Y’all. I did a thing. I’m very proud of myself. I turned my day around.
I was at work today and feeling grumpy. I sprained my ankle Monday after class, and even though I had it propped up at work, it was hurting. Injuring my ankle also meant I was behind on the seemingly endless errands I have had to do as a result of my recent move. And it meant that I was stuck sitting at work, instead of alternating between sitting and standing as I usually do.
Then, on top of that, all my chats before lunch were disconnects, which while I logically know isn’t personal, I was taking very personally all the same. It is especially hard for me when I am accused of being a robot by someone in crisis. I try very hard to do emotional labor in such a way as to not seem like a robot, but on a day like today, when a part of me would just as rather be at home, it is hard to not wonder if I somehow went on auto-pilot and missed an important something that could have turned that chat around and let me get just a bit more information or offer a resource.
So, I was grumpy and in pain and trying to heat up my lunch in the break room while seriously contemplating asking if I could just go home. Or not come to work tomorrow. Then, I realized that I hadn’t taken Ibuprofen since I got up (about 8 hours) and that I should probably take some more. I was wishing I could ice my ankle. Then, I saw a ziploc bag on the table with some plastic spoons in it. So, I emptied it out, filled it with ice, and spent the last 15 minutes of my lunch in a wellness room with my ankle on the back of a couch so it was above my heart, and icing my ankle. And I felt so much better. I spent my last break also icing my ankle, and ended my shift late, but on a chat where I really felt like I got through to someone.
I spend my days talking to traumatized people in crisis. And the thing about stress is that it does weird things to your brain. Like making you think that you don’t have any options. That things suck now and always will and there’s nothing you can do about it. And maybe sometimes that really is true. But a lot of times there is SOMETHING that you can do that will help, even just a little bit, even if a whole lot of other things still suck.
I can’t un-sprain my ankle. But I can rest it and ice it and try to elevate it as much as possible. And it is already feeling much better now than it did this morning.
As a part of my move, I also had to get a new refrigerator. The one that was in the unit when I moved in must have had a coil or something going out, because the freezer was super cold but the fridge wasn’t cold enough. So I bought a bunch of frozen food from HEB and ate it for a week and was grumpy about not being able to cook.
Then, the day the fridge was going to be delivered, the delivery window was right during the time that I have to drive to my class. So I asked a friend if they’d be willing to come hang out for the delivery window so I didn’t have to miss class. Luckily the driver came at the beginning of the window. But while we were waiting for them to haul the old fridge down and the new fridge up, my friend said, “We have an extra soda fridge and I wish I would have thought to let you borrow it for a week so you would have one.”
And I knew that they did have an extra fridge, but at the time, it felt like it would have been too much to ask for – this friend had already done me a couple favors leading up to the move, and I was afraid to ask too many things in a row. Plus, I did have a freezer, so I could still feed myself, even if I was unhappy about it. I indicated I had almost asked and they said, “I wish you would have.”
And I realized that I still have this thing where I am afraid to ask for help when I need it. I am getting better. And I can cut myself some slack because stressed brains don’t make the best decisions all the time. But just like my chatters don’t always see the options that are open to them, I don’t always see the options that are open to me, either.
But I’m getting there. I did today.
I couldn’t stop my refrigerator from being broken. But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t cook for a week, either. I could have borrowed a drink fridge. I could have bought tupperware and cooked a meal and frozen all the leftovers and eaten those for a week. In the moment, I was just too stressed to think of any of that, and buying frozen food felt simpler.
Sometimes I still take the easy way out, or go for the obvious solution. Today I could have given up and left work and used up more of my sick time. That was still an option. But instead, I found two small things that I could do to improve my mood enough that I could finish my shift, and even end it in a good mood. And that doesn’t mean that I will never take a wellness day.
But being able to step back and look at the situation and really think about what I want or what would help or what need is really not being met – that is huge. Sometimes there really are things that are out of our control. I can’t un-sprain my ankle. I couldn’t un-break my refrigerator. But being able to look at the agency I do have, and the choices that I can make is a huge point of growth for me.
I may not be able to fix every aspect of a stressful situation, but that doesn’t mean that I am helpless or that things are hopeless. When trauma happens, we really don’t have a lot of options or choices. Sometimes there really isn’t anything else that we could have done. But part of trauma recovery is being able to learn to see the moments when there is something that I can do to help myself and doing it.
I could have sat there in the break room looking at Facebook on my phone with a hurting ankle and then asked my supervisor to let me go home early. But instead, I took care of myself – really took care of myself. And things got a little bit better.
I like to think that I help most of the chatters that I talk to on a daily basis at work at least a little. But I never expected how much this work would allow me to help myself. By helping others problem-solve, I practice doing it. Telling others what they deserve in their relationships, I remind myself. Talking about self care every day, it feels hypocritical to not do it. And the patience and compassion I extend to them for being stressed, I also learn to extend to myself. As I heal other survivors, I also heal me. I develop my own support system, my own intuition, my own self-esteem. And that’s everything.