I'm having a breakdown and I'm strangely comfortable with it.
I've been the sad version of myself since last summer and the rest of my emotions are somewhere in the distance. I can see them but can't quite get there, not really, not fully. I've been struggling with major depression and have had many days where upright on the couch (vs. fetal position in the bed) was the best I could do. I've barely been working, I haven't wanted to leave the house much, and I've become more and more introverted as the months pass. It's safe to say I'm a very hot mess right now.
Over the last month things have been changing inside me at a scary fast rate, and here's how it happened...
Several months ago, a dear friend sent me over this video:
which is an animated short about Empathy vs Sympathy. It resonated with me in a way that caused me to go back and keep watching it.
Fast forward to the snow/ice week about a month ago. While doing my traditional "I'm stuck at home, bring on the day drinking", I decided to research the voice behind the animated short. My life changed forever because I found this video:
For anyone not planning to follow the link, (although I highly recommend spending the 20 minutes), the video is a TED talk by Brene Brown called the Power of Vulnerability.
Brene Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher at the University of Houston and everything she says is based on years of research of thousands of actual people's stories. She has applied all the principles to her own life (unlike the multitude of self help practitioners who don't/can't/won't work on themselves), so I respect her opinion. Plus, she's a native Texan and an amazing storyteller and it feels like I'm listening to one of my friends when I hear her.
I spent the rest of the week during the inclement weather devouring everything of hers on YouTube. I feel like one of those people who get "born again", as deeply as I'm drinking the kool aid that is this woman.
While digesting the glut of Brene Brown information I'd gobbled up, I decided to go further.
I tried to participate in a group self help project where I was tasked with envisioning my "Strategic Self" which is that part of myself that runs my own business, maintains my household, and generally gets stuff done...and I came to a dead stop.
I have no vision of myself as a success.
On further reflection, I realized that I have a bigger fear of success than I do of failure. I'm really good at failure, I have a lot of experience at it, and it has become a familiar place to me. I'm stuck in a rut of "I'm going to fail anyway so why bother trying to succeed because I'm going to end up here anyway and feel worse about it having lost a measure of success". That's gotta change, sooner than later, and I've already started a list of what successful looks like for me.
As I was googling around about conquering fear of success, I found this article:
Imposter Syndrome, I absolutely have it and I needed to find out why.
I've done a metric crapton of personal growth work throughout my life. I've been in therapy off and on since the age of 7. I was 11 years in AA and worked the steps multiple times. I love a self help google search. I'm not afraid to look at myself with a critical and brutally honest eye. So with all this work on myself, how on earth could I still be this messed up??
And then it dawned on me, I've been "faking it until I made it" for over 20 years and I haven't made it yet. I feel like a cleverly disguised piece of shit and worry that I'll be found out and y'all will all run away. Logically I know this can't actually be true, and even as I write this I see how ridiculous it sounds, but the fact remains that's truly how I feel.
Through the years of self-discovery, I've worked on treating people with more compassion, adding tact to my world, and a whole bunch of other things designed to make me a nicer person to others. I've never once translated that kindness to myself. If I have the skills to be kind and nurturing to others, why am I not applying them to myself?
I began really paying attention to my self talk and realized that I would NEVER let anyone speak to me the way I speak to myself. I would also never let anyone talk to someone I cared about the way I speak to myself. This is totally unacceptable and must change right now.
The new rule is that I'm not allowed to say anything to myself that I wouldn't say to a little kid, and oh my friggin lord this might be the hardest project I've ever had to take on.
In an effort to start loving myself (Even writing that makes my tummy react in a stressful way. I really can't explain how terrifying this sounds to me, and I'm honestly not even sure why yet.), I went to a few friends and asked them for a short list of the reasons they love me. I'm compiling answers into a reference document for future use, and the surprising news is that I agree with everything they've said so far. I might be able to logic myself out of this one, hopefully anyway, fingers and toes crossed.
So basically I'm in a place in my life where I had a completed house built but apparently hadn't poured the foundation correctly. I've now demoed it to the earth and am in the process of reconstruction. I'm planning to reuse most of the building materials, but also add some new things to freshen the place up.
Socially, I'd have to say I'm extremely awkward and almost completely introverted right now. As someone who has always been an extrovert, this is uncharted territory for me. The good news is that I find it peaceful and safe and that's exactly what I need right now. Y'all don't worry though, I'm not isolating. I've had people come by the house pretty consistently throughout and I'm still totally comfortable in controlled environments with small groups of people. I've got a few people who hear from me daily and I'm trying not to let myself get bogged down with any of this.
This project is my own personal growth version of eating an elephant and I'm having to do it one bite at a time. I have no idea how long it will take and it'll probably be a work in progress forever. I'm so grateful to have this insight so I can now finally fix the thing that's prevented me from success throughout my life. I feel hopeful for the first time in a very long time.