My body shook as I waited for my boss to join the virtual call I requested earlier that morning. I turned on my computer’s camera in anticipation of our meeting and was shocked to see the haggard, sad woman staring back at me. “Lovely,” I said, tracing the purple bags under my eyes with the tips of my ring fingers. At least I was having a good hair day, I thought, admiring my blonde, wavy extensions. No one I worked with would argue that I had been under a mountain of stress the past few years. Securing a $3 million dollar contract and designing a new program for a federal agency, all the while battling cancer seemed admirable at the time. Now I found myself making a distress call to my boss. The thing about hindsight is that one doesn’t understand it until it is too late.
The international signal for help is the word Mayday. If someone in a plane or ship sends a Mayday message over the airwaves, they are experiencing trouble and need immediate help. Those in distress do not ignore the danger, for they know the sooner they get help, the less devastation will occur. These people are not worried about looking weak, nor do they beat themselves up for asking for assistance. These people are opposite me – I had known for months that I needed help, yet I failed to send the signal for fear I would be judged.
At first, I dismissed the lingering feeling of sadness. I blamed it on the gloomy winter we were having in the North Bay area. I figured I would snap out of it once the torrential rain stopped, to the contrary, I only worsened as the sun broke the clouds. Then weird stuff started happening to me. I forgot how to add and subtract. I misplaced things – I lost my keys nearly every day and the kitchen pantry became a hiding place for my reading glasses. On two occasions, I had no recollection of how I arrived at the grocery store. I remember sitting in the parking lot and thinking, “How did I get here and what did I come here for?” Then one day, out of the blue, I woke up feeling hopeless, depressed, and unmotivated. Feeling hopeless is scary! That is when I sought help. Lesson learned: When God gives us warning signs – pay attention
My OBGYN said she had never seen hormone levels in a woman so high and the licensed therapist said I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. Apparently, years of unmanaged stress, lack of proper rest, and suppressed grief from cancer caught up to me. I had a decision to make – take time off work and rest or push through as I always have and hope for the best. I hate to admit that I struggled to make that decision.
That night, I was restless. I must have woken up at least seven times before my alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. – a self-inflicted wakeup time I believed was necessary in order to get “things” done before starting my day. Each time I awoke, the number 23 entered my mind. Having no attachment to the number 23, I dismissed the numerical encounter. I wouldn’t think of it again until church Sunday morning when our pastor brought forth a message on entering the rest of God from Psalm 23. Whoa! Was God trying to tell me something? I prayed for confirmation, but He didn’t answer right away, instead, He orchestrated a dream a few nights later in which He used one of my favorite female spiritual leaders, Joyce Meyer, to tell me what to do. If you know of Ms. Joyce’s teachings, then you know she isn’t one to mince words. That is one of the things I love about her. She looked at me and said three little words, “Talk to Jeff”, then she turned and walked away.
Jeff was my boss.
The moment Jeff joined the call, he sensed something was wrong. How could he not – I was a hot mess. Not only that, we had been colleagues for years – he knew me well. So well, in fact, I didn’t even have to ask. Bless his heart – he knew how difficult it was for me to admit I needed help so he suggested I take a 30-day sabbatical. I took off the month of May.
Psalm 23:1-3 NIV
The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for being such a good Shepherd and intervening in times of distress. Lord, I pray that when we become overwhelmed, burned out, exhausted, and anxious, You will gently remind us of Psalm 23 and Your desire for us to seek balance and enter into Your perfect rest.