Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Mental and Physical Elves

I have to safeguard my Mental Elf* and my Physical Elf very carefully, as they both easily get out of control! In particularly I have to be cautious about anxiety and fibromyalgia. 

I had taken on the responsibility for ordering theatre tickets for our household for two shows, and I did that online this morning. 

I found it so stressful — just ordering two sets of theatre tickets — that straight away it made my tonsils hurt as my immune system went into freefall; then, once the order was complete and I was calming myself down playing Solitaire, both my shoulders went into inflamed mode, sending pain all the way down my arms into my hands. For goodness sake! 

Because I keep a very strict discipline in how I eat and what I allow into my life, I will come back from this without difficulty; just a calm morning will sort things out. But it's a good thing no one's asking me to run the country, is it not! I do my very best to appear normal, reasonable and stable, with wildly varying levels of success.

Two things happened recently — one I said no, the other I said yes. The first was my mother's birthday. She is now very fragile, but my best beloved wanted to take her out for a birthday treat. She was keen to do this, and wanted to check that I would be coming too. When I explained it would be just my beloved and her carer, because I simply cannot cope with the stress of all the complexities of taking her out (transport, wheelchair, malfunctioning stair lift, her own unique personality, going out into the world at all, interacting with different sets of people, etc etc) she found this impossible to understand, and concluded it was because I don't like looking at her in a wheelchair. Noooooo!!! Fortunately she has since decided all by herself that it's too much, and a normal social birthday visit I can easily cope with.

But the thing I said yes to almost did my head in. I was prevailed upon by simple need to offer to tutor Local Preachers for our Methodist Circuit. I used to do this years ago, but that was before my Mental and Physical Elves became so insistent and demanding, and before the training course was savaged by out-of-touch technophiles into something we peasants have the utmost difficulty driving. Having agreed to do this relatively simple task for which I am eminently qualified, I have been quaking and wringing my hands in terror and a conviction of utter inadequacy. Only because my beloved keeps telling me I can do it and if not me then who, and because I have flaked out of so many things under pressure of bullying by my Mental Elf in particular, have I not got in touch to say actually I can't do this.

But gee, anxiety is a spectacular companion every minute of every day of every week! Those of you who also walk close with the black dog and its friends will understand immediately what I mean. By living the most disciplined life and sticking rigidly to the diet that optimises my health, I can keep writing and preaching. Then that's it. No socialising, no other useful contribution to family or wider society. Nothing else. That keeps my Elves tolerably in line.

How about you? Do you also live with Elves? How do you make it work?



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*If English is not your first language, I should explain that I'm using Elf as a play on words for the English word "health". And the black dog is an expression used in UK English for depression.

18 comments:

Suzan said...

I do understand. I find simple thing exhausting. My mother just doesn't understand and tells me to push through etc. In the end I have to go be somewhere quiet and dark. I feel too overloaded. God bless you as you embark on the ministry.

Pen Wilcock said...

"Somewhere quiet and dark" — oh, yes. Familiar!

The Mother Abyss said...

ALL. THE. TIME...

Lucie said...

What a difficult situation. if you don’t do the tutoring with your gift and your grace, the tutees will lose such a chance for learning and the box tickers or technocrats will do it instead! But your health and well being are important and you’ve worked hard with your diet etc to put you in control to be healthy. Will you feel pleased once you’ve done it or just exhausted and annoyed? Xx let us know!

greta said...

oh, my, do i ever understand. anxiety and fibromyalgia are the two big issues in my life as well. your description of how stressful ordering the theatre tickets was for you had me laughing ruefully. we recently travelled to florida by airplane (talk about stress!) and buying the tickets on-line just about had me in tears. while we were travelling i managed fairly well as i had a supply of 'rescue meds' (valium in this case) that my doctor gives me when i travel. he understands quite well that i might not survive without occasional recourse to pharmaceutical intervention. once we were back home though, i ignored my physical elf who was desperately trying to get me to rest and, naturally, ended up exhausted, sick and in pain. was a bit miffed at self as i ought to know better by now. so how do i cope? lots of 'down' time, daily naps, healthy diet, yoga stretching, deep breathing exercises, PRAYER and the occasional use of a rescue med. i try to keep that last purely for emergencies but it's good to have on hand. sometimes simply knowing that it's available is enough to keep me balanced. sending love and prayers to you and to suzan above. we're all in that same leaky boat!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, friends!

Mother Abyss — Waving! Good to hear from you!

Lucie — I don't think there's an end to that particular job, unless I shriek "Stop!" There is no one else. That's why they want me.

Greta — Leaky boat — oh, yes! Keep rowing, friend!

Peace to you, dears — may this be a good day.

The Rev. Susan Creighton said...

Ah, yes...the Elves even invade the Anchorhold an ocean and a continent away. Do you suppose they particularly like to romp at times near the spring and fall equinoxes? As well as the winter and summer solstices? At least that seems so in my neck of the woods. And just Sunday, a delightful family gathering to meet my newly born great-grand niece, along with her parents, her grandmother and her grandmother's husband, as well as my cousin and me (both of us with our walkers. It was truly a lovely time, but left me drained and exhausted. Thank God for quiet and dark, for silence and solitude! Blessings to all of us "highly sensitive persons"!

Elin said...

Yes, unfortunately I can relate to this. I have had problems with anxiety and "almost" depression (I tested just below the line for depression but high above the line for anxiety, given the situation the doctor said that she counted it as mild depression since I had such high symptoms for anxiety but had I just presented for the depression symptoms she would not have given this diagnosis). Since then I have gotten better and better at this thing called life but I still struggle at strange occasions.

I am glad I have gotten to a better point in being involved in church, in prayer, being more active in certain things at work and more joyful in general but there is still things that need to be worked on but I am doing that slowly, slowly and I am better. Not too long ago I was surprised when I was happy and contented, now I am surprised with I am sad or see everything in black. Not seeing everything in black is a bit strange but wonderful too. There is more love, more beauty... But the weather today is nothing but a horror show and nothing could make me happy about that. Cold, rainy and dark... Well, I am alive and will hopefully not down when I will have to go outside quite soon. So not longing for that.

I laughed at the elves reference, in Swedish if someone is slightly nutty they are said to have "tomtar på loftet" which means something like "gnomes or elves in the attic". Said beings have some elements of both these things depending which type they are and they have also been linked with the Christmas story of Santa Claus so gifts at Christmas comes from "tomten" who is some mix of Santa and these original gnomes/elves. That last part does indicate that we do indeed have "tomtar på loftet" when it comes to mythology in this country, at least in my eyes.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi, friends!

Yes, Susan — HSP sounds like a lovely thing to be, until you are it . . . Sometimes I feel like Mrs Bennet in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice": "I am frightened out of my wits; and have such tremblings, such flutterings...such spasms in my side, and pains in my head, and such beatings at my heart . . ."

Hi Elin — I love the tomten/nisser; I have a huge folder of pictures of them! I'm glad your own Mental Elf is calmer these days, and I hope it gets through the winter okay.

greta said...

waving to elin above! i suspect that those of us who test high for anxiety can manifest some symptoms of depression simply because we get so discouraged about not being able to control our anxiety. once i figured out that my overwhelming anxiety was the issue and treated that, my depression disappeared of its own accord. (i too am a great lover of the tomten, having been introduced to the by marrying a man with lots of scandinavian ancestry.)

Pen Wilcock said...

A lightbulb moment about depression for me was when a National Chidbirth Trust teacher I knew, talking about post-natal depression, said that depression is in effect deep rest — so it is essentially the valley/trough the other side of an intensity/peak/mountain. That might not be the whole story, but I do think there's a lot of truth in it, and there's often an unrecognised manic aspect in the life of all depressives. This may be why anti-depressant medication leaves people feeling so flat — that's exactly its effect; takes away the valleys but the mountain tops as well. I think this is why depression dogs HSPs; the sensitivity means even relatively subtle stimuli can create an intense effect, with a corresponding crash. I wonder if it may not be possible to so embrace depression as rest that it loses its despairing and painful aspect, and becomes a deep and quiet night. I think part of the skill in managing it is to stop before we become exhausted and wrung out — which sometimes means walking away from the party or saying 'no' to what seems reasonable to others.

ElisaidRibh said...

Once I discovered HS also meant I was super sensitive to the presence of the Holy Spirit it became less of a burden & more of a joy. Quiet & nature are very healing but in ministry the presence of the Holy Spirit lifts most of the dread & anxiety. I just have to remember to allocate time for deflation & make sure of quiet time.

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah, yes, that strikes a chord! HSP characteristics run in our family, and something we all experience is the need to leave space around things — no back to back appointments, no packed schedules. As you said, "time for deflation".

Rebecca said...

"Wide margins" (no packed schedule), ceasing comparison with other people, saying "no" without explanation or deep introspection, being content to "be" without "doing", books, early to bed, 8 hours of sleep at night, slow and quiet mornings, recognizing and responding to Holy Spirit's prompts to action or not acting. This is enough for now.☺️

Pen Wilcock said...

That sounds like the perfect strategy!

Rebecca said...

Perfect? Almost.😊 Not quite. Still adding & subtracting. "Tweeking", as some say.

Sandra Ann said...

Ah yes the elves, troublesome lot! Unlike Dobby they are not well trained and frequently cause havoc! I stupidly ignore them at my peril and then wonder why my spine has locked solid and is requiring painful osteopathic manipulation. The can't be bothered elf has downed tools and so for a brief period the house isn't picked up at the end of the day. What I needed today was to listen and so I did and I sat in the chair and knitted. Hugs to you Pen xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Listening and knitting. An excellent combination. xx