The Band-Aid Mentality The Year I Took Off Of Life & Learned How to Live (an excerpt) A Non-Fiction Novel By Nina Waddington Hey, I'm not knocking band-aids. They are definitely good for the minor scratches, cuts, and bruises that we accidentally come by through life. But, band-aids shouldn't be used for more significant trauma. They just aren't effective. You could put a band-aid on a wound that needs stitches, and it might help short term, but generally speaking, you'd eventually go to a hospital and get experts to help you. Right? Face it; we slap invisible, fake band-aids on shit all day. Marriage issues. Band-aid and move on. Stresses within the family. There's a band-aid for that! Problems at work. Stress, mental health, physical health, fitness, food, sleep. Band-aids in bulk! And on and on and on. I'd been slapping those things on at an incredible speed for years. I never truly understood the actual problems and never bothered investigating their origins. I absolutely didn't spend any time at all, sharing the pain with anyone. My closest friends did not know. And if I didn't share the details with the closest of friends, then I didn't share with any experts that could help me. I didn't have time for that. I didn't have time for myself. Plus, many people in my circle exuded this air of what strong is, or the meaning of what being strong meant. And I so wanted to be strong. Strong was definitely not showing any struggles. Strong was smart, to the point of knowing everything. Strong was brave but manifesting as disconnected. Strong was a myriad of things that did not sit well with me, but it was easier to align with those ideals than figure things out. Was this really, truly strong though? My mind would wander to the point of questioning these ideals and then; Band-aid it! See, the fact is that we tend to do what is easy. It's easier to disregard and move on. It's easier to keep things on the surface level, deal with things quickly, and then plow through the chaos. It's easier to sugar coat and not address things. Finding the root of an issue can be uncomfortable. Most importantly, it’s time-consuming. No one has any time after all the other really important things in life, like getting to the gym, being the best cook at the potluck, the most outstanding at your job, having the most successful children, and keeping your house absolutely perfect. I tease. One day at an in-service for work, my four thousand band-aids began to unravel. And then they just all came unstuck at once. Instantly I found myself standing there struggling to breathe as all my invisible wounds started to bleed out. I flatlined. It was quite the journey back to breathing. I started with two whole weeks in bed. Work had been lots of levels of stressful for many years. Sleep had been clinically bad for a couple of decades. In fact, my sleep had stumped the doctors. A scheduled two-night sleep scan had turned into eleven nights, and even still, the docs just scratched their heads. It was after a year of more than a few deaths in my circle including a couple of very sudden ones. In the midst of that, I had left a relationship and put my many's needs far above my own for many years. None of that I regret. It was essential. But my priorities were not at all about me. I was hitting mid-life, was single, and had recently realized the HUGE step backwards that this all meant. Financially. Emotionally. Socially. Romantically. This was compounded by the enlightenment of the enormous disconnect I felt with many of my friends. They were busy with their lives, and because I didn't fit the label of wife, I was left out of that dynamic. Many a night, completely alone. Knowing that I made the right steps for me, but disappointed in the world for not attempting to understand that. Layer in online dating, the colossal waste of time it is, and countless stories woven into that. There just was a lot going on. Lots and lots of fucking band-aids. Despite all this, I managed to keep this smiling, outgoing, happy-to-help persona. No one knew. I collapsed. Quite frankly, I couldn't focus beyond an hour. I rode the waves of highs and lows of fixing all these band-aided old wounds over the next five months, where I pretty much isolated to fix myself, only to be hit with the further isolation of Covid. Shit, the timing of that was devastating. I was finally ready to approach the world again and ordered to isolate. What do you mean? Isolation?!??!! Noooooooo!!! I've been isolating for months already. Sigh. It was back into bed again. I cried a lot in March 2020. This morphed into sitting at home, my lovely home. Thank God for my home in those weeks. But I sat there listening to the whining of those who "had." I found it horribly frustrating. The have-less-thans were quietly going about their day, watching the sideliners complain about the insignificant changes that Covid was causing. Insignificant in the grand scheme of things. People were dying. Come on now. Good news, though. This pandemic helped in bringing my brain to where it is now. Where I am the strong one, I am quietly and independently strong. So many people rely on others, their spouses, or partners. They rely on their things. Their stuff. Their status. Their image. Not me. I'm so much better now. Proud to say I am pretty much band-aid free. We're still in a pandemic. I'm still lonely as ever. But I've found contentment in this labyrinth. This was the year I took off life to learn how to live. This was the year that I embraced myself, and like or not, Covid 19 which furthered my time of isolation and deepened my understanding of me. If I've learned anything in life, it's that the road ahead is never predictable. Life certainly has thrown me some curveballs. And for the most part, I had been able to navigate them. But what I now know is that up until now, my protocol was to:
Smile, because I didn't want anyone to know I was struggling. Plus, I felt guilty/weak for admitting that there was a problem in the first place.
Slap a band-aid on the problem and push on through.
The band-aid solution worked because it allowed me to jump back into my role, perky, and cheerful, and then to carry on, unphased. This was important as I didn't really have to get uncomfortable and address the real issues. More importantly, I didn't have to let anyone in my circle know that there were issues in the first place. What I didn't realize was that the band-aids weren't meant to help long term. So over time, their effectiveness wore off, and what I was left with were old wounds, reopening when I least expected it—the awkward uncomfortableness of trying to find a new band-aid quickly to balance out pain. I was trying to morph into the ideals that society and others in my life had placed on me; ideals that were written for the married -wife-and-mother. I was increasingly frustrated that others were continuing to hold me to those ideals. Who wrote those ideals, anyhow?! This resentment wove itself through my relationships with friends, work, leisure, and beyond. They had no idea the stresses and struggles of doing it all on one's own. I was continuously battling this, trying to overcompensate, but always disgruntled by other’s density and feeling that they weren't trying as hard as I was. Did I tell you I am an empath? A Band-Aided Empath. Now there's a combination. Lol. More on that later. But then came the learning. See, my happiness isn't dependent on others knowing anything. And I shouldn't expect them to get it because they haven't lived my life. Further, it isn't my job to educate them. The people who want to know will learn. The people who want to connect will investigate. The people I want in my circle won't be work to keep them on my side. It shouldn't feel like a battle. If I am low, then they should be there. I shouldn't have to ask for them to come. I realized this by reflecting on who was there for me, who I relied on, day in and day out. I can easily count the people who connected with me while I was off. In five months. Thatis telling, isn't it? The old me would battle that and try to engage them. The old me would find disappointment in how fake or shallow so many relationships were. Why did I focus on those who did not show up, instead of those who were my friends, confidents, supporters, and healers? Who cares if it was a half-dozen and not fifty?! The half-dozen were real. Not just a couple emails to say they were there for me and to call if I needed anything. I was in crisis; I didn't know what I needed. I certainly couldn't put that into words for others. My people were those who showed me that they honestly were there. That despite their busy lives, they took time to check-in, and connect. My people were those who were willing to jump into the uncomfortable abyss of my healing and join me on that journey. Some cheered from the sidelines. Others literally held my hand. But many, many just provided lip service. Or didn't do anything at all. That was telling. And I don't mean about me. I realized that one broken piece was my perception of what was strong and successful. I've learned that this wasn't about me, but rather about our society's focus on avoiding uncomfortable things. It would be hard to contact me during that time, as people would have to feel vulnerable in doing so. And who is brave enough to be vulnerable these days? Right?!…not many. I am a beast. I know this only because I acknowledged my weaknesses, the areas I needed to grow, and because I allowed myself to go deep and dark to heal. The strongest people are those who admit their struggles. When I rolled out of bed from days of depression, I didn't focus on the dark; rather, I realized I was strong because I allowed myself to go deep to investigate the ailment and heal. I was surrounded by people who made themselves look strong by pointing out what they perceived as flaws in others. They boost their image by highlighting themselves and pushing others down. It is often subtle, although sometimes quite direct. I am surrounded by them. I just have a new outlook. Those people aren't worth my energy. I choose to focus my energy on those who support me. Overtly. 2020 ended with isolation for me because of the pandemic, the new year with even more complications. I watched alone in my home, people celebrating the holidays with family and friends, ignoring the lockdown rules. So I'm looking inward again. My priorities are to continue to grow and learn. To be mindful of my privileges and the gifts it affords me. To live life aware of those gifts and not to ever to take them for granted. As such, to mask, to vaccinate. To put others' needs ahead of mine in that respect. In the bigger picture, I acknowledge that everyone's journey is different and that lumping everyone into a category that has worked for me is not helpful. Instead of remembering a time I dealt with something similar and thinking, I was fine, how come they aren't, to be empathetic of others, and try hard not to compare my circumstances to theirs. My plan can't be expected to work for others. It’s completely ridiculous that society functions with this ideology. I’m not going to pretend I know more about someone else’s journey than they do. How ugly is that privilege? Most importantly, I will no longer bother with the people who do function this way. So many people are all knowing, assumption filled, selfish, takers. I'd rather validate those around me and always try to be consistent and constant for them. For the group of my lovelies that do the same for me. Happy New Year. Best, nina