If you follow today’s celebrities to any extent, you likely heard about the rise and fall of pop star Demi Lovato following her struggles with substance abuse. She recently teamed up with DJ Marshmello to release a song I fell in love with. The combination of her powerful vocals, meaningful lyrics, and Marshmello’s rhythmic undertone plucked at a few heartstrings for yours truly.
As a mental health counselor suffering from his own mental illness, every damn word of this song resonated with the last two weeks of my life. I was “high on emotion” and “losing my focus.” At the start of the first week, I felt depersonalized. I was not all there. Physically, I was. Mentally and emotionally, good luck finding me. I figured the best way to overcome this detachment was to work on the areas that foster a sense of emotional well-being. I put myself out there with clients, friends, and family.
This was not a wise decision. My emotions fell into a black-or-white pattern. I was on the other end of the spectrum though. Instead of feeling detached like I do sometimes, I was all in. Every person I talked to seemed like they were going through something. People had relatives passing away. My clients struggled across the board. My family was roughed up. Being the empath I am, I took on their feelings full force.
It did not bode well for me. I quickly felt overwhelmed. My boss called me out several times for making silly mistakes. My fibromyalgia pain increased, which is often a result from stress. The final straw came when I was answering an email, and my eyes welled up. My breaking point arrived.
I pulled back on the emotions a bit. Instead of going at 100%, I pushed onward with a “C” average of about 70% to 80%, which was more than enough to be effective.
As I thought I finally had life a bit more under control, I got a phone call from my mom. She informed me that my 75-year-old aunt who had been in and out of the hospital over the last two months just had a heart attack. She told me that she was at the nursing home rehabilitating and that my aunt had no oxygen mask on (she could not leave her house without a mask let alone just getting out of the hospital). The nursing staff said that my aunt had no oxygen to her brain for nearly twenty-five minutes.
I reconnected with this aunt after not being in touch for nearly ten years. She always loved me. My mom pointed out how happy my aunt was last time she saw me. My mom told me how much she smiled and how happy she was for days afterwards. I called my aunt occasionally too just to say hello. She was always one of the sweetest woman I knew even going back to when we would play Candyland when she babysat me as a kid.
The news wiped any hint of happiness off my face. I literally had no words. I simply told my mom to keep me updated on her status. However, my gut told me that this could not end well. Twenty-five minutes with no oxygen to your brain is never good, but the doctors still had tests to conduct to see the extent of the damage.
I was not okay. I knew that much. I knew I was just hit hard. I worried about my mom since my aunt was one of her strongest supports. I knew that if anything happened to my aunt, it would spell drama for my extended family too. It always does. It was just too fucking much.
I took the next day off for some self-care and to knock out some errands. The next day my mom called me, crying her eyes out. They got the results back from the CT scan.
She was brain dead. My mom was on her way to say her goodbye before they pulled the plug. Again, I had no words. I do not do well with death. I never have. I can count on one hand how many funerals I have been to because I hate the idea of mourning. I would rather celebrate the person’s life than be depressed about it.
I told my mom to stay in touch. I immediately jumped to talking myself through this one after the emotional debacle that happened the week prior. I was not in good shape. Literally, over the next few hours, I balked at the simplest challenge and nearly broke down in tears each time. I told myself, “You know what. I need to grieve. I’m not okay. That’s okay. It’s okay not to be okay.”
Sometimes we need to realize that we are not okay and do what it takes to get back to okay in a reasonable fashion. I am presently taking a few days off to get closer to being okay. I want to be proud of myself and make people like my aunt proud of me in the long run. Thank you, Demi Lovato, for the reminder, and RIP Aunt Shine.
-The Caring Counselor