Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had this really terrible habit of giving up on something if I wasn’t the best at it immediately. At 30, I still don’t know how to ride a bike because I gave up within the first hour of trying because I kept falling. I remember my father telling me over and over again “It’s going to take time! No one gets it on the first try.” But I wasn’t having it. No one was pressuring me. No one expected me to pop a wheelie as soon as my training wheels were removed. But in my eyes, I was a failure. I had gone into the experience (which I believe my father tried to make as memorable as possible) with outrageously unrealistic expectations of myself. And of course, when I did not meet those unattainable expectations, I felt utterly defeated and gave up. This pattern followed me all the way until now.
I don’t think this behavior stems from anything specifically. As far as I can remember, my parents never made my sister or I feel like we needed to be perfect or to please them. Maybe it was a confidence thing. Maybe I was just born this way baby. Who knows. All I know is that if something doesn’t come naturally to me, I have a hard time sticking to it, even if I’m enjoying myself, because I feel like a failure for not being better.
Sorry for the long walk for a short drink of water here, but I do have a point to my rambling. During this past winter, I had one of the worst bouts of depression I’ve ever had. I typically notice changes in my mood when the seasons change and hoped that I would start feeling better as Spring approached. I didn’t. So in April, I started to see a therapist again. We switched up my medication, worked a lot on changing that negative self talk, I ate healthier, worked out, used different tools and apps, wrote down my feelings–did every thing I could possibly do in hopes I’d feel better. If my therapist had to give me a grade for my work on trying to beat depression, she’d give me an A fucking plus.
But, every week I’d go in and I’d tell her that it wasn’t good enough. I felt better than when I came in, but why wasn’t I fixed? Why did I still feel depressed? I gave it time. I did the work. I didn’t give up. I stuck it out longer than I would have with anything else (and this ain’t my first rodeo when it comes to depression). Hadn’t I earned this?
What she said to me was a big dose of reality, but I desperately needed to hear it. She said to me (in an almost ARE YOU KIDDING ME tone of voice), “Who gave you a deadline to stop being depressed?” I didn’t answer, clearly because this was a ridiculous question.
“You have these standards that you’ve set for yourself–that are so ingrained in you–and that are so unrealistic that they are impossible to achieve. But then when you don’t achieve them, you immediately call yourself a failure. And you keep replaying that story in your head until you are convinced it’s reality.”
I say nothing, mainly because I am now choking back tears but partly because I am annoyed by her candidness. And her accuracy.
“We are trying to undo years, literally years of damage to the way you think, the way you look at yourself and talk to yourself. Do you think that’s something that can be ‘cured’ in a few months? No. Are you a little better, a little stronger than when you first came in here? Yes. This is going to take work. It’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it’s not a race. No one is measuring your time, or keeping score or whatever else you tell yourself. This is a journey and you need to celebrate every single victory along the way.”
I hate it when she’s right and she is right pretty often. I guess that’s why I pay her…. So with a bit of tough love, I continue to move forward, to hit bumps, to have really bad days and to have to ask for help. This is unnatural for me–to live without expectation– to just trust the process and all that shit. So when I feel like throwing in the towel my new plan is to rewrite the story–to I just keep repeating, “I am not a failure. I am not a failure.” Cause I’m not. I’m a mother fucking fighter.