Archive for the ‘sadness’ Tag

Assumptions

Wow, sometimes I think I might be prescient. I started writing this last Saturday, following a train of thought that has been nagging at the back of my brain on and off for a while now. A couple of things have happened in the three days since I started writing that seem to confirm all my thoughts on this topic. Weird how the brain works sometimes.

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Everyone assumes things, big and small, right and wrong, from time to time. There are some overt assumptions given as a starting point in certain situations that everyone involved agrees to be true. But often when we speak about assumptions it is in the context of blind assumptions, those thoughts that set a baseline, coloring our actions and outlook on a given topic, person or activity, without much basis for that thought or opinion. Those kinds of beliefs can be tricky to navigate and hard to challenge and change, especially when they are about ourselves.

Lately, I have been encountering assumptions that I have about myself in odd, unexpected ways. For the most part, I think that’s a good thing. Being aware of what we think about ourselves helps us examine our path and can help us make good choices (or bad) and take us in new and exciting directions. It can also make us retrench in those beliefs, habits, practices that we find comfortable and true, often regardless of other knock-on effects of keeping those things in tact.

At times, I feel that this constant self-examination, endless striving to improve, to be and remain positive, to challenge every shortcoming, is just another treadmill of “not good enough”. It feels like all this self awareness, personal growth and discovery work is more about destruction than construction. Some days it feels like there’s nothing good enough in me and I’ll have to completely remake my entire being in order to get to a place where I can look at myself in the mirror (both physical and metaphorical) and be content that the person looking back is acceptable.

This self assumption of inadequacy is insidious. It lurks in places you don’t ever expect to find assumptions. There are plenty of overt, obvious places where it is easily recognizable. These are predictable and annoying, sometimes hard to cut loose, but they don’t have much camouflage and are capable of being tackled head-on. The cynic in me sometimes thinks these are intentional distractions, ruses placed by the subconscious to divert attention from the deeper places where this assumption truly lives, to make it nearly impossible to root out and eradicate. If all our energy is focused on the surface assumptions, then the roots have time to go deep and unchallenged.

A place I’ve recently confronted this assumption – that I am not and will never be good enough – is superficially obvious, but there’s a taproot from the obvious surface to the hidden depths that I didn’t expect. And that unexpectedness makes me question if it’s really an irrational assumption or just the plain truth that I have to accept.

The surface bit is easy: I encounter disapproval/rejection/reprimand and I immediately assume I’m in the wrong or not up to standard, so that treatment must be deserved and I need to change and improve to be worthy of better treatment.

Now, clearly, there are times when everyone falls short and that self-castigating assumption is accurate. Being a mature adult means taking accountability for our mistakes and flaws and committing to do or be better. This is a healthy response to confronting personal shortcomings.

But the deeper bit is harder to articulate. It’s part “I’m working really hard to improve X quality/personal trait yet am not seeing expected results” and part “damn, I thought I’d mastered that one, but I guess not”. I guess what it boils down to is that frequency matters, more so than personal effort. Basically, if criticism is repeated, especially when it comes from different sources, then I gotta think that it’s not my irrational insecurities, but fact.

That’s painful on a lot of levels, but mostly it hurts to know that my inner saboteur was right all along. It’s painful and embarrassing to discover that I was a fool to take comfort in the easy platitudes of well-meaning acquaintances who urged me to believe myself to be good and smart and worthy, when my brain was telling me where I was falling short of all of those standards.

So what do you do when the illusion is revealed and all your comfortable self beliefs are debunked by cold fact?

I suppose the healthiest response is to redirect all that self-improvement energy to a more realistic, achievable goal. When your inadequacy has been proven to be reality, get to work on becoming adequate. Seems fairly straightforward. But so much in life that seems simple is not. Bootstrapping yourself to the finish line from square one is really f’ing hard and exhausting. Especially when the leaden weight of failure is still hanging around your neck.

So the real question is how do you take that leaden noose off your neck?

Let me know when you find out, won’t you?

Creeping Sludge

A writer I admire, who’s published works and blogs I enjoy very much, recently posted a raw, vulnerable post to her blog about the toll that human interaction at a big event has taken on her introverted spirit. She has explained that she posts these thoughts that leave her exposed to others’ scrutiny in an effort to fight the stigma about mental health challenges and coping mechanisms.

I admire this bravery. There are many, including me, who shrink from being vulnerable to the examination and judgment of strangers and friends alike. But without the brave who expose the germs of anxiety and doubt and dread and depression to the light, the light has no chance to bleach away the stain of stigma, shame, and negativity that grows in the dark like fungus.

My own battles with this creeping sludge, more acute in the last year or so, have met with mixed success. I have chronicled most of this here, with mostly indirect references to the enemy. I’ve concentrated on my work to be and remain positive, to find the one good thing in every day that holds back a bit of the sludge, to be authentic and real. I’ve even acknowledged my failures and down days, named some demons to destroy their power. I’ve had many tall peaks of success and a few deep valleys of almost no success at intentional positivity. But overall, I believe the tally is still on the plus side, in the green and not the red.

Yet today is one of those that falls to the valley floor and adds a tick to the debit column. And, inspired by that author’s bravery, I’m going to fight this stain on my peace by exposing it to the cleansing light of transparency and vulnerability. Without the safety of hidden shame, this sludge will have no power to control my spirit.

What makes this particular encounter with the sludge so bad is that it has no apparent source, no catalyst or rationale. I was placidly content, feeling good about myself and my deeds one second and then the next I was literally gasping for breath in the wake of an unexplainable rogue wave of intense and sharply negative emotions full of criticism and self-loathing. Ambushed by my own brain, torn to tatters by my inner saboteur in a matter of seconds. And, truly, without warning or trigger. It’s baffling and infuriating.

Coinciding this morning with a particularly pronounced flare-up of the tremor in my hands that I’ve endured since second grade, this bout of emotional fatigue is acutely irritating. I’ve fumbled or dropped nearly everything I’ve touched since my eyes opened from far too few hours of restless sleep. Even had to change my shirt before I could leave the house because it fell victim to flying tea from a fit of shakes. This makes me feel dull and clumsy and useless – validating the hurtful things my brain insists on shouting at me.

I don’t know what brought all this on. It’s ridiculous. Intellectually, I know I’m not stupid and utterly useless, not a failed experiment of near-human biology, not a pathetic waste of space, not an imposition on the truly worthy occupants of this world. I know all of these hurtful, hateful, wrong things are the lies my anxiety tells me to perpetuate itself. I KNOW it’s a bunch of lies. I. KNOW. IT.

Yet, knowing and believing aren’t the same thing when the storm is raging.

This is the battle. Negotiating peace between the thinking, rational brain and the anxious, lying sludge is tricky. And it’s not a one-time event. Sometimes, like today, it’s a repetitive, iterative process of cajoling and pleading balanced with teeth-grinding, iron-willed cussedness (as my gran used to call my stubbornness). But calling it out into the light helps.

So, if you encounter a wild-eyed, bedraggled Butch in a possibly coffee splattered shirt and rumpled bow tie, muttering dark maledictions under their breath, maybe cut ‘em some grace and give ‘em some space. Everyone has an off day now and then and could benefit from the charitable kindness of their scruffy grumpiness being overlooked and not commented on.

Gut Churn

I’ve been trying not to be too raw, too vulnerable with my posts, wanting to protect myself and to avoid burning out readers with too much angst. But yesterday was a particularly crappy Monday and I wrote this in the heat of the emotion. After letting it sit overnight, I find it is still valid and not too overwrought with drama, so I’m posting it.

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305 days. That’s how long it is until my 20th work anniversary 17 April 2020). If I stay at this job that long, I will have earned my incentive compensation payout for 2019 (if any) and my milestone anniversary gift card (woohoo!) and will have proven to myself that I could do it. That’s the sum total of incentives I can catalog for staying (apart from my regular paycheck).

For going, I count a lot of things as incentives, not least of which is the salvaging of my self respect. I’m so weary of the stress and, now, the disrespect I receive from so-called peers. I’m utterly spent in terms of grace and charity for those that abuse my team and my good intentions. My sight line to the reason I keep going is more obscured every day. And I honestly don’t know what purpose it serves me or my company to continue as a lame duck “leader” under the direction of another who has been made the whipping boy/scapegoat for all things negative. He can’t shield my team anymore and I’m no longer given my full agency and authority to direct my organization. So what’s the point in remaining?

Except that I don’t yet have another job and that I still cling to the belief that I’m doing some marginal good for my team, I wouldn’t stay. I’d pack up today and walk out without another word.

Or, at least I like to think so.

Reasons Be Damned

Last post, I talked about reasons to stay/go at my job. By sheer numbers, Go won hands-down. But I was still working through the logic, trying to figure out whether it was salvageable. Then, later that week, I had a terrifyingly open discussion with my boss in which I admitted to being extremely unhappy and unable to identify what purpose and value I have to the company anymore. He again advised that the chief source of our mutual misery will be leaving in under two years and I should stick it out.

Since that conversation, I’ve been doing my best with the dreck I’m dealing with. I keep looking back at that list in my last post and trying to beef up the Stay side, attempting to persuade myself that giving up on nearly 20 years of work and professional investment isn’t failure. I have dug as deep as I know how, and I keep coming up empty.

And in the face of the blatantly unfair and wrong directive I received last night, which completely disregards my leadership, undermines my authority, and eviscerates my agency,…for the second time at this job…I can think of no good reason to stay and endure the continued abuse and poisonous politics.

Reasons be damned. I’m out.

I even applied for a job I saw on LinkedIn today. I won’t just walk out, leaving my team unsupported and work undone. But I’ve made the choice inside my head and committed to myself that I won’t put up with it any more.

Now I just have to find the least disruptive path to a new start. Oh, and tell my family…and my boss…and my team.

Ugh, this sucks.

Naming the Demon

I’m pretty sure I’ve written at least once before about believing that naming the demons, claiming the fear out loud, so to speak, can take away its power and give courage enough to rise above that fear. I do believe that. I try to practice that, especially in my professional life with my team, trying to make a safe space for them to do the same. But when it comes to my personal growth and self discovery and improvement, that naming requires significant vulnerability, particularly when the naming is in print for all and sundry to read…and ridicule.

While I have come a fair clip from the overly-cautious, fearful and shy person I was in the beginning of this journey, I still keep a good bit to myself and still guard my IRL persona carefully. I have a career and position that demands I bear a great burden of responsibility, so public behavior (including on social media) is something I’m very careful about.

Yet, I don’t want that burden to become a convenient excuse to hide from truth and let fear win.

So I’m going to try to strike a balance with this post, naming fears without context or explanation for the most part, saving some measure of privacy and dignity while putting into the universe my plea for peace. Here are some of the demons plaguing my heart and mind:

  • Isolation
  • Emotional upheaval and anxiety
  • Longing for, and also fearing, change
  • Terror of never being enough
  • Dread of always being judged to be too much
  • Shame at being fearful and insecure
  • Inertia that prevents logical, rational thought and action that might alleviate some of this dread
  • Utter lack of creativity and innovation in devising solutions to these problems
  • Disgust at my ineffectiveness in my own life
  • Self loathing over how pathetic this list is

Ugh. That’s a lot of sludge to expose to the world. And I don’t have any comfortable, warm & fuzzy platitudes to salve the negativity. But I cling to the conviction that as long as I’m working on it, putting genuine effort into trying to overcome and to improve, and by calling out the darkness into the light, there is a chance that it will get better.

I have to believe that. I hope you do, too.

Learning from Disappointment

Everyone gets disappointed from time to time. Sometimes it’s mild, like when you have your tastebuds all set for the remembered flavor of some particular favorite treat (such as apricot filled croissants), only to find them sold out for the day. Bummer, but you move on without true damage. Sometimes it’s so significant that it almost doesn’t count as disappointment anymore; rather it’s basically trauma.

But then there’s the middle ground, where the bulk of everything in life happens. Disappointment is no different. There’s this bulk quantity of circumstances that fall between those two extremes, the disappointment that has lasting meaning in your life. These are the ones that change your outlook on things, that make you change behavior and sometimes aspects of your personality.

Teaching moments, they’re sometimes called. Lessons that last…if you’re willing to learn. And that doesn’t have to be bitter or hard or sad. Being wiser and better equipped to deal with the same or similar circumstances in the future can still be a positive outcome.

Yet, the positive outcome doesn’t change the fact of your disappointment. The disappointment still stings. It’s initial bitterness is no less sharp before any mellowing that assimilation of the lesson may provide. This is particularly true when the disappointment comes from people close to your heart, when it’s their actions or words that deliver the blow to your hope or steal the joy from your soul.

Lessons from hopes dashed by changed circumstances or from the ugliness of the anonymous world in general can be hard and painful, sure. But there’s a special flavor of heartache when someone you love, respect and rely on (whether that love is familial, friendly, or romantic) does or says something that cuts you, disappoints your understanding of them and your shared bond, or tramples your beliefs.

I’m struggling with a string of coincidental disappointments, all from people close to me and whom I have respected and continue to respect. Working on separating my hurt feelings from the circumstances so that I can glean the lessons I believe are just under that tangled surface is proving to be very difficult. Not least because a part of me fears that the lessons will include some from of:

  1. Your original beliefs were stupid so your disappointment is deserved.
  2. Your hurt feelings are misplaced because you didn’t deserve a different experience.
  3. What you’re really disappointed about is that you didn’t do/say/act that way yourself because you are too [insert derisive descriptor of choice here].

You see, the nature of these particular disappointments feed straight into the middle of the deepest areas of insecurity lurking in my brain where the traitorous internal critic holds court: a friend who has ghosted me, a rejection from someone I hoped to get close with, a leader’s disparate treatment to the detriment of my team, and a demonstration by a respected elder that racism and misogyny live too close to me for comfort.

All these things fuel my internal critic’s loudest voice: you’re not worthy.

So untangling the lessons is a more complicated challenge than usual. I’m trying to be as objective as I can, making allowances for context I could be missing or the always-likely struggle of the other person of which I am unaware. Yet the line between making allowances and making excuses that enable the poor behavior is often too fine to detect.

So right now, the only lessons I have been able to bring into focus are: everyone has flaws, so don’t lose sight of the good despite those foibles; and just because you’re not worthy of those specific things, don’t give up on other possibilities. I’m still picking at the tangle, hopeful that one day I’ll have clarity enough to see more of the silver lining in all of it. Until then, just gotta keep trying to keep going.

Disillusioned

Seems like every attempt lately to return to a positive, grateful, hopeful mind-set is met with a set-back. That’s oversimplified and probably exaggerated, but, experientially, that’s what I’m feeling.

This week, instead of focusing on the return to stressful work after a vacation and the miserable cold I picked up on the plane home, I have tried to concentrate on how grateful I am for time away with family and the beautiful skies I’ve witnessed.

But I cannot ignore the disheartening, disillusioning news I received about a colleague yesterday. Someone I have respected and relied on, a business partner and friend, has been discovered engaging in workplace activity that has the potential to harm other colleagues at my company, negatively impacting their quality of life in both their jobs and home lives.

This person, confronted, has admitted what they did and offered no rationale, just a shrug and a hollow “sorry”. This is someone I’ve worked with for years and whom I’ve helped mentor, someone I’ve trusted to handle issues in my stead and whom I’ve recommended as a reliable resource. Until they confessed, I would never have considered them capable of this behavior and would have been skeptically resistant to any allegation of such activity.

But there is no doubt of their culpability. The certainty of it is as devastating as the initial revelation. I’m really struggling with the enormity of their deception and, admittedly, with how foolish I feel for having had such certainly in their personal integrity and reliability.

Capping off that blow, I witnessed a very troubling sequence of online posts from a friend that has confirmed my long-held fears of openly discussing mental health issues. My friend posted about how they had recently struggled with depression and thoughts of self-harm and had begun to feel better. They spoke of focusing on self care and how being open, authentic and accountable on these struggles is a necessary part of their self care. They then posted about how their posts were met with a flood of intervention-type calls, despite their earlier clear statements that they were ok. They commented how these well-meaning, yet clumsy and misplaced, efforts add to the emotional labor and stress they are trying to overcome. Their message is that this reaction further stigmatizes mental health and chills open dialogue that could help those who are suffering and makes them censor their public discourse on these topics.

This sequence of events and chilling effect is precisely what I’ve feared and experienced all my life. No one seems to get that when you recognize the problem within yourself and you’re making a genuine effort to address it, reaching out to talk to others is the scariest, most vulnerable act of self care there is. And when that bravery is met with a smothering, ham-fisted, “you must do X”-authoritarian attitude that disregards the seeker’s agency and the work they’ve already done, it exhausts a person’s will, their very soul.

The confluence of these two soul-wrenching, saddening, demoralizing emotional tidal waves in one week was a lot to take, especially in the context of the baseline load of stress at work, which is, regrettably, quite high.

So, in a bid to salvage some scrap of positivity in this week of harrowing emotional experiences, I’m spending the day in my flannel pjs, watching college football while wrapping some Christmas gifts. Taking things slowly, eating what tastes good, enjoying the excitement of the game and, in between, listening to music and playing a video game or two – this is me coping for today. This is my positivity for today. That has to be enough.

What if…

I’m weary. The kind of bone-deep tired from lack of sleep that makes me feel like I’m walking around with only half a brain through a dark fog that blurs everything into a grainy, indistinct mess. But also so the kind of impatient fatigue that makes me want to give up fighting against everything, capitulate to the sloppy, lazy, incompetence of the people around me and leave them to suffer the consequences of their own ineptitude without the heroic efforts I and my team put in to save them from themselves.

I’m genuinely striving to reframe my experience, get into a more positive, patient, tolerant mind-set. That’s my commitment to myself, my goal, and the core of my personal growth work. But I’m in a trough in the up-down rhythm of life, I guess, because it seems I have made no progress despite concerted effort every day.

Today, chatting with my boss about some of the hard work we’ve been doing together for weeks on end, he acknowledged that he was in a really negative place and regretted that his comments and attitude have added to my stress. My reaction, not as guarded or carefully phrased as it could have been, was to acknowledge that I was feeling the same way and that I hate it and hate not being able to control my reactions to stress and frustration the way I usually do. I told him I was putting a lot of faith in my upcoming time off for the Thanksgiving holiday giving me the distance, perspective and rest I need to get my head right.

But what if it doesn’t?

I’ve noticed how irritable, quick to snap, and more prone to profanity I’ve become over the last few months. It coincides, in my mind, with the start of my insomnia in the summer. Even though work stress and frustration was already high – this has been a really hard year at work – none of that was out of control when I was still sleeping. It’s only been since my sleep fell into the ditch that I’ve been biting salespeople’s heads off, telling sales operations leaders to figure out how to do things themselves, telling people to use their own brains and not rely on mine, and letting swear words creep into my language in delivering these biting diatribes. In short, I have witnessed a marked decline in the civility and politeness that has been my professional and personal habit for decades.

I don’t like this version of me very much.

And what’s so frustrating and galling is that I work really hard to not let this not-so-pleasant version of me get loose or stay loose when it does, but I don’t seem to have any success controlling it anymore. I just don’t have it in me to be charitable to the stupid, or to compensate for the inept. And I don’t seem to really care if my weariness-induced withdrawal causes them to suffer where they wouldn’t have if I’d made that effort.

What if a week’s vacation and visit with family doesn’t restore that charity and energy and will to help? What if I can’t get it back now that I’ve let it go?

What if this is who I am now, this burnt-out curmudgeon that nobody, not even me, likes or wants to be around?

Rejection Totally Blows

Jeez, this week was brutal, a mixed bag of jangling anxiety spiced with tiny moments of joy, wrapped in a sleep-deprived haze and topped with a glittering bow of flaming rejection.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve felt this disconnected from logic and rationality. I’m a logical, linear thinker and careful planning, meticulous language and precise action are my safety. When I get outside that realm, into areas where impulse and emotion appear to be the rule, I have a hard time coping. That kind of spontaneity, even chaos, stresses me more than any long work day or serious decision ever does. The disorder is unnerving and makes it hard to think and breathe.

So when I found myself in this situation, a nearly constant state of distress resulting from sleep deprivation-induced anxiety, desperation pushed me to do something entirely out of character: I asked for help.

Ignoring the cautions and warnings screaming in my head, I signed up for an online counseling service to get help with my insomnia. Normal people do this without compunction all the time. Surely, the millions of people relying on mental health professionals to assist with these challenges can’t be wrong, I reasoned. Surely, I told myself, there is nothing shameful in reaching out?

Still, I battled a heavy load of shame – you’re almost 50 years old, how can you not know the basics of how to be a person, how to get adequate sleep and deal with common work-induced stress? It can’t be that hard, what’s wrong with you? You’re so inept that you can’t sleep without instructions?

But I knew that most of that invective was simply fear. So, swallowing my pride and steeling my nerves, I looked for and found an LGBTQIA-supportive counseling service online. I did a little reading on it, and on counseling options in general, and decided to take the plunge. I knew I’d have to be a little vulnerable, letting an anonymous stranger into my head where I hardly let anyone before. But, I reasoned, if I was going to resolve whatever is plaguing my peace and preventing my sleep, I’d have be brave and face it head on.

So I filled out the forms and answered questions and logged my sleep activity and did everything I was asked to do without complaint or reservation. When my hands shook and my mind rebelled at the feeling of exposure, I forced it down and pressed on, telling myself that changing what I didn’t like required getting out of the cocoon of safety that my reserve and privacy have afforded.

Then, after nearly a week of uncomfortable logging of nearly every aspect of my daily activity, revealing an unprecedented amount of my private life, I was asked to give candid feedback on the process to date. I guess where I went wrong was in the assumption that it was safe to be frank. I guess I thought that because I had been required to be so vulnerable and open, I would not be ridiculed for being honest about my reservations about the process and method.

Not so.

It didn’t matter that my comment was politely and professionally worded, honest and offered without any hint of accusation or rancor. The counselor’s immediate response was to fire me as a client, telling me I clearly wasn’t a good fit for her service and that there was no need to even respond to her message, just to go somewhere else.

Ouch.

So, not only am I so abnormal that I can’t even take care of a basic need like sleep, but I’m so inept that I can’t even pay someone enough to help me cure that weirdness. Jeez, loser much?

Sarcasm aside, I have to admit that the rejection hurts and its potential consequences scare me witless.

I had let myself hope that with a professional’s help I could be back to a regular sleep pattern quickly and that the erosion of my thinking and communication skills, that have already begun to impact my work, would be set to rights before it becomes a serious problem. I can admit that my sense of self worth is very much tied to my professional success and the respect I’ve earned among my colleagues. The prospect of losing that respect and the reputation of being the go-to leader and problem-solver makes me quake with anxiety. And I have no doubt that will be the result if I can’t get my head back in the game. To do that, I need to get over whatever this mental block is and get regular, restful sleep.

So being fired from the one thing I thought would help has me reeling. And I’m fairly pissed off that someone I had paid to provide that help fired me, not the other way around. But even worse than the anger is the humiliation of realizing that I and my problem aren’t worth the time and effort to help, even for a fee.

I’m feeling pretty low, so I’m having a really hard time finding anything positive in this experience. But at least I got to see a bunch of cute small humans in cool costumes come to my house and beg for candy on Halloween. The sparkly princesses and fierce miniature Black Panthers were a bright spot in a rough week. I may not be sleeping, but at least there’s super heroes and princesses in my neighborhood.

Anti-Positives (not Negatives) For Those Days When Sunny Positivity Just Can’t Cut It

As you know, I’m on a mission to center positivity, gratitude and kindness in my life. I want to be the best version of me that I can be, every day. But because I am human and imperfect, I don’t always succeed. Sometimes finding the silver lining, the “one good thing” in a day utterly full of crappy, negative experiences and energy is simply too much. Some days I just can’t fake it ‘til I make it.

On those days, honoring the darkness, letting the emotional, political, mental sludge breathe and have its moment in the middle is all I can do. And, if I’m both lucky and careful, that momentary dominance will satisfy the perverseness of the universe and let me pin that day to the past, moving forward into positivity once again. It’s brutal and not at all pretty to live through, but once on the other side, relief at having given the darkness that moment makes the light a little more bright and a little more bearable.

So that’s the silver lining, the good out of the bad.

But what gets you to that place is acknowledging the pain points, the dreck that’s built up and is clamoring to get out. Catharsis, I guess. But not necessarily just a good ol’ fashioned, wracking, sobbing cry. Sometimes it calls for naming the enemies, a litany of the poisons steeping in the blood, to extinguish their power and potency. Only after being called to the fore can some of these venoms be neutralized – the power of light to bleach the stain of the dark.

To that end, I’m braving my fears of vulnerability and derision to call out some of the poisons currently plaguing my peace:

Imposter Syndrome

Being a Pathetic Loser

Loneliness and the Fear it is Forever

Inadequacy in Every Dimension

Fixating on the Unobtainable

Reliving Humiliating Moments of the Past

Beating Myself Up for Giving in to Anger

Fear of Change

Wow. That’s a lot of mental and emotional poison.

I wrote all of that over a month ago, after nearly a month of lost sleep and continual stress. I set it aside to breathe, thinking that it was too raw and left me too exposed to actually publish. I thought I just needed to get it out of my head and it would be enough. But it hasn’t stopped.

So last night, Wednesday October 24th, while I was, again, not sleeping and after my eyes called it quits on reading anymore as an escape from the poisonous thoughts, I lay still and let the poison wash over me. I decided all the fighting I’d been doing to avoid it had been futile, so maybe giving it its freedom would bring some relief. Again, maybe if I honor the darkness it’ll let me go?

So I spent the entire night reliving the most cringeworthy, painful, humiliating moments of my life, watching each scene and acknowledging it’s continued sting. It felt like walking through a thrift store, cruising the aisles full of dusty, dented, useless junk that somehow still holds a degree of fascination, picking up items and replacing them on the shelves. It was a miserable experience, yet I managed to get to the end of the aisle without shedding a tear. Despite feeling the oppressive weight of humiliation and shame that each memory carried, I looked at each one and then set it aside without further judgment or sorrow.

No profound conclusions resulted and no existential clarity emerged. I did notice a pattern in the moments that rose to the surface and it’s still percolating through my brain trying to resolve into a clear shape that I can put a name to. But there’s been no epiphany.

Still, I think it helped, in some perverse way, to let my brain purge the dreck. I’m not certain that I won’t have to confront those moments again another time, but I feel that surviving that ordeal is a triumph. Even though it cost me a day of vacation time (I was in no shape to go to work today) and a day-long headache that’s still pounding, in addition to the night-long anguish, I’m calling it a win. It’s not a bright, shiny, joyous win, but a win nevertheless.

And because any positive out of all this oily, oozing darkness should be celebrated, I’m taking my courage in both hands and am publishing this very personal realness, despite feeling naked in the spotlight by doing so.

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