Wrestling With Uselessness

I struggle a great deal with feelings of uselessness. Although my life can get busy with the little day-to-day demands, putterings and routines, there are times when these feelings of uselessness gnaw at the back of my mind, weighing me down with guilt, disappointment and confusion as to my bigger purpose in life.

I used to be very busy with community-oriented activities…working full-time provided me with the basic sense of accomplishment. Playing piano in the church choir and volunteering in various charitable organizations provided the “more” that I needed at the time. But that life became increasingly hectic, leaving no room for the solitude that I also craved, which in turn eventually led to feelings of being over-stretched and constantly fatigued. Which led me, unfortunately, to several long stretches of burn out and incapacitation over the years.

The last break down was a doozy. It came after losing my Dad, Mom and then my brother within a very short period of time…as well as several beloved in-laws and good friends (most to cancer). Losing my Mom in 2001 sent me spiraling from grief into full-blown depression leading into months of debilitating fatigue. During this stretch of incapacitation, I had to wrestle with this whole question of purpose and meaning, because I was unable – physically, emotionally, mentally and socially – to do anything. The fatigue was severe enough to keep me bedridden for hours at a time. The social anxiety that ensued kept me housebound for days at a time. My primary contact with the outside world was the Internet, primarily a website for boomer women, which became my sanctuary. The women at BWS truly loved me back to life over those dark and lonely years. We laughed, cried, played with possibilities and worked through common issues together…for me, it was indescribably consoling to have found such caring companionship-along-the-way, and I honestly believe that God Himself led me to those amazing women.

When my brother Gary was diagnosed with cancer, I came out of hibernation to become his primary caregiver. It was painful to watch him fade and decline, but it was also a rich blessing and gift-beyond-compare to be privileged to companion him through those eight months, even to cradling his beautiful bald head in my arms as he passed away just days after his 43rd birthday. Gary’s death hit me hard, sending me scurrying back into social hibernation for several years. For many months I was not even able to answer the telephone…a therapist later suggested that perhaps it was because all of the bad news of the past few years had come through the telephone and I simply had become terrified of hearing any more….he even called it a form of Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Whatever it was, it lasted a long time. But one of the miracles of my own brush with cancer (uterine) in 2010 was that the surgery (complete hysterectomy) seemed to have eradicated both the chronic depression that I’ve suffered my entire life and the severe fatigue that had gripped me for the better part of 10 years. As I began to experience new and reliable energy for the first time in many years, I began to want to get out of my self-imposed exile and start to live again.

The problem is that much of me had atrophied during those years of incapacitation and inactivity. As I’ve blogged before, I turned to computer games to retrain my brain (reasonably successful, I think it’s safe to say). But I’ve had to get myself into back therapy to retrain my body too. My back muscles are frustratingly weak and unable to carry me on long walks without significant pain. Gardening is almost impossible because of arthritis in my knees, ankles, wrists and various other joints here and there.

I’m living proof of that old adage that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

But I’m working hard to get it all back. But it’s taking much longer, and much more stamina than anticipated, to meet even the simplest of goals.

Thus these nagging feelings of uselessness, because I simply don’t have much to work with anymore…I’ve let it all slip away. I know that with hard work most of it will come back, or at least enough to be able to once again enjoy long walks and simple outdoor activities. In the meantime, I have to continuously find new definitions for my purpose and usefulness in life, because my physical (and emotional) limitations make it difficult to do very much of what used to define my usefulness before.

I keep coming back to that whole notion of “simple pleasures” and having to connect the dots between those moments as they happen. With stiff aching muscles and remnants of that social anxiety still lingering on, putterings and boring routines are pretty much my only pace these days. So where do we find “enough” of those simple-pleasure moments and enough of a sense of usefulness within these putterings? I think that ultimately it’s up to me to decide what “enough” actually is (I get to use my own measuring stick), and it’s up to me to assign meaning to whatever it is that I CAN do.

Someone recently posted a quote on my Facebook page…rather timely, given my current hunger for something more useful for my mind to gnaw on than my sense of uselessness…it said “Having a rough morning? Place your hand over your heart. Feel that? That’s called purpose. You’re alive for a reason. Don’t give up.”

It resonated. I did touch my heart, and felt it beating strong against my hand. And it filled me with wonder…and sadness too, remembering all of my loved ones whose hearts no longer beat strong against my hand…which then fills me with determination to live strong, and live alive, because they don’t get to, but I do. That’s enough for now. Just to wake up, heart still beating strong against my hand, knowing that Someone simply wants me to breathe today. Even if I can’t always see the usefulness in all of my putterings of my day-to-day living, He does, and it appears to be enough for Him…He can see the positive – and useful – ripple effects of those simple putterings better than I can. So since I trust His eyesight more than my own, it will be enough for me too. Today I will just breathe and know that it’s enough.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2012. All rights reserved.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

About Sharon

I love to write. I love to write myself into being right here right now. Writing releases something in me that needs wings, writing opens doors and windows that I often don't even realize are possible, writing helps me breathe out the dusty old, and to breathe in the new and possible. My hope is that maybe writing here in this blog will bring new light into these dusty old hallways and help me to clear out the thinking processes and mindsets that just don't work for me anymore. I seek to breathe new light and life into the nooks and crannies of a soul that has been feeling somewhat lost and frayed because of the last few patches of road I've had to travel.
This entry was posted in aging, anxiety, body changes, brain training, coping, depression, determination, empowerment, Exercise, fatigue, grief, happiness, health, hope, inspiration, journey, meaning, mental health, panic attacks, perseverance, positive, purpose, Sadness, self help, social anxiety, survival, wisdom and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wrestling With Uselessness

  1. Another great post, Sharon! I think your feeling useless has more to do with not being able to see the results of your efforts. You do make a difference by being who you are and by sharing your journey with your readers. You may never know the impact you have made on someone else, you have to trust that the ripples are spreading far and wide.


    • Sharon says:

      Thanks Ruth. It’s always a bit scary to write these things out for all to read…but when they nag at me until they find expression, I believe that it’s because someone out there needs whatever it is that is being written. I was – still am – that person who finds inspiration, hope, comfort and wisdom from reading about how other people cope through their dark patches, and my hope is always that sharing my own will in turn help others. When you’re out there on those dark roads feeling like you’re all alone, it can bring comfort to know that someone else is out there too, or has been and has made it through. Thank you for reminding me that we don’t have to see the ripples to trust that they’re there.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s