I'm hard on myself in a lot of ways.
I'm hard on myself in almost all ways.
I have pushed myself into terrible states of pain, my whole life, because of a fear of being weak.
I've injured my body, moving forward and pushing harder, even though things were hurting. I didn't want to be weak, and now I have to be careful or I'll end up with an ice pack on my knee and a brace that rubs my skin raw, limping for weeks.
I have injured the inside of me, too, by refusing to stop, refusing to say no, refusing to rest. There are always clues that I am approaching a breakdown, approaching a state where I am hobbled completely by anxiety and panic, where I can barely pour myself a glass of water, because the effort of holding the pitcher and all of these thoughts at the same time, is too great to bear.
I read something recently. It was something that beautiful Pema Chodron said. She said, "Since death is certain and the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?"
I need to stop trying to avoid being weak or I will spend the rest of my life in terrible pain and everything will have been wasted.
Something that happens is that I get so good at pushing away my bad feelings, I can run on pure avoidance and illusion for quite some time. I can run on fantasy and emptiness and grit for miles and miles and miles. You would be astounded to see how far I can get by denying. I can climb halfway to the moon.
Imagine what I could do, if I stopped pushing everything away. I could be happy. I could be sane.
I could be happy.
Something that happened this time is that I thought I had manhandled my anxiety, that I had a handle on it. I thought that I had gutted my panic, beaten it into submission and stuffed it down so far that it would never come back. I would never be weak like that, again. It was over. I was stronger, now, better, more streamlined; I had moved on.
And then, I started to feel overwhelmed. I started to have trouble sleeping and with keeping my temper. I suddenly couldn't tolerate noise and messes. I pushed my husband away, couldn't listen to his stories couldn't tolerate his company. There was too much stress and noise inside of me. I started to unravel over tasks like decorating the Christmas tree because the girls were putting the ornaments all right next to one another and it was so chaotic and wrong that I had to step out of the room, or I was going to start screaming at everyone. Everything was wrong and I felt an overwhelming urge to grab it all in my fists and keep it still.
One day, I felt the ghost of panic creep up my spine.
"Oh god. Oh no. Not this. I don't do this, anymore. I have gotten past this," I said. I tried to deny that it was happening. Then I pretended. As long as no one else knew, it was like it wasn't real. Then I got sick and went to the hospital, had my heart checked. I always become preoccupied with my heart, with myself, with what is inside of myself. I can't see anything but my worry.
There was an afternoon soon after that where I lost it.
I was home alone. Kurt and the girls were at grandma's house. I called my husband on the phone. I spoke quietly, got right to the point. "I'm panicking and I'm so disappointed in myself," I whispered. My voice was low and urgent and familiar. I felt like a failure. Feeling like a failure made me feel even more frantic. I would never overcome this thing; it would haunt me every moment until the day I died.
I have been doing a lot of things over the last six weeks.
Pulling back. Making myself less available. Lying down. Taking breaks. Getting rest.
I started seeing a therapist who isn't helping. I tried taking pills, which made me feel like I was going insane and that I would never stop shaking or sleep again. One pill even gave me a sore throat and a stuffed up nose, just like I had volunteered to swallow a virus. I can't take those pills. I hate those pills. I appreciate that those pills do a great deal of good for a great many people. I can't take them, though.
There is this, though.
Something has been different this time, than the other times. I pulled myself out of the horror. I worked so hard to be still, to come back to my body, to my life, to the day, today. I worked so hard to say no, to laugh and talk and reach out to hold your hands. It dawned on me that failing isn't really a thing. It is only my perception of a thing. It is only that I told myself that I was bad and wrong and stupid for succumbing to anxiety, again. It was only that I told myself that I was weak, and that I felt ashamed.
I recognized that I totally blew it. I didn't listen to my body and my mind and my signals. I didn't take care of myself, and I ended up hobbled and hurt. I absolutely and totally blew it.
And then I recognized that I blew it, and I tried to do better.
I feel that this is profound, for me. Instead of continuing to berate myself for failing, I stopped thinking of things, that way. With some help, I decided to treat myself with kindness and to stop trying to manhandle my thoughts and feelings, to stop trying to deny them and push them away, and it has all been helping tremendously.
I still need a pill to fall asleep, but I am getting back to normal, slowly. (I refuse to think of that pill as failing. It will go when it is ready. When I am ready.)
A few minutes ago, I was taking a walk and listening to an audio book and I heard something that made me feel as though all of the wonder in the world was coming together to show me that I am okay. It was a big moment. It was a moment where I could breathe. It was Pema, again. She told a story about a teacher she knows who says, and I'm paraphrasing; When I succeed, I rejoice. When I see that I have blown it, I rejoice that I have the capacity to see that.
There is the potential for joy inside of everything, even my panic. I can call it failure and try to beat it over the head and make myself sick, or I can say, "I blew it, and I see that. It means that I am alive and that I am able to try again, and that is a beautiful thing."
I am trying very hard, right now. It hasn't been an easy thing to go through this, again. I feel like I've been through a battle. I also feel like I have learned something, from this experience. I will never be finished with anxiety. I will never be "fixed." I will never be finished with failing, and that doesn't mean anything is wrong. It just means I am alive.