Welcome to There, I Said It- a column where we give you, the reader, a chance to get something off your chest in an anonymous fashion. Be it embarrassing, frustrating, or just something you didn’t want to admit out loud, it still might make someone else having a bad day feel just a bit better. If you have a story of your own, unburden yourself at TISI@drandyroark.com.
I had a serious mental breakdown the other day, one that I am sure many can relate to.
Let me tell you about me: I am a caretaker. I take care of my family- financially, morally, emotionally, physically. I am the main income earner. I also care for animals and their families at the end of life. I do both things seven days a week.
I also run my own business, am helping run a conference, for which I get no pay, and am a consultant for other veterinarians who need help. I care deeply about each of the things I do. All of my friends will tell you I am the strong, reliable one. I might be a little overextended. I get that.
But I suspect that if you relate, you are too.
Here is where things went wrong…. my father died. I was estranged from him, and so I wasn’t there. It was sudden and, to my surprise, I was overwhelmed with grief. I took two days off after being flattened by the grief. A healthy thing to do, right? Well, not according to one of my clients, who wrote a letter to me with such vitriol it physically hurt me. I continued on, knowing that it was one person, and everyone else still really appreciated me and my help. Then I got sick, really sick. My body’s way of making me stop my addiction to helping. I actually had to turn people away.
But it was the tiniest thing that sent me over the edge: My husband lost his phone. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, he has destroyed or lost every cell phone he has ever owned. We got into a fight, because he wanted me to drop everything and buy a new phone for him. That was when it hit me. Like a ton of bricks! I care, and care deeply for every person I meet in life…but who cares for me. Not in the sense of feeling, but actual physical, emotional, spiritual caring. To be cared for.
And that is when I lost it. I didn’t want to care for another human being on the planet. I didn’t want to help any more families or anymore pets. I didn’t want to be on the planet. I was depressed.
I needed to take time for me. Since I am the only one who cares for me. Hard as that is, that is what I need. So I went for a drive. A long drive. I briefly thought about ending it. I understood where people get to. Instead, I am sharing. If you get to this place, this dark side of the force, call for light, find some help.
Caretakers need to be cared for too. You might be so good at caring for others, you have forgotten yourself, forgotten how to care. Ask for help. Not necessarily the help everyone tells you to get, find someone who has been there. Who has hit the bottom, and climbed out, who can be there, just to listen and commiserate. Someone who doesn’t need to fix it for you. If you feel you need professional help, find that too.
I received a gift of a chocolate bar from a stranger at a nail salon. She saw me crying, and listened. She wants to be a caretaker someday. I hope she remembers the crazy vet, who had a mental breakdown and the gift she provided for her.
Tomorrow I have to go back to caring. Today, I am just caring for me.