Three years ago I went through a hard time and struggled with some emotional and mental health issues.
A lot was behind me. Or so I thought I guess.
But this post isn’t about what I was going through or why. My issues did end up being something I should have expected … they just “arrived late to the party” so to speak.
What this post ‘is’ about is that we all go through hard times, and sometimes although it should be easy to ask for help, especially when you have amazing friends and family like I do, the reality isn’t always as easy as we may perceive.
It was an evening after the kids went to bed. Craig was travelling on the road for work. I had been talking to a friend on the phone and when I hung up, well, that was it.
I don’t mean I broke down crying (although I did … a lot) and I don’t mean had a psychotic break (although the potential was there) … I mean I broke in a way that’s difficult to explain, but somehow I know it’s the exact right word to use.
I had never in my life experienced anything like it before. I had been through years of unfathomable situations, and not once did I feel the way I did that night or those months that followed.
I managed to get from the chair by my desk in the kitchen to the sofa in my living room.
I felt if I didn’t reach out to someone that I may lose myself. That sounds melodramatic I know … but it was very truly what I felt. I needed help in a way I never had before and somehow I knew that.
There are moments in your life that are core memories. Me sitting on that sofa was one of them.
So there I am. Sitting on my sofa in a state I had never experienced before. Even through everything I was the strong one. I was the positive one. I carried the weight.
What the hell was THIS?!!??
So I picked up the phone. Now this is the point in the story you expect to hear “I dialed a friends number, easily poured out my heart, hung up the phone and it was a rocky but manageable time.”
It didn’t work like that for me. At least not that night.
That is what you see in the movies. In reality – in my reality – it worked like this.
I made a total of four phone calls.
The first call I got my girlfriend on the other end. But because I am who I am (an idiot) I started small talk. I could tell it was a very busy time of year for her and that her life – her cup – was quite frankly overflowing into a soon uncontrollable river … just like so many of us Moms who delicately juggle 20 more balls in the air than we should. We know each other so well and are alike in many ways.
So I hung up the phone with nothing said.
I didn’t want to be one more thing. I didn’t want to be a burden. I think this is sometimes the catch 22 with our closest friends and family. We care so much about them and what they are already dealing with in their lives. We don’t want to be a weight. We want to be the one to ‘lift’ the weight, not add to it. I know this is how I felt that night with her, and I know it’s how I feel with those closest to me like my Mom and Craig. But it’s not right, and I can feel them yelling at me through this post as I type it.
The second phone call resulted in another girlfriends answering machine.
I left no message.
I was quickly running out of people I could be so raw and real and scary around.
Call number three was a chance.
It was to a friend who had only been in my life a few years and quite frankly we hadn’t had many soulful conversations – just ones that touch the surface of our lives – kids, work, school, activities – but I felt there ‘could be’ something deeper there between us.
So I called anyway.
She was home.
She was also in the middle of kid-crisis mode – her son had a significantly large project due the following day – of which he had barely started. So she was up to her ears in deadlines.
Once more I made small talk and hung up the phone.
Certainly these are examples of what NOT to do when experiencing an emotional breakdown. I should have “taken care of me” more and been honest with these women. I should have worried less about disturbing their lives and poured my heart out. And although that’s easier to say than do when people are busy, I do also know that each of them would have been there for me, but I didn’t give them the chance to do so.
I think it’s hard to admit, but my hesitation to disturb these women’s lives, these friends lives, is an all-too-common trait as mothers and women in the world. It’s one thing to say it – it’s another thing to walk it. Especially in a moment when I was so vulnerable and terrified of what was happening to me.
So we are on to call number 4. Looking back now it amazes me I even picked up the phone 4 times. It isn’t like me to reach out for help in that way. I think it’s a testament as to how bad it was.
I remember sitting on the edge of the couch and kind of slipping down off of it. “Well that’s stupid”, I thought, as I sat on the hard floor crying. That IS something that happens in the movies. Who falls off a couch??
And then it became hard to breath and I really thought I may be experiencing a true mental break that I may have to call an ambulance for. It sounds so absurd as I type it – but that is the state I was in.
So somewhere I found the strength to pick up the phone again.
This call was a risk as well. Someone I knew on the periphery of my life, who I would absolutely call a friend, but not close. She did however, always have a depth that I ‘recognized’. I looked up her number in the phone book (a pretty good indication of our lack-of-bond). I remember thinking how small the print is in the phone book and how hard it was to read.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.
That was it.
I had nothing left in me to reach out. I was done.
At that moment I have never felt more alone in all my life. I’m trying to think if that’s really true and I think it is.
And then – the phone rings.
And I pick it up.
She saw my number on her display. Or she star-sixty-nined me. I don’t remember now. But there she was.
The minutes, hours and days that followed is a long story for another time.
But I will say, that after a few months, and then a few months after that, I finally was on the other side. I had symptoms of delayed Acute Stress Disorder. It is similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and ofcourse it was a no brainer it had finally come home to roost after seven years. It was time to break. Time to stop being strong. And combine all of that with turning 40, preparing to shave bald, and hormones … well … it really is miraculous it hadn’t happened before this.
I often whisper thank you for finding the strength to ask for help during that night – and I carry with me many lessons learned about being better at asking for help ‘the first three times’ no matter what.
These many years later there are still things that are crystal clear from that conversation during my ‘fourth phone call’ and there are many things that are not. But the following two I remember with great clarity:
Her saying: “I’m so glad you called”.
And me thinking: “I’m so glad she called me back.”