I have been in therapy on and off for years, for different reasons at different points in time. I’ve now reached the phase of life where I know I’ll never not be in therapy, as if my current mental health is any indicator of what’s yet to come, it would likely be a bad idea to not have a therapist in my life.
At 48 years old, I am at a point in life where I would anticipate feeling better about myself and my life. What I actually feel is a chronic mixed-up state of confusion, sadness, accomplishment, shame, guilt, grief, self-hatred, gratitude, empathy, compassion and fear. Notice I didn’t say “happiness.” I don’t know what that even is. Is it some word or feeling that we’re all supposed to strive for while also not knowing what the hell it even is? If it is self-love, acceptance, and peace – then I’m not there – at least not in a way that’s consistent enough to feel the impact.
It has been a particularly challenging few weeks/months both personally and professionally. I hesitate to default to the word “bad,” as I always launch into thoughts like, “you should just be grateful because so many people have it worse…” (Insert thoughts of 500 examples of worse things happening to people around me or in the world), so I use the word “challenging” because it doesn’t sound as whiny in my head.
Now, do I know that it is unfair to myself to minimize and invalidate my own feelings by comparing them to someone else’s situation? Of course. I go to therapy. Do I do it anyway? Yep. Every. Damn. Time. Because I have been shown over and over in different areas of life that my feelings are not that important. I am “dramatic,” as someone very important to me once said in a moment of extreme sadness, amidst my tears. (Yeah, that one sure stuck with me). I have a constant fear of being perceived as “too much,” or “high maintenance,” simply by asking for my needs to be met or for making my voice heard when I feel I am being dismissed, whether personally or professionally. I’ve been told, and shown, more times that I care to remember, that even when brave enough to express my feelings or needs, my feelings or needs don’t always matter enough for others to respond accordingly.
I spend inordinate amounts of time dissecting in my own head if I am sad and stressed because I am “REALLY” sad and stressed or because my hormones are completely out of fucking control, or because I am not resilient or talented enough to do my job, or because of my anxiety and ADD. I mean – why does it even matter why I feel the way I feel? Again, I am trying to justify why maybe I feel this way for some reason other than the fact that I’m just sad, and unhappy sometimes. I’m okay some days, and some days I’m very not okay, and I stay in bed and hide under the covers while I make a mental list of all the things I should be doing instead of hiding under the covers.
When I feel hurt by someone, I waste countless brain cells trying to figure out if I am overreacting or “deserve” to feel hurt. I mean, it is probably because my expectations are too high or I’m being high maintenance versus someone else being responsible for their own behavior, or lack thereof, right?
Let us not even try to count the number of hours spent hating my body – especially this “new” one I’ve been gifted by the Gods of perimenopause. I could eat lettuce every day for a year and gain weight. If I have to go up another pants size, I’m just going to request to wear a tent to work. Sure, I jumped on the intuitive eating, anti-diet culture bandwagon and I truly believe in it, yet after 30 plus years of worrying about how I look to other people, as women are taught to do, it’s a little difficult to just turn that self-hatred off like a faucet when I feel rolls where there have never been rolls and I experience pants shopping as an event I imagine as challenging as an Olympic-level sport. I keep waiting to be traded in for a new model and cringe every time one of my “skinny” pictures pops up on Facebook. It might be a reason all on its own not to be on Facebook in the future.
One of the particularly “challenging” body-related moments I had last week was falling flat on my face on the sidewalk downtown after lunching with my daughter. No major bodily damage, but I peed my pants to the point it was visible to any of the folks watching through that giant restaurant window on Main Street where I just happened to land. Subsequently, my daughter tried to console me while I openly wept on the street and literally could not stop. You know – the kind of weeping where you’re hyperventilating and once it starts it just won’t stop? Yeah. That kind of weeping. A lady ran out of the restaurant and thrust a bottle of water and a wad of Kleenex at me and looked at my daughter understandingly. After attempting to collect myself, I waddled back to my car, completely mortified, still weeping, and hid under the covers at home for a solid 12 hours. My husband came home and jokingly told me “He was going to get me a Life Alert button.” I did not find it funny.
Oh, did I mention I just had a breast biopsy the week prior, and my boob was the color of a rainbow? Or that I have SEVEN people around me currently who are struggling through cancer personally or with one of their loved ones? I mean – maybe that’s why I couldn’t stop the sobbing, I don’t know. Luckily, I was one of the lucky ones – so far, anyway. Negative biopsy, and just a lot of nerve-wracking waiting around and catastrophizing between the biopsy and the results.
I also badger myself because I feel like “I know what to do” to be happier. Exercise. Get out of bed. Read a book. Don’t work long hours. Practice better boundaries. Meditate. Create a freaking gratitude journal. Post on my blog more regularly. Do more things for me. Color! But I don’t have the energy or motivation to do a single one of those things. Hence, the now well-established nightly routine of covers over the head, Netflix on the screen.
Where am I going with all this? I do not know. I don’t know that I really have a point other than to say if anyone besides me is exhausted with being an emotional basket case the majority of the time, and is feeling guilt or shame about it, I feel you. I have plenty of friends around me who support me and listen and remind me that I’m not ALL bad. I am okay.
I would just like to feel this elusive feeling called “happiness” for a while and see if it’s all that it’s cracked up to be. I think it means a lot of things to different people – and I’m grappling with what it means for me. What can I accept, and what can I not accept – about me, about others, about my relationships? Am I ever going to stop being mean to myself given how short this life really is? I don’t know the answers today. I’m a work in progress, and not all days are bad. I am appreciative and grateful for so much, truly, and yet, it’s been a rough ride lately. And so, the journey continues, and tomorrow is a new day.