“You shouldn’t return to teaching to full time. We need to get ‘this’ under control.” I fought back tears as these words flowed from the doctor’s lips. Did she realize she was turning my whole world upside down with those two sentences?
“What is THIS,” you ask? It’s a complex concern summed up into two simple words coined by some doctor, we ‘regular folks’ can call •conversion disorder•.
Don’t worry. I’d never heard of it either. It completely caught me off guard, and brought me to state of fear and tears. Let me tell you, of all of the illnesses thought to cause this scare, conversion disorder is by far the one that frightens me most, because it’s the hardest to control.
Basically, a person with conversion disorder internalizes emotional and physical stress to the point of cracking. Think of filling a water balloon. On the outside, the ballon remains calm. It’s color and shape doesn’t change much. As water fills its internal space, the balloon does EXACTLY what we expect it to do. It holds more and more water and simply “does its job”. Until, one day, when the balloon least expects it, the weight of the water becomes too much and it literally cracks and breaks apart into a million pieces and is unrecognizable as a water balloon.
In a nutshell, that’s what happens to the body (mentally and physically) of a person with conversion disorder when the stresses of life become to heavy. In my scenario, because I am a 100% type A, people pleasing, won’t say no, driven and focused gal, I didn’t realize how much my balloon was filling up. So, God allowed my balloon to be broken to show me that I spent too much time checking off a “to do” list, instead of enjoying this amazing life and family He blessed me with. It’s crazy to think about it now.
How in the world can the human brain literally shut down the body because of stress? I mean, my life wasn’t any more stressful than the next girls. Or, was it? I’m slowly learning to let things go, to live in the moment, to search for joy in simply being still, and to lean more on God for peace and joy.
I’ve had a little over a month to dissect this new “me” and on a phone call with the neurologist this week, I finally felt like we were on a path to healing. This wasn’t any easy diagnosis to accept. Sadly, any “mental health concern” carries such a negative stigma in today’s society. I so badly wanted all of my issues to have a physical cause. Explaining that stress caused your body to shut down brings on a whole new set of stigmas, questions, and, sometimes, looks, that I have no answers for. Likewise, explaining you have a therapy appointment opens up a whole new conversation.
Yet, I’m learning that I don’t need the answers. It’s ok to say “I don’t know. I’m still learning.”
My prayer is that my journey will lead ONE person to find joy and peace in Jesus, despite what’s going on his or her personal life. I know without a doubt, that He calms the storm in me. I also pray that somehow my story will break down walls and barriers that our society forms around mental illness. I’m living proof that your brain’s health is just as important to daily living as your heart’s health.
So, for now, I’m stepping away from full-time teaching to focus on me, my family, and my time with Jesus. And, that is perfectly ok with me!