Last week I found out that one of my previous clients, Ethel**(not her real name) was in the local hospital.
I’ve always admired Ethel and got on very well with her. An ex-school teacher, she has survived a lot in her life including domestic violence and being a sole parent. Ethel’s mind is as a sharp as a tack and we have often discussed books, craft and world events and enjoyed a good laugh together. Her sense of humour is absolutely wicked. She is a ‘call it as she see’s it’ kinda lady.
So when I heard she was in the hospital, I went to visit. When I arrived, she was in deep discussion with two other people so I took myself off for a 20 minute walk and returned later.
Ethel introduced me to one of her sons and told me that they were making plans for her to go into a nursing home. She went on to tell me that her other son and his family were flying in shortly from overseas.
I felt so very sad for her, knowing that she is a fiercely independent individual and enjoyed living in her home. Moving into care will be a huge transition for her.
We sat and talked for a while about her coming move and she said “It doesn’t really matter what the room is like, I won’t be there for very long”. She then laughed and said “Oh well. That’s life right?”
We talked about ‘rolling with the punches’ and the like and I left telling her I would be back the next day.
I have visited several times this week and there have been times she has asked me to leave so that she could sleep and others when she was bright and alert and we discussed world politics, the Da Vinci Code, conspiracy theories and all manner of inconsequential things.
On my last visit, I sat beside her bed as she was sleeping. She opened her eyes, saw me and smiled and took my hand in hers. Much of what she was saying to me was garbled and didn’t make sense. She then told me that she has been prescribed very strong pain killers so her garbled conversation kind of made a little more sense. Then she looked at me and said “I’m trying to be strong but I’m not okay with that”.
I replied that it’s “Okay to not be okay”. She said “I know that but it’s hard”.
We chatted for a few more minutes and then I left to allow her to sleep, passing her son in the hall outside her room.
I’ve noticed quite a lot of late that many people put aside their feelings in order to be ‘strong’ or present for others in their lives. I count myself among them.
I recently had a conversation with my wonderful Garden Gnome and I said “Please don’t worry babe. I worry enough for both of us.”
His reply was “Don’t say that. If I know you’re worried then I know something is wrong”.
So many of us spend our lives shielding others that we push our own feelings of not being okay into the background. At what point do we collapse under it all and become a ‘lay on the ground in the foetal position, blubbering mess’?
Self care is a big thing. We need to realise that it is completely within our rights (and good for our mental health) to acknowledge that sometimes things in life just aren’t great. That we are able to cry, scream, journal, lash out or fall apart. Afterwards, we can brush ourselves off and begin again.
It really is okay to not be okay.
We need to push aside the mental image we believe others have of us that we must be strong. Men need to move past the stereotype of the ‘strong, silent and resilient male that does not cry’. Women need to realise that feminism isn’t about being strong all the time.
We were made as emotional beings. We have feelings. We hurt sometimes. We have bodies that sometimes break down and refuse to support us like they used to.
Sometimes we reach a breaking point.
At this point, we can say “It’s okay. I don’t have to always be okay. I don’t always have to be the ray of sunshine. I acknowledge the clouds….the pain…the suffering….the anxiety….the stress…..the not knowing what the future holds. And you know what? I know that whatever the outcome, I’m still me….and I’m still loved…..and life will go on.”
And tomorrow, I will go and visit Ethel again (and tell her that I called her Ethel on a blog post. No doubt she will find that hilarious).
It might be a good visit, it might not. But I know that although I’m not okay with seeing her like that, my life is so much better for knowing her. And you know what? I’m okay with that.