The Meltdown

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Definition of meltdown

  1. 1:  the accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor

  2. 2:  a rapid or disastrous decline or collapse

  3. 3:  a breakdown of self-control (as from fatigue or overstimulation)

I’m sure everyone has their own experience of a meltdown or perhaps, like me, you’ve had a variety of them under differing circumstances.

I don’t remember using the term “meltdown” much, if at all, before the past few years of my life when it became the most descriptive word I could use to put a label on my complete losses of emotional control.  I know that only the third of the above definitions refers to emotions, but I would have to effectively combine all the above definitions into one to come close to some of my own experiences: the rapid collapse and melting of my core resulting in a breakdown of self-control.

I suppose I’ve had what would be considered meltdowns in the past, from frustration and exhaustion with a situation I was going through, people I was dealing with etc. when the stress became too much in the moment and overwhelmed me.  Sometimes throwing up your hands and screaming it out in the sanctuary of your own home is all you can do and you know it will pass but you need to get it out so you can breathe again and think a little more clearly.

I’ve also “melted down” on occasion when I’ve been afraid of something; I remember a time when I was pregnant with my first child and I got suddenly violently ill one day.  It lasted for hours and while I was leaning over the toilet, in between crying and being sick, I was praying that God wouldn’t take my baby (my mother had suffered several miscarriages and I was afraid of what was happening to me).  But there was a solution once I saw the doctor, it was just a wild stomach flu, and all was fine again as it passed.

The hardest ones are those that come from pain.  Broken heart pain.  Because there is no solution.  The pain doesn’t pass, and even when you think you’re doing pretty well, you suddenly aren’t.  There’s no situation to resolve, there’s no doctor to make it better.  And you know that once it’s over it won’t be the last.  Those are the kind of meltdowns I have now, at what seem like the silliest times, over the smallest things.  But the truth is that they aren’t over small things at all.

Broken heart pain meltdowns are always about far more than just what is happening in the moment.  They’re about everything that has happened up to that moment and about the things we cannot change or fix or make disappear.  They aren’t about moving forward or time healing.  They’re about never being able to mend a broken heart.

So today I had a trifecta meltdown.  Bet you didn’t know that was even a term, did you?  Yup, it was a frustration, fear, broken heart pain meltdown.

I was hanging some outdoor blinds.  The fact that I have to do this in order to keep the sun and heat from blasting into my house is already a frustration beyond description. I HATE SUMMER.  I hate bugs, I hate heat, I hate the sun shining directly on me.  It makes me physically ill in ways I won’t describe here in detail.  It makes me unable to concentrate or sleep properly.  There is nothing at all about it that I enjoy.  And the temp was expected to reach 24 today so I needed to get it done because after the town crew removed most of my trees last year, and until I can get a few new ones planted, the only thing keeping those UV rays from barbecuing my windows will be those outdoor sun and heat blocking blinds.  I thought I’d have time after the snow melted a few days ago to hang them before the roasting began, but alas, here we are again with no spring at all.  Just six months of annoying snow and then summer. (And no, disliking one thing doesn’t equal liking another.  It’s not the cold of winter I despise, it’s the constant, inconvenient, messy, hard work inducing snow.)

Hanging blinds is never a fun project, but I thought I could start early in the morning, take it one step at a time, go slowly so as not to fall off my ladder, and get them up before the sun got around to the front of my house.  So, with a positive attitude and feeling like I was taking care of business, I gathered my tools and extension cords, dug my ladder out of the shed, put the screws in my pocket and went to work.

I didn’t even think to spray myself with deep woods off – a blatant error on my part because I am the best insect repellent ANYONE ELSE could ever have.  Just sit next to Ann and nothing will bite YOU.  Sure enough, two minutes in, standing at the top of my ladder with my hands full, there’s a bee and mosquitoes and I’ve got a welt on my neck (insert profanity here …).

I drilled the holes I needed, climbed down, and got the bug spray.  This was the beginning of the end, although I didn’t know it just then.

Back out to move the ladder and drill the next set of holes – thankfully the blinds came with a template that you tape up first so you don’t have to do any measuring yourself, which is, incidentally, a wonderful idea that every single blind company should incorporate…

My yard isn’t level.  Anywhere.  Safely steadying a ladder is always a challenge.  After becoming annoyed with the ground under my step ladder and worried that if I leaned too much one way I would end up crashing down in some kind of twisted position that required a call to 911, I decided to haul out the extension ladder to see if I could arrange it differently and get to where I needed to go.  Got it out on the lawn and it wouldn’t extend, so after kicking it in a few places to no avail (insert more profanity here …), I grabbed the hammer and pounded one end until it moved.  Then I carried it over near the window, shifted it around a few times, and gave up because I promised myself I would not take any stupid chances.  Down went the big ladder, and I went back to the step ladder.  Once it finally settled into the ground, I managed to finish getting the first set of brackets in place on the smaller of two windows.

The next window was too long for me to tape up one end of the template and be able to grab it from the other end once I had repositioned the ladder yet again so I had to climb back down and go into the house for a “reacher” as my mom calls it.  I have one because my now deceased aunt had one and I brought it home with me “in case” I might need it to reach for something.  This might be the first time I’ve used it, although my memory in summer heat is not reliable at all.  It proved helpful once I had climbed back up the ladder and needed to reach the hanging end of the template so I could tape it up and drill the holes.

Fast forward to getting the second set of brackets screwed onto the house – nothing too interesting other than more sweat and itchy bug bites and the fact that each time I had to go back in the house, I had to face the hot sun beating down on my step as I came out of the still shady front yard.  You know how the radio always tells you the temp is different in the city than at the airport?  Well I can do that in my yard. “It’s 17 degrees at the front, and 35 degrees on the side step, watch out for those UV rays …”

I was ready to try putting up a blind, thinking that I probably had to wait for Kate (who’s been sick for a week and was at the hospital being diagnosed with pneumonia just to keep things exciting) to hold one end for me, but when I unpackaged it I found it much lighter weight than I’d imagined, so I forged ahead.  Once I had steadied the ladder in place for probably the tenth time so far – between moving it from one end of the window to another and then to the other window and so on – I climbed up, blind in hand.  Of course I couldn’t see properly to the other end to get it in properly.  I struggled with it a few times and finally gave up.

And then it happened: the rapid collapse and melting of my core resulting in a breakdown of self-control.  Everything was just suddenly, randomly, publicly wrong because I don’t have my husband and I was in tears.  And if you aren’t sure how it escalated to that point so quickly, I will tell you:

  • I was hot and tired.  I hate being outside when it’s warm and this project was taking MUCH longer than anticipated so the sun was now moving around to me. (frustration)
  • I was bombarded with fearful thoughts of how I’m going to get through the forecasted extreme hot dry summer over which I have no control and for which I have no solution because my previous successful options for cooling off have been taken away from me due to other issues. (fear)
  • I had no way to hang the stupid blinds myself.  MYSELF.  I shouldn’t have had to be out there myself.  I shouldn’t have had to try to figure this out myself.  I should have had my husband there to help me, to climb the ladder and drill the holes and screw in the brackets and put up the blind with me being the extra hand to hold the open end and tell him when it was clicked in the right place.  I have to do everything my damn self.  (pain)

And I lost it.  Randomly, suddenly, publicly, right there in my front yard over a blind.  But it wasn’t over the blind.  It was because of the broken heart pain that is always there and never goes away.  It just simmers until it boils.  And today it boiled over.  Again.  And as I stood there holding that stupid blind in my hand, staring at my house, crying like a baby, and swearing out loud because I try so hard to do things myself, to be independent and learn and build and fix, I knew it was just a blind, but it was a blind I couldn’t deal with MYSELF.

I knew I could have called someone to come and install the blind.  I could have found someone to help me for free; I could easily have paid someone to do it.  But it wasn’t about the blind.  It was about every single thing that I have to do alone, to figure out alone because he is gone.  Him.  My husband.  My extra set of hands. My strength and support.  The other half of my heart.

I was picturing myself calling my friend to please come and just hold the other end of the blind for me, but I knew I would be crying and have a hard time explaining how this simple task had me in tears.  I knew if I tried to hire someone, they probably wouldn’t be able to come right away and I wouldn’t be able to ward off the 24 degree heat this afternoon which is why I had persevered to that point already.  And then as I was making a final attempt to get it locked in place before completely giving up, my sweet neighbour lady – who, unbeknownst to me had been working in her own yard – walked over and reminded me that I probably shouldn’t be up on that ladder without someone standing by and she offered to get her own ladder so she could stand at the other end and help me.

And I was grateful.  Because that’s all it took to get the blinds up.  Five minutes of help from an extra set of hands.  She didn’t see me crying, but when I told her I was having a moment because it’s times like this that just keep reminding me my husband is gone, she gently sympathized, saying that her husband always helps her on the ladder 🙂  As it should be.

Until next time …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hugs and Health – the struggle is real!

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We’ve all heard cute little poems over the years about hugs, what they do, how they make us feel, and that they must be the “reason that God gave us arms”.

We know that babies and children thrive and bond through body contact.  I watched a program recently where a doctor held a a very sick premature baby all night and her vitals completely improved by morning. I remember a story being told about an orphanage where the night shift cleaning lady would take her break at the end of the row of bassinets, stopping to pick up the baby in the last one for a few minutes of cuddling before continuing on her way: over time it was noticed that babies who spent time in that end bassinet were the first to be adopted because they were the best natured.

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Anyone who has used the internet the past few years has surely seen the sharing of videos showing the dramatic responses when random people somewhere in the world hold up signs offering free hugs.

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If you do a google search for the effects of hugs on mental health (I could quote articles here, but I will assume you’re capable of searching for yourselves if you don’t believe me!) you will find loads of information about the release of hormones that calm our stress, fears and anxieties, and contribute to our general well being and happiness.

You will also find information about the effects of a lack of body contact – touching, hugging – and how the behaviour problems of disturbed children can be changed when given enough hugs.

imagesI grew up in a house full of hugs.  My mom is famous even in our extended family for her great hugs, and I’ve been told that mine are pretty good.  Her whole family hugged.  My dad’s side of the family weren’t big huggers, but that seemed to change when my mom came along, or so I’m told!  They all hug now. I’ve shared numerous hugs within my own family, and with relatives and close friends.  I love hugs. I need hugs.

 

But again, if you do a google search on the topic, you will find that people in other countries are getting hugged far more than we are here, because unfortunately our culture has turned physical contact into something overly sexual with fears and discomfort attached, and many people no longer feel the freedom to just give someone a hug, touch their arm, rub their back or just have body contact in some way.  The givers are afraid to be accused and the recipients are afraid it means something more than just a hug.  **my perspective here is clearly about normal human contact and not meant to offend anyone who has legitimate reason to be concerned.

A few years ago, I had an interesting conversation with a massage therapist working on my back. I was working for a seniors’ outreach program and at the time the Alberta health care program for seniors had just approved coverage for physio therapy treatments. We were discussing the fact that massage therapy treatments were still not being covered and that many seniors, especially those who had lost spouses, no longer received as much body contact as they were used to and that because massage therapy involved a lot of touching and stimulation of healthy hormones, it was an important part of their healthcare. I hadn’t considered it in that way before, but it made a lot of sense. I went back to my office and wrote a letter to advocate for seniors to receive this kind of coverage, giving my perspective based on the mental health benefits in addition to the increased mobility benefits.

I didn’t expect to find myself, at my age, in a place where a lack of hugs and body contact would have a negative effect on my well being.  I’m not a senior living alone.  I didn’t even recognize it right away.  But if you think about it, it’s pretty obvious.  In general, married couples share a lot of physical contact (in addition to the obvious), sometimes in many little ways without even thinking too much about it as it happens – a short rub on the back in passing, a teasing poke, hand holding, and of course, hugs.

It didn’t show itself clearly in the midst of so many other things, but one day it hit me and I realized I was hug deprived!  I thought back to my conversation with the massage therapist, about the hormones and the importance of our skin – a living organ – being touched, of body contact with other humans, and it dawned on me that of course I wasn’t getting nearly as many hugs in a day as I was used to getting.  It explained the sometimes aching feeling just to be held.  Of course there are no hugs like the ones you get from your spouse, but there is much that a good hug can do even if it comes from a mere acquaintance.  We NEED human contact and it does affect our mental state.

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I’m not going to stand on a street corner with a sign, that’s just not me.  But if I see one, I will definitely respond now, where I probably wouldn’t have before: that person might simply be offering a gift to others out of love, but they might also be hug deprived themselves and finding a creative solution.  My hug circle has grown much wider over the past two years with the situations I’ve been in and the people I’ve encountered, and it’s all been positive.  Nonetheless, in the day to day, the lack of hugs really hurts and I never would have known until I felt it myself.

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Hugs, people!  We all need them.  Hug your family, hug your friends, think of people you know who live alone and hug them once in a while too.  And if you see me somewhere in public and I look upset, you don’t even have to ask me what’s wrong.  Just hug me. It’s easier than explaining, and it’s probably exactly what I need.