Today I had a breakdown. Lately I have been feeling very down on myself and have continued to spiral over recent weeks, quietly keeping it to myself. Feelings of inadequacy fill my mind and consume my spirit. I invent scenarios that have no basis in fact, yet they quickly catch like wildfire. They exist in my insecurities, then I feed them with negativity. I am not beautiful. I am fat. I am not smart. I am lazy. I am inadequate. I am a bad wife. Those feelings came to a culmination in the middle of the night and would not let go of my mind, and perhaps more importantly, my spirit. I did not sleep at all, save a short amount of time in the early hours of morning. When I did wake up, I felt overwhelmed. I felt a heavy burden in my heart that I could not release. Knowing that it was time to get out of bed and face the day, I sluggishly swung my legs over the side of the bed and slowly walked downstairs to greet my family. I know they were not prepared for what they were going to see.
I could no longer contain the heartbreaking feelings that had been locked inside for so long. As women, and especially moms, we often put ourselves last. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your family,” they say. I have heard that expression a million times and never really got it until that moment. I broke down in front of my husband as our daughter sat in the next room. I announced I felt like I was having a mid-life crisis and started to cry. My husband held me as I wept and assured me all was ok, but it just wasn’t enough. I went upstairs to cry some more and was overcome by a feeling of hopelessness that the tears just wouldn’t wash away. He came up and again comforted me, but I still felt completely empty and sad. What in the world did I have to feel bad about? Nothing. And everything. We all are entitled to feel these things, whether or not they are valid. Because if we feel them, at that moment they are valid, and they are real. And when we let them build up inside, with no way to release, we are doomed for a breakdown. In today’s environment, as we are all isolating ourselves to protect each other and ourselves from COVID19, I don’t think we are even close to prepared for the mental toll this is taking on us. Isolation is a perfect breeding ground for sadness and hopelessness.
Anyone who knows me would probably tell you I am a happy, positive person. And I am. But no one can be that way all the time. Something must give. And on this day, the dam broke. I spent the better part of the day feeling drained and that spark that lives inside me, that always lives in my eyes, had completely gone out. In my mind I told myself it wasn’t fair to my family, that I needed to just put on a happy face, so they wouldn’t worry about me. But for the first time, I couldn’t fake my way through the sadness. I finally decided to shower and put on some decent clothes, apply makeup to my face, and wear some jewelry. When I finished, I looked at myself, hoping I would feel beautiful and see that spark, but the eyes in the reflection remained dull and unfeeling. I thought, maybe if I leave the house and run a few errands, I can break this ridiculous funk and get back to feeling like me.
First stop was to the gas station. The old, shoddy pump was new. Yay! But that brief happiness quickly went away when I couldn’t operate it properly and was unable to use my gas points for a discount. Grrrr! Of course, one more thing to make me feel crummy. Next stop was the water store. I strategically lined up the bottles and started the refill process, knowing I was a master at this and would soon be out of the store and could shuffle my way on to the next stop. And then it happened. I barely bumped the bottle, and the full force of the spigot continued its flow of water on the side of the bottle, and in a few seconds, the heavy spray of clean, purified water completely drenched me AND flooded the floor of the store. I reacted as quickly as I could, but the damage had been done. My freshly made-up face and styled hair were dripping. And in case you were wondering, yes, of course I was wearing a white shirt. I couldn’t believe it. One more thing piled on top of everything else. I expected to feel even worse, but then something unexpected happened. As the store owner grabbed a mop and I profusely apologized, I actually smiled. For the first time that day. Dripping wet and causing unnecessary work for someone else, and it didn’t make me want to cry. I celebrated that I didn’t cry. In that moment, I decided that I had two choices: One, continue the downward spiral to a full-fledged breakdown; or two, I could use this moment to laugh and begin to build myself back up. I chose option two.
I ran my final necessary errand with wet hair and a wet shirt, and I didn’t care. I could feel the sadness slowly start to dry up along with my clothes and remembered that life is full of so many ups and downs, and they happen for so many reasons. COVID19, job stress, family drama, money issues, marital problems, illness, you name it. When life gets you down, you have to allow yourself a moment to figure out how you are going to handle it because you simply can’t stay on the downward slope. In this world of instant gratification, instant reactions don’t have to be a part of it. Give yourself some time, no matter what anyone thinks. I say to my daughter all the time, “It’s ok to be sad. Feel your feelings and then let them go.” Today, I had to tell myself that, I had to experience it, and now that I have, I can begin the rise to build myself back up. Bad days happen to everyone. During the darkness, we must hold tight to hope and even when we don’t want to, remember that you don’t have to go through those dark times alone.
Reach out to someone and know that things will get better. It may not happen in a day. It may not happen in a week or even a month but keep hoping and seek help to turn things around. Find the things that bring you comfort and lean on the people who bring you joy. You never know what small thing can start to make you feel better. Just keep your eyes open because it may be as simple as a spray of water.