Meltdowns and self-care

December 7, 2015

I got brave the other night and headed to the mall.  I am not a mall person.  I was hopeful, though, and started out confident and happy to hear the Christmas music.  


That began to ebb, however, after the countless trips to the dressing room, the frustrations of sizing being so different between brands meaning doubling and tripling up on things to save trips, and a whining crying little girl that was clearly having a worse moment than I was.  But I envied her.  She just let her unhappiness with her situation fly.  Not something I have ever done in public, even as a little girl.  But it was powerful, and I gave her credit.


In the dressing room, with what felt like the hundredth thing I tried on, I just stopped.  It felt like madness and sadness and hopelessness all at once taking me over.  It was startling.  What was going on that this was affecting me like this?  Maybe it was the constant news about recent, constant violence in so many places, maybe it was old shame arising from past shopping experiences, maybe it was the fatigue from working and running around all day, maybe it was how uncomfortably warm the space was (is that on purpose so we get out of there quicker?),  maybe it was that the Christmas music was repeating and now I was over it.


I suppose it could have been all of the above and more, all I know is that I felt tears rolling down my face, and a caving in of something in myself.  I really didn’t want to melt down in a department store dressing room.  There were women waiting.  If I dropped to the ground in fetal position like I wished I could have, security would likely be called, and I’m from the upper Midwest - one does not make a scene for any reason short of it being a life-threatening emergency.  I didn’t want to emerge all red-faced and puffy.  


And so, I closed my eyes, took three deep, slow inhalations and exhalations, stopped caring about the waiting line, and began comforting myself with soothing thoughts, loving thoughts, forgiving thoughts, turning around thoughts that were making me miserable and finding what was truer for me that felt better.  It took a while.  Well, it might have been a matter of a few minutes but it felt like an hour.  No one cleared their throat really loudly or tapped their foot or beat on the door, so apparently the line decided to go elsewhere or in search of better Christmas music.  


I managed to emerge from the room with one item that would work and a normal-ish looking face, and no one had any interest in me whatsoever, thank goodness, what with their own meltdowns and lists and bags to attend to.  


And then, I drummed up the courage to head to the shoe department.  I was feeling okay, and saw they were understaffed, and so settled in for the waiting with patience and compassion for all those working retail.  It was a fruitless endeavor in the end but there was no meltdown this time.  I again used comforting language and caught the thoughts that would come in to try to make me miserable, and just let them drop.  Again I heard a young child wailing, out past his bedtime probably, and desperately wanting his father’s attention.  My heart went out to him, and I didn’t envy him like the little girl earlier, I wanted his father to take him in his arms and comfort him (he could have, he was mostly staring at his phone).  It’s what we all need and want when we’re unhappy, someone to tell us it will be okay, despite the situation.  If someone isn’t there to give it to us, it’s on us to do it for ourselves.  It may not have the warm comfort of someone’s arms around us, but the internal warm hug we give ourselves does work and feel good.  It takes some practice, and it’s worth it.  


Interesting that once home and in bed for the night, a surge of emotion returned, and out came a full meltdown.  The safety of the darkness, the warmth of blankets wrapped around me, and apparently some things I hadn’t been paying attention to created the right conditions to release a flood of thoughts, memories, vulnerabilities, and grief.  And so I let it fly.  And it felt good, cleansing, cathartic.  


It’s so great to not censor oneself, to hear what wants to be let out.  We so constantly shut down thoughts and feelings due to the rules of society, culture, and our families, about how we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to do or not do, but they don’t go away.  They build, and then, pick your metaphor, there’s the final straw or the dam that gives way because it’s just too much to withstand or hold back.   

A good cry is exhausting and healing.  It’s part of self-care, too.  To listen to one’s heart, to hear and witness your own mind and soul’s calling is an important part of being human.  I came to see it wasn’t a meltdown at all.  It was an emptying that needed to happen to let love and light, compassion and hope, and a sense of wellbeing fill me up again.


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