When my doctor told me I had an ulcer, I was stunned. I thought only really stressed-out people got ulcers. Why would I get an ulcer?
I mentally listed the things in my life I thought could be stressful:
- Raising three boys under the age of six
- Maintaining a healthy relationship with my husband
- Cooking, cleaning, running a household
- Paying bills, making ends meet each month
- Choosing schools for my children
- Talking with a sister struggling through a divorce
- Worrying about my mom, who's recovering from breast cancer
- Chasing a two-year-old chocolate Lab that constantly runs away
- Planning a family trip to Mexico
Sure, I had some trying circumstances to deal with, but they were no more difficult than what others around me faced. So why didn't everyone else in the world have an ulcer?
My diagnosis led me to do some serious self-examination. Slowly I realized it wasn't so much my circumstances as my need to be in control of those circumstances that stressed me out. I wasn't allowing God to be the one in control of my hectic life. And I could end up making my life physically miserable if I continued to place undue pressure on myself to always be "in control." But how could I change a part of my personality that had been with me for as long as I could remember?
From the time I was in elementary school, I was encouraged to believe in myself. Our performance-oriented society taught me "where there's a will there's a way," and "you can do anything you set your mind to do." I always received high grades, was popular among my peers, and was successful in sports. I was considered a very self-confident child—but even then I was a chronic worrier.1