Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bottoms, Shmottoms. Bring Em On.

I've had some really, really difficult moments (well, hours) this week. Let's just get that out there. But I am doing well today.

For anyone who has followed my not particularly original journey, you might recall that last February, bursting into tears in two consecutive work meetings finally cracked my denial about my powerlessness and the unmanageability of my so-called life. Step one delivered, hard and fast up against the wall. Such a relief, really. (I blogged about that particular physical, spiritual and emotional turning point in February, in the blog post entitled Denial.)

In February, I was ill, depressed, done, couldn't even think about going on for another minute after years upon years of not slowing down or stopping, years of illness, loss and obsessive overworking. Suddenly, thank God (Goddess, whoever or whatever, or nothing - insert your preference), there finally appeared the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back and I started crying while sitting in meetings with my new boss. That rather added to my distress. I felt silly, alarmed, unprofessional, embarrassed, scared, insecure, even paranoid (could they fire me for crying?) and I headed off on a four-month stress leave.

At the time, I was a complete mess, but when I reflect upon what happened in February, I see that it was just another pivotal moment of tear-soaked grace. Severe and prolonged crying jags have always marked clear turning points, key learning moments in my life. Ask Soul Mate, he's seen plenty of my moments. Bottoms, I think we call them.

In February, I had two choices. I could have taken the easier route, and just embraced the victim role. Been there, done that plenty, the t-shirts are around here somewhere. But what had been "done to me?" I wasn't sure of the answer, but I could see what I had done to myself. The second option, I contemplated, would be for me to find the desire to change. The pain was extreme. I chose the latter. For what definitely felt like the zillionth time in my life.

Four months unplugged from work, blogging like a fiend, a few therapeutic yoga sessions, twenty or more counselling sessions, and lots of twelve step work later, and I believed I was ready to go back to work. In retrospect, perhaps I should have taken a full six months off, as my physician suggested. In any case, I returned to work and within my first hour back learned that the stresses of the job had not disappeared. They had actually multiplied threefold. Still, for the first six weeks back on the job, the new improved me was able to handle the stresses. I have done a good job keeping my balance and not taking the workplace challenges personally. Until Thursday last week. Damned if I didn't burst into tears in another meeting.

Without going into details, crying was my only option. I was really tired, and extremely confused for the first part of the meeting. Before many moments had passed, I started feeling kind of sad. Then really, really sad. Sad not just for me, but for other people involved, including extremely sad for one other person at the table. I fought the sad feelings for as long as I could, but they were powerful and overwhelming.

At a certain point, I just thought, screw it. I could have fought back the tears, buried them deep down alongside with the rest of the feelings that I was experiencing, but I just didn't have the energy.
Here's the kicker. In retrospect, I wasn't embarrassed, or worried about the crying at the time. I was having feelings. Shit like that happens at strange times. It felt good to just treat it like it was a natural thing for me to cry and talk at the same time. The meeting continued for quite a while. I'm not the most effective problem solver when I am bawling my eyes out, but...whatever. I was pleased that there was a box of Kleenex. I left the meeting crying, cried all the way home, couldn't eat my dinner because I was crying so hard, went to an NA meeting and cried all the way through that, then headed home to bed to cry well into the night.

I didn't have to go into the office on Friday because I had a morning full of appointments for my regular six-month cancer checkup tests. I'm even open to the possibility that as usual, test time makes me a bit vulnerable, emotionally. I spoke with my sponsor on Friday morning, other supportive people in my life throughout the day. Quite fortuitously, I had pre-booked a counselling session for late Friday afternoon. I adore my therapist, so am pleased as punch that I will need to see her at least until my benefits expire when I retire at age 72 (21 years from now).

I stopped crying on Friday night. I confess, I contemplated taking on the victim role several times throughout that day. But no. This won't get better if I don't own this for myself. Thursday sure was another emotional low. I truly believe that other people in my situation (back in February, and last Thursday) would have had a reason to cry too. But these are just moments, and how I choose to live them will determine not just my happiness, but my health.

Another bottom. Another learning moment. Less than three days later, I am on the other side of the stress, the tears, the heartfelt disappointment that included disappointment in myself. I surrendered and survived. I felt the feelings and processed what happened, to the best of my ability. I have already learned a great deal from this most recent experience. I dare say I may even get one of those damned spiritual awakenings out of it.

Sitting here right now, I know that everything is going to be okay. I'll just keep plugging along, still being my wholly imperfect self. I will go back to my commitment to not swear on my blog. I'll keep doing what I know I need to do in order to take care of myself. Everything happens for a reason. I'll keep learning how to keep my side of the street clean, and to let go of what other people may think about me. It's not my business what they think of me. I will also keep learning how to let go of what other people do. As I read on Facebook last night, "They're just doing it. They're not doing it to YOU." Importantly, I will continue to try to have compassion for others who suffer. Even when my brain tries to tell me that I shouldn't.

Love conquers all. My sponsor said so.


  1. Your last point, Dawn, about how they’re just doing it and not especially to You (or Me), really strikes a chord. I am a crier too, I realized that it’s not an acceptable option a decade or so back and foolishly I did not take the disability option that my boss wanted me to at the time. Should have investigated the options available in my current state instead of just rejecting out of habit anything that seemed untoward. I look back and wonder how i may have been helped since then.

  2. "Tear soaked grace" -- powerful words, Dawn. The mind/body/soul has a wonderful way of teaching us how to surrender. When I was younger I felt helpless when crying. Like you, I felt silly, alarmed, embarassed, etc. But now that I'm older I see the power in tears. It is grace, wonderful grace.

  3. One of the things I think we continue to get better at is acceptance,, learning how to work THROUGH the pain and confusion, where we used to step AROUND it via stimulants. I'm always very proud of myself when I choose to face my adversities and permit myself to feel the feelings.

    I used to be a cryer,, but my present medication for my depression tends to make me more in control. And, frankly, that's neither good nor bad. It is just how it is for me.

    Thanks for an open honest share once again!
    luv dawn

  4. Thank you so much for this post - I can really relate.

  5. You are all too kind. Life is good, every day brings a new lesson. Take care, my cyber friends. Thank you for reading, and for taking time to leave a comment. I started a new Facebook page called She Recovers, and I am sharing (lots of cross posting to amazing material already out there) on a daily basis. If I could, I would give up my job and blog and post my life away. Perhaps one day. Just for today, I'm grateful to know that people care.