Those of you who know me well will know that deep down I'm actually quite introverted. While I work very hard in my professional role at being actively engaged, which has included my sitting on expert panels at large data conferences (heck I am doing one this afternoon), there's something about being in the spotlight that doesn’t come naturally to me. Things I specifically struggle with during day-to-day interactions are talking about myself, sharing how I'm feeling, and from a more metaphorical perspective, dropping my guard. I notice these things tend to surface more often when I have to talk about something negative, or express negative emotions. I'm not sure where this comes from, but maybe I worry too much about what others think of me and in some way feel like I'm letting people down if I burden them with my problems.
Anyway, this week something crazy happened that bought all these insecurities to the fore. My middle son sustained a fairly significant injury that resulted in a trip to the plastic surgeon for a dozen or more stitches. The good news is he's ok and the doctor is very optimistic that there'll be no lingering damage or visible scars. The bad news is it happened on my watch, so I felt at least partially responsible for the accident.
From the second I heard him scream, I knew deep in my core something was wrong. I ran upstairs as fast as I could, but I was too late; Harrison was already heading towards me with blood running down his face. I usually don't handle the sight of blood very well and have been known to pass out in similar situations, but luckily this time I was able to snap out of the initial shock and spring into action. I grabbed a nearby towel and made sure we had good pressure on the wound before picking up the phone to call the pediatrician. While I waited on the phone, I had my eldest son call my husband to let him know what had happened. For the most part I remained calm and within minutes I had all the necessary arrangements in place for a trip to the plastic surgeon.
At this point, you're probably wondering what this all has to do with "self care." Well, while I sat staring at the clock waiting for the doctors appointment, I realized I needed to do something to take my mind off what had happened. I was replaying the whole thing in my head and walking through every second leading up to the event wondering what I could have done differently. I couldn’t concentrate on work and I'd already cancelled my meetings for the afternoon; it was almost like the aftermath of the event was worse than the actual event itself. The one thing I knew was that I needed to talk; I needed to let others know what had happened and how I was feeling. I needed people who would listen and allow me to share with no judgement; people who would remind me that everything was going to be ok.
Throughout the remainder of the day, as well as the days that followed, I reached out to a number of people who I knew I could be open and vulnerable with in order to purge my pain and guilt. In retrospect, I'm happy I was able to identify that I was wrapped up in something I couldn't get through alone; my feelings were a quagmire and I needed the assistance of other people to help me clamber out. It was in these conversations that I found the strength to stay grounded and prevent the stress and guilt from swallowing me whole. I was able to come to the realization that what had happened wasn't my fault; it had simply been a series of unfortunate events that no one could have predicted or prevented.
Negative internal dialogue is extremely toxic and the quicker we can cauterize it, the better it is for all concerned. The more we keep feelings locked inside, the stronger those feelings become, to the point where they're spiraling out of control and have taken on a life of their own. The past is the past and no matter how hard we try, we simply can't change it; all we can do is learn from it and focus on making the future better. The more we allow others to share in our lives, the more we realize who our true friends are. A true friend will never judge you and will support you through the good, the bad, and even the ugly. All you have to do is open up and allow them in.