trapped inside a groundhog day of my own design rinse and repeat for the thousandth time why not fall back into bad habits when there is nothing better to do it's tedious and troublesome but the truth is far more terrifying it's always been easier to hide behind a mind set to autopilot than to confront the chaos and uncertainty that causes me so much fear at least this way the days fly by sticking to strict schedules provides the protective illusion of control assures there are no unexpected surprises but the unexpected, the unknown that's where spontaneous joy resides as well hidden behind a writhing wall of fear and hesitation I am what's holding me back
Anxiety is the price of intellect when there is nothing to occupy the mind it will follow it's own fancies namely, naming everything that could potentially pose a threat Genius is a gnawing hunger that left unfed, lends itself to a buffet of fear starved of stimulation it will learn to feed on insecurity Yet a fire that is fed only grows larger always asking for more no longer sustained on yesterday's small rations A tired mind, an engaged mind is peaceful and satisfied a brilliant brain left to wander will always find new worries and run itself ragged on rumination Great potential is balanced by the possibility of great peril a fast metabolism requires extra fuel likewise an exceptional mind needs it's own nourishment of new knowledge
that flutter in my chest never seems to settle eyes fixed on the future never find rest there is always something else looming just over the horizon a new fear always forms to take its place perching itself on my racing heart safety and peace permanently out of reach forever pushed back anxiety is a moving target that always promises you "just one more bull's eye and I'll be gone" no matter how many times I fall for this lie I'll believe it again tomorrow because it's so tempting to think that this will go away that if I can adjust my life just right I'll be able to rest
For years I've been afraid of everything I want I'm afraid to lose this sense of longing I've set a place for at my table I'm afraid it will leave me and I'm afraid that it won't When I face that inner voice of mine that's all it seems to say: I'm afraid I'm afraid I'm afraid this mantra skips and repeats etches and engraves deep marks in me flutters nervously behind my eyelids where can I go when I'm afraid of every outcome it's hard to move forward on shaking, unsteady limbs I've exhausted every effort to soothe the voice that says "unsafe" I've built up walls and barricades I've torn them down to demonstrate that I can be brave but still the deep seed of fear remains it cracks through the concrete I lay it crawls ever upward through my veins searching for the sun
when does routine become a restraint a heavy weight around your ankle dangling over the balustrade no prison more insidious than the bars built up in our minds silently erecting new walls each day to box us into smaller and smaller spaces somedays it's a revelation to realize I'm the warden that these limitations have been self imposed the power of self-possession is a perplexing puzzle to ponder the overwhelming responsibility of deciding my own destiny the never ending balancing act between benefit and burden mind numbing monotony and clumsy chaos learning to trust those internal cues telling you it's time for change instead of stuffing myself into stifling rituals that no longer serve me resisting the endless cycle of inner evolution it's so scary to let go of what's carried you this far even once you begin to drown it's so tempting to keep pretending that perfection can be reached if you keep pushing I'm still learning how to leave the sinking ship before it hits rock bottom to take notice of the decent and bravely face the bitter cold of unknown waters once again
My sorrow comes in cycles waxing and waning with the moon regular intervals of lapping tides frigid dark waters against a jagged shore long desolate seasons of solitude convince me that joy was never mine the cosmos close in around me a heavy weight upon my sunken chest when the sun finally emerges on the other side of that cruel and endless winter wasteland happiness breaks over my heart like a revelation my sleeping soul cracks open shivering with delight in the warm heavy air finally freed from its cramped cocoon to absorb the majesty of the world reborn open and unafraid, buoyantly held above the stark reality of the season past the second side of my dual nature shaking off the bizarre burden I've been carrying why was I so sad before? what was it that I'd been pained by? now suffering seems so far away was it ever here at all? I don't recognize myself as I look back through the snow and the aching, bony trees caught in the swift, sharp wind the summer beckons me forward into a bright mirage of green where nothing can cause me harm where this time the cycle has surely stopped each moment maintains its own eternity forever paralyzed in each part of the pattern immovable sadness giving way to boundless joy always and again
Our thoughts and inner chatter come at us so quickly that it’s hard to realize what is an objective truth and what is a distorted or biased perception of that truth. The events that play out in front of us don’t necessarily have an emotional undertone or meaningful significance, yet we are so used to assigning these things to every little event in our lives that they feel inseparable. The rejection we might face from a loved one is so immediately followed by our thoughts about what that rejection means, that it feels impossible to distinguish between the two.
I don’t think it has any immediate benefits, but I do believe in the long term just making a conscious effort to pull real moments away from our automatic perception of them is a valuable practice. It can feel pointless and frustrating to do so at first. Just cognitively realizing that rejection, for instance, does not mean we are unworthy of love, doesn’t make our conditioned reaction feel any less true or painful in that moment. This is just the first step though. Eventually once we’ve worked on recognizing and accepting that distinction, then I believe we will be able to move on toward challenging our painful perceptions and subconscious convictions.
It has been interesting for me just to notice how violently my mind resists the very idea of my immediate reaction being a choice or something I could view differently. There is a physical sense of revulsion in my body. My heart closes tightly. My mind attempts to shut down this new direction in my thought patterns. Despite how painful a belief might be, I find myself clinging to it desperately instead of being open to reevaluating the situation. Isn’t that a curious thing. Why am I so stubbornly trying to maintain a way of thinking that causes me so much suffering unnecessarily?
I think the answer to this question is that somehow, part of me has developed this stimuli/reaction cycle as a form of self-protection. It doesn’t seem to make any sense how genuinely believing someone couldn’t or shouldn’t love me could be protecting me, but that scared little animal inside of me must have some basis for mistakenly thinking it will. Even our most hateful inner voice is ultimately just trying to keep us safe. It is just afraid for us. It’s up to us to work every day to push through that fear and show ourselves that we don’t have to hold on to these harmful inner narratives any longer.
One way I’ve learned we can distance ourselves from the intensity of these upsetting thoughts is to speak to ourselves as if we were someone else. Internally addressing ourselves in the third person, saying our own name instead of I, can provide a mental cushion of space between the emotional energy of the thoughts and our conscious awareness. A question I’ve been posing to myself in this way is: “Rachel, what are you making this mean?”
Framing the question in this way is actually a reframing. It has become so automatic that we’ve lost the original question we’ve been answering which would be “what does this mean?” After being confronted with an uncomfortable reality such as rejection, the small voice of fear inside whispers this follow up question in it’s desperate attempt to make sense of things and create a story around what’s happened. Our well worn response to the situation is our answer to that question.
Even though I might feel as though I am constantly doubting myself, I never seem to doubt these explanations and narratives I create around the moments of my life. Why not? Part of the problem is I’ve somewhere along the line lost the ability to recognize I am the one creating this particular meaning. After years and years of unwitting reinforcement, the voice that tells me how I have to think or react doesn’t feel like it’s coming from me anymore. It doesn’t feel optional. It feels like a hard and unavoidable truth.
When I ask myself “what are you making this mean,” it is a reminder, however surreal it may seem at first, that I’m deciding to add qualifiers and opinions to otherwise neutral events. The way I see a situation is not the one right way, or the only way to see it. Really there are an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to interpreting the experiences we have in life. It might feel like those possibilities are extremely limited at first, but the more we encourage our awareness of their existence, the more we will feel capable of pivoting our perceptions towards ones that better serve us.
At the end of the day, I don’t believe there is necessarily any objective truth in this insane experience we can life. All that matters, all that is, is what you believe. It’s not easy. Sometimes I don’t even feel like it’s possible. But even so, I do believe it is worth the effort to help ourselves see the world and our own lives in a way that brings us joy, peace, self-love, and equanimity. What else could be more important or meaningful? Even on the days were my battles with inner demons and mental illness feel like a living example of Sisyphus, I know the only thing to do is keep going.
The fear of not being worthy of what my torn and bleeding heart so longed to do was the most frightening fear of all.David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Mental healthy is a slippery thing. One day I’ll feel like I’m doing great things, living a beautiful life, surrounded by love and opportunity. Then next I’m silently screaming in the shower as my body crumples convulsively in on itself in an attempt to disappear. The thought that grips me most violently in these moments is that I am alone. I am so alone. I’ve always been alone. I will always be alone.
My mind scrambles searching for the people that I love. Where are they? Where have they gone? They dissolve into floating masks, colorful fictions. A door slams in the face of my heart. It feels like these people never knew me, don’t like me, don’t care for me at all. Worst of all, I can’t convince myself that this is not true. Even on my good days this feeling is there, I just don’t look at it closely so it doesn’t hurt as much.
Depression and anxiety play tricks on you. Tag teaming tormentors of the soul. They twist and contort the world around you until it becomes unbearable and grotesque. They block out the light and tell you you’ve always been in darkness. Pinholes poked through a shrouded sky reveal only the most painful parts of your reality. Suffocating. All consuming. Looming large on a jet black horizon that seems to be closing in faster and faster.
When I find myself in this desperate state, my already poor social ability breaks down even further. A drowning man violently grasping and grabbing, trying to pull everyone around down with them in a blind attempt at salvation. When my clawing hand is pushed away, it is a confirmation that I’m not worthy of the oxygen I need. The world becomes a funhouse mirror. I can’t bear to look.
I’ve often heard people saying “it’s not you, it’s me” is just a line, a cop out. That no one really means this when they break up with someone. I’ve never felt so sure of that. I’ve felt the truth of these words in my own throat. It is because I love the people in my life that I feel compelled to sever all ties with them. I am nothing but a burden, a leaden weight pulling them underwater with me. I’m a chore, an annoyance, something they would be happier and better off without. When someone ends their own life, everyone gasps, “How could they do that to their family?” Not realizing they probably did it for their family.
I’ve felt unworthy since the moment I conceptualized that was something one could feel. I’m sure other people feel this way, but I wonder if they feel it in the same sense that I do. I wonder if they hold it up to the light of justice and feel these pangs with that additional intensity. The added weight of taking what is not yours, of doing something vile and criminal, something sickeningly selfish.
All the bonds in my life feel tinged with injustice. I don’t deserve to be loved. I couldn’t possibly be loved. I am doing a disservice to everyone I meet by allowing them to pretend for the sake of my own neediness, to dissuade my heavy sense of self pity. The melodrama is thick, but it’s genuine. This is how I feel. When I push someone away, there is never even a moment’s consideration of whether that has hurt them, whether they are sad, whether they might miss me or want me in their life. These questions seem ridiculous to me. I’m clearly not worthy of remembrance or tenderness. You don’t miss a rock that has finally tumbled out of your shoe when you shake it.
When I begin to feel better, when my agitated state of mind starts to settle, I still don’t believe these things to be any less true. I never feel worthy of love. I just feel less guilty about receiving it. I never lose that sense of being utterly alone. Being alone just doesn’t seem to hurt as badly. I’m left with only a sense of embarrassment and shame for showing the world my suffering. For being selfish and conceited enough to think that anyone else should or would care, for bothering everyone by asking them to, for being so ungrateful when I already have so much more than I’ve ever deserved.
I’m just left wondering: How can you move forward, how can you be happy, find love, love yourself, when you feel so certain that you are unworthy of all of it? When you feel guilty for even wanting to?
For months now every time I sit down to write, I am overcome with a deep piercing pang of unworthiness. I heard someone say the other day that creating starts with believing that you have something worth sharing. This struck a chord within me. Maybe once I felt I had valuable input, interesting concepts to put forth into the world, but now? Now I feel empty. The longer I spend trying to come up with an idea, the worse I feel about myself as a writer, as a person.
Again and again this idea has been reinforced. I have nothing worth sharing. I’m embarrassed by the assumption that I might. I feel ashamed of the blank page in front of me, reminding me that I’m not enough. That blinking black line on an ocean of white is agonizing. What could be more painful than plumbing the depths of your soul and finding nothing?
This intense internal pressure never reaches a breaking point. There is no release from this ever tightening grip of anguish. Why does this vague desire to pour out my soul in colorful, living form not subside? When I try to pin down the essence of that longed for expression, there is nothing but smoke and shadow. There is nothing but a looming sense of emptiness, dusty bare walls of an empty room.
Shame is the thief of authenticity the shadow that steals the joy inside your heart the darkness that whispers what makes you unworthy Shame is the fear of showing yourself the horror of what it will mean to be seen rejecting yourself before anyone else can a punishment for perceived imperfections a constant reminder that you are not enough Shame is worse than the reality it threatens the judgment of others only hurts so badly when it is a confirmation of what you believe shame is a mirror we place as a barrier our own vicious eyes cutting in