I often laugh at my boss as she writes her entire life out neatly in her planner, detailed down to the hour. Her laundry starts on time, she’s got dinner on the table by 5:45, kids are where they need to be for extracurricular activities by 6:30, and then they’re bathed and in bed by 8pm. I swear, she’s either got a Hermoine Granger time-turner or there’s some force in the universe that helps the stars align to her plans so it all comes together. Meanwhile, she marvels at how unpredictable my life is. We both know that things aren’t always perfect for her, but it’s almost always guaranteed that I can plan whatever I want and write down everything I need/hope/want to do and something, somewhere is absolutely sure to turn my plans upside down. I am constantly reminded that I have no control over ANYTHING, which is a problem for someone that has to feel like they have control in order to keep their depression and anxiety at bay.
In the last two weeks, we’ve had to make plans to rip out an interior wall because of a gutter/roof leak, had to do additional repairs once the old stuff exterior was removed, found active termites, stopped work, treated them, and chased insurance adjusters and repair people. I panicked nonstop about our finances. I got what I now know is salmonella poisoning from an unknown source and spent the last two weeks in pain and making sure I was within twenty feet of a functioning toilet at all times (which, I assure you, is impossible if your job involves field work like mine does) while waiting for answers from doctors that seemed like they’d never come. There were days I couldn’t change the twins’ diapers because I was weak from not being able to eat or stay hydrated. The first 13 days of that two weeks, there was no treatment or diagnosis, just an effective but miserable weight loss method that I wish on no one. I got more work loaded on me at my office. The lawnmower broke. The kids got croupy coughs. My husband’s vasectomy got rescheduled … again. The garbage disposal broke. I felt like I was everyone’s yes-man fallback girl and I just couldn’t handle being the go-to or support system for anyone else without breaking in two. The news across the world broke my sensitive heart into a million pieces. I reached a point where I couldn’t take any more surprises or bad news, while also struggling with the fact that everything on the above list was a first world problem and small on a relative scale in comparison with the news.
I have a couple of safe spaces in my corner of the internet. I trust some of these women with everything, and usually, they know exactly what to say and when to say it. To one group in particular, I spewed all of the things that had gone wrong above and more
in fairly dramatic, exasperated fashion. They offered empathy and a very, very important phrase:
“You have permission to be broken.”
That was what I needed. I needed the go-ahead to fall apart for a little while and admit it was all too much to take on. That it was okay to panic about my personal stuff even with the world around me losing its mind. Even if it meant letting the kids watch Bubble Guppies and Sesame Street on a loop for 8 hours one day, or telling someone no to something they asked of me, it was okay. I never would’ve given myself that permission. I would have pushed and pushed and pushed until I exploded, which would have done no one any good.
So if you’re THISCLOSE to losing it, give yourself permission to feel broken for a little while. Whether it’s for an hour, a day, or a week, you’re allowed to do it. Falling apart over a mountain of little things does not lose in the struggle Olympics versus a large tragedy, because the struggle Olympics does.not.exist. It’s okay if you can’t see the bright side sometimes. Yes, you may be lucky in comparison to others, but your feelings are valid and you need to have a chance to feel them in spite of what others tell you you “should” feel.
The world won’t fall apart if you fall apart for a little while, even if it feels like it will. If you have the innate need to be in control, it will be difficult to let yourself. But. Let your husband or partner take over for a while, even if they won’t do it the way you do it. Let your friend who randomly walks through your door at the right time take over monitoring the preschooler’s nightly dinner filibuster. If you can pay someone to do something on your to-do list, just this once to lighten your load, do it. If you can’t, ask someone you trust to help you. Unplug from the news and know that you can step away for a bit without becoming apathetic to it all. Be a Phoenix: burst into flames and rise from your own ashes. Spend the day in bed hiding from the world. Go for a run. Go on a shopping spree and then return it all. Put on some sad music, take a bath, and have a good cry alone in a dark bathroom. Whatever it is you need to do to regain your sanity, do it. It’s OKAY. I promise.