Meltdown. What else could follow a post titled “What-if Syndrome.” It seems it was a meltdown long in the making. The thing is we all need them. We survive them. We even learn from them. We just hate them when they are happening.
I’m sure it’s the loss of control we hate the most, because that’s what meltdown’s do, they take control leaving you to cry or sputter or scream uncontrollably. I’m convinced it’s all about survival. The body, the psyche, the spirit, can only take so much, then our physical and mental state melt into one blubbering mess. It’s all good. Really.
But just like anyone, when it begins, when I can feel this sensation deep in my chest, when my mind can’t seem to maintain a simple thought, when my mouth begins to open and shut as if I’m in need of air, and I can sense the tears pooling, I become angry at myself. I’m about to lose control. And I fight it. Even though I know the inevitable will happen, I still try to fight. That’s what I do. It’s what we all do, which only makes the meltdown worse. I know if I would just let it come, let the onslaught begin, it wouldn’t last as long and I wouldn’t be so exhausted when it was all over. After all, it does end.
So it comes. The tears, the sputtering, the rambling. Woe to the loved one nearest when the gates crumble. But I’m fortunate my husband is good at recognizing the signs, although he admits this one was a little harder to read, what with my newly “diagnosed” menopause. Was this just part of the transition or was this for real? Uh oh. For real. And he’s good at letting me fall apart. Holds my hand, tries to get in a good word when he can, waits patiently, brings me kleenex, and when the rambling subsides and all that’s left are the lingering, slow-motion tears, he offers what he can and hopes will help me back on track, or at least closer to the track. He knows better than to think he’ll offer up magic words to make everything better, but can at least try to give me something to think about while my body and mind slowly recover.
He said quite a few things to me, something about always pushing, high expectations, maintaining three blogs, putting together a family reunion, working on a novel, worrying too much, but what I remember is this, “You’ve had a lot to deal with, including changes in career, changes at home, but especially your mother’s illness and with this has come an even greater responsibility when it comes to your family. This is a whole lot to carry with a back pocket full of ambitions.” In a nutshell, yes.
Okay. So I’m not where I thought I’d be at this moment in time. But who truly is? And if you are, I’m ecstatic for you. Truly. But what I found is my post touched a lot of women, many of whom are feeling the same as I am, many suffering through the symptoms of What-if Syndrome. That in itself, the comments, emails and messages, made the meltdown worthwhile. It’s funny how sometimes we think we are alone in our suffering, that no one could possibly understand what we’re going through, when someone says aloud, or in this case writes publicly, what they are feeling and boom. Not alone. So with each response I could feel my sense of balance return. It always does.
Am I back on track? Not quite, but I’m close. I’m writing again. Still caring for my family, but with an even deeper sense of pride at being given such responsibility. I’m still questioning my career path and that may take some time, but at least I’m okay with the questioning and I’m totally enjoying the research of new possibilities.
My advice is this: Don’t feel guilty for questioning. I think it’s when we stop questioning or stop searching, we lose the fight. And when you feel the meltdown coming, make sure someone you love is near, to just hold your hand or the box of kleenex, and to offer words of comfort, even if all you get from their attempt is a simple word or sentence, but just enough to keep you warm as you recover.
And remember, you’re not crazy, you’re not weak, you’re not alone. We never are. I have all those wonderful women who responded to thank for the reminder. I needed it.