A Habit I Can’t Quit: All Decisions Lead to Failure

So the number one thing that brings me anxiety like no other is decision-making. And that’s been a big ‘ol nuisance as of late. But what has me up tonight is my inability to prioritize.

At work, it was pretty easy to prioritize. I had due dates, and after a while, a sense of the process and how long things took. I knew how long I could hold off on the things I hated, and what days I could slack off if needed.

But now I feel like I’m running around in circles. And I think a part of me is afraid to stop and organize it because that will make the decisions real and I will have to make them. And things are more complicated when it comes to prioritizing your life. It’s hard to place value on something like “deciding if I am ready to move across the continent” or “if I’m smart enough to take this challenging volunteer job.” It’s not a task, it’s a choice and that means choosing a path that may lead to good or bad. I know people say that it’s your path, whatever you choose, but I kind of think they say that to make them feel better for all the shitty choices they have made along the way. (Sorry, I’m a bit crabby.)

I know having options are a luxury, but a part of me wishes for simpler times. I was joking with my mom that I think I was born in the wrong era. Sometimes I crave the idea of an arranged marriage, a job based on what my family did or what was tasked to me, a life laid out for me without having to choose whether it was good enough or not. I wouldn’t have to worry if I “could have done more or been better” because I was following what was expected. It’d never work given my liberal belief system, my innate feeling that I could always be doing more, and just my own self-respect..

I think depression gave me something similar to that. Or perhaps it gave me something to blame, to put fault on. But it helped make decisions for me. It would tell me not to go out, not to call someone back, not to go to the gym, not to try and achieve something or speak up for myself. And it protected me in doing those things and therefore moving forward and risking failure even though I felt like a failure the whole time because I wasn’t doing those things and I wanted to. (It’s really quite confusing.)

There’s a spin app that has a trainer on it that I do for my workouts…anyway, one of things that the trainer say is that it’s better to try to challenge yourself and have to pull back then not try and see if you can do it. And she also says the point is to defeat yourself, to push yourself farther than you think you can, and not make it – find your breaking point. I think the idea behind it is that every time you do that, you can push yourself farther and I imagine it also intends to provide a mindset that failure from trying is success all on its’ own because you won’t know how strong you are until you figure out when you have to pull back.

I think about that a lot now. Knowing your potential. Knowing what you’re good at. Knowing what you can and can’t handle. That sometimes the only way to figure it out is to do it, and yet it’s also important to listen to yourself and if your inner self is screaming “don’t do this! it’s not just fear, we aren’t ready!” you also need to listen to that, no matter how disappointing.

So I guess decision-making, failure, fault, and trust are facing me across the table. And I need to prioritize the choices I must make and the tasks that come with those choices. A part of me craves to just make a decision, have it feel right, and move forward scared but certain. But that feeling has yet to come.

Usually in spin, when she tells me to try and push myself a little harder, I might go up a notch or two, but I don’t really go to a point of defeat. I don’t want to be dissapointed. I don’t want to accept failure or set a higher bar that I might not be able to reach the next time I spin.

I’ve created a system that has put myself in quite a predicament. Because really, there’s no way to win. I can prioritize, I can try to challenge myself, I can try to see failure as success for what it teaches me, but in the end, deep inside, it all feels like failure. It feels instinctual. And while I see how to change certain habits and I give DBT a lot of credit for skills to help break bad habits, this is more of an internal belief system. Next to my values of helping others, being a good person, and always trying to add value, I believe what I do will never be enough and I will never find peace within myself because I don’t deserve it and I should be ashamed for the opportunities I have been allotted and the time I have wasted convincing all of these people to believe in me and give me chances.

This is when if I friend told me that I would tell her she should go to therapy. LOL. My therapist believes and I agree that I established these beliefs from a very young age and they were supported in different contexts and so I came to make these thoughts into facts. She believes I must grieve for what I have lost because of it, understand why it became fact so that I can see it is thought, and from there, learn to question that thought when it arises and tries to bring me to my demise.

And I want to believe her. I’m just not sure I can do it, and honestly, I’m afraid to fail.

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News, I’ve Got a Bad Case of Nothin’ New

The look I fear. The look that leads to profuse sweating and increased heart rate. The look that leads to canceling appointments.

The look I fear that leads to canceling appointments and feelings of shame.

Since I was about eight, I’ve been nervous about going to a doctor. It’s not because I’m afraid of needles or blood (I’ve been a platelet and blood donor since I was 15,) or that I’m worried I might have a severe disease. In fact, it’s the opposite. I’m always worried that the doctor isn’t going to believe me or think I’m exaggerating. That the problem is me just being a faker.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time trying to tell people that something was wrong with me. The general rule in our house was if you didn’t have a fever, you went to school. It’s really hard, especially as a child, to explain depression. I don’t think you quite get it yourself, you just know you don’t feel right. I remember just feeling exhausted, sad, and used up all the time. But when I would tell my mom, (and this was before a lot of people understood depression,) she would usually tell me it was hormones or the weather. And I don’t blame her. My nose wasn’t running, I didn’t have a fever, there was no asthma, puss, or any of the “signs” of “sickness.” How could she know something she couldn’t see from her third grade youngest child.

I started wishing I would get sick. And I started to feel like unless I had something to show, no one would really believe something was wrong. Maybe they would think I was trying to get attention. Or that I was a drama queen or a hypochondriac. I remember saying “Something isn’t right. I just don’t feel right.” But honestly, if I didn’t know about depression, and this was in the early 90’s, I would probably think my child was also just going through puberty or was having a difficult time in school or overanalyzing her studies. And all of these were true – but they were symptoms of a much deeper problem.

Anyway, I started to worry that doctors would also think I was bullshitting. So I would delay appointments, and find myself having panic attacks the day of. I would go in the office sweating, my heart beating out of my chest, and when they asked me what was wrong, I always felt like I was pleading a case – trying to convince them that I was sick. But I also over-compensated, smiling and not speaking up when I thought they were wrong or misunderstood.

When I had things like strep throat, eczema, asthma, or ear infections, it wasn’t a problem. But I would go in and tell them that I felt exhausted, depleted and sluggish, and they would run a blood test, put me on thyroid meds, sleeping pills, adderall. They tried to treat the symptoms individually instead of looking at the big picture and I always imagined them sitting there after they got my tests back and thinking “This girl is fine. What a selfish person – there are real people sick and she’s wasting my time because she’s ‘tired.'” I felt such shame.

But throughout my depression, I have felt like I have had to justify myself to everyone around me – even my psychiatrists and therapists. I worry they won’t believe my pain. I worry my family will think I’m milking it, my doctors will think I’m exaggerating, my friends will think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. (I don’t even get that expression and I think it’s from the 30’s but whatever.)

In retrospect, I think one part of self-harming was my way of saying “fuck you” to everyone who didn’t believe I was sick. I didn’t tell anyone or show anyone, but I knew I had tangible evidence of my problems and it made me feel justified in my internal pain. I also think the ECT made me feel vindicated and shocked the shit out of people. It’s hard to argue that anything is wrong when you are getting seizures three times a week…on purpose. My stomach was really bad a few months ago, but it wasn’t until I had to go to the hospital that I think my family actually believed I was in real pain. And of course, they couldn’t find anything “concrete” like an ulcer or lump, so they just told me to eat simply and do the best I could. I paid $100 bucks to have a doctor tell me I should eat rice and I was so embarrassed that it was basically just gastroenteritis and I have had and still have IBS.

I’m writing this because two and half months ago I had knee surgery. Of course it was “not that bad of a tear” which made me feel embarrassed that I didn’t have a really severe tear. (This is where the irrational thinking jumps out to play.) I had surgery and started PT. The doctor that did the surgery told me I’d be back spinning in a month. I was young and he had had the same surgery and was mountain biking 4 weeks later so I would be fine. After about six weeks, my PT would do the basic exams and ask about pain. I don’t know whether it’s because I have a high pain threshold or always feel the need to put on a show in front of people I don’t know and give them the answers I think they want to hear, but while I was feeling discomfort, it wasn’t “pain.” Once again, I started feeling like I had to justify something I knew was wrong but couldn’t prove.

In the past few weeks, I’ve started to think she has stopped believing me when I say that something still doesn’t feel right. I just feel my knee all the time. When I’m walking, standing, or on the bike, I feel discomfort, an aching, and sometimes a click or sharp small pain. Two weeks ago, she told me that at this point if I wasn’t in pain, she didn’t really understand the discomfort and but she didn’t see why I shouldn’t be getting better. There were no tangible symptoms – no inflammation, pain when bending a certain amount of degrees – she couldn’t see anything wrong and so she couldn’t see why I wasn’t better.

I felt really ashamed and embarrassed. Maybe I’m fine and I’m just overanalyzing or being ultra sensitive. So I’ve started to get on the bike and push myself again. I tell myself even if it feels weird, if it doesn’t hurt to just keep on going. That maybe this is just how my knee is going to feel and I just have to push through and stop being a baby. Stop being a drama queen that I’ve always assumed everyone thought I was. I have an appointment today and I really don’t want to go. I’m going to tell her that I’ve been spinning and she’s going to wonder why I’m there. She’s going to have me do my exercises but I’m going to see that look on her face that says “I really don’t know what else to do with this girl because she’s fine and she’s just making a big deal out of nothing.” I cancelled the last session and was going to cancel this one but missed the deadline and can’t afford not to go given the cancellation fee.

I’m angry that I can’t allow myself to feel injured, sick, or just unwell. I hate that I feel like I have to convince people something’s wrong and still think they are thinking I’m bullshitting. That I often am a mess before therapy but go in with a smile on my face in the beginning because I overcompensate and feel it’s rude not to be friendly when you see someone. That I play down my symptoms because I doubt my own feelings.

I know I don’t feel right, just like I knew when I was eight that something was wrong. But my worry that others won’t believe me make me doubt myself and what I feel. I’m scared to go and I’m angry that I’m scared. I feel like it’s going to make me feel bad about myself for the rest of the day and then I won’t do the things to make me feel better – like going to the gym, or cooking, or reading, or doing the list of things I need to get around to doing. I hate that this one thing could have the power to impact the rest of my day and that I’m too weak to push through it. But maybe I will. Maybe I’ll leave and be able to say “fuck it” and do a few things on my list.

Bad habits die hard. And I hope I will not shame myself into a depressive day. But until then, I just feel like a fake whose knee kinda hurts.