I thought I thrived quite well under pressure.
Work pressure, relational pressure, mental and emotional pressure, you name it. There’s a part of my brain that shifts gears into overdrive and just goes. And if it’s life-and-death kind of pressure, even better.
From working with massive — and sometimes aggressive — animals to emergency services, I just love the challenge. The harder and scarier the better. It’s exciting to really test your mettle and see exactly how far you can go. Often you surprise yourself by adapting and handling things you never thought possible.
Wooo, I’m getting a little revved up just thinking about it. And for several years, I think I was subconsciously determined to see exactly how much I could handle. And to not need any help — personal, mental, emotional, all of it — in the meantime.
Then I met real pressure.
As an emergency dispatcher, you handle a lot of situations from your computer console. A LOT of situations. And you learn a lot of self-care tricks. It’s a topic that is pushed frequently by every agency. Why? Because they’re aware of the stress from the job and they need their employees to be functional. So there’s a lot of education, but I’ll be honest…most people don’t implement any of that education. It’s not out of a masochistic attitude, it just gets swept to the wayside by all the other needs demanding our time.
So there I was, six months out of the EMS field, just moved to a new state and newly pregnant, crying on the phone with my sister because I was afraid I would never be “normal” again. I thought all the stress and problems from my EMS career would just magically go away as soon as I quit. But I was still seeing the same patterns of physical and mental overwhelmed that I had been battling for years.
What’s worse? My gut-deep, unrelenting belief that everyone has the ability to change, to grow, to build a healthier and better life…wavered.
I’ve had that belief since I was a young girl. That everyone has the power to make choices to change their lives. To change their health. To choose to grow and thrive and live better. I’m not sure where it came from, but I’m pretty sure it’s engraved on my bones.
And for the first time in my life, I doubted that belief.
There’s a happy ending to this story…
What exactly finally pulled me out of that pit? A whole lot of uncomfortable situations. There was a whole lot of praying and crying and screaming (sometimes metaphorical screaming, sometimes…well…healing is messy). And a whole lot of detoxifying my body physically and mentally — I changed my diet, got rid of chemicals, took a stand against negativity. But the most important decision I made?
I broke up with pressure.
It was an unhealthy relationship. My obsession with the stress wasn’t making me stronger, it was debilitating me. I didn’t want the expectations anymore, and I wanted to make intentional decisions in my life instead of just constantly reacting to situations. I was done.
It wasn’t a one-man-stand to change my life. I had a whole lot of help. That help came when I started pursuing God wholeheartedly. I’ve known Jesus Christ nearly my whole life, but I don’t think I’ve really started to know him until the past year. I brought all of myself to him. My strengths, my skills, my resilience, my creativity. My brokenness, my stress, my hurts, my weakness. Good or bad, I was tired of holding on to all of it. And I laid it down.
And the strangest thing happened… For the first time in my life, I began to understand my identity. I began to see who I really was. Not the broken, worn out mess I felt like I was. But the valued, precious, strong person I always wanted to be. That everything I wanted but could never obtain was right there — Jesus was just waiting for me to trust him enough to step into it.
That’s great, but…
…what’s the practical take away? First off, let me say this:
Healing takes time. It won’t happen overnight — especially if you’ve ignored the issue like I did — and that’s okay. Some days you’ll feel like you’re taking steps forward, some days it’ll feel like you’re standing still. Just show up every day.
Secondly, pray. Pray the dickens our of your life, situation and concerns. God’s got big shoulders — he can handle anything you throw at him. Yes, even the worst of your worst. Trust me on this one.
Lastly, be brave enough to take a good, hard look at the pressure you feel. Is it related to job stress (either past or present). Maybe failed expectations? Or is it from a legitimate failure (personal, business, educational, etc). This is a hard one: is it real or self-induced?
All of that to say, name your demon. Once it’s named, you can formulate a game plan to get rid of that pressure. Do you research. Find a trusted person to lock arms with and face this down.
Brighter skies ahead.
I don’t dare say I’m on the other side, but I’m a lot closer than I was. God is building into me every day — the same way he wants to build into you.
The most freeing thing for me to realize was this:
My past experiences don’t have to shape who I am and how I live my life. They are simply tools I can use to reach my goals. Jesus has already shaped who I am; fully and completely. My identity is secure in Him.
And that’s a topic for another day 😉