I had a difficult weekend. That sounds so mild, really. It was difficult. No, really, in so many ways, it was astonishingly painful, my inner landscape sown with mines that kept exploding every few steps. I could attribute it all to circumstance, but I don’t want to. I want to go to the source, which in this case, was my thoughts.
I’m writing this now because I’ve emerged from that particular bout of torment. I’m not gamboling with glee at the moment, but I’m deeply relieved to be free of the spiritual suffocation that came over me. It’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last. Perhaps, Jen, ahem, you could write a few notes to yourself to keep track of what helped to bring you out? Why, yes, pragmatic voice of nuts-and-bolts wisdom, I will do that.
Where I was: feeling more worthless by the minute. My thoughts insisted that I had screwed up everything, everything, my life, everyone else’s life, the whole world, without exception—I was incompetent, hideous, unworthy of love, stupid, oh, you name it, the insults rained down, and the problem was, I listened and believed. It went on and on. I can’t write it all here; it’s too awful. It made me turn into a soldered-shut clam. Why wouldn’t it? Who would want to receive such treatment? I felt profoundly isolated and afraid to tell anyone quite how bad I felt. I was afraid of repelling and terrifying others. I was afraid of entering a cycle of feeling desperate and crazy, terrified of rejection, somehow revealing this to others, whether purposefully or accidentally, and ensuring the harsh judgment and rejection I was sure was my comeuppance.
It’s still frightening to write this, now, but I do it in service to myself and anyone else who might gain from it.
What helped? What shifted things?
- I went outside. This can be extraordinarily hard to do when one is feeling clammish; I had to push myself. It was worth it. It’s always worth it, without fail, for me. I got on my bike and went to Fitzgerald Lake and walked the trails and observed. The thoughts didn’t completely let up but at least I was opening parts of myself to the world in a way that felt manageable. I didn’t have to encounter very many people or interact with them substantially. The trees and lake and rocks and animals didn’t care if I was odd or distraught. There was room to breathe. There was sunshine on my skin. The breeze would touch me gently whether I thought I deserved it or not. The cacophony in my head could start to settle, distracted, soothed by the beauty of pine trees, turtles, water, sky. I could begin to take a little step toward getting some perspective.
- I confided in a few friends. I wasn’t able to open up completely, but enough to say, I feel terrible, and a bit more. They did not reject me. They did not run away screaming. They understood. They were kind and loving. It’s a powerful medicine, that love from true friends. They reminded me that I’m not alone. I had to push myself, again, but in relative safety, with people I was sure would not judge me.
- I made tiny overtures. I focused on making the smallest of gestures to unsolder my clam-shell. I couldn’t breathe in there, much as I thought I needed that compact little fortress. I needed to peer out warily and perhaps say a word. That’s what I did. I said, “Hi.” It’s not such a big risk to say such a little word, a sign of greeting. From there, a few other words felt manageable. It was a wavelet of pleasure to be greeted in return, the warm sea of connection reaching for me, washing the shame and terror away, gently, assiduously.
- I remembered not to believe everything I think. Gaining more and more breathing room allowed for more perspective. This is when I realized that I’ve been practicing for so long, it’s starting to take. I don’t have to believe my own thoughts. They don’t have to dictate how I feel. I can question them. I can dismantle them. I can reveal them for the illusions they are. I can let compassion well up for this human form I find myself in. I’m so human, all the time.
If you notice that I’ve fallen off the map, you might want to point me to this guide so I can find my way again.