The warning signs hit this past Wednesday. No, that isn’t true. The warning signs have been pinging for the past two weeks, but there were things I had to do, things I could not reschedule or delegate or avoid, and I forced my reset to wait.
Wednesday I realized I’d pushed myself to the breaking point. The actual breaking point. Without being too detailed, (I know, that’s a first for me) I had to deal with our truck blowing up (kind of literally – the radiator cracked and a head gasket blew out and the head possibly cracked), three (no, make that four) birthday parties to squish into one party on one day – one of which I’ve been planning for no less than 6 years, a presentation to give to a large group of coworkers from around the state, a surprise award (jacking up the emotion level there – it doesn’t have to be only negative emotions that add stress), issues with the computer systems at work – which I have zero control over but do quite a bit of work on, a vast array of changes at work – nothing horrible - just lots and lots of slightly different, and a photo op /write up regarding the aforementioned award. Oh, and the electric bill being roughly three times its usual price and several unexpected bills that came due all at once making me watch in dismay as my bank account dropped into double digits… and neared single digits. And things going on with family members that I’m not allowed to talk about because I’m sworn to secrecy even though it’s good things but I completely understand and respect that. And finding out that I’m no longer in remission. Okay, most of the stress came from that last bit. And that’s a pretty big bundle of stress all in itself. None of the treatments we’ve tried have been working and there isn’t much hope to cling to, but by gosh I’m clinging to the very threads and will keep clinging because death won’t take me quietly – I’ll be kicking and screaming every inch of the way.
So, yeah. There’s stress.
And I knew for sure, for sure, that I was nearing the end of my rapidly fraying rope. So I asked for, and received, 2 days off – Thursday and Friday. With the exception of going in Friday for the above noted photo op. Two days and then two weekend days… four days… plenty of time to decompress, to block all the stress out of my thoughts to breathe and let it go.
Except that isn’t quite how it is playing out.
First, work calls. A couple of times. Bright an early Thursday morning. Okay, I manage to wrap my groggy mind around the issues at hand and send the necessary email. Back to the business of not stressing.
Then, spouse arrives home from work and a car testing marathon begins. To city one, test drive, ponder, to city two, listen – reject, listen – look – reject, to second place at city two, get aggravated at overly pushy salesman – reject. Back to city one, haggle, end up getting first vehicle we looked at. Neatly going into debt for an extended period of time for a vehicle that is in fairly good shape and has fairly low mileage but that is 14 years old. Kind of stressful. Yes.
Getting settled in for a good sleep before tomorrow’s photo op and receive a message with the casual note that I’m to wear “Sunday best” for the pictures.
And the world comes to a screeching halt.
Sunday best does not exist in my wardrobe… or my world. I do not have “church clothes”… I have work clothes and not-work clothes. This translates into the following. Work clothes: men’s polo shirts and a small selection of garishly printed cotton shirts with emphasis on glitter and odd colors which I pair with one of the following: black pants, khaki pants, other black pants, grey pants, or jeans (on casual Fridays). Not-work clothes: things too tight to wear in public, knit capris in strange colors, t-shirts with tiny holes in them or odd stains on them – essentially the clothes I can wear to garden or clean house or paint things but cannot wear to town or work. I also have two dresses. Neither of the dresses fit. Not even close. Well, one is kind of close, but not close enough.
And it hits me. Hard. I have absolutely nothing I can wear that is suitable for this photo op. Even though I bought a brand new polo shirt and had intended to wear it with my khaki pants… that is hardly something considered “Sunday best”… and would look rather sketchy in a line up with people in suits and ties. So, no, that won’t work.
And I’m crushed. The straw has found the back of the camel and the camel is going down. In a shuddering, sobbing heap. Which, of course, is exactly what needs to happen in order to release the build-up of stressful emotion, but it could not have happened at a worse time.
I appeal to friends and family to see if anyone near my size has anything I can borrow… and the closest people are an hour and a half away… and that won’t work. But finally someone comes to my aid and offers me a blouse and a potential skirt… and the blouse works with this one pair of black pants that are kind of silky and swishy and dressy-ish, and I can put my long grey sweater over it to pull the look together, and all I have are brown shoes, but they’ll do because they have to… so I have an outfit.
And as I come to my senses with this crisis averted and a solid plan in place to get me to water tomorrow in the mid-morning (post photo-op) because water is what I need to re-balance myself… I realize that I’ve let myself be less than all-together in front of my boss. And how do you explain to someone that you aren’t crazy without sounding like you’re crazy? And maybe I am crazy, but it’s my own brand of crazy and I know how to handle it when I am afforded the chance.
And I am crying again now. Not for me anymore, but for all the people out there who live with this sort of stigma every day of their life. People who put on a mask out of desperation and play at being normal enough to get by without anyone finding out just how hard they are having to work at it. People who can’t fake it and who are ostracized, outcast, rejected… and seen as being less than human simply because they are wired differently. I am crying because I recognize that I have been on both sides of this bias and I want to reach out and say “we aren’t different, you and I. We are people, struggling to make sense of the world and of ourselves and sometimes we do a good job and sometimes we don’t get it, but we are people, together. We are someone. We are important. We should not have to be afraid of being who we are or feeling how we feel.”
But I can’t say that. Not yet. Not out loud. Not where and when it matters.
Instead, I do my best to return to the perceived state of normal, certain that if I do not, all that I have struggled to achieve will be lost.