My son was sick last week, the whole week. 6 days of constant fever and headache and lying on the couch and even asking to take naps. And then another couple days of recovery where his boredom wasn’t matched with his energy levels leaving him in a state of neediness where he wanted to be both running in circles around the apartment and in my lap at the same time; being 5 (and a half) is hard. No matter how peaceful it was to be home with him for that week (because he really is the EASIEST sick kid ever) it also, as you heard last week, raised my baseline worry to a higher level than it’s been for some time.
By the time Thursday came around my monthly blessing was in full force (meaning that sudden drop in hormones that happens a week or so before menstruation is about to begin that sweeps away the layers of dust and reveals any little cracks or thin spots that aren’t as noticeable on any other day which feels like hell but actually is a gift if perceived that way) and I was starting to become a blubbering mess. I got through writing class without any trauma (notice I said without trauma, not without tears… just without trauma.) I had a great session in therapy on Friday where I got to muck through some cognitive distortions that almost prevented me from having the support I wanted and needed for the reading I was participating in the next day. I talked to some friends. I asked for what I needed and I got it.
By the time Saturday came I thought I was okay. When I stood up to read one of my stories in front of people at the Fucking Geniuses reading I recall noticing and being somewhat alarmed by the trembling inside my body. I stand up and talk in front of people for a living, and have been doing so for years and years. I don’t get nervous about that anymore, and this level of nervousness was more intense than anything I had ever experience before.
I wasn’t getting any funny looks so I kept going, absorbed the laughter at the funny parts and the applause at the end and felt good about it all together. At the very least, I knew I was happy it was over. The whole event was really a success. Each of the readings went well, the environment was welcoming and intimate, the guests were engaged and responsive. It was a successful outcome and I went in without expectation (double success!)
The next day I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Every part of my body ached. My beloved and I dropped the kiddo off at my mom’s and enjoyed a peaceful day together. We had brunch. We read and sat on the beach. We attempted to get foot massages. We baked and ate brownies (and leftover Thai) for dinner. We watched movies. It was the perfect recovery day and I expected to feel rejuvenated, but I didn’t.
Note to self. When a day of relaxation leaves you feeling exhausted, a meltdown may be on the horizon…
When my beloved was packing up to go home the next day I was having a hard time holding back the tears. She started to say it seemed like I needed her to stay but I brushed it off. I was tired. Maybe I was catching the flu. I just needed another slow, easy, peaceful day. I would watch movies with the kiddo or we could go to the park… easy breezy. A little over an hour after she left and an hour into near-constant crying I called her and ended up asking her to come back.
I can’t recall the last time I felt this way… and what I think is most unique about this meltdown is that it wasn’t triggered by an event of proportional significance. Every time I can recall feeling this way there’s been a reason, or at least I’ve had something to blame. I didn’t get dumped. I didn’t bomb at the reading. I didn’t get in a fight with my former-husband. I didn’t lose my job. Nothing bad happened… In fact, several great things happened… and those great things just happened to be matched up with my little cracks and thin spots just at the right time to knock into each other and set loose all my internal critics at once.
I sunk deeply into my own despair. The sobbing felt endless. I was convinced that I was going to feel this way forever (the very moment it started too… One minute I was moving through life as usual and then I was paralyzed by physical and emotional pain I just knew would last for the rest of my life). Everything hurt. I was afraid everything I had was lost and everything I wanted was out of reach.
And this time, again differently from others, I could see myself and see what was happening (which is, I would say, the primary benefit of this chosen level of consciousness and self-responsibility) but that wasn’t enough… I could see, but just barely. I was so far away from myself I was way out of reach and even out of earshot… There was no way to get me a message.
…and I needed to be a mom. And not in that way that I am a mom every moment of my life, but literally. I was home alone with the kiddo and he needed affection, attention, and care. I would let myself cry for a few minutes and when I could stop long enough to catch my breath I would try engaging only to find myself needing to retreat again a moment later. Even without actually seeing tears fall out of my eyes he knew I had been crying. He wanted to know why and I gave him simple, honest answers.
I was sad.
I don’t know.
And I didn’t. I knew it wasn’t about him and I told him so. I couldn’t tell if he believed me. I couldn’t tell what was real.
If the primary benefit of this consciousness thing is that I can see myself more often than not, the primary downside is that I can see myself and my impact more often than not… I am aware of the moments in my life where I formed limiting beliefs about myself and the way I interact with the world and I see myself putting my own child into situations where he might make up his mind in a similar way about those very same things. It’s terrifying.
My beloved came back and her energy in the room held things together enough that we made it until bedtime and got the kiddo safely into bed feeling loved, secure, and well taken care of.
I was able to completely break down and dig deep into my sorrow and find the roots of it. I dug and cried and dug and cried and dug and cried until, like she predicted would happen, I couldn’t dig or cry anymore. I got frustrated that it was the same old stuff. I criticized myself for not being further along. I doubted that I deserved this loving support. I also let her hold me and asked for the reassurance I needed and made a choice to believe the things she said.
All the while I struggled to understand what was real. How could the joy I felt just days before be real if this darkness was so real right now? They can’t both be true!
Even this morning, waking up and feeling a thousand times better having drained out so much angst through tears, writing, and shit… I was frustrated. There is no way to know what’s real, I thought. I read a few inspirational pieces about this very topic and saw that the solution is the same as it always is. Change the focus. Find the positive. Reframe the picture. Focus on the truth…
And there is was again… truth. What the fuck is that? The version of truth they wrote about is the pretty version. Everything good about you is the truth, the darkness is a lie. But in reality, all of it is true. Every little possible thing I can think up is true. Anything I believe is true. That’s how it works. And this is frustrating. Until I realize that means I can choose. Which is also momentarily frustrating, because that presents a lot of potential options. But then I remember, because I’ve done it before, that if I choose the one that feels good, I’ll feel goodSo what’s true? Whatever I choose… and today I choose the truth that I’m brilliant, brave, and beautiful. This truth doesn’t make the truth that I’m hurt, scared, and small go away but it lets the brilliant, brave, and beautiful one take care of the hurt, scared, and small one.
Which is where it all comes full circle.
Because while the meltdowns threaten to disrupt the role of motherhood, the role of motherhood is really what teaches me how to help myself through the meltdowns.