At My Wit’s End

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have had the worst year I can remember. Here’s a summary of bad
parts of my life for the last nine months: My old cat got sick, but we
put him on new meds and he revived (temporarily). My dentist found a
lesion on my tongue, and two oral surgeons disagreed about whether
or not it could be cancerous (did you know that tongues fall in a gap
between medical and dental insurance?). I developed insomnia and
started sleeping in one-two hour bursts. I began a construction project
that is now six weeks and many thousands of dollars over budget. My
cat got sick again; more new meds. None of the insomnia medicine
worked, after many trials and errors. I had what turned out to be a
small house fire, but another five-minutes slower by the alarm
company or the fire department and I might not be writing you. The
cat became incontinent and my house was papered in pee pads; he
recently died. The good news: My skin doctor identified the tongue
lesion (after a biopsy of another spot) as a side effect of a diabetes
medication I have been on that I hated and am now off of. I took
money from my 401K to pay for construction. I pleaded for new meds
from doctor and have actually gotten three-four hours sleep in a row.
The fire damage is repaired for less than my deductible and the smoke
smell is abating. People tell me I am stressed and depressed. Stressed
and exhausted, yes; depressed, no. What can I do to get my life on an
even keep once construction ends (very very soon).

At My Wit’s End

Dear Wit’s End:

You’ve convinced me, you need a vacation!! But I assume that it is
unwise to raid your 401K a second time to pay for one. So I am
prescribing and intense “stay-cation.” Here’s how it works: Other than
life and death obligations to your family, you unburden your calendar
and make your emotional and physical health your prime priority. If
you have accrued vacation time at work, now’s the time to use it. If
you do not, then do the below in all non-working hours.



From the moment you get up until the moment your head hits the
pillow, all you should be doing is focusing on being calm, mellow, and
very gentle on yourself. That means getting caffeine or other
stimulants out of your life, and focusing on healthy eating with as little
sugar or “treats” that cycle your energy in spikes and crashes as you
can do. It also means creating a fixed time every day to meditate. My
idea of meditation probably wouldn’t satisfy a guru. It can include time
holding or reading a book, staring at a hummingbird feeder, watching
lawn sprinklers turn and twirl, and other similar mindless activities.
Take the idea that you need to be productive and shelve it. Avoid
making social commitments more than a day or two ahead of time.
Practice saying “No, I’m on a retreat.” When people ask you to do
anything that genuinely doesn’t sound healing or fun. Avoid angry,
toxic, or negative people at all costs. Practice good sleep hygiene (look
it up), and avoid violent or loud TVs, books, and music. Sign up for
some “quote of the day” inspirational emails, especially ones that
focus on gentle and calming thoughts. Choose one or two friends with
whom you feel safe to process your feelings of grief, but avoid telling
and retelling the stories of your trauma to everyone you know. Do
these things for at least a few weeks, until you begin to feel calmer
and your lifestyle feels more supportive and nurturing. When you go
back to “normal” I hope your life is a lot softer and sweeter. If not,
find a good counselor.