First, if you are coming here from the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning show after he read my blog online, welcome. I can tell you it was a shock to turn on the radio and hear my own words being read on the air. What an amazing man Kidd is to share that with you all and to show concern about how I am doing now since I never finished the 3-part series updating anyone. Thank you for coming by to check on me. I have already been so overwhelmed by your emails of support and encouragement. It really does mean a lot. Thank you , Kidd, for asking how I am doing now and for checking on me. You rock my face off!
I knew this part of the series of entries would be the hardest to write. The breakdown.
Everyone has times when they know that they are in a dark place. A place where they are sad or depressed. You can see it. Sometimes you can see your way through it and sometimes you can’t. It’s like getting sucker punched in the gut and having the wind knocked out of you. For a moment you can’t breathe and it feels like you never will. But, someone tells you to throw you arms up in the air, slow down your efforts to breathe and take a breath. Just breathe. And slowly the air begins to fill your lungs again and you know you are not dying. That you will be okay.
Sometimes something happens–like Mom dying– and you have that same feeling. The wind has been knocked out of you and you wonder if you are dying. If you will ever breathe again. But this time, I didn’t even have the strength to throw my arms up and take it slow and breathe. Just breathe. Suddenly, the fear, the desperation and the intensity of the helplessness overwhelmed me. I couldn’t do it. The wind has been knocked out of me. I can’t breathe. I can’t see a way to be able to throw my arms up and just be able to breathe. I don’t have the strength. It is terrifying.
It is times like this you wonder how other people do it. How do they move through the fog and haze that is grief and just breathe? I have always thought the hardest thing in the world for me was to ask for help. It still is. But I learned this week, the hardest part is accepting the help you haven’t asked for but so desperately need to have.
Last Friday I got a call from a friend of mine. Of course, I ignored it because I was in bed trying to shut the world out. Something told me to listen to the message. I have not talked to this woman in a while. Our children used to be in a playgroup when they were toddlers, but as they grew up, we grew apart. But her message said she was coming over. Right then. I panicked. I did not want anyone coming into my home. It was definitely not “company ready.” (You know the difference. The way your house looks when someone is coming over and how it looks when you know you are going to be alone. There is a difference. At least for me.)
Before I knew it, she was at my door telling me she was coming over to help me get up, get going and get to cleaning.
I looked at her with my fists balled at my sides and told her I was fine and that I had sick kids at home and she really shouldn’t be in the house.
“I’m a nurse. I don’t care. I’ll take my chances.” And she pushed by me and stood and looked at me. I looked back trying to will her to go away.
I began to become more insistent that she leave. She became more insistent on staying. I was literally begging her to go insisting that I was fine and didn’t need anyone’s help. Somehow I was not convincing through my balled up fists and tears. It was then that she grabbed me by the shoulders and firmly told me that this bullshit of saying that I was fine was over. That I was not fine and that I needed to let her help. In defeat I let her into my home.
And it was like standing naked in the street. Exposed. Ashamed. Fearful of what she would think. Afraid to let anyone see that fine was the least accurate description of me. She was going to see my dark places, the dark corners that I would not let anyone into. I was humiliated and thankful at the same time.
“We’re going to start cleaning. You are going to get moving and do something that has physical results that you will see. You need to get up and be productive or this dark place will swallow you up and you will not be able to get back out again. Let. Me. Help. You.”
“Let. Me. HELP. You.”
“Jenn, let me help you.”
I gave in and began telling her it was silly and she could only stay a minute and that, really, it was just that the kids were sick and I got a little behind. I talked and talked about nothing in order to not think about the humiliation I felt at needing someone to help me with the simple act of just getting up and doing something.
So, side by side we began to scrub down my kitchen. I hated every second of it. I could not stand accepting help. Especially when I needed it so badly. After an hour or more, she stopped what she was doing and looked me in the eye.
“Jenn, you need to go for a walk. Get out in the sunshine and leave your house. Now. You need to go get some fresh air and be a part of the world for a while.”
For the first time since she arrived, I unclenched my fists, looked her in the eyes and asked her in desperation, “Am I really that bad? Am I?”
Taking me by the shoulders she looked into my eyes and said the words I did not want to hear. “Yes, you are, Jenn. You are that bad right now.”
I began to sob, grabbed my dog and went for a walk. I had to come to the realization that I was not fine. That I was not “making it through this” on my own. I walked and cried and felt so frustrated. If someone who isn’t super close to me is seeing how deeply dark my life had become, what am I doing to my family and friends? When they say, ‘How are you?’, do they really want to know or is it just a question you ask someone who has gone through this? I was confused and terrified. And still desperately trying to catch my breath. The wind had definitely been knocked out of me and I had no idea how I would get through this. Ever. Would I ever just breathe easily again or am this going to kill my spirit?
I came back home in silence and began to scrub more vigorously. I would scrub and sweep and dust the pain away. After 4 hours of working side by side throughout my house, I realized what this amazing friend had done for me. She showed me that I needed to slow down my efforts to be “fine”. To ask for and accept help getting through this.
She did what I couldn’t do myself. She grabbed my arms that felt so heavy and burdened and lifted them into the air for me so I could take that first breath and know that I would breathe again. A simple first step. But a crucial one. It was all I had to do right now.