I weirdly feel like this is deja vu.
I visit my parents’ house at least once a week. And when I do, I fight the urge to call it just my “dad’s house,” which is, unfortunately, what it is. Being in my childhood home, just as it is for many adults, brings back a sense of nostalgia.
This was where I had my first kiss. This living room housed the memories of our favorite Christmases. This kitchen sink is where I placed my mom’s lukewarm cup of coffee…45 minutes after she died. You know, those types of things.
My childhood home, for a visit, always at first, feels a little weird. My mom doesn’t answer the door. Her voice doesn’t coat the hallways. At the end of the night, I’m not leaving with a tray of food. And, with every visit, as soon as I get in my car, I feel a little bit sad leaving my father behind in a great big, dilapidated house that doesn’t quite feel like home.
For the past two nights, my husband and I have been sleeping over to help my dad get re-adjusted to being independent after he had surgery. The first night was good, all of us still high off the excitement that he was finally home. Last night, my husband and I went to bed exhausted, greeting the full impact of what taking care of a 76-year, fragile man entails.
And then, today, on a brisk Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:45 a.m. after waking up every hour throughout the night, not feeling tired, but not feeling awake, drinking coffee that gets lukewarm too fast, and I have the strangest feeling that I’ve been here before; that it’s too eerily like the morning after my mom left.
The morning after she died, I woke up early, unable to sleep, mentally and physically drained, and realized for the first time how truly awful it was to wake up in this house alone. Through the course of my grief, there have been many Saturday mornings looked upon through this depressive lens. I wake up and feel the magnitude of this loss hit me like a tidal wave. And, every time, it rocks me, sways me, pummels me.
What I realized today is that, through grief counseling and surrounding myself with supportive people, I’m self-aware of how this house, this bland Saturday morning affects me. And, it’s because of this self-awareness that I know I need to mentally step away, recharge, take some time for myself to change the way that I’m thinking about it.
So often, we go through life meeting emotions we feel we’re incapable of navigating. What’s important to know is that there are like-minded people in the world who can help you realize you’re not alone; that your one-track mind collides with theirs head on.
More so, meeting with people, talking with them, sharing the vulnerabilities that the world prefers us to cast aside, helps us to realize the flaws in our own reactions to the world. Through my journey of self-awareness, I’ve realized that my negativity permeates how I ordinarily handle awkward encounters like this morning.
And it’s through self-awareness of where your emotions stem from, that you’re able to remove the pressure off your shoulders and for once, be free.
Often times when we’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or low-self esteem, we blame others for how we feel. The world can be — and will always be — a cruel, unforgiving terrain.
But we can learn to live through the harsh environment. We can choose to recognize when something upsets us and feel dignified in those emotions. The outside world tends to hush us. They tend to discount the things they can’t understand — or won’t understand. Mental health and self-care is not as simple as bath salts and a smooth jazz album, drinking champagne in your tub with bath bombs you spent $12.99 on.
Self-care is taking a step back to do two things:
1. Recognize your triggers and to say “no” to them — confidently
2. Take inventory of how you react to the world around you. Why are you negative? Does that bring you joy? What is the root of the problem that results in your persistent viewpoint and reactions to the universe?
Once you begin to take notice of yourself on a deeper, spiritual level, you’ll begin to find how easy it’ll be to change your thoughts and attitudes. The world, like I said, is already an unforgiving place.
That’s why there’s no better time — or reason — to ease up on yourself and give yourself a much needed break from the storm you’ve been drenched in.