Navigating Life when the legs of your stool are shaky

By Lorna Martinez Magill

Have you ever had the experience of having a friend give you a nudge to get you to do something that is good for you that you might not have done if she wasn’t there to make you accountable?

About a year ago, a friend encouraged me to make a crucial phone call that I so needed to make, and she helped me overcome a challenge I was experiencing faster than I would have managed on my own.

Let me back up a bit and set the stage for why this was the case.  When I decided to make a career shift, I had some really hard days.  I was overwhelmed and lost some days.  And of course, it was because I left my job and immediately went into Lorna mode. In case you have never heard this term (which I’m sure you have not), Lorna mode is saying yes to everything and keeping myself so busy I don’t have time to think about what I really want.

I started a partnership and then decided it wasn’t right for me, I volunteered on boards, I took on some consulting work, I was the advocate for my husband who was having some serious health issues, and I was dealing with the feelings of becoming an empty nester.

I was doing all of this while I was trying to decide what to do next and quite honestly there were not enough hours in the day to take care of me.

I talked and talked to so many colleagues and friends looking for answers on what I should do next. And nothing was just falling into my lap (WHAT??)  and I was discouraged because I just couldn’t figure it out.  It was the first time in my life that I could do whatever I wanted, and boy can I tell you that it was so hard to figure out.

Looking back, I was just so burned out and I needed to just give myself a break, but quite honestly, I didn’t know how to do that.

One day I was on the phone with my dear friend Alice, and I could hear the concern in her voice when she said, “You need to call someone or get medicine you sound terrible.” This was just after I mentioned that I felt like I was slogging through my life, and I didn’t have any energy.  Can you say depressed???

We both see the same doctor, so she said, “Call the doctor as soon as we hang up and make an appointment. Ugh, I’m going to have to do this because I knew she would not let me off the hook.

After I reluctantly made the call, I immediately thought “I am not taking medicine.” I’ll go to this darn appointment to make Alice happy, but in all honesty, I needed the push because I was not able to cope well on my own.

I went to the appointment and when the doctor walked into the office she asked, “What’s up?”.  I proceed to tell her that I’m slogging through my days, and I just can’t get out of the funk I’m in and I finish up with and I don’t want any medicine. 

She pauses and nods her head saying she understands and then proceeds to ask me some probing questions. 

She recommends that I go outside and walk every day and that I should think about seeing a therapist to talk through my feelings. UGH, I think now I have to find a therapist on top of everything else, but I agree because I am NOT taking medicine and I already walk so the walking commitment is a no brainer.

In our conversation she said something to me that really resonated and helped validate my feelings.  She said your life is like a stool and three of the legs on your stool are out from under you.  Your career, your definition of being a mom and your husband’s health.  She went on to say, just one of those would be enough to unravel someone and you are dealing with all three.

When she finished with her analogy, I breathed a sigh of relief and my eyes welled up with tears and I thought, “Whew this is normal and I’m not crazy.” Quite honestly it put things in perspective for me.  Yes, I wasn’t feeling like myself, but I was going through a lot.  I had a lot of support but quite honestly, I realized at that moment I needed to take care of myself, make myself a priority and do some introspective work to do to get myself over the hump.

So how about you? Do you ever feel like too many of the legs on your stool have come out from under you? Do you practice self-care when you are going through a transition?

Remember that seeking help from professionals or friends is a sign of strength, not weakness (like I originally thought), and taking care of your mental and emotional well-being is a significant step towards leading a healthier, more balanced life.

Action Step: Write down a list of self-care items and do one each day so that you are stronger when the inevitable challenging times in your life come up OR make an appointment with a therapist if you think you could use some impartial help.


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