“You can’t burn the candle at both ends.”
“It’s okay to lower your standards.”
“You need to rest.”
I have heard these phrases countless times throughout adulthood. Friends and family, and most of all, my husband, have lovingly encouraged me thus.
For a long time, I didn’t listen. Slow down? Not me. I’ll be perfectly healthy, perfect at work, and constantly teaching my kids all the things.
My body eventually said enough is enough.
My wake-up call came at work. I was taking notes during a Zoom coaching call, when out of the blue, half of my vision turned bright white. I noticed my notes were no longer coherent. I couldn’t remember how to spell “result.” Somehow, I made it through the call and shared my symptoms with some coworkers. My head felt woozy, my right eye only saw bright light, and strangest of all, I couldn’t remember the names of the people I worked with.
My coworker Lisa drove me to urgent care and called Trevor. Urgent Care directed me to the ER, and Trevor, who had since arrived, drove me to the hospital. By the time we arrived, I couldn’t feel the left side of my body. Excruciating pain radiated out of my head.
After a few torturous hours of vomiting and pain and confusion, an MRI and 2 CAT Scans, I was diagnosed with an Aural Migraine. I have no prior history of migraines.
When I was discharged, I was under the illusion that this was a single event and that I wouldn’t have any long-term effects once I’d had a good night’s rest.
Boy, was I mistaken. The taste of metal filled my mouth for days, and for weeks, it felt like my brain was a dead channel on the radio. Any loud noise or stimuli sparked a rage. If 2 people spoke to me at once, my brain wanted to explode.
At home, with a newborn and 2 toddlers, things were not going well.
Visits to a neurologist, new medications and recurring migraines all obstructed me in ways I had never before experienced. The symptoms lingered for 3 months, then 6, then 9.
Did I now have a chronic health issue? Did I bring this on myself? How in the world would I be able to rest and relax with 3 little ones and a full-time job? Would my brain ever work the same again?
My doctors advised me to slow down, get more sleep, and relax. I tried, but it was hard. The urge to keep overachieving and checking things off my list scrolled like tickertape across my mind.
I began to reflect on the months before my ER trip, and I realized the signs of a health crisis had been on the wall. I ignored my body’s warnings and refused to slow down.
I ignored burnout that was stronger than I’d ever experienced. Ignored postpartum depression. Kept striving when my tank had less than a drop of gas.
I practiced relaxation by adding it to my checklist. Tasks like a bath, a run, a massage, and an early bedtime began to top my list. I even started to find the process pleasant. I discovered the joys of a weighted blanket, and how much lavender relaxes me.
The R&R was helping. I started some much-needed loosening up.
I stopped micromanaging what I ate; I couldn’t waste valuable brain space on that. I even stopped cooking. For months, I couldn’t bring myself to fry an egg—I was so burnt out from cooking. And I didn’t judge that; I trusted that one day, I would again find myself cooking.
Stripping away the unnecessary became a frequent talking point with my husband. At first, I always had to justify it. We can use paper plates for dinner just once a week. We can eat in front of the TV on Friday nights. I adjusted my rules. I tried to loosen up and fit my new reality into my old restrictive framework.
It was a start, but it wasn’t going to be enough. God wasn’t going to let me go back to that prison of self-righteousness and endless striving. He would keep shaking things up because He wanted me to taste true peace, not the diluted down version that could fit on my to-do list. I was in bondage to my rules, and if I was going to experience peace and be the Mom and Coach He wanted me to be, I’d have to chuck the list and start seeing life from a new lens.
A lens of grace and hope.