I am so incredibly overwhelmed. 

I am so overwhelmed I don’t even know where to start or how to talk about it. I wonder if I would feel so overwhelmed if I was still journaling daily like I used to, or if I was still doing some morning yoga before starting work. Would I feel this way now if I was still taking the time to go for walks each day and planning my time around myself rather than getting up, starting work, and then stopping at some point when my brain feels too broken and I’m too tired to continue?

I don’t know. It’s impossible to know. But I suppose I can guess. I think I would still feel overwhelmed, but maybe—probably—at least a little less so. 

When I took three months of medical leave from work last summer, I didn’t expect to be here in March—not even a year later—in an eerily similar headspace as I was in June.

But then again, when I took three months of medical leave last summer, I didn’t expect my mother-in-law to be diagnosed with terminal stage iv colon cancer, my father-in-law to suddenly pass away of a heart attack, and my partner to find out he has significant hereditary risk of more fatal diseases than I even do—all within the span of just three months. I didn’t expect to have to find out the hard way that I am 100% more terrified of and more concerned about the people I love getting sick and hurt and dying than I am myself.

I guess, the one thing I did expect is that we’d still be in a pandemic, and it seems that’s the only thing I was right about. (Though being right about it doesn’t ease any of the anxiety about it.)

Everyone around me is reminding me I need to take care of myself and manage my stress. And it’s like, I know. I know that my gastroparesis, POTS, and chronic fatigue are worse with stress. 

I know it rationally and I know it from experience. The last month or two gastroparesis-wise has been reminiscent of when I was first diagnosed. Meanwhile, my heart rate has been higher, my insomnia has returned, the sleep I do get has been sweatier, and my fatigue has increased. The only thing that’s not as terrible as it used to be is my presyncope, but I attribute that to me drinking 32 ounces of Drip Drop each day. 

So, yeah, I know I need to do something about my stress levels. The thing is, though: It’s so hard to start adding stress management back in after you’re completely stressed out and overwhelmed. It’s hard to rebuild the healthy habits you started when you didn’t have to work for a few months and your sole priority day-in and day-out was to do what your body needed and take care of yourself.

How does one get back to a healthy level of stress management when they’re already at the end of their proverbial rope?

Maybe I need to take a week off of work soon. (I did recently for bereavement leave, but I think we can all agree that’s really not the same.) It’s been three months since the two weeks I took off over the winter holidays and about seven since I returned from medical leave. Given the additional stressors, maybe it’s time for a spring break of sorts.

But even time off feels a bit like a band-aid, because clearly my stress management was somehow derailed by something. Maybe it was all of the trauma our family has experienced in the last few months. Maybe it was because capitalism will take and take and take unless you actively refuse to give. It was probably both.

I don’t know. I don’t have an answer right now (and I’m not looking for advice). I’m just tired and scared and sad. I miss when things were easier, though I don’t even know when that was.