I am not an island.

The first time I let someone take care of me in years was two weeks ago.

I have to type that again. The first time I let someone take care of me, really take care of me and hold me and carry my soul for a second, was just a matter of days ago. I didn’t realize til I let go how tight I’d been holding on.

It took such a weighty slate of things all at once at a wedding in rural Canada. My brother’s psychotic break, my parents’ desperate need for me to show them which way is up, being thousands of miles from home, a lifetime of Being Strong and a bottle of wine, two whiskey shots and two glasses of champagne for me to let someone else rub my back and get me water.

I wish I was exaggerating when I say that it was the first time in years and years that I let someone take care of me. It’s not a positive reflection upon me — rather the opposite. What kind of asshole is so stubborn that she’ll go through an all-consuming, abusive break-up, life-altering family mental illness and two heart surgeries within a year without letting anyone take care of her? Apparently I’m that asshole.

It was the strangest feeling, letting go. My favorite aunt in the world held my hair while I vomited up all of the alcohol I’d drank too quickly because I was so overwhelmed and tired and scared and the way they got me into someone’s soft pajamas while two sweet cousins got me water and toast and rubbed my back and said the nicest things and held me while I cried and apologized for being drunk and sad and broken. The way they tucked me in and left me with everything I needed to sleep and heal. The way that my cousin hugged me when I stumbled up the stairs of an unfamiliar house in the morning in foreign pajamas and asked if I was okay. The way I fell into her arms and needed them all day long. I was cracked open all day at the prospect of having showed my private war. The way the countryside of beautiful Alberta was so quiet you could hear your own heart break at night.

I can’t tell if the hardest is behind me or in front and in truth it doesn’t matter but the squishing down I have been doing for six years will kill me unless I let some out. I have to both be strong and get stronger every day. The brother I have is the brother I have. The parents have are the ones I will take care of as they age. I will always have to keep a basement room open for my mentally ill brother. I will always see things for what they are.

My whirlwind tends toward seeing everything as possibility and light. Telling myself things should be easy and I should be smarter and better and more and that I should do it on my own. That if I tried harder it would be okay.

I am not an island and I have to remember that. I have to let myself be vulnerable.

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