Handling the “too much”

This month’s topic at Patients For A Moment is this question:

So what do you do when you feel like everything is just too much?

I wasn’t going to answer it, but then I started thinking about all of the times I really couldn’t handle everything and how I responded to it, for better or for worse. I figured I’d share some of it. And in case the pattern isn’t clear, I’ll spell it out at the end.

The first time it was all too much was in college when I had mono. After almost 10 years of chronic pain, I didn’t think any health problems would stop me, but mono did. I took an incomplete in one class. I hated to do it, but I just couldn’t get all of my work done. Luckily, I got mono near the end of the semester, so I was able to finish the other classes. I took that one incomplete, and I made sure to finish the class early the next term. That one was fairly easy.

It was harder in graduate school. After so many years of pain and other problems, I was finally diagnosed as having an autoimmune disease for the first time. My doctor told me to get more rest and to avoid stress, two things that didn’t go well with graduate school. I knew I wasn’t coping well in general (it’s not a good sign when heating up canned soup is too hard,) so I spoke to my advisor. I only had one more term left, and I only needed the equivalent credits of one class. I figured I could manage it if I didn’t work. He agreed to let me leave the part-time job, but pointed out that meant losing my health insurance. I couldn’t swing that, so he pulled some strings. I was doing some research that term and the credits didn’t technically count towards my degree, but he found a way to make it count. Suddenly, instead of leaving the program in 4 months, I was leaving in 6 weeks! I felt like I had failed for the first time. I finished my work, passed the qualifying exam, and left. It all happened so fast. I got the degree, but it didn’t feel right. Still, I knew it was necessary.

A couple years later I was working. This was easier than school, with less stress and shorter hours. Still, it was a strain. I managed ok at the beginning, but after a while I really had trouble. I felt that if I could work less, or at least work from home, that I might be able to manage it better. I spoke to a couple of friends and got their advice. I approached my boss with a plan, asking if I could work from home one day per week, and listing the types of tasks I could do easily at home. He seemed doubtful, but agreed to a 6-week trial. That went well, and I continued it for the rest of my years there. Thank goodness! I didn’t like that I needed the day at home. I didn’t like that I needed special treatment. But boy did I feel better! Occasionally I even needed a second day at home, but I tried not to do that too often. I didn’t socialize as much as my friends did. I was too tired. But I did get out “enough,” so I figured that was ok.

The last time it was all too much was at my last job. This time, working from home wasn’t an option. And unlike before, it wasn’t simply that I was struggling. No, this time I was completely failing. After my showers in the morning, I had to lie down and rest for half an hour before I felt able to get dressed. I found myself resting my head on my desk at work. I started making mistakes in my job that I’d never made before. Every day I’d get home and feel unable to do anything more than eat dinner and watch tv. I stopped going out in the evenings. Eventually, as regular readers know, I left that job and went on disability. It was a very low point for me. I’d always sworn that I’d never let my health stop me from achieving whatever I wanted. But then, I didn’t know that the mono virus had triggered a major autoimmune disease which, after all these years, had finally wrecked my body. I had no choice but to do what my body needed.

So in answer to the question….

So what do you do when you feel like everything is just too much?

…my answer is that I stop trying to do everything. I know it’s tempting to try and push through, to do it all. I try to do that also, at least at first. But when I know I can’t handle it, when it’s just too damn much, then I cut something out, even when it’s something I thought I couldn’t possibly cut. Sometimes it’s job-related, sometimes it’s fun-related, but something has to give. I’m human. We all are. We have limitations. My limitations are not the same as my friends’, or yours, or the person who sits next to me on the train, but we all have limitations nonetheless. Trying to pretend otherwise won’t do us any good and it may do us a whole lot of harm. I don’t like it, but I also can’t change it. Instead, I do what I can to have the best life that I can within those limitations.

10 Responses to Handling the “too much”

  1. Julie says:

    This is something I’ve been coming to terms with AGAIN here lately. I thought I had it all figured out and under control, so I started piling things on my plate again, only to realize I’d piled on too much and had to start taking things off one by one till I could carry the plate.

    • chronicrants says:

      Julie, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you can carry the plate, now! Sometimes I try to rotate what’s on my plate. I can’t do everything at once, but maybe I can do everything slowly, bit by bit, over time. Whatever it is that works for you, I hope you’re finding it.

  2. Amen. It’s so hard to face your mortality, but I think you’re right. Sometimes taking a break from everything can be very healing.


  3. […]  Forgiving ourselves and realizing that we don’t have to be perfect, letting go of those Type A personality flaws make such a big difference. It’s not easy, not in any way, but it makes a huge difference when we finally learn to LET GO! ” My limitations are not the same as my friends’, or yours, or the person who sits next to me on the train, but we all have limitations nonetheless. Trying to pretend otherwise won’t do us any good and it may do us a whole lot of harm.” – ChronicRants […]

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