It started with a mood change.
A couple of months back I felt a shift in my mood, and it took far longer than I’m proud to admit before it finally dawned on me that while the lack of sun made me wish for more beach day weather, I wasn’t taking Vitamin D like I was supposed to and it was probably the main culprit in my melancholy filled days. I’d been avoiding picking some up because I hate taking pills and I figured if I just ate enough veggies I’d be fine…blood work said otherwise, and I stopped being hard-headed and made my way to Vitamin Shoppe. After asking for some help and voicing my strong disinterest in taking pills, the store associate helped me find a liquid version that would do.
But let me backtrack some…during this rough month of a sinking mood, I caved in on myself. I wasn’t journaling as much, but I was journaling. I didn’t exercise consistently, but I still exercised. I still went to support group and I was busy with work. I figured whatever it was, I’d get over it. Every now and again the “check on your strong friend” post comes around. And I remember thinking, “what does that even mean?” and if I were the “strong friend” what kind of check-in would I even want that didn’t interrupt my sensibilities as an introvert? My introversion had turned down so many efforts to get me to come out and play, surely who would waste their time reaching out to me and my constant, “maybe next time” or my “I’m in between financial blessings right now”, or even my flat out, “I really don’t like being around a lot of people like that”…?
On the flip side, I wanted to call up friends and cry or vent or rant or something, but sometimes you get so used to being the person who inspires, the person who uplifts, the person who is sending out the positive vibes in a crazy world in the hopes of giving some kind of balance between good and evil, that you forget that the ones who truly love all of you will know that you’re human and that you need a hug too sometimes. So, instead I thought, “I don’t want to be a burden.” “They’re busy with work and family stuff.” “They’re going through things too and I don’t want to give them my baggage on top of their own.”
Beware of Stinking Thinking.
Of course, I did eventually notice where my line reasoning was heading and made the vulnerable decision to reach out until someone would listen to me as I shared my struggles and the fears that were keeping me from being…myself, I suppose. Which led my bestie who happens to be a nurse to get on me about taking my vitamins. Even I have to remind myself that loving someone, starting with myself, is hard work, and that it takes effort and a commitment to do that work. Effort presents itself in such subtle ways…ways like not making assumptions about what other people are thinking or their availability to be there for you when you need a helping hand. But also, I recognize and acknowledge that to even be at a place where I can notice my mood dropping and do something about it before it becomes more than that, took years of mental health recovery work. And that my mental health recovery and now ongoing maintenance journey was, and still is my own…
Then I thought about the fact that we are a society that salutes those who are “self-made”, those who pick themselves up by the bootstraps, and have “don’t get sick” health care plans. We wear how tired we are as badges of honor and testament to our value. We are driven by the notion that we must all be able-bodied and able-minded “strong friends”. In which case, wouldn’t we then need to check on each other since we’re all so “strong”? Yet, we don’t. Despite being told over and over again, either from the spirit of our hearts, the gut intuition, or 75 year strong Harvard studies, that the quality of our life emotionally, physically, and mentally is directly proportional to the quality of our relationships. We still struggle with the very vulnerable position of being the friend that needs to be checked on, to the point that it paralyses us from asking for help in the first place, or even receiving help when it’s offered.
Have The Courage To Be You.
And there’s that word again, vulnerability. Relationships, whether they are friendships, romantic, business, or internal take vulnerability. And “Once [your] vulnerability is ‘regulated’ by an abiding self-acceptance, [your] sense of personal power is almost unassailable. It can no longer be threatened by some external force beyond [your] control.” We have to have the courage to be vulnerable even though it’s uncomfortable, even though it isn’t easy…and getting comfortable with vulnerability is something we can learn.
When I was a little girl, I can remember a time when we would have lunch and then go out for recess. There was a few times when I was slow moving and everyone had already gone on ahead and split into their friend cliques to play tag and such. As I looked over at all the fun, I really wanted to play with everyone else but they seemed so far from me…But whenever I thought to give up, to make myself small…despite my awkwardness, there would always be some kid that would run up to me and silently ask through their playful eyes, “why are you standing here all alone?” and then they’d offer me their hand, and I would in relief and graciousness take it.
The older I got, I would reach for someone’s hand and hope that they would take it. In doing so and depending on who I reached out my hand to, my hope was that they would accept my love and my vulnerability…sometimes they would and sometimes they wouldn’t. And when they wouldn’t, life would still go on…go figure! Eventually, I learned to be the friend who ran up to someone and offered my hand, my time, my resources , or simply my presence. I am constantly reminded about how wonderful it feels to both offer a hand, and to receive a hand after mustering up enough courage to reach out.
Until Next Time…Peace!
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