Almost five years to this day, two friends drove 300 miles in one day to lay eyes on me. They’d read a troubling post I’d written a few weeks prior. A dark, desolate thought for their beloved friend, no matter how fleeting, sent up red flags two friends could not ignore.
I was kind-of hoping none of my close friends would read that post, but I was secretly relieved they did. I am most comfortable being the one who helps, not the one who is helped. But when my friend Carrie texted, “I’m coming,” I cried with relief.
“Thank you,” I typed back.
And she came, driving 300 hundred miles in one day with another one of my dear friends to see me.
We ate lunch together for several hours, talking and laughing like old times. When I reluctantly said I needed to get going, my friend Kellie touched my arm. “Wait,” she said. “About that night in the hotel room in Canada – are you ok, Rachel?”
Before I answered, time stood still. I couldn’t help but think about how hard it must have been to ask that question. We’d had such an enjoyable lunch – my friends could have easily concluded I was in a better place and left it at that. But instead my friend went there – into the territory of awkward, uncomfortable, and hard-to-talk-about because my wellbeing was more important than her comfort.
For twenty minutes, my friends listened. Being one who prefers to listen, not the one who is listened to, I felt like I was talking too much. But this is why they came, I reminded myself. They wanted me to talk to them. Never once did they look away from my tearful face. Never once did they look at their watches or the door. I honestly think I healed more in that twenty minutes of sustained attention and loving presence than I had from a solid month of self-care that I’d been practicing diligently.
As I drove home enveloped in a cocoon of love, acceptance, and belonging, I thought of my two daughters. I hoped that one day they would have a Carrie and Kellie … and that they would BE a Carrie and Kellie – those who sense something is off and say, “Are you ok? I'm coming.”
It is not a coincidence I am sharing this story now. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and with the growing number of people experiencing mental health symptoms, it is important to fight stigma by talking openly about our struggles.
On this Mother’s Day weekend, I speak openly to you because I know I don’t have to be strong with you—and I want you to know you don’t have to be strong with me.
And I will continue my vow to speak out to my children because I want them to know they can turn to me in their darkest hours.
And just in case you wonder what such a vow might look like, let me give you a quick glimpse:
As my daughter, Avery, and I were walking, my phone rang. The caller was a friend who is working to overcome an incredibly difficult obstacle to be healthy and well.
When I answered, she thanked me for my book that I'd sent her, and then she began to cry.
She said, “A few months ago, I was in a dark place, and I thought about who I could turn to… who would accept me in that state. The first person who came to my mind was you.”
Aware that Avery was in earshot, I contemplated what to say. And then I remembered – this is how we change the narrative… this is how we lift the shame… this is how we become a Carrie or a Kellie.
“Everyone has things they struggle with – every single person,” I said to my friend as my child listened. “And you can always come to me; I will never judge you. I love you.”
And when I got off the phone, I was expecting Avery to ask me what was wrong.
Avery did not mention the struggle she overhead or the tears she saw me cry; she only said this:
“That’s the kind friend I want to be.”
And in a single moment, my vow was confirmed. Whenever a window opens for conversation about difficult topics, I vow to gather my courage and seize the opportunity to talk about this beautiful and often challenging life.
“Are you ok?” I will ask, willing to accept whatever answer comes.
I am convinced this is what we must do for each other. We must invite each other into the living, breathing, painfully hard, and shamefully dark moments of our lives. We must not stay closed up, separated, disconnected, hurting, and adrift. We must extend our hands and find each other in the middle of the mess.
“I am here; take my hand,” we will say.
And then we will walk side by side, through awkward and uncomfortable territories, on our path to wellness and peace.
My hand in yours.
I love you.
*If you are in crisis, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline at 800-950-NAMI or text “NAMI” to 741741.
“This book is what the world needs right now. We live in the most uncertain times of our lives. We are a few steps away or already neck deep in a generalized state of anxiety. We want to try our best as parents, now more than ever. This book will give you parenting tools on how to be peace in the chaos or how to unveil the disguises of fear. However, more importantly, in my humble opinion, it will make you feel less alone as Rachel’s aura of authenticity and vulnerability will wrap around you like a warm blanket. Go ahead, gift yourself this book and learn how to be gentle with yourself and strong for your children at the same time.” -Violeta, 4/28/2020
LIVE LOVE NOW recently turned two years old. On the day of its release, this 5-star review was posted. It confirmed every hope I had for this book and more. To continue to receive messages indicating it is still bringing direction, hope, and healing in 2022 fuels my writer’s heart. Thank you for all who have reached out to let me know the impact of this book. Happy 2nd birthday, #livelovenow!
My hand in yours.