But whether it’ll “feel so good swimming in my stomach” is yet to be determined.
My whole life I’ve been somewhat of a performer. Whether I was telling stories, or acting in Sunday School plays as a child, or being goofy at camp and around campfires with my family, or simply putting on the ritz because I subscribe to the notion it’s best to “fake it while you make it”, there’s one thing I couldn’t pretend anymore. I couldn’t pretend I was okay.
Last week, I’d made mention that my partner and I were on the outs. We took a weekend break to reassess the situation presented to us, and as what seemed the inevitable, started to loom, suddenly a part in the skies. Or calm in the storm. Or whatever cliché will satisfy this. The point is, by the end of Sunday, we decided to give us a real go.
Part of what was paramount to finding my happiness with my partner was determining what was making me so unhappy with my life in general. And as I spent the last six months moping around under this suffocating cloak of despair, I spent the weekend pulling apart the strands of my problems. Detangling each issue, though every string was independently wound into this one giant knot that laid pasture in my belly.
As I began to unravel each of the issues, I started to discover what of my person had been gnawed away at for so long that I was unable to recognize who I was anymore. I went from a little apartment in the city, to a wife with a whack of kids living out in the country in less than a year. That unto itself was a major life change. Add in a pandemic, the shirking of my former career, salt it with not seeing my family, and voila. It’s a recipe for disaster. And that’s what I was becoming.
Many a philosopher, quotable celebrity, etc., have passed on words about not expecting your partner to be your source of happiness. While they are the ones who can make you happy, keep you satisfied, build a life with you; your source of refuge has to come from the well inside yourself. If you are relying on your partner to bring joy, without it coming from within, you’re doomed to being constantly let down. The same goes for unhappiness. You can’t make them the source for both or either. (And I want to add, if your partner has become the source for your unhappiness, maybe time to look your relationship a wee deeper.)
Listen, what I’m saying was that if I was planning to get happy, I was not going to hold Jan to task for making it so. I had to spend some real time digesting all that was happening to me, determine what was in my power to fix on my own, and what I needed help with. And I came to several conclusions.
When I was becoming an adult, I really started life on my own when my first ex and I split after less than two years of marriage. I was 19, pathetic, no life experience, and out on welfare living in low income housing. It was me and this precious little baby I was suddenly, and completely solely, responsible for. And I took care of business.
Then another child, and another divorce. Same, same. I took care of it.
By the time I was 24, I had become pregnant with my third. It was time then that I had my tubes tied. I had taken care of business.
I went to college twice. I successfully earned two degrees. I pulled me and my children out of welfare, and out of low-income housing. I started a career. I started a business. I started a magazine. I started owning my life. And every obstacle that I faced – from domestic violence, to losing my job, to threats, to sadness, to failure – I took care of business. I even took the reigns on my PTSD – getting medication, seeing a counselor. I took care of it. I owned it, and pushed through it, and dealt with it.
But what I didn’t count on was the elasticity on my bounce back was rapidly fraying. While I felt invincible, parts of me were slowing losing oxygen. And in 2021, I was finally ready to admit that I was really, really not okay.
This weekend, as I assessed what was within my control to change, or circumvent, or cancel, or create, and what was not. And my mental health needed some help.
It is brave to say you called the family doctor. And it’s courageous to say you told them the truth. That you are sad, and lonely, and isolated, and anxious, and overwhelmed, and panicky, and fearful, and, and, and … and it’s also powerful to accept a hand.
I took the medication when I was diagnosed with PTSD. Something happened to me. Someone did something to ME. I could take the meds. Take the help. Go to the counselor. It was justified. Something happened to me.
This time, it felt like I just couldn’t take care of business anymore. I could not handle being me anymore. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think, couldn’t wife. The only part that kept me hanging on were my kids. The responsibility to them and my career was all that I left to focus on. The job kept the food on the table. The table was where I fed them. These two factors – my job and my kids – that was all that I was running on. And I was running on clear ass empty.
I called the family doctor.
And I told her I was heeding off a full mental breakdown by continuing to eat healthy and stay the path of my weight loss journey. That I was blogging weekly, running daily. I was ensuring that my physical health was in top shape for fear that falling off this proverbial wagon was going to be the last break in the iceberg before I was sunk entirely. I told her about my decisions in the other categories of my life I was making real changes in.
And I told her I couldn’t anymore. I couldn’t bounce back this time. Not by myself.
In addition to therapy – actually, I should say in addition to her letting me know she was proud I was coming for help – she’s hooked me up with a virtual therapist to speak with. That’s a good start. And the other part – the other part was accepting I needed medication. And I needed to be okay with needing medication. That was the hardest. I agreed that it was time for anti-anxiety pills and never have I ever felt so many contradictory emotions at once. Proud I’d I asked for help. Cowardly I couldn’t do it alone this time. Relieved I was getting help. Nervous by which I was gaining it. Going in on this jagged little pill that’s specifically designed to help my mood is daunting, and terrifying, and at the same time, I am inherently curious to see if this is going to even remotely right me back to a version of myself I miss so fucking much.
Is medication right for me? I don’t know. But I am fully cognizant of the time I pulled into an On Routine station and scream-cried into the phone, while I felt I was having a heart attack. I can’t recall how many times I’ve stirred Jan awake from slumber just to sob into his arms while my panic caused me to lose grip on the world around me. I know too well the unhinged feeling of drowning in an emotional ocean that leaves you wondering how long you can tread water.
I couldn’t anymore.
And now, hope that I will again.
If the voice in your head is making it hard to get through a day, if the stress in your life has got you teetering on edge every millisecond. If this pandemic is screwing with you in a way that leaves you feeling unsettled, restless, afraid, scared, overwhelmed, asking for help is both brave, and courageous. And anytime that you choose you, you are already winning the battle.
What I know for me is that despite the bounce back losing a bit of its edge, I am still committed to taking care of myself. I am still committed to being a healthy, happy wild child of wonder and amazement at the world around her. And to be a better mother, a better partner, a better daughter, sister, aunt, friend … well, it was going to take a phone call. And maybe even a jagged little pill.
You can if you want to.
— c ★