Ask Ann Cannon: I’m a rock during a crisis, but afterward I fall apart

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • Our family was recently engulfed by a full-blown crisis. Without going into detail, let me just say I was the one that everybody leaned on to manage things, from making arrangements to offering pep talks. And I did. Not to sound arrogant or anything, but I didn’t fall apart and I was able to meet the needs and requests of various family members in ways that were truly helpful.

Now that things have settled down and everybody’s lives have more or less gone back to normal, I’ve turned into a hot mess. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I sit on the couch and shake. Cheesy commercials on TV make me cry. The simplest tasks feel overwhelming to me. Is this typical or am I just weird? How do I take care of my hot messy-ness and get myself back on track?

You Guessed It: Hot Mess

Dear You Guessed It • I’m sorry that you’re in such a hard place. I’m certain you’ll feel better eventually, but still. Things are tough right now.

Let me answer your first question with a little story. When my husband and I were living in married student housing, one of our neighbors died suddenly due to complications from a botched surgery. Because we were friends and their families lived far away, the wife asked me to help her make it through the difficult days immediately following her husband’s death. I managed to rise to the occasion and do what she needed me to do.

A week after the funeral I found myself in the situation you’ve just described. And that’s when another neighbor, who worked as an RN, miraculously showed up at our apartment. She asked how I was doing. Not great, I said. And that’s when she told me something I’ve never forgotten.

“You have the Rock of Gibraltar syndrome,” she said. Or at least that’s they called it at the hospital where she worked. My neighbor the nurse went on to explain. Often when there’s a crisis, one person gets singled out to be the brick, the steady Eddie, the rock. Typically, this individual keeps it together for the sake of everyone else — but as soon as the crisis passes, she or he falls apart.

I’ve since observed this phenomenon many times over the years — in myself and in others. Usually it passes quickly, but sometimes it doesn’t. My advice? Realize there’s nothing unusual or “weird” about your reaction and recognize it will pass. Meanwhile, be gentle with yourself for the moment. And if your feelings of being “undone” persist, there’s no shame in speaking to a therapist.

I hope you feel better soon.

Dear Ann Cannon • We live in a great walking neighborhood and 90% of my neighbors have dogs. No problem until they bark incessantly whenever they come outside. What to do?

My Ears Are Still Ringing

Dear Ringing Ears • Thanks for your question. I’m sure plenty of our readers can relate. But here’s the deal. Haters gonna hate, playas gonna play, sharks gonna shark, dogs gonna bark.

Or whatever.

My point is there’s not a whole lot you can do except move to a neighborhood where dogs are verboten.

Dear Ann Cannon • In regard to the neighbor (A) who uses the leaf-blower when the other neighbor (B) relaxes outside: While A may be very obnoxious, clueless, passive-aggressive and/or fastidious, it seems possible that B may be the same except for the fastidious part. Does B talk very loudly about politics, religion or everything? Have a loud barking laugh? Are the neighbors so close together that more consideration is required from everyone?

A Reader

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.