When You Just Won’t Listen

Have you ever noticed when you’re unhappy or stressed in one part of your life, it carries over to the rest? Well, I’ve kind of missed that message until this year, when my body decided to make a point. And make it loud and clear so I had no chance of missing it.

A little back story: I dislike my job. It’s tedious, stressful, annoying, and the people there think I’m their own personal shrink. I spend half of my working hours listening to their problems and trying to fix things. It’s partly my fault for not setting better boundaries and for letting myself fall into old patterns, but the group I work with is so dysfunctional, there were always bound to be problems. I’m bored and unhappy there, but it’s a job and I’m grateful to have it.

My younger sister also recently got married (i.e. last weekend). The time leading up to her wedding was stressful for me, not because of her, but because of my own issues. I dreaded seeing all these people I hadn’t been around in years because I’ve put on weight. I dreaded being in the wedding because I was going to be the Fat Sister, and look horrible next to all the other cute, skinny bridesmaids. And, like always, I have to carry the world on my shoulders and make sure everything was perfect for my sister, because that’s what I’ve always done. I’ve always taken care of her. Needless to say, that added a lot of extra stress to my life.

And yet, I pretended I was fine. I pretended nothing was bothering me. So my body decided to make sure I started telling the truth. I got horribly sick in October – I lost my voice for a week, had a chest infection all that good stuff. I got over it eventually, and then I got sick in November. Just a cold and sore throat, but sick none the less. Got another one in January and finally went to the doctor’s for some antibiotics. They seemed to help. And then I got sick again this week. Same sort of thing – coldish, sore throat, stuffy nose, just plain miserable.

Finally it hit me. My body was reacting, was telling me the truth I was so unwilling to hear. I can’t keep carrying on in the same way, I can’t keep pretending everything is fine when it’s not. I can’t live my life making other people happy and not taking care of myself. I can’t keep stressing over things I have no control over. All lessons I should have learned long ago, but ones that seem to need repeating to get through my thick skull.

So, I’ve stayed home from work the last two days, rested, been kind to myself. My sister’s wedding is over, that stress is gone now. And there’s nothing I can do about the job until I find a new one. It’s there, I need to deal with it the best way I can, but that also means starting to say no, to set some boundaries and some guidelines for how I let people treat me, and how I treat myself. I need to listen to how I’m feeling instead of pushing it away so hard that my body has no choice but to get sick for me to notice. I’m starting to stress about querying, about my current WIP and my next WIP and I can feel the stress starting to rise again. It has to stop. Obviously this is a difficult thing for me, so I’m going to try to be a LOT better at it. But really, what choice do I have? I can’t be sick for the rest of my life! Thank god I have friends, CPs, my family, and my other half to help me with this.

How about you guys? Have you ever had something hit you out of the blue that you realized later was the universe’s way of telling you something? How did you respond?




  1. Ohhhh honey. I’m so sorry you’ve been feeling so scruddy, but I’m so glad you finally figured out why. 

    I’ve been in a writing slump, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then, this morning, I was like, what if I don’t plan on querying this WiP? What if I just write it to write it and give the stressful part of my writer instincts – i.e., the drive to Get Published – a break? And it felt really, really good. 

    Looking forward to reading alllllll the beautiful words that come from a more self-aware Jamie. I’m so lucky. <3

    •  That’s a fantastic idea-it takes the pressure off and lets you get back to enjoying the actual writing! I may do that for the new WIP – just write it for fun, not for anyone else 🙂 Though of course I’ll plan to share with you guys!

      Thanks for the kind words, Leigh Ann!

  2. I’m very sympathetic. A lot of us do this to ourselves. Be especially good to yourself once you start querying. It’s easy to get into a state of constant nerves, and then every new email sends you a sharp twist in the stomach. Find some way of releasing that tension. Exercise helps. I know that word in itself might be stressful for you–it was for me for a long time. But look at it as part of a writer’s lifestyle, and forget all the other emotional baggage associated with that word. Exercise helps clear your mind, relieve stress, and give you new ideas. It’s a good habit (like blogging or social media) to add to your writer’s toolbox.

    •  Thanks Audrey! I’m trying to talk myself into investing in a treadmill b/c I *know* it will help. I just need to actually use it 🙂 But I think it’s time. I’ve got to do something different – I don’t want to keep running in these circles!

  3. *hugs* You should take a whole week off to regroup. If that’s not possible, then maybe just spend an entire day reading with a mug of hot chocolate and refuse to do anything else 🙂

    I’m sorry things are so stressful. I sincerely hope things start to look up for you <3

    • Aww. Thanks so much, Lori! I plan on taking a week off as soon as our project at work is over at the end of March 🙂 But for now, hot chocolate and a good book sounds wonderful!

  4. Aww – I have to remind you again that you can always email me if you need someone to listen!  And now I know I have to remind you to slow down and be good to yourself.

    Weddings are huge, I’m helping my “sister” plan hers this year and I’m going to take your story as a warning to pace myself and remind her to too.

    Just the fact that you became aware is all you needed to do to turn things around.  It will all be on the up now, even if it’s still bumpy.  You’re in the right direction already.

    I’ve had a very tiring week as well so I relate to needing some pampering.  Wish we were closer so I could ask you out for a massage!

  5. That’s a big fat resounding YES!  Stress kills your immune system.  It …just…does.  And, it leads to aging.  At 35 I have lines around my eyes…deep ones… and gray hair, but I blame that on my 15 year old daughter that’s a size zero and a chest bigger than mine.  I’m buying an arsenal of weapons to keep the man-children away.

    Do you know what counter-acts stress? Laughter.  Watch as much comedy as you can.  Surround yourself with those that make you laugh – a lot.

    I also learned a trick.  It’s completely stupid, but it works.  Go make faces at yourself in the mirror.  It’s impossible to be stressed or angry when you can see how ridiculous you look making faces.  I actually still do this, even though I know if anyone saw me, they’d think I was a nutter for sure!

    Take care of Jamie first.  The rest of the world can wait.  You only have one life, don’t spend it stressed – or shorten it!