Guest written by Mendy Shriver of gospelcenteredhealth.com
When my daughters finally came home, I relentlessly tried to bond with them. They were ten and eleven years old and I had missed so much of their lives. I was determined to meet their needs and create a healthy attachment between us. In the messiness I became exhausted, chronically stressed, and accidentally neglected my self-care needs.
The relationship with my daughters was so volatile I began to drown my frustrations in work. I was a fitness gym owner and told myself work was my happy place, and I needed it so I could feel productive and whole.
I stuffed down the loneliness of trying to bond with two girls who resisted my efforts and ended up with chronic headaches for six months. I gained thirty pounds and struggled with debilitating upper back pain. I had run myself emotionally and physically into the ground.
While I continually ignored my feelings, stuffed my sadness, and had a “suck it up buttercup” mentality, my body kept score of the emotional hurricane swelling inside. I grabbed my shield, stood tall with my sword, and fought harder to conceal the sadness.
There was a little girl inside me screaming, “can someone please just hug me because I might look strong, but I feel so weak.” I smothered every ounce of honest vulnerability about what is really happening, and friends and colleagues encouraged me by saying, “look what you did through adoption, you saved their lives.”
I later learned I was experiencing secondary trauma. I tried every angle the therapist suggested, yet my children still acted defiant, emotionally dysregulated, and rejected all my efforts to love them. It eventually took its toll. The solution was for me to get back to taking care of myself by realizing that God created me with physical and emotional limitations. He wanted me to stop stuffing my emotions and lean on Him.
To allow myself to feel all the turmoil inside, I had to slow down and rest. I could no longer dull the pain with busyness and work. My situation didn’t improve until I figured this out. I sold my gym and slowed down long enough to listen to my thoughts and allow myself to feel everything I had been pushing away. I knew if the one who formed the heavens, earth, sky, waters, animals, and stars rested, so should I.
While there were many other things I did to attune to my emotions, I started with sleep, rest, and abiding in Christ. Once I was recharged, the feelings came. When I could think straight, I was able to feel again. God did amazing things with my story as I began to unpack the emotions buried deep.
“The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.” 1 Peter 5:10 CSB