One Word Week: Overwhelmed

This week(ish) I'm blogging based on single word suggestions people have made to my Facebook or Twitter. I asked for a single word, and then I'll see where the blog takes me. Today, it's



Last September, I knew that I was feeling pretty overwhelmed when I started burping a lot. I was burping because I felt like there was a knot in my throat, like a big old shipping-knot made out frayed rope stuck right in my throat. And I was pretty sure that knot was cancer. I didn’t have time to slow down and check it out, though. My husband was still looking for a job so supporting the family (and our mortgages and our car payment and student loans and groceries) rested squarely on me. I felt like I was carrying a Sumo Wrestler on my shoulders, like he was playing chicken with God or something, and it all pissed me off.

I’d teach my writing classes at the college, drive an hour or so to the studio, narrate, drive home, cook, take care of the kiddos, obsess, grade papers, lesson plan, prep the next book, all the while carrying a Sumo Wrestler and burping burping burping. I couldn’t sleep at night and when I did sleep, my legs twitched.


Then I found a lump on my clavicle. I’ve always liked my clavicles. I think that slender bone at the base of the neck is sexy, and I’ve always liked my neck. I also like my ankles and sometimes wish I was born in another century. My ankles would’ve been a Centerfold.

So I took some time out of my schedule to go to the doctor (even though it cost $195) and tell him about the cancer growing in my throat and the bump on my clavicle, all while carrying the weight of my family’s future with me. I couldn’t be sick! We didn’t have insurance! How would I handle chemo? We would lose the house. The kids would have to live with their dad full time. I’d be in a wheelchair and bald and puffy and my husband would have to take care of me and I’d tell him to please have an affair because I couldn’t love him anymore and the whole thing just broke me. Into a bunch of little shards. I tried so hard not to cry that I was choking. Myself.

The doctor listened to my symptoms. Then he told me to feel his clavicles. “What?” I asked. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned his top two buttons and said: “Here. Feel.” Well, I thought that was a little weird and intimate but I reached out with my cold fingers and felt his clavicles. (It wasn’t sexy.) Sure enough, he had a bump just like mine. He smiled, kindly, albeit with a little fatigue, and said: “Is there any chance you might be stressed?”

I said, “Hello! See the Sumo Wrestler. The dude is straddling me and wearing a diaper. YES! I’m STRESSED!!!”

I got a prescription for anti-anxiety meds and then something else I could take when I felt like I couldn’t breathe or couldn’t swallow.

It was enough to get me through the short term.

When things settled, I had the conversation with my husband when I told him I couldn’t handle the pressure anymore and I needed him to find a job. My health needed him to. My sanity. Our relationship. There were lots of reasons why he couldn’t get work and hadn’t found anything, and I understood that, but I needed something to change.

And then it did.

I gave up teaching. I focused just on narrating. Hubby found a job. We sold his house and reduced our expenses to one mortgage. We paid off his car. And that stinky Sumo Wrestler finally left my shoulders.

And I stopped burping.

Overwhelmed? Yes. But eventually, I got out from under all of that stress. I don’t take the meds anymore. I don’t need them. I have time to exercise and do yoga classes now.

I’m reading this book called “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed and she says in there “How do you get out of a hole? You climb.” Simple advice, but it resonates with me.

You can always change your life. It sucks sometimes and it’s really hard, and it takes being honest and vulnerable to other people, but you can climb out of that hole. And you can bitch slap that Sumo Wrestler. I know because I did.