There’s a difference between needing fixing and being broken.
A little anxiety crept in on Sunday evening, our last night together. It was evening four of my visit to the man I’ve been dating for the last two months. I had no intention of ever doing a long-distance relationship again but here I am.
The anxiety was driven by my past and the fact that the last long-distance relationship I was in ended horribly after over a year of on-again, off-again turmoil. I couldn't endure again what I feared would happen next.
In that past relationship, there was a clear pattern. I would go for a visit, spend a wonderful weekend away feeling content and happy only for it to completely fall to pieces the minute I walked out the door. Staring down my imminent departure, I got a little antsy.
After I got on the plane Monday morning, what would happen next? Past experience would have me believe that there would be radio silence. Discussions of seeing other people, that were actually more like me being told we were seeing other people whether I liked it or not, would happen in a not-so-kind manner. I would be made to question my value.
That anxiety, surprisingly, was fleeting.
All it took was for me to look at that sweet man over dinner his friend made us and remind myself that he’s not that other guy. He is not someone else’s baggage. He’s not the embodiment of someone else’s mistreatment of my heart. My fear and anxiety is not his fault.
There’s only so much about ourselves and our past that we can fix. Sometimes, we need someone else to wield the hammer that puts the nails in place that make us okay.
This doesn’t mean we’re weak. There’s an awful stigma to needing fixing. It wreaks havoc on our well being. It tells us that we should be stronger than needing someone else to make us better.
When we’re not physically healthy, we go to a doctor. We get prescriptions for antibiotics to cure infections. We do this because sometimes our bodies just can’t do it on their own. We need help. Our hearts, our souls, and our minds are no different.
There is no amount of hope, idealism, and positive self-talk that is going to magically make everything fine. It doesn't necessarily work that way.
Needing fixing and being broken are two different things. Once we start seeing this difference, we can get rid of some of that damaging stigma that we should be stronger than we really have the capability of being.
I have a light switch in my house that is the bane of my existence. I installed it myself so I could dim an entryway light that makes my front room suitable for guiding a plane to the ground it’s so bright.
The dimming slider is supposed to make this tolerable. It doesn’t work. The light just goes on and hums. There’s no dimming going on and I know as well as anyone else that lights should not hum. That’s bad.
The switch needs to be fixed but it’s not broken. It works fine enough, as does the light. When I need to see something, I can. When I need it dark, it is. This is a clear difference.
Like with the light, when something inside of us needs fixing we make do. We recognize that what’s happening is not optimal but it’s tolerable and we live with it the best that we can, especially when we seem to have exhausted our ability to fix something ourselves.
Fixing that switch is above my paygrade. I did the best I could. I just can’t seem to make the dimmer dim. Something is wrong with the wiring. The exact same thing can be said for my anxiety around leaving my boyfriend and heading home. Something is wrong with the wiring in my brain and it made me anxious.
Later on Monday, hours after I had gotten home from our visit and shortly after he had gotten off work, I got a text telling me I was pretty f**king amazing and he missed me. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
There was no silence. There was no emotional manipulation. No distancing himself from me to stave off the loneliness of being apart. There was just the same sweetness that continues into the week as we resume the hours-long telephone conversations that keep us going until the next visit.
He fixed the wiring. He gave me the reassurance that this is fine. I could not have found that inside myself independently. I needed it from him. Again, it doesn't mean I’m less strong because he had to do some heavy lifting on my behalf.
Someone could easily say that fixing my anxiety is not his job but that’s not true. It is his job and I made that clear. He knows my past and my hurt. He knows that if I’m going to stay in this thing, he has some work to do to make me feel like it’s a safe thing to do.
Even if we’re broken, it doesn’t mean we’re beyond repair. It also doesn’t mean it’s our fault. No vase ever spontaneously breaks into dozens of pieces and we don’t either. Something happens to the vase. Something happens to us.
We can gather up our pieces, search under the table for the missing ones, and try to fit everything into the place it once was. Our effort counts regardless of the success. Trying matters.
I’ve worked on the part of me that holds what others feel about me too close to my own heart. I’m rewritten narratives a dozen times. What I can’t do is replace my own trust. People have taken that from me and I don’t have an infinite supply.
If I had a dollar for every time I was told that we should never need anyone to fix us, that we should be totally capable of fixing ourselves, I could buy a lifetime supply of super glue. I don’t need glue. I need support. I need someone who is going to see I’m trying and show up with the assist.
Understanding we need help to make everything the way it’s supposed to be again is strength. Acknowledging our limits is strength. Allowing someone else to jump in there and do what we have a hard time doing ourselves is strength. We need to let ourselves be strong in a different way once in a while. There’s no shame in that.