worse, that don’t fit, which will exponentially increase the guilt you are feeling for wallowing and eating bad food instead of exercising and dieting.
- Never compare your healing process to anyone else. Its easy to say, “Look at her…she has a tougher burden than I do and she’s doing fine.” What is soul-crushing to me might be a walk in the park to you. There’s no such thing as a “normal” reaction to life-altering events. Besides, what difference does it make if someone else gets over a crisis faster than you do? You’re the only one who will know when it’s time for you to hop back on the merry-go-round.