I get by with a little help from my friends
The fallout from emotional trauma is swift, brutal, and indiscriminate.
It doesn’t care what you had planned that day, that week, that year. From the moment it’s unleashed, it sets out to completely consume you, crush your self-worth, and cripple your ego.
You’re wounded. Yet for some reason people don’t empathise with an emotional wound as they do a physical. Give me a broken leg over a broken heart any day.
As we know, wounds take time to heal. But with the right treatment, care, and rehabilitation, cuts fade to scars. Broken bones mend.
But if doctors are there for physical ailments, who helps you with the emotional? Answer… Your girlfriends.
This is a love letter to my dear friends.
They say behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back. It’s no exaggeration when I say I’m not sure how I would have survived those early days without their support.
My mum – who since I was born has been my go-to-girl, my confidante, my biggest supporter, my best friend – was overseas. I’d never felt so alone in my life. My mind was scattered. My body was trembling. I hadn’t slept a wink since just past midnight.
I knew I needed to turn to my closest friends to get me through this. I was supposed to head down the coast with some girlfriends that morning for a few days. I texted them at 4am apologising, explaining why I wouldn't be able to make it. The first to wake called me at 7am.
It was the first time I’d uttered a word since he walked out hours earlier. It was grey, miserable, pouring outside. I sputtered out a few words… then began hysterically sobbing.
“I’m getting in my car now,” she responded.
Within the next few hours, I mustered the strength to tell each of my closest friends. One by one they came to my door armed with chips and chocolate. They wiped my tears. Force fed me hot food. Patiently listened while I ranted and raved. Hugged me when I couldn’t breathe. Entertained Oliver. Kept a bedside vigil while I napped. They stopped me texting things I’d later regret. Handled menial tasks I didn’t have the mental strength to take on. Cooked me dinner. Kept the house tidy.
They were my hands when mine were too shaky.
My eyes when they were flooded with tears.
My voice when it trembled with fear.
I’d never lived alone, and they set out to ensure it would be a smooth transition. By that evening, a roster was drafted to make sure I didn’t sleep alone in those early weeks. It would have been a frightening prospect heading to bed by myself that night. But this wasn’t a concern that crossed my mind. In a time of turmoil, it’s the simple things that help you put one foot in front of the other.
They came from all walks of my life, from work friends, to old school friends, to those I made through my ex, to those bound by blood, to my mother-in-law. She was interstate when she was woken at an ungodly hour to hysterical sobs on the other end of the line. She caught the first plane back the following morning, and didn't leave my side for a week. Stepping up to the plate while my mum was away, she was my rock. She tended to Ollie overnight so I could sleep, patiently listened to me rant and rave about her son, and wiped my tears until I had none. Each of these women united over the one thing they had in common: their soldier was wounded. And they would band together, creating an army of women who saw no weakness, and joined forces to help me pick up the pieces of my life.
As the information trickled out through our social circles, friends I’d made along the way reached out to me, many sharing their own stories of personal torment I had no idea about. I bonded with women I’d previously only shared pleasantries with. I now count them as some of my closest friends. We are bloody with battle scars, but stronger for the experience, and richer for the relationships gained.
Great emotional upheaval throws everything into the air, your relationship with yourself, your friends, your family, what you always thought you knew/wanted/loved/valued. I’ve since learnt it takes weeks, if not months for that dust, thrust into the air, to finally settle again. When you think of it this way, you realise its impossible for that dust to fall in the exact same spot. And nor should it. You’ve just uprooted its foundation.
That’s exactly what’s so unsettling about suffering an emotional trauma. You desperately cling to everything that once was for a sense of normality. But it’s unrealistic for everything to remain the same after such a dramatic event. The ripple effect means friends and family from far and wide are impacted. And that means inevitably, even if you feel you didn’t do anything wrong, you will lose friendships you valued. People you relied on suddenly can’t step up to be what you need. It’s heartbreaking. It’s disappointing. Its infuriating. But it happens. And you have to understand that just like a snake, you’ve shed your skin. You are no longer the person you were yesterday. A lot of people can’t deal with that. While others simply don't know how to help you. Words fail them. They can't relate. It's all too messy. So they retreat. But just like that saying goes, those who matter don't mind... those who mind don't matter.
It’s when these people start dropping off you discover your tribe. Your friends who love you no matter what. They’ve seen you at your worst, picked you up when you’re on the ground, and still love you and want the best for you. If there’s one silver lining in this excruciating experience it’s that I’ve realised who matters most. Never underestimate the strength to be gained from leaning on your girlfriends. The notion of "Girl Power" didn't die when Ginger Spice called it quits. It's alive and well, and it's thriving at the core of every strong, accomplished group of women, who know as females we are so much stronger when we band together. They know it's empowering to lean on those when your legs don’t have the strength to carry your weight. Not a weakness.
I owe everything to my tribe. They know who they are. I may never find a suitable way to thank them for everything. But I know if ever the shoe is on the other foot, I will be the first at their door armed with chocolate, chips, a shoulder to cry on, and hopefully some sage advice from a woman who has been to hell and back and survived... thanks to her closest friends.