Confessions of an Overachiever (III)

Part I and Part II

Somewhere in between all of that driving I had to ask myself what are you doing? While I believe in hard work, I’m also a firm believer that life shouldn’t be hard work. There’s a difference between a challenge and an uphill battle. Facing challenges in order to attain goals is expected. However, uphill battles symbolize something else. They’re signs that life has become harder than necessary. And for me, it was. The rate of return for my “hard work” was minimal. I intuitively knew that I was no longer walking in passion and purpose.

I began a closer and less stressful job in August. But it seemed that I had all of these revelations too late. I should re-phrase. These a-ha moments were too late for my physical health.

My hands would swell every time I ate. Sometimes it would happen over night. At one point, I couldn’t remove my wedding ring. And when I did, there was a big brown bruise underneath. After finishing dinner one time, my belly looked like I was four months pregnant. Aside from that, the lethargy that rested behind my eyes was enough to send me napping. This continued for months. I figured I could get to the doctor after I returned from Japan. But I had a summer conference in Philly. I’d go after that. Then, my father passed away. Damn. I’d go after that. It was October by the time I decided to visit Dr. Kristy, a holistic practitioner and chiropractor.

Dr. Kristy performed nutrition response testing. The results were astounding. Apparently, my adrenal glands were weak and in need of repair. I had overstressed my body to the point where these very small organs didn’t know if I was running late or running from a bear. They functioned in a stressful state most moments, and consequently, released cortisol most moments. What did all of this mean?

“There will be a minimum of 12 office visits at $40 each,” the doctor began.

Additionally, she had a list of several supplements totaling about $90 per month.

Come again Dr. Kristy?

Like many people, I reverted to my free professional go-tos: Google and WebMD. Also, I was in the midst of a 21-day detox. I’d noticed that removing coffee eliminated bloat. Google confirmed it. Ridding your body of caffeine is a huge factor in controlling adrenals. Diet, in general, is a way to manage these organs. With my professional Internet information, I told the good doctor that I would first work on my own health. I’d be back in a few months.

Since then, a berry smoothie has replaced my daily java. I eat more vegetables and lean protein. I’ve kicked CrossFit to the curb. Yoga and low-impact exercise are a part of my new lifestyle. One of my yoga friends recommended something called adrenal repair. The compound of vitamins and extracts seemed to have done exactly what the name claims: restore my adrenals. My energy levels have increased and I’m sleeping through the night.

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Holiday cookie baking and snacking also revealed a slight sugar and gut sensitivity. Dwight suggested using Kefir in my smoothies, instead of Silk. The 12 additional probiotics have helped balance my belly’s good and bad bacteria, further reducing bloat.

Every now and then, I mentally abuse myself for pushing myself past my own limits, but more so for ignoring obvious stress signs. Then, I acknowledge the feelings, say something more positive and true, and go take a walk, talk to the birds or write something inspirational.

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I promise I’ll never be overstressed again. And this time I mean it. The alternative is not worth the achievement.

~Dr. kg

Confessions of an Overachiever (II)

Part I and Part III

It was 2009. I was conducting a study, analyzing data and giving job talks in a few states. The interview process itself was an unexpected stress. One interview lasted three full days. After talking with search committees in five states, I secured a position at a liberal arts college in Georgia. It seemed perfectly aligned with my vow to avoid stress.

There were a few challenges, though.

The institution promised to support my husband in finding a job. They never did. We still had our Florida house to sell. The girls lived with me; Dwight stayed in Florida. It was a three and a half hour drive. So while my job wasn’t stressful, the weekend commutes to have some semblance of normalcy was. For me, this meant packing up the kids and dog, and then trekking up and down I-75 every other weekend. We did this for two years. The cycle was relentless and taxing. I went back on the professor market.

To say I was desperate to move back to Florida is an understatement. My pre-teen daughters were well-behaved, but with the absence of a father, they had gotten a little lippy. We were also sustaining two households. But I didn’t feel as stressed as I had before. I mean there was no chair of a doctoral committee determining the balance of my life. As a matter of fact, I had lost weight and felt more energetic. Still, the situation wasn’t ideal and we needed to move back together, under one roof.

When the next prestigious university called me in 2012 and offered me a visiting professor line, I was overjoyed. However, I had no intentions of moving to Tallahassee. The point was for our family to reunite. I chose to commute.

“Tallahassee is a long way,” Dwight warned.

“I know. I can do it,” I said.

As I type these words, it feels arrogant. I know. I can do it. I can drive 320 miles twice a week. To be fair, droves of people I knew and didn’t know called me crazy. The truth is I really did think I could do it. It’s an innate part of my personality. I truly believe I can do anything I set my mind to. Or am I just an overachiever? The line is fine and sometimes the two collide to blur my judgment. Either way, I did it.

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The job was supposed to last only one year. It was visiting. Instead, they were soooooo impressed with me that they found a way to offer a tenure-track line. One year turned into three. Teaching classes, mentoring graduate students, advising a couple of doc students, serving on two committees, running into unexpected microagressions, conducting research, presenting at national conferences, writing, getting published in the “wrong” place, seeking grant funding, and getting rejected publications from the “right” place made for a stressful job. The out of town commute twice a week was just bonus stress. Some days I would cry all the way to the university’s parking lot. Other days I would pray all the way home for answers. In between, I looked for jobs. Nothing surfaced.

It was six years of doctoral work all over again. There was no chalazion or sleep paralysis. But I was ignoring other signs. Although I worked out whenever I wasn’t on the road, it didn’t matter.

“You run with your fists clenched,” a trainer observed. “Are you angry about something? You have to calm down and then work out. Open your fists.”

I hadn’t noticed it before. But now things made more sense. I had run a 5k, consistently practiced yoga and maintained a restricted diet, but gained 20 pounds in three years.

I made time for my family and me: movies, vacations, cookie baking, you name it. Life looked balanced, but it wasn’t. Not really. This was the most imbalanced life I’d ever lived.

But I ignored it.

Only thing about disregarding things is that they don’t really go away. My body had had enough. It was overstressed.