Thursday, July 7, 2011

When Life is Overwhelming…

I really debated whether or not to make this post; to bring out something so personal.  But my journey isn’t just about me.  I’m not alone in living with chronic illness, with having multiple life and health challenges, with being a survivor of sorrow and pain.  Perhaps what I write will speak to you with whispers of hope or intimations of healing.  It is my heartfelt wish that, in sharing our journeys, we can share and support each other in our healings as well. 

We may not have the details in common, but the underpinnings of our lives will always have commonalities.  We share the human experience and are connected in so many, many ways, both seen and unseen and we are NOT alone.  We are never truly alone.  Hang on to that thought – embrace it, believe it!  You are NOT alone!

One of the outcomes of my dealing with fibro, disabilities, and loss of all income has been a huge grieving process and the brief dissolution of my already shaky self-worth.  Overwhelm??  Definite, absolute and mind boggling overwhelm!  My tolerance for all things outside of myself telescoped to the extent that being around anything even mildly stimulating – people, conversation or noise, too much input or information – would trigger feelings of being overwhelmed.  As though my body and mind were screaming “Enough!  Enough already!  I’ve already got too much on my plate and I can’t digest any more!”   

I’ve always been an introvert, but this is like being the mother ship of introversion!  At a time when I most need to feel connected, to feel involved with life, my being seems to experience overwhelm and simply starts to shut down.  And that overwhelm translates into disorientation, anxiety, exhaustion, sometimes as panic and often as fibro fog.

All my life I’ve considered myself strong and resilient; I’ve always bounced back.  Through childhood, through multiple miscarriages, through divorce, through homelessness and so much more.  Like a soap opera heroine, I’ve always triumphed over the dark.  Until recently. And I’ve been hard on myself; I’ve judged myself weak and lacking. I questioned and doubted so many things that I believed about myself.

While meeting with a counselor yesterday, I had several “Aha!” moments.  The biggest one came about when he asked me how I had dealt with the level of abuse that I’d experienced while growing up.  I responded that I often had out of body experiences; that I disconnected from what was happening.  And that doing so helped me to survive; helped me to keep my core – my spirit and my heart – safe.  And I realized that that is essentially what I’m doing now.  The abuse isn’t there, but so much of life is overwhelming, and I’ve brought into play tools that worked for me in the past – that disconnection, the disorientation. Simply having that insight has been profound, allowing me to be compassionate towards, and more gentle with, myself.

I know that there are better tools; there are ways to address all of the things I’m experiencing.  The evolution of my life and my spirit require tools that do more than simply allow me to survive.  I also need to grow and thrive and continue transforming myself and my life in ways that are meaningful, uplifting and affirming.  With  40 or so added years of living, I’m more than ready; more than willing!

I’m discovering that there is a positive side to overwhelm, and how I experience it depends on the focus that I choose.  For me, part of the answer has been reconnecting, in new and wonderful ways, with my innate creativity.  Collage, altered art and most recently, art journaling; they’ve all played a part.  Remembering to “keep it in kindergarten” and not worrying about what others think of what I create, but simply creating for the joy of it!

 The connections that I’ve made via my creativity and the warmth, support and encouragement that I’ve received are such tremendous gifts too!  Even being gifted with this blog and learning how to be here; remembering how to write, having this special space to connect and communicate is part of the answer.  My steps may be small and halting, but how I dearly treasure every one of them, knowing that those steps will become strides.

I’m looking forward to discovering even more tools and techniques to wrap around my soul, to bring more vibrancy, energy and healing into my life.  A new adventure; new discoveries; new ways of being.  And I’m so very grateful to have you here.  Every word, every wish, every interaction, every touch of your humanity, heart and wisdom are wondrous things to me.   

That I am still here – and yes, still alive - is testament to the light I’ve found within each of you.  This is the kind of overwhelm that I can live with – the gratitude and grace that you engender in me.   


  1. *Gentle hugs*

    I really love how you are stepping out of isolation in ways that will work for you, Cynthia. You are a pleasure and a joy to have around. <3

  2. This is a courageous post Cynthia, I applaud your honesty and send your strength and clarity to cope with your overwhelm, you are doing just fine.

  3. Cynthia this is so poignant and a post that is so near and dear to me because you are my mirror my dear.

    I have also felt this need to withdraw, and feeling like I needed to for my own survival.

    I have felt very overwhelmed in recent months by the in person work with women I facilitated in a very short period of time. And I trust that it is perfect, because like you it has brought me back inside myself into my own creativity and connecting with beautiful beings across the world in a way that does not overwhelm me. Although I will continue to do in person work, I have decided it will not be on the scale I did it before (running 2 groups for women at the same time, doing deep intense work!) Yikes.

    I am so happy to have you as a fellow journeyer on this amazing path of healing and coming back to our true selves. I love how compassionate you are being with yourself and how you are not seeing this as a negative in any way (the going back to old coping skills). I also am grateful for my ability to detach when I need to.

    The truth is as women who were abused as children, our brains have needs that others do not. When our nervous system gets revved up we absolutely need to shut off and like in your case it doesn't mean shut off the world but finding ways to reconnect in safe and nurturing ways. This is what you have done with your art! I am so glad to know you my dear.

  4. Years ago when I was very ill and had no idea what was wrong with me, my loved ones kept telling me it was all in my mind, that I needed to buck up, get over it, grow up.

    As it turns out, they were terribly wrong as we discovered when I was diagnosed with PCOS, there was so much relief that I was not just fat, crazy and tired for no apparent reason.

    I applaud you for speaking your truth and I also hope you can honor all that you have been through because you have been through and come out on the other side, alive! So many times I wished someone else who was going through what I was would speak up, speak out, tell me I wasn't alone. By sharing yourself, someone else will read this and know that they are not alone and there is at least one person in the world who understands.

    Much love!


  5. you are brave and creative and very giving to share this. hugs.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your insights!
    It's very brave and - I hope - healing!

  7. You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed by people, conversation, noise, etc. I also feel that way. I can only handle being around people in small amounts. Sometimes just talking on the phone makes me feel dizzy. I love how you found a positive side to the overwhelm though and how you are opening up to people in ways that are comfortable for you. You are an inspiration!

  8. hugs and bouquets for you Cynthia.

    It is so wrong that so many women were hurt and damaged as precious children, and it is so right that we can connect and support each other through what ever means suit us, be it blogging across the world, music, art, writing, whatever.

    I hope any souls lost and alone who do find your brave words can also follow your brave path.

    Love and light


  9. Dearest Cynthia, I read this post with tears and smiles. I have been wondering what in the world was wrong with me because I use to be so outgoing, running around, lots of friends and in recent years (after losing my best friend, my mom - AHA moment) I moved to an acre of country away from everyone and a much longer drive to work. I wanted peace - quiet - no visitors - no phone calls! I live in pretty much blissful silence here and am OVERWHELMED by noise - too many in conversation - it all feels like total CHAOS to me and I have to escape. I've actually left many a restaurant with my meal in a bag to escape ;-) When medical/financial crisis began to hit - like you I always bounced back before and would get up fighting and I just feel like giving up most of the time. But it's this community I've discovered and making art that keeps me hopeful - people like you who allow us to exchange our stories, share and learn from each other how to cope. Thank you for this post and for being the bright light you are - we are enough ;-) hugs and more hugs.

  10. Thank you for your transparency, dear friend. I know a bit of what you speak. Mostly, I just know that, without a certain amount of silence, I cannot cope, either.

    I am glad you felt safe enough to share; that means a lot. (((((HUGS)))))to you, dear one.

  11. I feel honored to know even more about you, my friend. I recognize the introversion you speak of, but I offer you reassurance that the insight you have brought to our friendship and future collaboration is a gentle breeze that is so greatly appreciated. I hear your song within my own heart.

  12. I want to thank you for having the courage to share with us. We have a lot more than fibro in common. Been in the same shoes, so to speak, in many ways. We are survivors! Thanks again Cynthia.

  13. Cynthia..we have so many major parts of our lives in common...please come and look at my blog, and check out the "who I am" will see both similarities and a few differences. IN brief, I suffer with major, chronic illness; am an artist; I am just beginning to come out of years of mental illness, (although the illness will not go away, I am beginning to 'recover' in that I can manage my life once again.), I am finding strength and support and friends through blogging ...And we have the same name! (not inferring that you are mentally ill...just that some of my symptoms have echoed your experiences...

    My blog is at (I will also follow you on BlogFrog)

  14. Wow! Thirteen comments! What a wonderful, jumping up and down, totally happy discovery! I do owe each of you an apology for the delay in my responses though. I've been ill for several weeks and have just recovered enough to become(some what)active again. So...that said, I'll get to responding to each of you :)

  15. Effy, you are such a fantastic den mother to all of us! You have gifted me with so, so much in creating and nurturing Wild.Precious and making it the safe, affirming and creative environment that it is. You make my heart sing!

  16. Fran, thank you - for the applause and especially for the gift of strength, clarity and support. I so appreciate each of them.

  17. Stephanie, I love the way you have of expressing yourself! And it's so very true that we are mirrors for each other. That mirroring is a gift that makes wisdom and strength easier to garner.

    I am so glad that you have been able to honor your own boundaries and needs. It's something that so many healers find difficult to do. And creativity - it's so amazing how healing it can be!

    Thanks for journeying and sharing with me, and for the validation too :)

  18. Luna, I had to look up PCOS and I can't help but wonder if I share that with you. I have a hormonal imbalance that caused many miscarriages and some of the other symptoms as well. What an eye opener!

    I'm so glad that you were able to get a diagnosis. It's always so much better to have a reason for what we experience; that it's not just us, or our imaginations, etc. Validation is always better than disbelief and judgement.

    Thank you so much for your sweet, encouraging words. It is reactions like yours that are making it easier for me to befriend my own vulnerability and find the courage to honor who I am.

  19. Juliet and Rita, thank you for the validation and your wonderful words. You make me smile!

  20. Trisha, I think that overwhelm must be a huge issue for people, like us, who are living with chronic illness - and that finding our own way of addressing it is key to having quality of life. If I've inspired you to continue searching for your own key, then I'm very honored.

    Sending you gentle hugs, my friend!

  21. Louise, you wrote "hugs and bouquets for you" and I swear I felt those hugs and my mind gave me a perfect picture of huge, colorful, lush bouquets, lol!

    And yes, it IS right that we can hold the space for each other to share, to heal, to grow and to transcend the pain and grief that we would otherwise hold inside. We heal ourselves and in so doing bring healing to others and there is a cycle to that that continues to bear gifts even when it's moved beyond us.

    Love and light to you as well, my dear!

  22. Linda, my friend, I feel so honored to have connected with you and always appreciate the depth of your compassion and understanding.

    I'm so very glad that what I've shared has been meaningful to you! See - there is nothing wrong with you. You are coping the best way that you can and finding your own path - hooray! Honor that, celebrate yourself, and all will be well.

    Sending you huge hugs, lots of smiles - and a few celebratory balloons too!

  23. Trece, you're just a bit older than me. Do you remember the Simon & Garfunkel song "Sounds of Silence"? Starting with 'Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again...' Even at 13, I had no trouble understanding those lyrics in the depth of my soul.

    I think that, too often, we forget that we need those spaces of silence and times of solitude. Or we lose sight of the need for balancing them with the other demands in our lives. It sounds like you've found that balance!

    Sending you hugs too, with gratitude for your sweet, sweet words :)

  24. Maria, what an absolutely stunning, loving and compassionate thing to say. "I hear your song within my own heart." Our lives are truly enriched when we make those heart to heart connections with others - just as I've always felt enriched by knowing you.

  25. Jenny, you are so very welcome! It is people like you who help me hold the space and the strength to nurture courage and healing within myself. We are definitely survivors, but even more, we are overcomers! Hugs to you :)

  26. Cynthia, you are right..we have so many major parts of our lives in common. I did visit your blog and found many parts of your story that resonated with me. Other than illness and disabilities, I've had diagnoses of severe depression, chronic PTSD & panic/anxiety but have managed my life without medications for about 10 years now.

    I am not a religious person, but like you, my belief in what I call the God of my heart has been key to my survival and food for my growth. I love that you have a quote from Isaiah on your blog - it's always been my favorite book in the Bible :) Of all that I've learned from my connection to God, these two were totally connected to my ability to survive: the phrase "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow" and "I have sent you nothing but Angels".
    You are an inspiration and I am awestruck at your strength, your openness and the compassion that shines through, both for yourself and for others. It is an honor to be connected to you!


Thank you for leaving your comments; I read and appreciate them all! Cynthia