That word has been on my mind. Tattered. But not in the sense that you think. I haven’t been thinking of tattered clothes; worn out socks, hip jeans made to look abused. I’ve been thinking of what a tattered person looks like. A tattered life. A tattered mind. A tattered soul. The OED says tatter is from Middle English, slashed scraps of cloth. Being in poor condition. Yeah, I feel that some days.
I struggle with mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety. I take pills to cope. I reject common ways of decompressing my stress. I don’t work out when I’m having a panic attack, or do yoga, even though I know it helps. I don’t meditate or focus on my breath. I don’t count to ten or repeat a word over and over until the feeling goes away.
I eat. I cry. I hide in my bathroom, or under my blankets, or in the closet with the door closed until the feeling of panic, willed by brain receptors not firing correctly, passes. If I’m in the car, I turn the radio up loud and I sing, oblivious to anyone watching. If I’m somewhere with people, in a situation I can’t get out of, I shut down. Unless there is wine, then I drink.
I’ve learned these coping mechanisms through trial and error, because these problems aren’t new. I don’t read self-help books. I feel a stigma with doing that. I don’t routinely visit a therapist, I always feel worse when I’m there. I don’t even take some of my medicine regularly. I almost forget it’s there when I really need it. In short, I have some work to do, but it’s on me. And that’s the problem.
I have no problem putting others’ needs in front of my own. My son is P1. I worry about his health, his sleep, his school work, his friends. I worry that he’s getting a cough. I worry about his mental health. Then there’s my husband. Is he happy or just content? I worry about my dog. Why does he bark that way? Does he need outside? Should I take him to the vet for this behavior? Then there’s my mom. My family. My friends. Then, there’s me. By the time I get down to me I shrug and say, “I’ll be alright.” Cause, I will. I always have been. But even as I say this, I know this way of thinking takes a toll.
It has taken a toll, on a lot of us.
The curious thing is, back before I was a mommy, way back, before I was even a wife, just loosely hanging on as an “adult” I never worried about any of this. I never worried about worrying about myself. Even when myself was all I really had to worry over. God, that doesn’t make sense, I know. In more ways than one, but that’s the best way I can say it. Back when I could focus on myself, and not feel guilty about it, I didn’t know enough to know that my mental health was abnormal. I’ve always been this way, I thought this was normal. Then I started to meet people who didn’t wake up crying at 2 am because they realized death was inevitable and how could I actually stop feeling this weight press down on my chest?! And I was like, hmpf, that’s weird.
I dunno. I guess I am having a down day today. We all do sometimes. And then it all sort of adds up. So consider this mindless chatter, this relentless cloud of sadness that sort of hangs around me. Consider it, I don’t know, a reminder. Check in on your people. Call your mom. Send a handwritten card to someone you care about. If you feel up to it. But try to put your feelings and emotions and mental health first for a change. Then see how the rest falls around you. I hear if you can master it, it is remarkable. Meanwhile, put on some new sweatpants. Take a shower. Wash your hair and don’t blow dry it. Get out of the tattered place and back into the sunshine.