Help! Ring-buoy underwater

We’ve all been there. Call it crisis, life stuff, drama, whatever, but all of us sometime or another get to a place where life is hard.

My mom has this saying. Her reaction to anything hard is, “Shit, Martha!” I have no idea where it came from, I have no idea who Martha is, or even if she’s a real person in my mom’s life.

Recently, I’ve had some serious “Shit, Martha” moments. Here’s what’s on the table:

  • My book manuscript is due April 29th. New website is almost done. New podcast starting in March or April.
  • I had to step down from my board position with my roller derby league.
  • I’m having to find a new school and childcare for my 5 year old son. Because…
  • My son has been recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Sensory Processing Disorder (This one is a doozy. More on this at a later time when I'm ready to write about it)

And there’s one more big thing that I can’t disclose, because it involves my husband…(we’re fine), and if and when the big change happens, it’ll be announced.

And some of these things are good, and some are hard. But, put them all together in one big pot and it’s a lot. Like a stew with waaaay too much meat in it. Too much for one person. Last week I wrote to a friend/colleague and told her, “I feel like I’m drowning in all of this.”

So, it got me thinking how I cope in situations like these. While I don’t believe in “life balance”, I do believe we’re all striving for a place of homeostasis within our lives. With that, I’ve compiled a list of what I do when I’m drowning and yelling “Shit, Martha!” at the same time:

1. Admit, even if it’s just to yourself, that you can’t do it all. Lord knows we try. For me, I don’t even realize how much is on my plate until I’m eating it all. Like my bestie tells me, “When you already know what the problem is, don’t wait to make changes until it’s a fucking emergency!” My baromoter here is tears + overwhelm and thinking about quitting everything to run away like Forrest Gump did. I can’t really tell you when I’ll stop testing the waters on how much I can take. I do this once every couple years or so. And I’m starting to accept that it’s just a part of who I am and a work in progress.

2. Cry when you need to, even if it’s “inappropriate”. I don’t think there should be such a thing as inappropriate crying. If you feel the way you feel…feel it. When clients apologize for crying on the phone with me, I ask them to consider taking their apology back—because there is no need for it. If you find something hysterically funny, you would laugh your ass off. If you find something painful, please cry.

3. Remember that there will be “the other side”. You don’t have to grasp for it, or search for it, but just know that it will all eventually be okay. There are some days where I simply cannot be positive, or inspiring, or inspired or even okay. I’m not fine, or creative. Thankfully, those days are very few and far between, but they do happen. But, no longer do I stay in a place of complete despair. In my heart and my mind I know that “this too shall pass”. I don’t numb my feelings anymore or run away from them and knowing the other side is coming, hugely helps.

4. Ask for help. Ahhh, vulnerability. The evidence that we are imperfect. The inciter of our inner-critic. For me, this one kicks my ass every time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat with the phone in my hand, or my hands at the keyboard trying to type an email to a friend and paused or not reached out at all. Even when someone has made it clear to call them anytime…it’s still hard. And for me, I think I have come a loooong way in getting past the “I don’t want anyone to know I need help” crap. But, somewhere still, sometimes I am trying to prove to myself that I can do it without help.

And time after time, I can’t.

It truly does take a village. It’s easier to get through things with support. We learn more with support. In the long run, I believe, we are doing more harm to ourselves by trying to cope alone.

5. People may tell you how to feel. Don’t listen. It's ,“You’re fine.” And  “Don’t be sad”. I am so hyper-aware of this now, I have a physical reaction when someone tells me how I should feel. And to their defense, they don’t mean any ill harm. They simply want us to feel better, and it makes them uncomfortable to see us where we are. Lord knows I’ve said these things to my children, friends and family on many occasions too.

But, when you hear them, please don’t think you are wrong if you feel the opposite of what they are telling you. It’s a recipe for disaster. Whatever you feel, you feel.

All of these take practice. As you can tell, I still work on all of these myself in hard times. But over the years the practice is paying off and helping. I hope it does the same for you.