Don’t be shy about asking for help. It doesn’t mean your weak, it only means you’re wise.”
My family is my world. I grew up with more love than I could have asked for. Their support is and always will be my rock. When I was going through my darkest times I did not tell anyone what I was dealing with, including my family. It was not to exclude them. In part it was my fear that out of their love for me, they would push me to make a change that I was not ready to make. A part of me knew that I had to find the courage to do this on my own and in my own time. The other part of me had simply forgotten how to ask for help.
During my 24 year relationship, I felt like I was being distanced from people that were important to me. As a result of that I learned to deal with everything on my own. Whether it was as complex as my emotions or as simple as needing help with a task at work or home. Asking for help seemed to have consequences. So I did not ask. That still follows me today.
I do not ask anyone to help me fix my doorbell or shovel my driveway or decorate my house at Christmas. I just do it myself. I am not proud of this. It is my ‘bad habit’. I am learning that asking for help is a good thing and I am trying. It builds strong relationships. Healthy relationships. It lets people in. It lets people see that I cannot do everything myself and that I need them. This ‘bad habit’ of mine that has taken 24 years to build does not reverse in 4 years. But I am trying.
And so in summary, I write this post as a message to all of my family and friends who wish so much that they could have been there for me. I write this so that I can assure them that they were there then and they are now. And I write this because I suck at telling them how much that means to me. Something else I am working on.
So if you know someone that you thinks needs your help, no matter how much you think you are in the dark or left out or feeling helpless, you are not. You are THERE. Stay there. Be there. Because when someone doesn’t know how to be helped or ask for help, knowing who is in their corner is everything. Believe me, that helps.
Please note that this is just my experience and in no way do I speak for others out there. Each individual deals with each situation in their own way. If you have real concerns about someone, search for professional resources or help in your area.
You may have read the story about the kitchen garbage bag titled ‘The Beginning’. I chose that title as that day was the beginning of a new life. A free life. But since that post, I have had a few people ask me what happened the night before. I will tell you that the night before was like most other nights. Another fight. Another night of all the things I did wrong and all the ways I fell short. Another sleepless night. Like so many others. But it was my last. I was done.
So what I think you are really asking is ‘what was the end?’. The end happened on December 7, 2014. This was the day he broke his ankle.
This was not a good marriage up to this point to begin with. I think that goes without saying but I will say it anyways. But this particular winter I had a lot to look forward too. We were going to travel to Saskatchewan to visit my family for Christmas which usually happened about once every 7-8 years. I did not get to see my family nearly as often as I would have liked so I was very excited. Shortly after we were to arrive home from Saskatchewan we were going on a vacation to Las Vegas and San Diego, finally using our time share that we had purchased about 7 years back. To top off the exciting adventures, we accepted an invitation to a friends Christmas party. That last one may not seem like much to most people but we did not have much of a social life so it was just the cherry on the top. I planned my outfit two weeks prior. As I said, I didn’t get out much.
The Christmas party was on December 6th. He broke his ankle trying to walk home from the party in the early hours of the next day.
That ended the exciting adventures. Home for Christmas. Vacation. Gone. I had finally had something to look forward to and it was all gone. I walked out of the hospital the day the surgeon told him he didn’t advise traveling and I broke down in the parking lot and I cried. I felt embarrassed. When people walk out of a hospital crying, it is because they have, or are worried of, losing someone they love. I cried my heart out because I lost a Christmas with my family. I felt pathetic. But as dark as this moment felt, this wasn’t the end.
The end was what followed. The recovery time. I have never in my life felt so emotionally abused. So low. So broken down. So alone. Nothing I did was right. Nothing I did was enough. These were the real dark moments. But in those dark moments I realized that this time, he would recover. This time, there would be an end. I realized that if this had been something worse than a broken ankle, something that he would not recover from, that this would be my life. For the rest of my life. And then I realized something else. I realized that no one has to live this way. No one DESERVES to live this way. For better or worse does not cover this. I realized that I deserved better. I realized that I had to leave.
You spend four hours packing things that are from another life. Things that you need to fit into your new life. Most of it you don’t even want but out of financial necessity, you know you need to. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just start completely over? However, practicality needs the front seat. So you spend half your day packing up stuff. Things. Your things. His things. Things that use to be your things. Packing them away for a new life. Your world has been shattered and split into numerous boxes to go to different places. It’s all stuff. Things. And none of it matters. It’s not your home anymore. And it’s funny how quickly your realize that it no longer feels like home. This place you you once loved so much and had so much hope for. THIS was going to be the happy place. Each one of the 8 or so homes that you lived in you thought would be the happy place. This would be the place that wouldn’t have bad memories left behind. A memory of a bad fight. A memory of a drunken or sleepless night. They all carried them. You left them and moved on and this one is no different.
And now you know that things will never be the same. You will never be the same. You don’t know what that looks like yet but you know you feel different. You exist. And you can feel that you exist. Some may understand that statement and some may not but that’s the best way I can explain it. At this point you just exist and you just “stand, the fuck, up”. That is a quote from one of my favorite books. “This is Happy” by Camilla Gibb. And that is one of my favorite quotes because that is really what you have to do. It is complicated but also so simple. When life knocks you down. When circumstances knock you down. When situations knock you down. That’s what you do. You are going to need to remind yourself that many times in your journey but always always always… just “stand, the fuck, up”. I did not stand up for almost 24 years. He never thought I would. He was wrong.
I have gone through a huge transformation over the past 4 years. I have made great progress in my professional career, my personal relationships and my physical well being allowing my confidence level to soar!
After living for so long in a negative environment and not being encouraged to believe in myself, my mental health took a beating. I walked behind people with my eyes glued to the ground and my shoulders slumped. I let people tell me what to do and when to do it because I believed that what I had to say didn’t matter. I was wrong.
Last year I had a conversation with a new friend about how tall I am. I am 5’2”. She did not believe me. She gave me one of the greatest compliments that I have ever had. She said “but you seem so much taller”. Her words hit me in the heart. And I believe she meant it. I believe it because I no longer walk with my shoulders slumped and my eyes glued to the floor. I walk tall. I walk proud. Because I am.
Working on my mental health is an ongoing battle and not an easy one. It is a daily struggle of ‘walking tall’. Of holding my head up and facing the day without fear. Some days I win. Some days I don’t. But every day I get up and I try. One of the things that has been instrumental in my mental health has been my physical health. I began exercising regularly almost 4 years ago. I started out slow. And each year I push myself harder. And the harder I push myself, the easier it becomes to get up and try. I truly believe without a shadow of doubt that my increased physical health has saved my mental health.
Physical health does so much for us. Research it. There are countless articles that support this. Our energy. Our mood. Our confidence. The benefits are truly endless in regards to our mental health. I have become such a huge advocate for physical wellness that I am working on becoming a fitness trainer. Something I never thought I would be able to do. But if this journey has taught me anything, it is that anything is possible. Any purpose can be my purpose. If I can help one person achieve better mental health through increased physical health then… well… getting up every day and trying just became a little easier!
It was January 6th, 2016. I took a kitchen garbage bag and I stuffed a few toiletries and a few clothes and I went to work as I normally do at my usual time. It was the only way I could think of to leave undetected. I had no intention of going home that day. That was the beginning.
I was terrified but in a numb sort of way. Shock, fear, disbelief and numbness. I did it. I got out. Or so I thought. I had no idea that you don’t just walk out and your life changes. It doesn’t happen that way. It’s just not that easy. The road ahead is not going to be what I expect and the journey had just begun. A series of failures and triumphs. Not in that order. You fall down and you get back up again. Sometimes you don’t feel like it and sometimes it takes longer but you always get back up again.
My whole adult life felt like someone was telling me who I should be. Who I was. Who I wasn’t. What I could and could not do. What I liked. What I didn’t. I call it mind control. I don’t know how else to describe it. Where your normal becomes the unacceptable, the unacceptable becomes your normal. It took me years to realize that my definition of normal was not acceptable. Then it took me years to realize that I couldn’t fix it. Then it took me more years to find the courage to walk away.
It is odd that when this story first began, I thought that I had a direction and a purpose. I did not. It was just step one. I did not comprehend how many other purposes I would need to discover. How many other directions would and could be presented to me. There is no GPS for this life and that is a good thing. Even if I could just punch in the end destination, would I choose to go on auto-pilot? No. How can I choose to miss all the amazing ways that I am discovering who I am and what I am capable of?
There are no ‘if only’s’ in this story. You will never read them because I will never write them. We are who we are because of what we live. More specifically, what we learn (and do not learn) from what we live. I like who I am. I hold my head up and will do so for the rest of my life. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that to love myself is to embrace my journey and give it the proper place in my heart.
“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination”
P.S. Please do not read my story and feel sorry for me. I do not feel sorry for me and neither should you. I found a better path and the courage to walk it. Read my story and, if you can, practice compassion and understanding for the family member, friend, neighbor that is trying to pack their own kitchen garbage bag.
I did not dream up this life when I was a little girl. Like any other little girl, I dreamed of the big beautiful wedding with the gorgeous white dress that everyone would adore. I dreamed of the beautiful and spacious home I would have. I dreamed of all the friends I would be surrounded by. I dreamed of sharing my life with the man of my dreams and the perfect kids we would have. I dreamed as most any other little girls did.
No one dreams of getting divorced. Of financial stress. Of troubled kids that worry you every day. Of getting cancer or some other disease. We don’t dream of these things and yet they happen. Life. Happens. It is messy and it is complicated and it is hard. This is what life may bring us and if we keep trying, we still get out of bed every morning and strive for better. If we keep trying, we will have people that make us laugh and love and stand tall. If we keep trying, we will make it through this messy life and find joy and peace and pride. If we keep trying. If we never stop trying.
Welcome to my messy life. Welcome to my Blog. I hope that you get something from it. Mostly, I hope that you see that you are not alone. Your messy life runs parallel to mine and so many others. Our struggles will differ. But our trying should be uniform.