An (attempted) Day Without Judgement?

Ok, so I’m oddly angry. Anger is a weird emotion for me. Usually, it turns to sadness quickly. I think I’m afraid of anger – both because of how much I saw it as a child, and also because I don’t want to make someone else angry (also probably because of what I saw as a child).

In the past, my anger was directed at myself. And I suppose I’m frustrated with myself. I am getting things done. I am not lying in bed crying or self-harming, or stuffing my face with pancakes. But I’m frustrated at myself. And it bothers me that all I can see are the things I’m not doing – wanting to punish myself with anger because there are other things I “should” be doing. DBT tells you to take “shoulds” out of your life, i.e. not be judgmental. This is intended not only for others like: “He should have taken out the trash” but also to yourself :”I should be stronger than this.”

One skill is to practice being non-judgmental. It means stepping back and observing a situation as it is, without thoughts or emotions. So instead of “I’m at the computer again because I’m terrified of failing at the things I have to do outside of it” you merely note “I am sitting in a chair, typing on a computer. There is traffic and sounds of cars driving on wet, rainy streets The blinds are closed.” You get the idea. You take the judgement out of the situation and in doing so, take the emotion you are feeling out.

It sounds so fucking simple, but it’s really hard. Most DBT skills are like that. You read them and you think “duh” but you realize when you try to do them, especially if your emotions are not regulated or you are in distress, it’s a lot harder than it looks.

I have options about what today looks like. I have options about what I am going to let ruminate in my big black cauldron of a mind. I also can choose to be okay with whatever the day turns out to be. I can allow myself to live the day without judging what I “should” be doing. Let’s see what happens.

The Myth of Normal

Okay, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but yes, I know that there is no “normal.” And yet, throughout my life, all I have craved was to just be normal. In the throws of depression, I suppose we all develop our own normal as it applies to the “what-ifs” and “if onlys” of our life at that time. Normal is the fantasy of all that is destroyed by the illness. The life we cannot have, the potential we cannot reach.

I remember during my breakdown, crying to my mother about how I could and would never be normal. I wouldn’t be able to have a healthy, sustainable relationship with a man. I would never be happy with my body. I would never not hate myself. I would never fully trust people. I could never just live life without ruining it through self-sabotage, perfectionism, comparison, and judgement.

At that time, normal was having a boyfriend, but still being really independent. It was enjoying my job without the constant fear of failure and burn-out. I would be successful but not too far at the top so I could have a life. I would go to brunch with friends, be open to adventures, meet people from diverse backgrounds, continue to try new things and always be learning. I was thin, pragmatic with money, with a job I was proud of, living in a city where I walked everywhere, and knew my neighbors. I had friends who called me more than I called them, and I knew they wanted to be my friends and needed me in their lives. I  guess normal was really the feeling of safety. A calm contentment and assurance of consistency and order. Boring never sounded so good.

I suppose that’s why this year has been so frustrating. Finally after spending pretty much my entire life in a clinical depressive state, I am evaluating, testing, relearning, trying. Today, I was running an errand, in the middle of the day on a weekday, and I got this terrible feeling: what if I can never go back to work? I’ll be on disability, running errands in the middle of the day with seniors, trust fund babies, and parents who are with their young children or maybe work from home. As I allowed my mom to pay for my groceries, I thought, what if I have to be dependent on my parents for financial support for my life? As I looked into my fridge, I wondered if I will ever be able to look at myself in the mirror and just be okay with it? As I avoided eye contact with a relatively attractive man (I was avoiding eye contact so it was blurry….) I thought, will I ever actually be able to be in a relationship with a man or am I going to have to go back to the old days of just getting drunk, and demoralizing myself to feel wanted for a few hours?

We are all different people, with different life experiences, and life is constantly changing, shifting, surprisingly us, failing us, guiding us. I suppose the realization I am supposed to have at the end of this post is that there is no normal and that there shouldn’t be. That it’s just a set of standards we set up for ourselves to fail because we will never reach it. Or maybe because it’s put upon us by society and what it tells us to want, need, and be in the world. Normal seemed so obvious and defined when I was so depressed. And now, with possibility, I’m dumbfounded to explain what normal actually is.

But I can’t seem to let the idea go – even knowing it’s an irrational myth. And I still crave to be “normal.” And I think I mourn the normal I never had … even if I know it wasn’t real.

I think deconstructing the myth will require letting go of judgement – of my past, present and possible future. And honestly I can’t even wrap my mind around that. I feel like if you took away self-judgement from my life, I would be just a sliver of a person – it has defined my humor, my outlook, my goals, and decisions. Honestly, it seems like it’s easier to believe in the illusion of normal, because – can you really fail at reaching something impossible?

So how do we handle the myth of normal? How do we not let it consume and control us? How do we redefine life without it, and can we?