When I was twenty-five, my now-husband-then-boyfriend and I moved into our first apartment together. I'd moved before, of course, but only ever as a single person moving some of her own stuff (while the rest stayed at her parents' house), usually with the help of friends and family. This was different. This was two people combining all their stuff--pretty much everything we owned--into a 5th-floor apartment in a new city without any help.
I had no idea what we were in for.
It's in my nature to push myself. I often tackle things head on and do what I must to get the job done. Load boxes, unload boxes, stack them, move furniture, keep going. All day, I pushed and pushed and pushed. It had to get done. The plan was to return the U-haul truck that same night. But as the day wore on, and the sky got dark, my power-through-it attitude started to falter and my body started to fail. I felt weak and light-headed. We hadn't stopped to eat dinner. Unloading the truck was taking too long for us to take a break. But I wasn't moving quickly anymore; in fact, I really needed to sit down. I tried to convince myself it was mind over matter. I just needed to keep pushing. But I was wrong. What I needed was help.
We finally reached the last item in the truck--a massive, recliner couch full of heavy, metal parts. It was a beast I was in no condition to slay.
"I don't think I can do this," I said. But I knew it had to be done. So I tried to do it anyway.
I started crying. My end of the couch in hand, I had to stop every few feet, every muscle in my body on fire as tears streamed down my face. I was physically and mentally exhausted. But still, I had it in my head that I needed to carry on. We were moving into a large building in a busy area of the city. We could've flagged somebody down, offered them $20 to help. Hell, offered them $100. We could've left the couch in the truck and paid the extra money to keep it overnight. Try moving it in the morning. We could've even left the couch in the loading dock and chanced it. Honestly, if it was gone when we went to retrieve it the next day, I would've been fine with that. I didn't even like the damn thing in the first place.
We didn't do any of those things, though. It took a long time, but we got it from the truck, through the loading dock, down the hall to the elevator where we carefully maneuvered it inside, rode up, and then lugged it down the long hallway to our apartment. My head pounding, my knees shaking, I felt like I was going to die. After we got it inside, I headed straight to our new bathroom, used the last, remaining shreds of energy I had left to hang up the shower curtain, and took a long, hot shower, continuing to involuntarily weep, sitting in the tub with my back against the tile I'd ideally have cleaned first. I sat like that for a long time. My first night in our new apartment.
I felt a bit better after my shower and the pizza we ordered and devoured, but some part of me still felt broken. I'd pushed myself way too hard. I should've acknowledged I'd reached my limit. I should have asked for help.
The above story is mostly about physical pain, though my mental state was definitely also affected. When our bodies start to fail us, be it through illness or injury, it's never wise to push through the pain. That only makes it worse. Most people know this. Most people go to the hospital when something isn't working the way it should. And yet, we treat our mental health the way I treated my body that day, like it's some mind-over-matter thing we can overcome if we just keep pushing. But our brains are part of our bodies too. And like every other part of us, they need help sometimes. They need maintenance. They need time to heal. It's perfectly normal and human and we need to stop seeing it as anything otherwise. We need to stop seeing it as a weakness. Someone who's carrying a heavy box, then has more heavy boxes loaded on top should be able to say, "This is too much. I can't carry this alone." And the same is true for our brains. Sometimes it's too much. Sometimes we can't carry it alone. And when that happens, please don't be afraid to ask for help. It's the only way you can feel better. And you deserve to feel better.
I'm here. Let's talk.