Earlier this week, I fell through a spiritual hole, and found myself emptying the bathroom garbage, thinking, Maybe I won’t go out with my husband tonight, and instead I’ll just stay home and research ways to kill myself.
The bottom had dropped out for me. Maybe you, like me, find yourself falling through a hole sometimes and wonder how exactly do I get out?
Before you start emailing me the suicide hotline number, I need to tell you, this is something I’ve dealt with for a long time – these feelings are familiar to people who have experienced developmental trauma, or the trauma of experiencing addiction. I’m grateful that I’ve learned a lot of strategies to intervene and to help myself reconnect, with God, with people who love me, and with myself.
But we all deal with spiritual depletion at times. So, the question is, what can we do to help ourselves when we feel like we are beyond empty?
More about the backstory here:
Last week was full of communication snafus: First, the headphone jack on my phone stopped working. Then I had a conversation with my landlord where I was making what I thought was a really simple, clear suggestion and she spoke back to me in what sounded like Japanese (not really -- but that’s how well I understood her. I was like, “huh?”) My husband had all his emails for a half day come through with just the sender’s name and nothing in the body of the email, so he had to send all these awkward emails at work saying, “Um, I know you sent me an email, but it didn’t have any content, so can you tell me whatever you were trying to tell me, again, please? Thanks!”
And parenting the past couple weeks have felt like I’m in a caretaking relationship with a tiny dictator, or an alcoholic, and I find myself thinking things like, “OH MY GOD, WHO RAISED YOU? THEY ARE DOING A HORRIBLE JOB.”
At the end of the week, I completely forgot to show up to meet a friend which, seriously, NEVER happens. I need to cancel sometimes but I never just totally forget my own plans.
So I was already feeling off personally, and then the United States itself seemed to implode with Trump basically daring an insane dictator to launch nuclear war and then Nazis and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, unashamed, and killing a woman, running her over with a car.
I know some of you hate my swearing, but I think you can excuse me for saying: What in the fucking fuck is going on here?
And I just fall through a hole, some naive part of me still wandering around inside saying, What about Sí Se Puede? Whatever happened to that?
There's a lot of power in seeing clearly where you’re at, but it feels like death sometimes.
So, what do we do when we look in our hope and optimism barrel and find it so so empty and we realize suddenly that we’re dying?
These are the things I’m doing this week to refill myself:
1. First thing first: Take the day off.
Monday, I set aside my to-do list and watched a movie in bed with my son, got dressed at noon. Went to the library, then we sat at a coffee shop for two hours reading our books, me drinking decaf coffee (self-care!) and him drinking a vanilla almond milk steamer and eating a sweet treat. Next, we walked a couple blocks down and visited a string of super cute little gift shops I’d been wanting to check out for TWO YEARS. OHMYGOD WHY DO I WAIT SO LONG TO DO ANYTHING? Then back home to eat the most delicious salsa in the whole world, made by my husband, play a quick game of Apples to Apples with my husband, son, and a neighbor kid, then off to a meeting.
If I don’t care for myself, who’s going to?
2. Accept that I'm not going from zero to full in one fell swoop.
Abraham Hicks talks about going from miserable to happy bit by bit, by choosing throughout your day when faced with options the thing that will bring you more joy, happiness, or well-being.
So, when looking for a movie, I didn’t overwhelm myself by checking out all my options on Netflix, Amazon Prime, itunes, and dvds. Instead, I just opened Amazon Prime (because I rarely use it), took a quick look, saw A Man Called Ove, and hit play.
When I opened the fridge and saw the flank steak my husband grilled I didn’t worry about cutting it up, heating it, making tacos, I just grabbed it cold and started eating it because THAT’S WHAT I FEEL LIKE AND I CAN. I don’t have to make a meal that looks nice and presentable for someone else. I am not hosting a dinner party. I’m just eating some steak out of the fridge like a modern-day caveman. That’s fine.
Unsure what I want to do or where I want to go, I start with what I don’t want to do and I DON’T DO THAT. I pick something else. By the end of the day, I was feeling somewhat better. Not feeling like a million bucks, but maybe like a thousand. Not so bad. [CORRECT TENSE PAST/PRESENT - MAKE CONSISTENT]
3. This week, I’m going to put some boundaries around my work.
I am super into this blog, so this one may be aspirational rather than something that actually happens, but I think part of this burnout is because all I’m thinking about lately is my work. I’m on Twitter, on facebook groups, writing, reading about my field (reading this super inspirational book by Jon Acuff right now called Start – his new book, Finish comes out soon).
I’m ALL IN, ALL THE TIME lately, and something about the way I’m doing it is leaving me feeling depleted rather than energized. I need to rest each day, too. So, I’m going to start super small here and just tell you this is something I’m struggling with.
Awareness, acceptance, and then action.
I know I’m not ready to commit to limiting my work hours yet. But I do want to get off Twitter and connect with my husband when he comes home at night. I’m in awareness on this one. I’m not taking solid breaks, and it’s harming me.
4. Pay attention to how I’m feeling online.
It’s easy to feel like reading facebook articles about Charlottesville is “doing something” because it takes something from me. But I can be a voice for change, and read an article on dismantling my own racism and start taking those steps, then avoid social media. We can contribute to the Southern Poverty Law Center (a group that specifically works against hate groups), or connect with equality minded groups in our community.
And I can “hide” people who get crazy in my online feeds. The best self-care advice I got last year after the election was from the brilliant, generous Sam Irby in her post Block People and Pretend They Died. I have the right to choose what I expose myself to. Yes, looking at the truth is essential, but when it drains my ability to actually change myself or to speak up and interrupt the casual racism most of us hear on a daily basis, then it’s not helping, it’s harming.
We are in desperate times.
My local city councilwoman is receiving death threats for speaking out against Nazism and white supremacy. We are living in truly desperate, important times in this country when speaking out against Nazism and white supremacy are considered “too political” and controversial positions to hold.
Self-care is essential now.
The world needs all of us who believe in justice and equality to speak up and to act, and to be able to do so.
We need to stay fit for the fight.
We didn’t ask for it, but here we are.
Take good care of yourselves this week, babies. The world needs us.
If you find this article helpful, please share it. We need all the encouragement we can get.