I sat on the toilet Thursday afternoon, fully intending just to pee and go back to work. Instead, I ended up crying. Alone. In the bathroom stall. For 15 minutes.
I was okay before all of that. It was Thanksgiving day. I went to see a movie in the morning just to engage in something to pass the time. Then I went to work, and I was busy but being busy was good. It kept my mind occupied as much as it did my body.
But it was in that moment, sitting alone in the bathroom in silence and inaction, that my mind began to wander. Then my reality sank in. It was Thanksgiving day and I had no one. Everyone else was eating with their families, and here I was alone, crying on a toilet.
It took me awhile to get myself back together. I managed to stop crying a few times before bursting into tears again. I told myself if I just went back to work, if I went back to being busy, that I wouldn’t have to think about the sad stuff and I would be okay. I got up, washed my face, and went back out.
I noticed my manager looking for something in my area, so I went over to see if I could help. She was checking something I had already fixed. No problems. Then she looked up and noticed my face, still red from my earlier crying. She asked me if I was okay. The question I’ve always dreaded.
I could have lied in that moment. I could have said I was fine just like I said I was fine so many cries before, for the last 30 years. I could have pushed her away and that would have been that. But I didn’t. I stumbled with words for a minute, before I finally said no, this is a hard time for me.
I felt myself starting to cry again, but I tried to contain it. She came forward to give me a hug, but then stopped. Then she asked me, is it okay to touch you? I could have cried in that moment, but not out of sadness. Here was someone offering me support. Here was someone respecting my boundaries, respecting me. This was different.
I told her it was okay, so she continued to give me a hug. I needed the comfort, as awkward as if felt for me. I felt supported and cared for. I knew I didn’t have to hide. If I needed to cry, I didn’t have to go and do it alone on the toilet.
And I did cry, a few more times that afternoon. But the sadness didn’t consume me. I wiped the tears away and went on. My coworkers supported me. They told me it was going to be okay. You are here with us, now. They were right.
There were several hugs that night, in the moments I desperately needed them, but also in the moments I didn’t know that I did. My work people were there for me. They made sure I was okay. And even though I was only scheduled to work until late afternoon, management let me stay a few more hours so I wouldn’t have to be alone.
When I finally made it home that night, I sat in my bed and cried. But I wasn’t crying from sadness. I was crying because I realized I had found what I thought was missing. I thought I had been without a family, but I have a family. It’s a family made up of amazing coworkers, great friends (online and offline), support groups, sometimes frustrating roommates, and weird people I’ve met along the way. But it is my family, and more of a family than my parents ever were.
And that’s what my mother doesn’t know.
She only knows the weak little girl she hurt and abused.
She only knows the broken woman she took advantage of.
She doesn’t know I have love and support and acceptance and understanding and all of the things that I didn’t have before I ran away.
She doesn’t know I found strength.
She doesn’t know I’ve been gluing myself back together, piece by piece.
She doesn’t know she can’t break me anymore.
It won’t work. I won’t let it. And neither will they.