Stress and escape valves

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed.

For me, overwhelm is a dangerous spot. It’s often a result of me feeling like there’s more of me needed than there is to go around. It’s most likely to happen when I’m tuned in to my skill, talents, abilities and I’m enjoying feeling needed. But there are no boundaries, no saying “no” — I feel as though I can and must solve every problem, every situation that comes my way. It’s a superhero complex, and it’s really the flip side of the low self-esteem I can fall into as well.

Time for a more mature way of managing what I can and can’t do.

But, I’ve been thinking that some of the women I know who are the dynamos of support for the people around them, and the work they do, also seem to be fat. It’s not like there aren’t not-fat people who are dynamos of support, some of them are also men.

I’ve been noticing fat people in a different way lately. Hard to say exactly what I’ve been noticing. Maybe it’s the shedding my of own issues around fatness that allows me to really see and know and not be afraid to be identified with other fat people. That might sound awful, but it’s part of the “unlearning process.”

For me, overwhelm sometimes leads to overeating. And I see this as a relatively neutral thing. I think, if I don’t want to find myself eating due to an intense sensation of hunger that seems to be very hard to satisfy, I need to address what’s overwhelming me, not “white knuckle” my way through that feeling of hunger. For the moment, I’m not seeing the overeating as “what’s wrong with me” — or “why I’m fat” — it’s certainly something people of a variety of sizes do from time to time. I know other people have different ways of dealing with feeling overwhelmed. I think part of being in my 40s and a mom is that as my capacity for awareness and ability to notice and respond to the needs of others is that I haven’t decided how much I can or want to do of this noticing and responding to. There’s all this data coming in and I feel like I’m the only one who can respond to it (which is why I threw the cordless phone on the floor when both my sister who is recovering from surgery and my daughter wanted things from me simultaneously when I was already late for work).

There is a long list of things that are causing me to feel overwhelmed, but the main one is hubris, I think. The idea that I really can superhero my way through the onslaught of needs that I’m tuned into — rather than recognizing that I’m a human being with limits. As hokey as it sounds, prayer helps at these moments. Not to appeal for help, but to recognize that I’m not God. To acknowledge that the needs are greater than my ability to satisfy them. To connect myself with my ancestors, who did all kinds of stupid, harmful things when they too felt overwhelmed — things far worse than eating beyond the point of fullness.

The overwhelm is subsiding a bit. I’ve got some built-in breaks planned this weekend. I’m going to catch up on work. I’ve already noticed a difference in my level of hunger and how I respond to it. I have been through a narrow passage of time, and I’m nearing the other side of it. Life is okay. Better than okay.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Stress and escape valves

  1. erin

    im learning to be a mom to 6 and 7 year old girls (im marrying a widower) and sometimes seem to loose myself in a storm of other peoples needs….like i get to sleep after i do a-f and maybe work on point j as well. thanks for this. gotta learn to just relax and realize im doing fine.

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