stress: noun – 1) pressure or tension exerted on a material object 2) a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances, or something that causes such a state [as adj. ] (stressed) ‘she should see a doctor if she is feeling particularly stressed out’ Informal: become tense or anxious, worry: ‘don’t stress—there’s plenty of time to get a grip on the situation’. ORIGIN Middle English (denoting hardship or force exerted on a person for the purpose of compulsion): shortening of distress, or partly from Old French estresse: ‘narrowness, oppression,’ based on Latin strictus, ‘drawn tight’
exhaustion: noun – 1) a state of extreme physical or mental fatigue 2) the action or state of using something up or of being used up completely, the action of exploring a subject or options so fully that there is nothing further to be said or discovered ORIGIN early 17th century: from Latin exhaurire ‘drain out’
nervous breakdown: noun – a period of mental illness resulting from severe depression, stress, or anxiety
There: I always wondered what a nervous breakdown is! I do like the dictionary, its way of nailing things down and making sense of concepts: there is no arguing with a definition. Words like ‘stress’ and ‘exhaustion’ are used a lot – it’s good to agree on what we are talking about here. One of the most annoying things about arguing with Sam is that he defines words differently, means different things by them: we end up quibbling over semantics. But I am not arguing over ‘draw tight’ or ‘drain down’ – nor am I blasé about the possibility of breakdown.
Martin couldn’t believe I wrote a poem about pooh! The trouble is, when you commit to let it all flow ‘out of the heart’ there are going to be some things in there that are not ‘nice’! Jesus Himself said it is what comes out of a man’s mouth that makes him unclean (not what he puts in it). I guess using tasty words in a howl of horror on a page is a better expression of anger than shouting at someone and a rather more positive way of letting the poison out in a ‘controlled explosion’. Plus I know I need the darkness in me cleansed – that’s what that poem was all about, Martin!
I suppose we all hold ourselves together for so long… Last year we kept going all through Sam’s radiotherapy in February and March and as he was recovering during April, May and June I started to go downhill. That was a ‘nervous breakdown’, I suppose: I was scraped off the floor by fluoxetine… Now the doctor is trying to decide whether my current sleeplessness and symptoms of anxiety/depression need more prosac and zopiclone or HRT! I know there is strength and support to draw on that comes from outside of ourselves – I am beyond the point of trying to fix myself – or Sam. But when you feel crap that can be difficult to access – at least emotionally: I do choose to believe it is there, the LORD is there, and I am loved and carried. So I sit and wait, rest and hope – and do the next thing that needs done to keep going…
And I write. Just as in early 2010 when I wrote so many pieces as redhead for Stories from the Street, it really helps! This blog was always about letting it all out, allowing creativity and communication to flow – for a more positive attempt at a poem you can read Writer Unblocked from last September 🙂 Yes, perhaps part of me wants to curl up in a ball and hide at the moment – especially as my story is getting out beyond my own circle of friends now, which doesn’t feel that safe… but the other part wants to let it all hang out. Oh dear, what an exhibitionist! But as I think I have mentioned in a post before (but as there are now 105 I can’t find it!) there was a time I felt a zip on my front was being undone and everything peeled back to expose the jewels inside to the light – and if some of those jewels are not so shiny and beautiful as others, not so clever and honed… so be it. This is real life.
So I loved this Richard Rohr quote this morning:
You will be wounded. Your work is to find God and grace inside the wounds. This is why Jesus told Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side” John 20v27. Thomas was trying to resolve the situation mentally, as men usually do, so Jesus had to force direct physical contact with human pain—the pain of Jesus, Thomas’ capacity for empathy with that pain, and very likely with Thomas’ own denied pain. Deep healing has to happen corporeally and emotionally, and not just abstractly.
Jesus wanted Thomas to face and feel in his body the tragedy of it all—and then know it was not tragedy at all! In that order. That is how wounds become sacred wounds. This is the pattern of all authentic conversion in the Christian economy of grace: not around, not under, not over, but through the wound we are healed and saved.
Yes that’s why I write and dissect and insist on feeling it all so acutely. I refuse to deny the authenticity of this experience – and I do believe God is in it with us, even on the crap days when I write Switched off and Laudable Pus! Like Sam the other day, shouting upstairs, sending us running – to find he had been shouting at God… God can cope! He is not surprised, shocked or disillusioned. He promises to work it all out for good, and I am holding Him to it!
And I also write to remind myself of that: this is a story of HOPE.