I caught myself longing earlier for a therapy sesh and counting the days till the next one (which turned out to be 7 days).
‘Why’, I wondered…..’why do I want my therapy to come around and be happening sooner than seven days time’?
I pondered this [tearfully] whilst lying for a while with my face crumpled up, buried into the surface of my duvet, and then experienced a sudden realisation what it is……I need permission granted (by her) for me to FREAK THE HELL OUT.
I need to freak out and respond to this pressure, but I’m too inhibited to.
I never let myself freak out. I am always inclined to treat myself in the way a head mistress would with a pupil [who is not the best pupil, but desperate to please].
I am the pupil wanting to please and I am seeking out approval for doing good things for good causes with good intentions. If I’m pleasing, then I’m doing OK, if I’m not, I’m failing, and there is no grey area in the middle.
If I was sat in front of my therapist right now I’d say to her how overwhelmed I felt by the diary of events in front of me. I’d tell her I feel absolutely bonkers, and like a complete failure in the verge of ever impending doom, and say I’m really not sure if I can achieve everything currently on my list, all at once.
She’d probably look at me with a concerned look on her face (mixed with a half smile because this therapist knows me so damn well that I must be completely predictable) and say “Imani, you don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s OK to say no to things. Do you really have to do absolutely everything all at once?”
She’d then cite examples of famous high achieving people and how they look after themselves by ensuring they don’t overload themselves and take regular breaks to rest and recuperate. She’d then tell me I have so much time ahead of me to achieve the things I want and it doesn’t all have to be achieved right NOW at a million miles an hour. She;d also reassure me ‘I’ll get there’, but I ‘need to set a pace for it that is healthy and sustainable’ etc etc.
Then I’d cry for a bit and say “I still feel like a failure!”
To which she’d reply “Imani-of COURSE you’re not a failure. Just think of all the things you’ve already achieved so far in the last year! Things that so many people will never ever achieve in their lifetime, and you’ve already done them! You’ve been invited to parliament, you’ve been invited to speak at events, you’ve had your writing published, you’ve been on TV, you’ve been asked to apply to join a board of charity trustees, you have convinced people to fundraise with you, you are building relationships with all these very big and important organisations single-handedly, from absolutely NOTHING, and you are the one, and the only one driving all this forward and making it all happen.
I’d then cry some more because I’d be so relieved to have validation from someone for all the hard graft I’m putting in (on a voluntary unpaid basis) to achieve all these wonderful things.
And then I’d pathetically bleet “but I still feel like a failure and a FRAUD who doesn’t deserve any of these good things that are happening”
Then she’d remind me this self-critical and unduly harsh attitude towards myself is due to the whole way I’ve been conditioned to think, but my conditioning is not truth. It’s just conditioning, and it doesn’t help or benefit me to think in this way.
Then I’d glare at her disparagingly and say “ugh-not CBT though-challenging again!”…..and she’d smile her faintly amused (but also faintly frustrated) smile, that after all this fucking therapy I am STILL not getting it. I am still my own worst enemy. Self-compassion is as alien as I felt this week as a country Northerner being plonked in our capital city, London. I still feel intrinsically like a failure, even when I know I’m not.
My idea of what failing is, is NOT how many other people conceptualise failure.
I AM allowed permission to freak out. I AM allowed to say no and not feel bad about saying no. I am allowed to NOT grab every opportunity that comes my way, and instead try and orchestrate opportunities to wait for me, till a time when I am mentally stable and rested enough to capitalise on them and actually give my full attention to them in a balanced and sustainable way.
Lately I am building myself up to ready myself for a particular meeting or event, believing my relaxation time lies on the other end of the rainbow when that event has happened, but then new events and new meetings are getting added on like side orders of tasty tapas. I want the olives and the patatas bravas and the garlic king prawns so I say YES.
YES YES YES I DO WANT THAT OPPORTUNITY THAT HAS JUST BEEN SHOVED IN MY LAP (or my inbox more usually), SO I WILL THEREFORE SAY YES TO IT without a second thought……
Then I will begin to dread it and wonder why I said ‘yes’ to it in the first place and want to curl up into a ball and announce “NO THANKS, SUMMERSHINES IS CLOSED FOR BUSNESS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE BECAUSE I’M FEELING ABSOLUTELY FUCKING BONKERS.”
This pattern is so predictable IT HURTS (!)
This pattern is what leads my psychologist to smile her amused smiles and shake her head at me when I announce for the five hundredth time that “I’m a total F.A.I.L.U.R.E.”
I’m NOT a failure. I know that (objectively) But I DO have limits. I’m still in recovery from trauma. My brain is still mangled. My emotions are raw.
I like to aim for perfection, but imperfection is human-right?
Why the hell do I have to be so efficient and so productive and so ambitious and so bloody nasty to myself all the time?! I am NASTY, but only to me!
I am predictably tough on myself, with extremely high expectations placed on myself of what I can achieve.
I hate saying no to anything. Saying NO makes me suffer deep inside. I have to somehow challenge this notion I have that saying “no” is failure. Saying, “not this time, but please let me know if you have any opportunities come up in future” is a perfectly good alternative to “yes”. Isn’t it? Well it is for other humans, but for some reason not for me. How does that work?!
So why the stress?….. I’d allocated myself the rest of August off from volunteering so I’d concentrate on being mindful and enjoying my children during the summer holidays. After my London experience (which I knew would be overwhelming) I was intending to chill until they went back to school…..
But then came the offer of the meeting with a DCI representative from my local police force about awareness building/training officers about childhood abuse. I said yes. It was too good an opportunity to put off.
And then came the offer of the potential four training courses at my Recovery College (all two days long per subject) so I could become a peer facilitator. YES said me, to two of them ie. Four full days during the summer hols which I’d need childcare for.
Then came the offer of the second parliamentary visit as media volunteer for national mental health charity, Mind. “Yes” I said! So what if it’s only just before my fundraising hike. I can totally handle that! And how about a speech for an audience of 80 people? they said….Finally I said NO to something. I knew the speech is too much for me at this point in time but I feel absolutely GUTTED for saying no, and like a complete failure.
And then there’s the 10k charity run and planning for your husband’s 40th and cleaning the house and unpacking after your holiday and entertaining your children and walking your dogs and getting the food shopping in AND AND AND many similar things of varying entertainment value and levels of difficulty all in the next few weeks.
If I could speak to my psychologist about all this she’d say reassuring things that would help, and for a short time I’d feel better about the situation, but she isn’t here, and I have to offer reassurance to myself, by myself.
ALL BY MYSELF- DON’T WANNA BE, ALL BY MYSELF……ANYMOOOOORE. [I’m a borderliner don’t you know] :D
I have to do all this self-compassionate therapy jazz to myself, out of the therapy room, and it’s absolutely bloody impossible! which is why I want HER here saying those things, because when another human tells me stuff I tend to believe it far more than when I say it in my own head, but she’s on holiday and unavailable till Friday when I see her.
Talking to myself now…….having a word.
Permission to FREAK OUT please.
Permission to prioritise what I do and don’t do, please.
Permission to change my mind about something and not feel like an abject failure, please?
Permission to rest and hide under the duvet please.
Permission to do what I originally set out to do please and give myself the summer hols off as a volunteering break.
Will I grant myself permission to freak out? Will I feel guilty about freaking out? Or feel ashamed at being what I would call ‘a failure’?
I don’t know. I just feel frantically and fantastically CRAP, and unsure what best to do.
I need her to tell me it’s ok to fail, and more accurately, I’m not even failing. But she can’t and she won’t, so I’m left with just me. In seven days she can, but for now I have to handle this like a grown up and practise problem solving and self-soothing…….If anyone has any particular tips or words of wisdom and wants to play at being psychologist for me, please do share away your infinite wisdom in the comments section.
Thanks, from a very tired, very stressed, imaginary-failure-type-person [me]