This may not be the hardest thing you’ve dealt with, or even read about, but it was mine.
I used to find nail marks dug into in my palm, from clenching my hand to get through moments in my day. I felt like I had to stay optimistic, take on everyone’s issues and remain standing. But it was hard. So I’d ball my hands into a fist, quietly by my side, while keeping a smile on, listening, working, being there.
My husband had been swallowed whole by a wave of depression. Retreating from the world was how he dealt with his parents’ life; physical violence, never ending fighting and bickering. The second we decided to get married, we were pulled into it, as if by a riptide. Not given a choice, taken underwater and made to hold our breath. We were the eldest. Our auto-pilot was programmed to be there for our family. They were now family. He knew what to do, how to stay whole. I did not.
Did you know there are limits to what you can handle at a time? I thought I was different. Turns out, I’m just another human.
Everything began boiling over when I started working at Google. The scope of the role was new, the responsibility heavy and the blessing of the job itself like another weight. I’m not exaggerating when I say you get stretched, and stretched again learning to stay afloat. All while still holding my breath from home. When my second manager in 12 months sat down with me for breakfast one day, I burst into tears. I was lost. I felt worthless. I was crying in front of my new boss! I was SO embarrassed, I started apologizing, rushed through some excuse-of-an-explanation, said I'd return in time for the next meeting and ran away.
I ran a red light that day because I couldn’t see through my tears.
Suddenly it was important to pause.
Being still made me panic. A friend walked me through my first panic attack and I learned the importance of breath. Of pausing. I started wearing rings as a secret reminder to myself; to unclench my fist and breathe through each moment. I would feel them on my fingers, and remember I was not being selfish. It was not selfish to put myself first, to take a step back, to not lend myself out to whoever needed an ear. I was allowed to keep myself whole. For myself first.
I reached out for help. I told my boss what my full plate actually looked like. I got a therapist. Then one specialized in trauma. I drew lines around what I would and would not accept. I said no. The more I shared, the more help I found. Everyone leaned in, we figured it out.
Wearing a ring as a reminder started it all.
So now I'm sharing. This is why.