He kept trying to help, but no matter what he did, it wasn’t helping. On the days he made dinner, he left the counter dirty and loads of pots and pans in the sink. On the days he completed projects around the house, he was busy for so long she felt abandoned. On the days he stayed nearby she felt smothered. When he said to wake him up whenever she wanted him to feed the baby, she knew she’d be awake anyway, listening to him feed the baby, so what was the point? When he asked if he could pick anything up at the store on his way home, she couldn’t think of anything she needed. He kept trying to help, but she didn’t feel like he was much help at all.
He tried a new tactic. “Tell me what you need”, he said. She had to think. What DID she need?
As ridiculous as it seems, she didn’t really know what she needed. All she knew was that she needed to feel better.
She worked to organize her thoughts so she could come up with a response. Even though it was difficult for her to do, she made attempts to start telling him when she needed something. She noticed that he became infinitely more helpful.
One day, she pulled in the driveway, with the kids loaded in the back seat. He greeted her at the car and looked at her face, at her drawn mouth, at her tired eyes.
But her quivering lips betrayed her.
“Something must be wrong”.
She wanted to tell him what was wrong, but was coming up blank when she tried to think of what exactly it was that was so bad. She had no legitimate complaints. She knew she couldn’t say “nothing” again, so she said the first thing that popped into her head.
“I don’t have time to get anything done”.
“What needs to get done?”
“All I’ve done today is change diapers and feed the kids and the kitchen is a mess”.
She realized that she didn’t answer his question, but couldn’t think of what to say about what it might be she wanted to get done that she wasn’t able to do. She hastily added the only thing she could think of that resembled a reasonable answer to his question, “And I didn’t have time to go for a jog”.
Ah ha. Something he could work with. Something he could help with.
“You’re the only one who thinks you don’t have enough time to do anything. Go work out”. With that, he grabbed the kids and the diaper bag and when she opened her mouth to protest that there wasn’t time, he looked at her and repeated firmly, “Go workout. Go”.
Instead of arguing, as she was often quick to do, she took him up on his offer to watch the kids while she went for a short run. As she was jogging, she realized that he helped her in a way she didn’t always acknowledge, or even consciously remember, that she needed help with.
She needed a lot of help feeling better. She always had, and she always would.
Somehow she kept forgetting that what she needed to do was to make sure she wasn’t falling apart. She kept forgetting that even though she sometimes felt on top of the world, she would never be capable of holding on to that feeling for very long. She kept forgetting that her natural inclination was to sink into a never-ending pit of depression and that the only way out was to keep doing what worked to pull her from the darkness, instead of pretending she was cured and stopping her needed therapies.
Running was one of the things that helped her. Without the movement, without the chemical release, she sometimes wouldn’t feel good, or okay, or even so-so. Without it, she was capable of feeling horrible, or melancholic, or like maybe it would be better if she wasn’t here at all. She couldn’t be a good wife, or more importantly, a good mama, without feeling better.
THAT was really the most important thing she needed to get done. The kitchen could wait. Feeling better could not.
She knew she wouldn’t magically feel better just because she wanted to. She knew she couldn’t feel better solely on her own. Thank goodness he kept trying to help.