Your best-selling book The Year of Magical Thinking chronicles your grief
following the loss of your husband, John. What surprised you most about
I did not expect the degree of derangement-both physiological and mental. An
example of the latter: Two weeks after John died, when I filled out a hospital
form for the autopsy report, I gave not my own address but that of an apartment
in which we had lived for the first four or five months of our marriage, in
We won't reveal her name, but no doubt, she reveals a familiar
feeling of being overwhelmed. Such feelings demand some attention -- whether
the pressure you feel comes and goes with the holidays or it is a year-round
fixture in your life.
"I work an average of 10 to 12 hours daily, and my work
is deadline-oriented. Several months ago, at the same time I was transferred to
a new location at my job, the person I love and my parents began to have
emotional conflicts with each other. Since then, I have suffered from the
following symptoms: tight neck and shoulders, feeling weepy and anxious, memory
loss, low energy, diminishing appetite, migraineheadaches, irregular sleeping
patterns, lack of focus, breathing difficulties, and more.
At first these symptoms occurred one at a time, but now I
suffer from most of them all the time. I don't know what's wrong with me. I
love my job and I know things will get better on the personal side, but somehow
this does not seem to make me feel any better. Can you please offer some
Here's how Richardson responds:
"Consider these symptoms as your body's way of offering you
a warning that you're heading for danger, and take them seriously. I highly
recommend that you sit down with your partner or a good friend and have a
heart-to-heart talk about what's going on in your life. Consider everything
from your long work hours and deadline-oriented work to the emotional conflict
between your partner and your parents. Then, together, create a plan of action
in order to restore your health and well-being as soon as possible. Your
self-care must be a top priority.
It's important to know that the emotional conflict you're
dealing with in your personal life does create additional problems at work. Too
often, we make the mistake of believing that we can separate our work lives
from our personal lives, but we can't. Conflicts related to parents or a loved
one -- the people who are closest to us -- are some of the most stressful of
all. What goes on at home either enhances your well-being at work or adds to
your overall stress level.
You need to reach out for help. First, I'd recommend that you
see a good
physician who can look at the health of your body in relation
to the health of your whole life. A medical professional who takes into account
the effects of lifestyle on your health can recommend not only medical action,
but also stress-reduction options and preventive measures that may help enhance
your immune system and protect you from future problems.
Regarding your work, I'd recommend that you take some dramatic actions to cut
back your hours, remove a few deadlines or lower your expectations in some way.
You will probably need to meet with your boss to let him or her know that you
need to care for your health at this time. I know that work of attorneys can be
very demanding and the expectations unrealistically high. But, please remember
that your life is far more important than your career.