“Keep it together.”
I tell myself that all the time.
We live in a society and a culture where it is looked down upon when you fall apart. We’re supposed to be like well oiled machines that work day in and day out. And once we squeak, well, we either need to repair ourselves or we’re cast as an outsider–the weird one, the defective one.
I was always told that I had to buck up and continue. No matter how emotionally or physically exhausted, I just kept going. I kept pushing and pushing to my limits; and that was how it should be, that was the expectation.
I’ve fallen apart a few times in my life, and they were bad breakdowns. It opened my eyes to how detrimental it was to keep going when I didn’t have fuel, when I was worn down to my bare bones. I kept going because I didn’t want to squeak. I didn’t want to set cause for alarm or worry. Most of all, I didn’t want for people to see or treat me differently.
I’d always been called a crybaby, over-emotional, and dramatic. Those were the identifying personality traits, and I grew up truly believing that. So as years past and tantrums weren’t acceptable anymore, I learned to rein it in. I cried myself to sleep, angry that I could not for the life of my hold myself together. I couldn’t be composed, calm and collected like everyone expected me to be. But once the dawn came, and I woke up, I would try my hardest to pretend.
Pretending to be okay when I wasn’t was the worst. It was using up more energy than if I just slumped around the way I actually felt; but, as always, I had to keep a facade. I didn’t want to be that squeaky machine, remember? So I just kept going like that, like the Energizer Bunny. Truth be told, I didn’t have that ongoing, everlasting energy. I was tired. I was exhausted. And I really wondered why I kept trying.
“Why am I doing this to myself?”
“Why can’t I just get my act together?”
“I need to get myself together!”
Eventually, all those feelings changed from fatigue to desperation. I couldn’t understand why I could not function the way I used to, but I couldn’t even bring myself to care. I’d lost the motivation and passion that I used to have. I became a shell of who I used to be. At one point, I was cheery and sociable and full of energy; somehow, it became an act.
But I refused to let the curtains close on me. I wanted to keep going. I really thought I could. Constantly telling myself, “Keep it together.” And I did, as long and as best as I could. Eventually, I fell apart.
The funny thing about your psyche is, is that it can only push you so far. That little engine lied to me, just because I think I can, doesn’t mean I really can. I over-exerted my resources and I came to a crashing halt. The worst part of it? I never even saw it coming. Logically, it was about time, but I just thought that I could keep going, like Wonder Woman or something. I thought I could get by on sheer willpower because that’s what I did all along. Except, I didn’t have any willpower left. Everything felt so pointless. I thought it was.
When I finally collapsed, I decided to take a look back. Okay, I didn’t decide, it was a consequence of feeling like a failure. But as I went through the years, I realized for a good portion of my life, maybe ten years, I was just going through the motions. I was doing what I was supposed to do, not what I wanted to do. I was doing what everyone else did, I was the drone that I tried to hard to be. I wasn’t squeaky, I was just like the rest. The only difference was that the other machines were still going, while I was broken.
I became really bitter and angry. I felt so down on myself and I went through a phase of blaming everyone else. Yet, the other part of me still said, “If only you could have kept it together.”
I’m not repaired. I don’t know if I ever will be. Finally breaking down after years of trying to feel normal and be normal took a toll on me. I’m still struggling to figure out who I am, what I want, and where to go from here. Sometimes, I feel like I hit the rock bottom of my standards.
I try to tell myself it’s okay. I try to let myself release all the pent-up frustration or stress when I feel overwhelmed. Yet, that haunting phrase remains deeply ingrained, “Keep it together.”