Follow by Email


Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Burnt My Bagel

So....This may seem like a ridiculous post, but today I burnt my bagel while making breakfast.  Normally, this would send me into a mental assault on myself.  Normally, my brain would be telling me how I messed up and couldn't even toast a freaking bagel correctly.  How I should have been paying more attention and taken it out sooner.  How worthless of a person I am if I can't even make breakfast without screwing it up.

Don't get me wrong, my brain started it's normal belittling mental chatter, but then I remembered my "assignment" to fail.  I thought to myself, "Self, is this a failure?  Is this my chance to put this assignment to use?"

While burning a bagel may not seem like a failure to most, it does often feel like one to me.  So, I decided to go with it.  I stopped and thought to myself, "Self, you burnt your bagel.  Wow!  What a big deal!  Yes, you could have popped it out sooner.  Of course, that may have been a little difficult seeing as you were across the house doing something else at the same time.  It's just a bagel.  It's not the end of the world.  It may be a little extra crispy, but oh well.  We'll hide it under a little low-fat cream cheese.  Let's move on and enjoy the rest of the day."

It took me a little while to process it all and really come to terms with it, but halfway through crunching on my extra crispy bagel, I really started believing that my burnt bagel was no big deal.  Go figure!  Now I can't wait until my next failure!  : )

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fear of Failure

I woke up this morning in a good mood.  The sun was shining brightly after what was a dark and stormy day yesterday.  I thought it was such a beautiful day.

Then, the thoughts and anxiety started to intrude....

I haven't been in the best of places recently anyway.  This was something I addressed yesterday with Rachel.  My thoughts have been wrapped up in the holidays as well as the anniversary of the death of a former student of mine who was killed two years ago while crossing the street.  She was only eleven.

After delving into things, we soon realized that one of the main roots of the anxiety and depression was the thought of seeing my father if I went to the holiday dinners at my brother's.

At first, we simply thought it was my anxiety about my need to be perfect and make everyone happy.  The need to create that Norman Rockwell kind of holiday.  Perfectionism is a constant issue with me.  We address it almost every therapy session.  I'm trying to chisel away at it little by little, but it's so ingrained for so many reasons.  Rachel gave me an "assignment" this session.  The "assignment" was to try to fail.  Well, not exactly to try to fail, but to allow myself to fail and not to judge myself for it.  She doesn't want me to try to create failure.  She just wants me to accept it if it happens.  She wants me to allow myself to be human, something I never do.

There are two main reasons I strive for perfection.  The first is to keep everyone happy.  In my childhood world, when things weren't perfect, my dad could get angry, and then people got hurt.  After my parents' divorce, if things weren't perfect, my brother could get angry and take his anger out on me.  Even after we all grew up, if things weren't perfect, if I wasn't perfect, my siblings would be unhappy.  They may be a lot less likely to take it out on me physically, but they have no problem taking it out on me verbally.  My need to be perfect stems from me trying to protect myself and my family from making anyone unhappy, to protect anyone from being hurt, physically or emotionally.

The second reasons for my perfectionism also leads back to my father.  This is what we really discovered yesterday.  It is another reason I don't want to be around my father, at all.  This reason is that I'm scared of being like my father, of turning into someone like him.  He also had OCD tendencies.  He especially had food contamination issues.  Some of the anxieties I have, some of my obsessions and compulsions remind me so much of his when I was a child, and this scares me.  This scares me because if I have his OCD tendencies, can I also have inherited, and eventually develop, his other tendencies???

I don't want to be the kind of person who would beat their spouse until I cracked their skull.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would hit their children with a hammer or chase them through the fields with their pick-up truck.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would put their four-year-old in the bucket loader of their tractor, raise it twenty feet above the ground, and dump it hoping that their child would fall twenty feet and land in pain.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would kill their child's pet right in front of them just to see the anguish on their face.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would torment the people who loved them just to get pleasure for their pain.

I'm so scared that if I inherited his genetic predisposition for the OCD, that I could have inherited his genetic predisposition for this as well.  I'm scared that if I'm not perfect, that if I lose control, that this could slip out.  I'm scared I'll hurt someone I love, that I'll become the kind of monster my father was.

Rachel pointed out that the fact that I even worry about this shows that I am NOTHING like him.  People with issues like my dad's would never think twice about it.  She said that I am not him, I will never be like him.  The fact that I am willing to put myself through so much, to make myself so miserable to prevent it, just for everyone else, shows that I would never be like him.

Still, the entire idea of failing, of being less than perfect, of being human, being fallible, terrifies me.  It fills me with so much anxiety, so much paralyzing fear.  It fills me with anger toward my father for doing the things he did, for putting me in this position.  It fills me sadness and depression for the child I used to be, the one who endured all this.  It fills my mind with so many racing thoughts and images, past, present, and future...of things that were, of things that maybe, of things I wish weren't and things I pray never will be.  I'm just so overwhelmed by all the thoughts and emotions, by all the fear and anger, that I'm not sure how to dig myself out and move past it all.  I'm sure that after a few days, my poor mind will be able to process everything and figure it all out, but right now, I just feel stuck and helpless, and I just feel scared.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying to Scrape the Barnacles Off My Mayflower....

I've been reading everyone's lists of what they're thankful for.  It reminds me of all the great things we have in this world, of all the things to be thankful for myself.  Unfortunately, my mind is currently in a place where every good memory, everything I'm thankful for, brings up something I'm NOT thankful for, something I'm angry about, aggravated by, or just want to forget.  This just makes me feel SO ungrateful...which I'm not!  It also makes me feel like a brooding misfit for not being able to move past those negatives that come to mind and focus on the good things.

Holidays are never a good time for me.  They bring on so much anxiety.  We used to have family holidays at my house.  I would cook and clean for days, and spend more money than I had trying to make sure everything was perfect.  I wanted everyone to have their holiday favorites.  I wanted the kids to enjoy themselves and the family to play games together, but I also wanted a formal table.  I wanted the best of both worlds.  I wanted tradition and casual fun.

The trouble would start with the scheduling of holiday gatherings.  Between my sister's ex-husband and my sister-in-laws family, we never got to have a Christmas on a Christmas Day or even a Christmas Eve.  Thanksgiving was always done late in the afternoon or early in the evening.  Everyone was already stuffed on food.  They would show up long enough to put me down, scarf the food, put me down a little more, then take off leaving me to clean everything up.  Most of the time, I would have to take care of getting the kids' plates filled and getting them settled as well as cleaning them up when they were finished.  Usually, everyone else was almost done with their dinners before I even got a chance to sit down.  I don't know how many holiday meals I finished sitting by myself.

Of course, there were also those holidays when my sister would have a major fight with her ex and take it out on her children, me, or my mom.  I seriously don't remember a truly happy holiday in my household.  Sure, I still tried each year to make them perfect and make everyone happy.  I still slaved for days trying to make the house and the menu perfect.  I always struggled to ignore the passive aggressive, belittling comments my family throughout.  Still, none of this can make up for an unhappy, dysfunctional family.

The death blow for holidays came a few years ago when, after our traditionally terrible Christmas actually celebrated on Christmas Eve for the first time EVER, scheduled by my sister and sister-in-law, my sister got into a fight with her ex-husband on her cell phone.  It had to do with the time he thought he was supposed to get the kids that night.  She got angry and ended up throwing her cell phone across the living room, filled with family members, shattering the phone against our bookshelves.  She then proceeded to storm out of the house, ending the not so festive festivities.  Oh....but she wasn't done yet.  My sister proceeded to call my mom the next morning, on Christmas Day, and yell at her about how her Christmas was terrible because of her fight with her ex and how it was all my mom's fault for having our Christmas celebration the night before.  (I guess she had forgotten that she and my sister-in-law had scheduled it.  My mom had had nothing to do with that.  She was NEVER given a choice on when we celebrated.)  My mom ended up breaking down in tears when she hung up the phone.

That was it for me.  I ended up sending out a not so friendly e-mail later that day, telling my brother and sister that I was DONE with holidays with them.  I was no longer spending my time trying to make them all happy when they constantly put me down and then ended up making my mom miserable as well.  (Rachel says that I may not realize it, but this was a HUGE deal for me.  A very positive step.)

I haven't celebrated with them since.  In recent years, my brother and sister-in-law have begun to have celebrations at their house.  My sister and nieces and nephews are all there.  My father is there as well.  I don't go.  My mom and I celebrate our holidays at home, then my mom spends the afternoon or evening at my brother's with the rest of the family.  I still refuse to go.  I just don't want to deal with all that crap again.  I know that I would be miserable.  I know that they would pick up on that and just make things worse.  I really don't want to have to deal with all that.  Still, it's hard to say no.  I feel guilty doing so.  This battle of emotions starts weeks in advance.

I've been talking to Rachel about this for weeks.  She always reminds me that I'm an adult and get to make my own choices.  If I don't want to go, I don't have to go, and I don't owe them an explanation.  They're adults and can just deal with it.  I shouldn't have to make myself feel like crap in order to make them happy.  I can love my family and still not like them, and if I don't like them, I shouldn't have to spend my holidays with them.  Still, I feel this mix of anxiety, guilt, anger, annoyance, sadness, etc., and it gets worse and worse as the holidays approach.