The Curse of the Capable

I don't want to be a bitter person. But something happened a few years ago that still irks me.

After giving birth to my third child, I came home with her from the hospital on a Wednesday. Thursday night—or rather Friday morning at 2:00 A.M.—my husband returned to the hospital with our then four-year-old son, Isaac. Earlier that day, Isaac had already been to urgent care because of difficulty breathing. But the doctor had merely diagnosed him with a mild case of asthma and recommended we follow up with our regular doctor soon. Instead, Isaac ended up in the ER, then in the hospital, with a wicked bout of pneumonia.

So there we were: one new baby, one child in the hospital, and one kid wondering how she could get a little attention. Clearly, we were a bit stressed.I'd like to say we had numerous friends rally around to provide some meals and offer to baby-sit while I visited my son in the hospital, but I can't. And that bugs me to this day.

But I think I know what went wrong. My husband and I are too strong. We're the people who help, who support, who nurture. When we know someone's in need, we try to assist them. And we rarely let on that we have needs of our own.

This is the curse of the capable. Those of us considered dependable, stable, and strong tend to present such a good show that no one can see when we actually need help. Maybe we don't even let ourselves see when we need help.

Recently, I've had some conversations with a friend who appears, like me, to have everything together—strong marriage, lovely children, thriving career. Yet we both feel we're sinking in the muck of anxiety and depression. And because we've bought into our own myths of perfection so completely, we've been taken aback by the loneliness and isolation false perfection brings.

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May 25

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