Stress — your muscles become tense, your breath quickens, your heart beats harder, your hormones go crazy, your appetite changes, maybe some heart burn and stomach problems…the list of effects continues on. (Please see The American Psychological Association for more specifics.)
Let’s face it, none of those effects sound ideal. And….they aren’t ideal. I have felt the effects of stress. I have seen what it can do to a marriage. I have seen what it can do to your own being, as a woman. I have seen how it can affect your family and the way you interact with them.
Before I get too deep into this, please note, I do not have a degree in psychology. I am not a mental health professional. Please, always seek the advice from the proper professional.
My Life Fell Apart
I was 18 when my husband was wounded during his combat tour. Let me go over that one more time….I was 18! Freshly married, just figuring out life. Suddenly, I was hit in the face by real life, approximately 8 months after we were married. My husband was in a wheelchair and confined to a hospital bed. He couldn’t do anything for himself, not to mention he suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Thus began my life as a caregiver as well as wife. The days and nights were and can be so stressful and difficult.
Over the years, I felt regret over how ill prepared I was at 18, how I may not have always responded to the challenge perfectly.
As I grew to understand his pain and suffering, I felt extreme regret for not responding properly, for not knowing how to help him. This regret took me to an extreme.
A Painful Promise
I promised myself I would be perfect for him, because I was lucky he even made it back. He told me that I was the driving force that made him want to live. That is quite a lot to live up to. Though, he never had any expectations for me to live up to. He already loved and was grateful to be home with me. But the need to be perfect is what I chose to take away from that conversation. At the time that he told me that, I decided I needed to be perfect to make up for imperfections in my lack of knowledge on his needs when he returned. I lingered on the mistakes I made, I carried that baggage as a heavy burden. At 18, I had no grasp on the magnitude of his suffering, I didn’t comprehend PTSD very well. Sure, I had heard of it, that was it. I worried about somehow losing him again by being a screw up.
I still feel regret, even though, by now I have poured over books,articles, and other media to help him find pain relief to truly understand PTSD and TBI and how I can help.
But now, I try to tell myself I was 18, and couldn’t know everything. The absolute truth is, he didn’t talk about it, I didn’t know how to handle something I couldn’t even understand, because he wouldn’t discuss it.
Later in our marriage, we were miraculously blessed with 2 children. The first full day home from the hospital with my youngest, I dove in head first with the mind set of. “He can’t do it, or it will hurt him to help, so I will DO IT ALL.” I never asked for help. (See my article on asking for help.) I made a decision from that day forth, I would really get it right, no mistakes. I needed to hold this family together!!! It was all on me.
I took care of him, 2 children, 2 dogs, and kept up the house. I scarcely ate, then at night overate, I was always in tears at least once a day, and to be honest I was no fun to be around. I was tired. I was always angry, I was always resisting any ideas my husband had. But I never asked for help.
We fought, I was snide, I was sometimes rude, I was easy to upset, I was resistant, I was losing out on intimacy because of it. (I am not equating intimacy with sex. I mean bonding.) I hate admitting all of this, but I am hoping I can help women avoid the same mistakes.
So imagine this cycle — regret for not being the perfect reason for him to live, trying my hardest to be flawless, screwing it all up because I was so overworked and over tired, and then holding onto more regret for not being perfect in the present, back to trying to be perfect and failing.
New Year, New Start
At the end of December last year, I decided I needed to change. I needed to find peace. I was a wreck. I needed to be happy and be at my best for the family. I have Always leaned to the 1940s and 1950s, I always felt like those were better days for so many reasons. I began to despair in the direction the world was heading.
I had read the book The Surrendered Wife, as I prayed to God for help. I decided I was just meant to live that life. I felt my grandmother’s kind nature calling to me. I felt like this world is in a scary place. Back in the 40s-50s, people had values, people worked for their dreams, the ideal of family was more often upheld with pride.
So, here I am a traditional woman, living the old way. It has been calling to me for so long, but it never clicked.
So, we have talked about what happens to your body when you are stressed. You read what happened to me when I was stressed.
Look within yourself, ladies. Are you stressed? Do you feel strained? It can have real consequences. Not only is it unhealthy for you, but it affects your family in various ways, your marriage in various ways…sexually and otherwise in many cases.
You might snap at your husband when he wasn’t deserving, and what man wants to be intimate with a woman who is like a porcupine?
He certainly won’t continue conversing with a hostile woman. So, you lose out on conversation. You might “hole up” and keep away from friends, you might become depressed. You might not do activities with your children. Even if you do engage with your children, your mind will be focused on the things you are stressed about!
Again, none of this has a positive outlook. What will it take to get you to re-evaluate? I don’t want you to end up secretly falling apart as I was. I don’t want you to wait until you are an emotional pile of rubble. The time to act, is now.
A New Day, Away from Stress
So, let us now discuss what can be done to help stress.
If you are overwhelmed:
- Place your children in a safe place, and walk away. Go spend 10 minutes doing something for yourself and refresh. By safe place I mean: a play room that is adequately baby proofed (you can add a camera for peace of mind), a crib, anywhere you trust your children to be unattended, age appropriately.
- Give your children a quiet time activity . This could even buy you an hour of time!
- Count to 10
- Take slow refreshing breaths, and focus on those breaths
- If you cannot get away from the children for a moment, find something you enjoy doing (knitting, crochet, baking) and do it.
- Hire a babysitter/ask a family member for help
- Listen to soothing music
- Get fresh air
- Have an outlet to vent frustration
- Seek professional help –they even have apps now to speak to a psychologist if you cannot leave the house.
I began working very hard on this issue when I decided I needed a lifestyle change. I am so much happier, I am so much calmer, I am not in tears daily, my responsibilitis are much less daunting. It worked for me, it can work for you too, but the process may not be the same for everyone.
I’m not a Robot
I am not going to pretend that I still don’t get stressed out, but I am more aware of my inner thoughts and I am aware of how to ask for help, and find my center again. Oh, and when I am extremely tired, that is when I allow stress to creep into my heart. These moments of stress are now, just that….moments. My relationship has taken leaps and bounds, we are even closer than before. I have a lot more fun with each and every day in life –with everyone.
Stress happens, life gets crazy, but nothing good comes of remaining stressed. It is imperative that you address the issue. It can affect your life physically and mentally, it can affect your children and husband, it can affect your sex life, your marriage. I am not exaggerating, if you reign in the stress, you will see results.