The other day, because I’m not used to dealing with life without tobacco (12 days so far, whee!) and because I ran out of my meds accidentally that morning (I’ve got some more now) and because sometimes things are just a lot to take, I found myself sitting in my cubicle and looking at my screen through a blur of tears.
Sometimes an attack like that can be dodged by refocusing, but this wasn’t that kind. It was a real will-sapper. I felt like limp lettuce. Limp lettuce that was suddenly very sad for no reason.
I dragged myself out of my chair and pulled my friend and coworker M. outside with me for a non-smoking break — we are quitting together — and proceeded to burst into tears in front of him. There wasn’t anything he could do, because the attack wasn’t because of anything in particular. But, strange to tell, it helped immensely. I think I know why.
At one point I would have dealt with an episode like this by heading to the bathroom, locking the door, and collapsing in a corner for a while. I’d fantasize about turning to this or that person for help, but talk myself out of it for various reasons: that it wouldn’t do any good, or that they’ve got their own problems, or that I didn’t want to feed my own self-pity. Then I’d clean myself up, check my eyes for redness as if I’d been smoking dope, and get back to work.
But it’s a very lonely feeling to be desperately sad and to have nobody know about it. It’s one more way to reinforce the idea that you are irrevocably different, and that your problems are somehow invalid, not allowable.
Doing it all in front of somebody, on the other hand, is a very different experience. It’s a question of being seen; and this, all by itself, helps makes you feel like a part of the human race after all, instead of someone invisibly locked in a bathroom somewhere, having his private problems that nobody knows about and nobody can solve.
It gives you the chance to see that your friends can see you at your worst and take it in their stride, without being surprised (because they will have been there, too) or weirded out (because being sad isn’t weird). It also honors the friend — says to him, See, I trust you enough to fall apart in front of you. It gives him a chance to say all the fairly meaningless but surprisingly helpful things that can be said in such a situation: talk to me, hang in there, I’m here for you.
Remember, it’s a mitzvah to let somebody else do a mitzvah for you.