Vulnerability is my favourite superpower.
This past month everything I tried to avoid during lockdown (basically a massive mental breakdown) happened. I was back at work, seeing my colleagues, my kids. I had a purpose again. But then, the darkness set in like it hasn’t in years. It called for a Harry Potter marathon, and if you’re a Potterhead, or know one, you know that sometimes it’s the only thing that can bring comfort.
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Luna says: “Well if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else; because if it’s just you alone, you’re not as much of a threat,” – And that made me think. Obviously, Voldemort isn’t trying to kill me, but my personal guard of Dementors are very close, and I do not have the happy memories to summon my own Patronus.
Enough of the HP references, but that made me realise that the bad wants us to feel cut off. My go-to place, my psychiatrist very confidently told me last week, is to retreat to sleep, because there I can’t feel anything. There I’m alone – alone in my little dark cave. I don’t have to explain, smile, or put on an act. I can dissipate into the blankets and forget, but that makes it worse. That is what my depression, let’s call her Dolores (last HP reference I hope, and I just threw up a little in my mouth) wants.
Dolores wants me alone, because then I can’t stand up to her, I can’t do things that would put her back in her place.
I’m not proud of myself in many ways. Actually, I’m very disappointed. I haven’t exercised in weeks. I eat everything in sight. I picked up all the weight I lost during lockdown. I haven’t produced anything creative in forever – basically everything I wrote about doing to keep myself sane, I stopped. I feel like a massive hypocrite. A liar. A fraud. Yes, it is probably Dolores planting these things in my head, but they are there. And they are consuming my thoughts.
The one thing I am proud of though is talking – being vulnerable.
I did not retreat. I did not isolate. I called on the people around me. I spoke up. I told them it was bad. I admitted that I was thinking hard about ending things. I was vulnerable. I am vulnerable this time.
It is terrifying. We are conditioned to think that if we are vulnerable it will destroy us. I didn’t break, I didn’t fall into pieces, I’m here, writing this, aren’t I? Rather than breaking, a sliver of hope appeared, and I knew that I could get through this. All the people I spoke to stepped up and surrounded me. I don’t feel it most of the time, but I know people know. I know I have support. That brings light.
The catalyst that invited Dolores to sit on my chest again was a normal day at school. Nothing exceptional happened on that day. A bunch of 18-year-old boys bullied me in class, as usual (You would call it “boys being boys”, but it feels and looks a lot like bullying). But on that day I CRACKED!
Because of our not-so-loved Aunty ‘Rona, we have lost so much of the known. As teachers in this “new” system we are all walking the fine line between being “okay” and drowning in the river of emotional and physical exhaustion.
I couldn’t get myself back together. I walked into management’s office and cried. I DON’T DO THAT. I do not show weakness in front of my superiors. But I did. I was ready to quit. I couldn’t care. I am still trying to piece myself together, but that day there were people who saw me –my people. They knew that what they saw was not good and they cared.
A favourite quote of mine is from the Little Prince:
“Here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
It’s beautiful isn’t it? Please read it again.
It was in that moment of cracking that my family, friends and colleagues (they are family too, okay), looked at me with the heart, saw what was essential and helped. It’s only by looking with our hearts that we will truly see each other.
In this horribly dark month, I also met someone on Bumble (that was a big sliver of light). I told him he would make it into my writing – so here you are, darling. But it didn’t last. It was a great few days, though, amidst all the chaos. I don’t regret a second of the fun we had. At least it seemed as if Dolores was visiting her cousin ‘Rona out of town for a while.
After we realised we weren’t looking for the same things and called it, I wondered about the fact that I had told so many of my friends and colleagues about the swiping success and the little joy and fun I experienced. You’ll understand why I was so elated and surprised if you’ve read about my Tinder horror stories.
I wondered if it would’ve been better if I kept it to myself, then I wouldn’t’ve had to tell so many people about the fact that nothing came from it.
Obviously, I discussed this with my therapist and she asked me what difference it would’ve made. It would’ve sucked. I would’ve gone through it alone. I wouldn’t’ve shared my joy and had my bestie in the edge of her seat waiting to hear what happened. I wouldn’t’ve given long-married people some excitement, and I wouldn’t’ve been able to build silly castles in the sky with my girls.
But the bad part – the admitting it didn’t work –well, that was great as well. Admitting something didn’t work does not make me a failure. Even I need to read that again. It doesn’t make you a failure. It makes us human.
Sharing these moments are what brings us closer together. Telling my friends made for many laughs and increased hope about the possibilities out there! I also got drunk with friends, which is always great. Not telling would’ve made things horrible. I would’ve sat with the disappointment all by myself and I promise you Dolores would’ve had a field day.
This, sharing with you, being fucking vulnerable on the internet, makes things better. Here I share the raw truth and you can see me and see that which is essential.
Together, united in love and compassion, we can carry each other. May we, even on the toughest days, look with the heart. And when we do not have the strength or courage to do so, may we reach out and allow others to do it for us.
Be vulnerable. Speak. The darkness, whatever yours is, wants to isolate you, but don’t let it. Show it what a sassy, bad-ass threat you really are.