Overcoming Depletion

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

May 9th, 2009 • Mind-Body MedicinePrint Print

I have been having an incredibly difficult time recently. I am depleted. It’s not just that I’ve been on call for my mom 24/7, tending to all her needs in addition to the demands of my own life, and that I’ve been solely responsible for navigating my mom through an incompetent medical system – which essentially makes me responsible for her very survival.

It’s also that I’ve gone through all kinds of emotional trauma, dealing with narcissistic family members who have abandoned, antagonized, and/or compromised the emotional safety of my mom and me over the past half a year of her life-and-death struggle. Another intense bout of that happened just over a week ago, during my mother’s critical transition from the (un)skilled nursing facility hellhole to an independent living center – where, among other things, I needed to get her all set up with in-home caregivers before returning back home.

Being that my mom is hours away from where we used to live in Northern California, I had no in-person support system, at a time that I was really needing friends to hold me and feed me healing energy. I felt as if I’d been kicked deep in the stomach; I lay in bed curled in a ball and crying at the end of a long and trying day; and I had a difficult time sleeping. I ended up becoming both physically and emotionally run down. Then I jumped from the pan into the fire, returning home to manage a crisis that had developed in my own life.

My body has been a trooper through this whole ordeal, but yesterday it started shutting down. Among other things, I suddenly was crazy stiff everywhere and exhausted beyond belief. Random body parts, like my jaw, were difficult to move, and I developed this strange nerve pain in one of my fingers. I think my central nervous system just can’t take it anymore.

The biggest hurt and source of depletion for me is the shock that people who should be caring are not only not caring, but are using their power and abilities to impede on someone’s healing. The emotional distress I endured last week brought to the surface my own traumatic journey over the past decade and a half. Health care practitioners, to whom I turned for help, not only repeatedly injured me with medically negligent behavior, but also went to far as to ridicule me – using my suffering as a source of entertainment pleasure.

Most of the time I’m focused on the many blessings and privileges of my life. But every now and then it gets to me: People who had the power to help me used their power to hurt me. They let the once-strong and totally healthy body of a vibrantly alive, 20-something year old woman fall apart. They essentially took my life from me.

At this time, I can no longer do things that brought me so much pleasure – simple things like jumping out of bed each morning with excitement, or hiking up a mountain on the weekend. And where I was once full of physical fire and vigor, I now tread slowly and cautiously through the world. Last night my emotional distress was off the charts as I reflected on this reality. So I turned my attention to what I can do – what is in my power that I can change. And I am re-committing to doing it today.

For starters, I have to spiritually let go of my narcissistic family members, no matter how much I love them and how much I deeply ache for understanding and connection with them. They are toxic to my soul and are constant sources of disappointment and grief. I have to accept the profound feelings of sadness that come with this loss, and commit to using those feelings to create art.

Second, I have to look at the ways that I have let my commitment to my body go slack. I could not have eked one more drop out of myself before, but now things are stable enough that I can recommit to taking care of me. It’s going to be a long haul back to where I was, but I’m going to do it. I’ll start with the old one-pound weights again. I’ll walk on flat land, slowly and for short distances. I’ll remind myself of where I’m going and encourage myself that I’ll get there eventually. One step at a time.


Joy Livingstone-Shaffer May 11th, 2009

Hello Loolwa,
I have been following your blog especially in regard to your Mom. We were artisans together. I miss her.

I just returned after almost a 2 years absence. I drove in to the square at 6:30 am as I always did , but no one was there. I said to myself almost immediately.. EJ would have been there and we would have chatted for 30 minutes or so.
Please let me know how she is truly doing and to let her know that I think of her often.
Warmest thoughts to you and my friend EJ,

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