Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Putting on boots. Wednesday, November 17, 2010.
“It's not our fault that we got sick, but it is our responsibility to get well.” –Dr. Abraham Low
One day when my son was about 4, I had to make a run to the Laundromat to rescue a basket of clothes I’d left behind. His dad had just left for work, and I had forty-eleven things I needed to get done that day. “Get your coat and boots on, Eli,” I said. “We have to do a quick errand.”
Eli had always been an exceedingly obedient kid, so I was surprised when he refused. “No,” he said. “I want to stay here by myself.”
“It will take five minutes, and I don’t feel comfortable leaving you at home alone yet,” I said. “Come on. Jacket and boots.”
Eli put his jacket on, but he drew the line at his boots. “I don’t want to go,” he said. “I’ll just stay here and watch TV.”
“Honestly, Eli, it’s not an option,” I said, mentally checking off the various tasks I was attempting to complete as I headed out the door. “This is not an Eli-decision. This is a mom-decision. You need to follow me, right now.”
I walked out to the porch, which was covered with several inches newly-fallen snow. With a loud sigh, Eli followed me, stepping out into the snow – in bare feet.
Eli screamed like I’d driven a metal stake through his skull: “IT’S COLD!”
“Jeez Louise, Eli! Of course it’s cold. It’s snow! Where are your boots?”
“You let me come out here like this!” Eli cried. “It’s YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to make sure I have boots on!”
I still laugh at Eli’s little rebellion that day. I made it clear that it was his own feet, and therefore his own responsibility; he had the option of going to the car with or without boots. He chose boots.
People recovering from emotional disorders are much the same. I’m not saying that we’re like 4-year-old children (although some of us can be). I’m saying that recovery is hard work, and often, we would prefer that someone else do the heavy lifting.
As the facilitator of an online support group for survivors of suicide attempts, I get a lot of PMs from people who are depressed, anxious, and discouraged. I’ve been where they are; sometimes I am still where they are; and I’m sure I will be where they are again. I’m not a doctor, and I have a family and a full-time job, so there is not much I can do except lend moral support.
Often, in an effort to help, I’ve done research to find books people can read or support groups in their area. I’ve found websites and online articles that might be of help. I’ve suggested social services they might contact. What I’ve discovered, though, is that very often I’m the only one making an effort in the scenario. I hear, “I’m so lonely.” I provide a half-dozen suggestions for meeting people. But a few days later, I get another PM: “I’m lonely.” “Did you try X?” “No. I’m too depressed. Because I’m lonely.”
Know what? I’ve hit bottom. I’ve hit bottom so hard that a razor blade and four bottles of pills seemed like a good idea at the time. But I also know that no one can get well for me but me. It’s not my doctor’s responsibility, or my husband’s, or my mother’s or my son’s. It’s mine.
My boots are my boots. Your boots are yours.