The Breakdown to the Breakthrough

I think it’s safe to say I’m no Valerie Harper.

If you’ve seen even a glimpse of Dancing with the Stars this season, you know that Valerie Harper has been the most sensational inspiration EVER simply by being willing to step foot on the stage to train, learn, and dance in her condition. Given three months to live after a diagnosis of brain cancer this spring and here she is, this fall, competitively dancing. DANCING. I have cried every time she was on the show just based on her incredible attitude and spirit that wasn’t forced or fake in the slightest. It was compelling and heartbreaking all at the same time.

If I was ever in the same situation, I would like to think that I would have just a bit of the same courage she has exemplified, but the truth is that I would likely be somewhere pouting, whining, or complaining about something with no reasonable justification. As sad as that may be, I know that would be the case – at least for a short time – for one reason: anything that takes me ‘down’ takes me ‘out.’

Any time I’m knocked out of my semblance of “normal” and “control,” whether it’s from being mildly sick, to having a baby or having surgery, I go through a crazy time that it so totally unexplainable that I don’t even think I fully understand it myself. It’s like an alternate personality takes over in some foreign universe where I become convinced that whatever I’m going through at that moment is going to be FOREVER. Everything becomes overwhelming – Cook? I’m supposed to cook edible food? HOW DO I DO THAT? Shower and be presentable within a normal range of time? WHAT? You’re kidding, right? Not have round-the-clock help and attention for whatever disaster may befall me next? NO WAY.

I quit.

I completely shut down, break down, and literally melt down in this crazy place for usually about 48 hours as I get over the transitional hump that inevitably has to come with healing. It’s not pretty. I blame anything and everyone for it and nothing satisfies. Fear and anxiety usually sing and dance around me, mocking this inexplicable chaos I’ve created for myself when I’m just trying to get better. Faith becomes a chore and somewhere in the middle, I convince myself that even that is futile – nothing and no one can rescue me from this. It’s ridiculous and I KNOW my thoughts and behaviors are ridiculous, but I can’t shake it off. For this brief time no amount of journaling, good thoughts, and praying seem to do any good until this “alternate universe syndrome” runs its course. It’s the breakdown. It happens every time. And it sucks.

But then the light somehow comes back on. My humor comes back. Life is a little less overwhelming. I’m sane again. (Well, as sane as I get. Ha.) But it’s gone, like a black cloud that pours a heavy rain and then disappears as fast as it appeared. It’s weird and strange and horrible (and anyone who’s ever been around me during this “crazy” will certainly attest to the awfulness.) I’m just a beast.

And then I’m exhausted.

(Just as I’m sure you are trying to read this.)

But tonight, in the exhausted glow of finally getting over this surgery’s ‘healing hump,’ while I watched Valerie Harper dance and smile and cry happy tears and plainly exist in such an amazing light of life, I scolded myself for ever having to break down over a petty illness or recovery. But then she said something that made me think that maybe all of this is really a normal and necessary part of healing (as ugly as it can get sometimes.) She said “I had to get to a point where I couldn’t carry on to decide I would carry on.”

Those are some powerful words. And whether she came to that conclusion by being a beast for a bit or by sheer will alone, I’ll take my opportunity and decide to carry on too.

Until the next time, anyway.

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