Some of you won’t understand the need for this post.
“Tara needs attention?!?” you may be thinking. “She was just on the cover of an international magazine! She just had a book published! She’s got tons of followers! Why on earth would she need more attention? Isn’t she already getting enough?”
When I say attention, I don’t mean that type of attention. I mean support. I mean someone to take my hand and tell me everything is going to be okay. I mean reaching out for help and actually receiving it. And I also mean giving support and attention to the people that are important to me. I haven’t been doing that. For the last year, I’ve been in survival mode. I haven’t been able to look beyond my own nose.
After my breakdown, the first place I reached out to was the military command structure, who are supposed to be there to assist spouses in times of crisis. I called every agency on base that supposedly offers support and none of them would help me. Angry and alone, I called the First Sargent over to my house, since there was no way I trusted myself to get behind the wheel of a car–plus I would have had to take the kids. The shirt looked me right in the eye and told me there was no support for spouses on Luke AFB. None, whatsoever. She told me she would call around to see what she could do, that she would be in touch. I thanked her. Finally, after weeks of phone calls and frustration, there was someone who was going to go to bat for me.
She left the house and I never heard from her again.
In my time of crisis, I didn’t reach out to the right people. I should have called my parents, my best friends, my extended family. I was in such a state of shock, however, and experiencing such an overwhelming sense of guilt and remorse that I didn’t want to burden them. I didn’t want to add to their problems. I did not want to be an inconvenience. This is something that has been part of my psyche for as long as I can remember: not wanting to be an inconvenience. It’s part of the reason why it’s so hard for me to visit people, or to ask them to put themselves out for me in any way. It’s the reason why I always laugh and shrug things off. It’s part of the reason why people think I’m so strong.
And it’s also part of the reason why I had such a hard time after my breakdown. I had never learned to ask for help.
I’ve been looking for attention, support, and affection my entire life. I’ve learned some very good lessons about the wrong way to get them, but have never really figured out the right way. Moving every two to three years hasn’t made things easier. I’ve had to start over every time I land in a new location. I thought I needed to find new people to get attention, support, and affection from. I should have been paying attention and seeking help from the people that came with me–my family.
Over the last month, I’ve figured out something critical: if I don’t give myself attention, support, and affection, then no one else will either.
It has to start with me. And the first step is asking for help, so that I actually can give myself those things. Eventually, I’ll be able to give attention, support, and affection to others.
But it has to start with me.
I haven’t been very supportive of myself. I’ve had this tape-loop running in my mind for the last year that I’m a failure, a fraud, that I don’t deserve attention, support, or affection. I would never, ever talk that that to a friend, or even think it about any of them. But I haven’t been a friend to myself. I’ve sabotaged myself, doubted myself, hated myself, and watched myself become more and more isolated from those around me. I haven’t taken care of myself. How on earth can I expect to take care of others if I’m not willing to take care of me?
The best thing I did is come completely clean with my parents, and tell them I need help, that I can’t do it alone anymore. I have two, loving supportive parents who would drop every thing in their lives at a moment’s notice to help me out. They have loved me and supported me my entire life. I also have an incredibly supportive, loving husband. It’s not his fault that he’s in the military: a nameless, faceless, bureaucratic corporation that cares about nothing but the mission. It doesn’t care that his family is in crisis. Emergency leave because someone in your family died? I’m sorry, son, that’s just not possible this week. We have an exercise coming up that is way more important than you. Most people don’t understand, but this break that we’re taking is just as important for my husband–because he also needs to learn how to take care of himself again.
I have a new mantra now. Instead of internalizing things anytime someone isn’t there when I reach out (and thinking it’s because I’m not worthy of their support), I’m saying the following: “They must not be in a place to help me right now. They probably can’t see past their own problems, and don’t have the energy. It’s okay. I was like that, too. When I’m better, I’ll have the energy to help them. Just because they can’t be there for me now doesn’t mean they don’t love me.”
I really do have so much love and abundance in my life. Sometimes comes from the places that you least expect it. And sometimes it’s right under your nose.
And that, my friend, is what I mean by attention.
[box]This will be my last post for a while. I’m actually out traveling around and these posts have been scheduled ahead of time. When I get back from my walkabout/eat-pray-love trip, I’ll be doing another round of posts, to share with you what I’ve learned, what has helped, what hasn’t, and to see if my outlook has changed any. If you’d like to make a donation to my journey, please consider purchasing a copy of my Magical Multipurpose Paleo Dough Recipe. It’s only four bucks and you can do so much with it. If you’d like to donate more than four dollars, you can purchase more than one copy. I’m also accepting prayers, wishes, and positive thoughts for when I’m out and about. Thank you so much.