Are you OK?

Ellen Cappard
6 min readApr 15, 2023

The tears began to fall while sipping coffee after putting my daughter on the bus. Nothing out of the ordinary, hold it together long enough to get her dressed, give her the morning meds, brush her teeth, put on her coat and braces. I take a deep breath before rolling her wheelchair down the steps, ignoring the slight twinge in my lower back. I go back in, pep up my voice as I command for her to get up and get ready for the assisted walk down the steps and securing her to the wheelchair. By the time she gets to the bus her tears from the morning are dry and a sweet smile peers down as the lift takes her on the bus. We made it another morning. It’s only Tuesday. We still have so much to do before Friday.

So when I come back in, peering at the full sink, the unkempt living room I start to feel the gloom of the day return. I sit with my instant Café Bustelo and sweet cream in hand hoping the warmth of the cup will reach my soul. I sip. Instead of relief, deep sadness flows through me and comes out as a stream of tears. Normally I can wipe it away, breathe deep and lunge into the day. Normally the threat of falling behind or being late beckons me out of sorrow. Not today. The bad thoughts, the ones too poisonous to speak out loud, leer closer to the front of my mind. I need to pivot, get up, call someone, send that reply email. None of the false coaxing is working. I am alone with my worst enemy, my dark thoughts.

Everyone has a point, a place they know is too far down the road of negative thinking to keep themselves safe. I know for me it’s allowing the worst of me, my darkest thoughts to take center stage. I’m in the house alone with them and they don’t want to sleep or be suppressed. I’m in trouble. I text three people a quick message, not to send panic out but hoping their reply will fish me out of the dark thoughts sea. It’s barely 8am, kind of risky to sit and wait for a reply so I grab a baseball cap and my keys and leave.

I drive to the closest state park, knowing the warm sun of the morning and the crisp breeze off the river will lift my spirits. One of the texts was to a friend who lives locally. I was hoping she would join me in my walk so I don’t have to be alone. One of the texts was to a close sister friend who knew me texting,” I feel so low this morning”, means a phone call and some time to unpack. She calls me back and I’m walking in the woods crying trying to figure out how I got here. When she answers she tells me it’s ok to feel what I feel. It isn’t a defeat to feel down. Even with the comfort of her words I unravel more.

Trying to unpack, be truthful and present and bemoan and exhausted and distress gets all overwhelming all at once. I see an older man approaching with his dog and I try to pull myself together but the exact opposite happens. Now, I’m sobbing uncontrollably on the trail, my dear friend on speaker asking me if I’m still there, the stranger looking concerned. He asks if I’m ok, at first I nod yes but my breaths are getting more shallow. He stops. He asks again. I have enough sense to shake my head no, he pauses with his dog and stands there. The stranger has kind brown eyes. No judgment present. I knew I was safe in his presence and could ground myself. Even the dog approached me for comfort.

“Just take a deep breath, it’s ok,” I hear the stranger saying. I grab for his hand because at this moment knowing someone is here is comforting and keeps me anchored. The warmth from his soft hands remind me I am not alone. Of all the words this touch, the hand being my anchor reminds me of my mother. How she would always know when I needed more than words. Her presence comforted me during my darkest hour. Holding this stranger’s hand dispensed a deep warmth. I am not alone. I am here now.

I thanked him and let go. With a gentle nod he turns and goes on the trail. I begin to walk on in the opposite direction, deeper into the woods. I’m back from the paralysis of a panic attack. “Are you ok,” my friend asks from the phone I manage to have kept in my hand.

The truth is I don’t know.

I am fighting each day to be a good person, better than I was the day before. I find that with each resolved crisis another one arrives. I am figuring out all of this daily. Alone. It keeps me up at night, wakes me early in the morning. I try to pray when I wake up, but that turns into a worry list. I want to get up and create, paint or draw but the heaviness of life keeps me from seeing color. As an entrepreneur and creative who is parenting a child with complex medical care my days are done in solitude. I think the reclusive nature of my life breaks me down to my core, especially in times of change and crisis.

What I do know in life is that each day I am trying my best. Some days it just does not feel good enough. Today was probably a bit of a culminating event. Daily work tasks paired with parenthood, plus the crushing responsibility to financially keep us afloat feels so burdensome. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. We all have dark moments that take over us. Thankfully for me I was in a good enough space to get in touch with others. I was able to lean into the kindness offered by a stranger. I am grateful that physically touching another person brought me back to the present moment, to the flow of breath that kept me going. I am so appreciative of the friend who stayed on the phone with me well into the hour it took to get out of that negative space and be present in nature, in myself and my body. It is in the dark moments when we are searching for the light that we need each other — when the grief hits so heavy, when the breath won’t come, and a hand to hold grounds the body in the present.

I can only be strong for so long alone. I need others around me. The moment when I lost myself, love found me. In nature love is so easy to find. I can instantly feel love in nature with my body. It was there in the wind. It was in each ray of sun. I felt love in the songs of the birds, the whispers of the trees, the soft lull of the water. I know when I don’t feel the love in me the elements of nature are mirrors all around me. I come back to myself and remember that I am nature. I am Love. Heavy is the heart we call home during this lifetime. The blessing is I know now that I do not have to carry the weight of all that I feel by myself. Even in the darkest moment love is present. How sweet it is to be in love, see love, and receive love from all those around you. I know that I am worthy to be present in love.

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Ellen Cappard

Artist, educator, writer, and mother dedicated to sharing my experiences with others. An evolving lover of all things beautiful and explorer of the Truth!