I need to start by saying there is no such thing as a wonder woman. Juggling work, life, social, family, romantic, personal, medical, emotional, and general responsibilities is enough to drive anyone around the bend. I’ve had something to prove for a long time. I’ve tried too hard, been too much, and lived a life of excess at a truly frantic pace. My generosity and trust has known no bounds, and I’ve learned this year that, sadly, no good deed goes unpunished. I needed a wake up call, and I have received the message loud and clear. Things need to change. I need to be far more discerning and careful and not take so many things into my heart and mind, as no one person can heal the world. It was a kind of sad hubris to think I could.
I’m sharing this without shame, because there is no shame in being unwell. This facility has hosted doctors, lawyers, celebrities, and all manner of people from all walks of life. The sadness that culminates in severe reactions or actions can affect anyone. I am still highly intelligent, capable, and have never had to suffer through a psychotic episode, I am just incredibly and painfully sad and overwhelmed. This is actually a fairly rational response to the onslaught of struggles over the past year. I needed a rest. And the pace will continue to be reduced from here on in.
No one person or group of people is directly to blame for my latest and greatest breakdown. My choices, my openness, quirks, foibles, and failings, and a myriad of circumstances and events completely out of my control culminated in a perfect storm, and asking for help and misplaced trust in a time of desperation knocked me off my feet, but I am incredibly capable of getting back up, and have established a rock solid foundation of support and tools and will be far more discerning in all my interactions. We are all fighting battles, and the world can be a terrifying and overwhelming place for someone as sensitive and eager to champion change as myself (and I know there are those of you reading this, who know all too well how the desire to help others can completely eclipse your own self-care and consideration) none of us can heal the whole world, and trying is likely to completely destroy a person.
Last week life came crashing down. I will spare you the gory details, and so doing, spare myself the trauma of replaying it all. Suffice to say, my family and I made a choice for me to have some respite. The experience has been humbling, surreal, and unexpectedly beautiful. I am not ashamed, and I am confident that the future will be brighter, calmer, and even someone as irrepressible as myself can and should build safe and realistic boundaries.
Due to privacy issues, I won’t go into any detail about the people I have met here. What I will say, is that they are hurting and beautiful and starving for peace and Love. They’ve touched me in a way I won’t forget. I’m getting discharged today after only five days here, and there have been tears from my peers, and warmth from the staff. It is amazing the difference I have seen in some of the women on my ward. Gentle hugs, and always asking how they are doing has touched us both for the better. Last night I ordered Sal’s pizza for everyone on the ward and it was the first time most of them had ever had such a treat. This, and so many other things have put things into perspective for me in a very real way.
I’m here because of a long sequence of events and challenges. And I’ve got a lot of advice to give to anyone out there battling through life and taking too much on board.
When things start to get heavy, we are given choices with each challenge. How much do we let things affect us? How do we pick our battles? How do we take care of ourselves? How do we Love ourselves? And very importantly, how do we know who we can trust in our darkest hours? I don’t have answers, but I do know we all need to look at ourselves with kindness, and be discerning when looking to others, always. Not jaded, not guarded, just trust but verify when you are handing over power, confidences and trust to those around you.
It’s no secret I am a bit of a princess. I enjoy the best of everything. I have lovely clothes (much of my wardrobe is from op-shops because it suits my sensibilities on waste and consumption) and the financial freedom to do as I please and pursue the best of everything, from travel, to exercise, to help for my inarguably crippling depression. All of this means very little without the self-esteem and strength to believe I am worth some joy and I do not have to please everyone all the time. No matter how much I give, no matter how hard I try, I have always felt a failure, and crucified myself for not doing more (or, in many cases, less) and left feeling empty or ashamed most of the time.
Our lives are a sequence of events. We don’t have any control over what happens to us, only how we manage our own reactions and choices when we are faced with things. That sounds simple enough. It can be a minefield though. Balancing our needs and wants against those of others can be challenging for the more empathic and sensitive among us. And it is difficult to know where choices will take us, even if we make the best ones by all intents and purposes.
Time here has highlighted something I already knew. The need for compassion and everyone’s deep and sincere desire to be Loved is quite universal. Probably not just for people but for every living thing. It seems hurt people hurt people (and animals, and plants, and the planet) while sometimes, across all walks of life and every species, there are those creatures with a core of kindness and compassion that radiates and heals. I’ve seen it on the ward.
When I arrived here on Saturday afternoon, after waiting for hours for an assessment, all of my bags were taken and searched thoroughly. I was given only my laptop and phone and no chords, no clothes, no make-up, not even my toothbrush or shampoo. I curled up into a little ball in the crisp, strange smelling sheets on a cold evening and shivered and cried listening to alarms and unfamiliar voices in the hall.
The next morning, a beautiful grey-haired nurse arrived at my door. She had all my things, and looked me over and said: “I trust you. You’ll need your things to settle in here.” When every single bit of independence and power has been stripped from you, after a long and painful journey of battling through blow after blow… those words were the most empowering I’d heard in a very long time. I felt like a human being for the first time in a long while. And it felt good.
This woman has been working in mental health for a long time and has been subject to physical and mental harm and danger I won’t divulge. Through it all, she believes in the good in everyone. She trusts her instincts while closely following procedures as well. She’s an angel and I suspect an underpaid and underappreciated one at that.
So in a few hours I will go back to my crazy life. I will face the rumors and fears of my peers after this, my second serious breakdown of 2018. I will slowly begin to rebuild and remove the toxic and avoid the battles I will never win and focus on the things I can manage and pursue all that makes me feel whole.
There is not a person on earth who can be all things to all people, and the strange societal encouragement we are given to attempt this impossible task needs to be reassessed. We are all enough. Stop chasing, stop seeking, take time to be still and sit with yourself and hear your breath and feel your own heart beating.
My advice to anyone who reads this is simple.
Because you are beautiful, unique, powerful, and enough.