I was getting ready to leave for work on Monday when I got a call from my husband. “Sit down,” he said. My heart began pounding against my chest as he told me that he was headed to the emergency room. He said he was having seizure like shakes and that his boss was driving him to a nearby hospital, out in near his work in the suburbs. “Okay,” I said shakily. We hung up and I broke down. My head hit the table I was sitting in front of and I began sobbing. I called my boss, explained the situation, and then proceeded to call everyone I knew with a car that could get me out of the city and to the suburbs to be with him.
Now, before I go any further, it’s worth letting you know that my husband had tests done and there is nothing life threatening going on. He wasn’t actually having seizures, but rather muscle spasms, as he was able to think through them and speak, even though it was with difficulty. We are headed to a specialist soon to get confirmation on the possibilities that the emergency room gave us as a diagnosis and he is pretty much back to his normal self. While not completely okay, he is doing very well and we are figuring all this out.
Until Monday I thought I handled stressful situations with grace and focus. I thought I did well under pressure, that I could keep a level head. But Monday made me realize that when someone I love is under duress, I become a hot mess.
After I had my initial breakdown, I attempted to pull myself together. I stifled my crying, made the appropriate calls for this kind of situation, and looked up directions to the hospital, all the while repeating on each release of breath, “Okay. Okay. Okay.” Periodically throughout this I found myself crumbling, the hints of my underlying emotion peeking through my thin cover of composure. I would hang up the phone, saying, “Okay” a few times, until I slowly dissolved into tears.
By the time my friend got to my house, I was unable to keep the fear at bay and I finally had to allow myself to just be. When I wanted to cry, I cried. When I wanted to feel sorry for myself, I did. I basically allowed myself to breakdown when I felt it was needed. I stopped holding it back.
In times such as the above, there is a social conditioning that says that the significant other should remain composed, calm, positive. I think I wanted, desperately, to meet this social conditioning. I wanted to be able to look at my actions with pride after such an emergency. But in that moment of such raw emotion, I found myself having to make a choice. Keep up appearances or allow what I’m truly feeling and thinking to surface. I took the risk of choosing door number two.
In talking with my husband once his meds wore off, I found myself apologizing for being so emotional, for not being able to be strong for him. Being the amazing human that he is, he sympathized with what I must have been going through, seeing him in that state. We discussed how he’s always been the strong one, how I’ve been the one with all the medical problems, so he’s been able to see how to be there for me and honor his own emotions. But I haven’t had that yet. He’s been so incredibly healthy that we’ve yet to see how we work when the tables are turned.
In the end I’m glad I didn’t stifle myself simply for the sake of decorum. I’m pretty sure it would have actually made things worse for both of us, since holding back probably would have stressed me out even further than I already was, causing me to not be of much use at all. I saw on Monday that while I’m still sometimes stuck in what is socially acceptable, that I’ve started following my own heart, that I’m listening to my needs more fully than I originally realized or would have six months ago. Monday taught me that it’s okay to feel, and that feeling so openly is sometimes exactly what I should be doing.