One night last week I was so exhausted from delivering training all day and driving over two and a half hours in bad traffic, that after reading ‘just one more chapter’ to my youngest, I fell into bed before 9pm.
My husband, who works shifts, brought us up a cup of tea, but within moments he was asleep and I was curled up in my Jammies.
There was a knock at the door. It was a dark January night, the whole house in bed so I ignored it.
There was a HAMMERING at the door. We woke up.
Jumping out of bed, a glance out of the window revealed two police cars with flashing lights blocking the driveway and four officers on the doorstep.
I hovered at the top of the stairs whilst my half dressed 6ft1 husband answered the door.
“There’s been a distress call from this address from an allegedly beaten female coming in and out of consciousness.”
“Er, sorry not from here mate, you sure you have the right address?”
Radio confirmation and I was called downstairs to reassure all of the officers that I was ok.
Stood in my PJs, there was a long uncomfortable silence. The police, still on high alert, received information indicating a deterioration of the women’s condition and an ambulance now en route. Muscles bunched, tension crackled, body weight shifted and a passing car slowed, the driver shouted:
“Oi, there’s a woman lying in the street up the road”
They were off. Snapped into action, a blur of movement, lights and noise. Then gone.
We went back to bed.
My husband gave me his ‘mind reading’ look.
“No, Sarah, do not go out there, you can’t help. Let them do their job. Go back to sleep” The ambulance passed, siren blazing. Then it all quietened down.
He slept. I didn’t.
I worried for the woman. I wanted to sit beside her on the cold pavement and support her head. I wanted to keep her warm and comfortable. I wanted to tell her that the police would be there soon, promise.It was just a mix up of addresses but they were on their way. That they were just going to move her into the ambulance and that she would be much more comfortable. Who could I call for her? Whose presence would make her feel better?
I couldn’t help but contrast the drama, activity and energy of the police versus my inertia amongst the detritus of tea cups, books and duvet all before 9:30 at night. I felt useless. Trigger point one: comparison
I really admire the frontline key workers. Whose jobs really make the difference, life and death, pain and comfort.
I’d been down this thought track many times before. I’d discussed it with those who knew me best. I trained in pyschodynamic counselling, could I do social work, police work? If not now, when my kids were small, maybe in the future? Their voices and my own blended together. You are too unfit, emotionally raw and over sensitive. How would you cope with the anxiety and depression bouts that would surely follow as you tried to reconcile your everyday life. Not that others don’t have feelings Sarah, but you are hardly the most resilient.
Trigger point two: not feeling enough.
The spiral wound downwards. Someone is injured in your neighbourhood and you make it all about you. I felt guilty, I squirmed in shame.
I tried to reach for my learning in self compassion. In mindfulness. The focus on my breathing finally brought sleep.
I went for coffee with a trusted friend. I shared. We talked about how everyone plays their part in community and how we try to effect change in our everyday. How she values what I do.
I nodded along, stock response – and then it struck me, if I didn’t value her gratitude for who I am or what I do, then I didn’t value her. That didn’t sit too pretty. So in a way, if I can’t value what I do, I’m under mining the value that others receive?
I thought on that reframe and was reminded of the notion that you can only love another person as much as your ability to love yourself. I’ve always found this very difficult.
You see, it’s such a dangerous idea. Especially to those who are struggling with depression. When you truly hate yourself in a moment, to then cope with the fact that you then can’t love anyone else, or in some way your love for your spouse, child, friend, family member is warped or lacking, that can be overwhelming. It also doesn’t feel right to me.
I tried to write this post. I wanted to use the reflection and it see how I felt about it. The inner critic stopped me. It had me confused and on the ropes. It said you can’t tie this up in a sacerine article for consumption: story intro, observation, reflection, conclusion and takeaway / learning for the reader.
YOU DON’T KNOW.
You don’t know how to value what you do when you are feeling like this. You don’t know how to approach the notion frequently shared that you have to love yourself before you can love another. You don’t have advice when your self compassion and mindfulness exercises don’t bring the relief you’ve come to expect. You remember that you are not your thoughts, hunker down and know that it will pass.
So it did.
The answers haven’t magically appeared in the space I created. Yet I was reminded that I started this blog on a belief that I am on a journey. One that won’t be finished but evolved. That I’m not supposed to have all the answers. That I’m supposed to turn up, dare to ask, share, press post and by doing so, take another step.
What triggers you off?