Put Your Oxygen Mask on First
I know it is said often, but it really holds true. You cannot help anyone else if you are down and out. It is critical to take care of yourself and the opposite of selfishness. It has taken me a loooooong time to learn this. During this last time of crisis I did a much better job. I rested and only did what I was able to do and no more than that. The laundry piled up, the toys became scattered, the floors got icky, the weeds got taller and multiplied by ten and the kids became needier for lack of attention. Only the critical things made it on the “to do” list: read extra praise and snuggles for the kids. The rest will wait.
Ask For Help
When I woke up unable to move except for a few inches, I knew I needed someone to take care of me. My husband was not the person to ask. He had six kids to feed and love on and a mile-long list of his own critical tasks. Who is the next capable person? Can I call a friend? Well, my 11-year-old daughter is very attentive and loves getting texts. So, I texted and asked her if she would like to be my nurse. One minute later she was at my side and did an excellent job caring for me. Also, talk with a trusted friend and let him/her know what you are going through. For me, just sharing my struggle brought me great relief. It somehow made it more manageable. A friend’s empathy and encouragement can mean the world during a crisis.
I was able to make lists and do a little planning the next day, so I planned meals and helped make the grocery list. Then, I asked my 18-year-old to do the shopping. During the non-crisis times I had been teaching my kids to cook and this payed off big time in the times of crisis. The kids also began tackling the laundry a little at a time. Mornings are my worst as far as functionality, so I asked for help in getting the kids to VBS. Everyone will have unique circumstances, so think about the resources available to you, prioritize your needs in order of most critical and then ask someone for help. It is much easier for people to help if they know you have a specific need. And if you are the one being asked, the opposite is true: just offer to do whatever you are able. When someone is in the midst of a crisis it is often difficult to make a decision of what you need.
Look for the Positive
Having a crisis is the very definition of things going wrong. The key here is to recognize that EVERYTHING is not going wrong. Something has to be right or you would not be here. For me it was all the little things: my husband poking his head in to ask if I needed anything, the kids giving me snuggles, the flowers blooming amidst the weeds, the sun shining, my comfortable bed, my caring friends… Well, you get the idea. Make a mental note of every little thing that brings you joy and thank God for it. He is there in the suffering with you and is patiently waiting to pour out the grace and peace for just the asking.
Minimize the Negative
It is good and healthy to acknowledge all that is going wrong. It sucks to be sick. It feels crappy and you can’t do anything about it. I have had 7 straight weeks of not feeling well beginning with a case of laryngitis and continuing through this last week of reacting to gluten. It is easy to get discouraged. And it seems to pile up. Mom is down, Dad’s stress goes up, the kids’ stress goes up, the house starts to fall apart, the car breaks down, kids get sick, and the list can go on and on. Name those crappy things and cry it out if you need to. “God has big shoulders,” Fr. Jim used to tell us. Pray and cry out to Him and name all those things that are burdensome. Then ask God what you should do about it. If you can take action without causing yourself more harm, then do it. Otherwise, let it go. The floors, the laundry, the weeds will all be there another day and it really won’t take long to get it back on track. Don’t get bogged down by the negative. I know, easier said than done. But, I can assure you that you will get better with practice. God has been giving me lots of practice.
Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt
Feeling irritable when you are stressed is a normal response. But, try not to alienate those closest to you. In my personal experience, I would get upset when my husband seemingly avoided me, or was short with me when I was at my weakest. I would take his absence as a form of abandonment. In reality, he was doing double time taking care of work, house, kids, shopping and trying to deal with his own emotions and stress of seeing me so sick. We can easily focus on our own pain and suffering and forget how strongly it affects others. My kids are also affected. It is frightening to see Mom so sick and weak. Mom is supposed to take care of them, not the other way around. My kids take on extra chores as well. After a few days, it can wear everyone down. Try to remember to say “thank you” for the smallest acts of kindness. Praise the good that others are doing. Don’t let guilt over what you cannot control spill over into bitterness and irritability towards others. Another burden I often add to my baggage is to take on the added stress expressed by others. If my husband gets short with the kids, or the kids start bickering with one another, I have to take great effort to remember that is not my fault. I cannot control others and I cannot control my health. So, I just *try* to speak gently and offer praise and encouragement where I can. Everyone is just doing the best they can with what they have. None of us are perfect.
I do hope this helps you when you are in time of crisis. Unfortunately no one is able to avoid life crisis. Yours will be unique to you, so my story and advice may not apply. I pray for you all that God give you peace and healing, grace and joy as you walk your journey in sickness and in health. And I thank you for your prayers and encouragement as well.