Recently it has come to my attention that being truly open, honest, & sincere is far more appreciated by the world as a whole than being some kind of continually positive peppy cheerleader type. The latter becomes more of an annoyance than anything because inevitably there are times when life sucks, & at those times I think all of us desperately long for someone to validate our fears, our anxieties, & general woes about the difficulties we’re facing, whatever they may be.
In an effort to be completely honest, I must preface this post by saying I am currently a bit of an emotional train wreck. My hormones are all over the map (I recently came off birth control since my husband & I are trying to have a baby), work has been increasingly demanding, & there have just been a number of other stressful situations in my life lately, all of which have contributed to me struggling with my anxiety far more than I have for a long time. And because I’m trying to get pregnant, I’m now taking a 50% lower dose of Prozac (which means I’m now on the lowest dose available), so as you can imagine that has been an additional stressor.
In any case, this past week I was placed in a situation that brought up a lot of negative memories. I was criticized in a way that I felt was at least 90% completely unjustified, & as usual my response was to cry. I only shed a few tears during the actual conversation, & I did manage to stand up for myself FAR more than I would have years ago, but it took everything in me not to just break down & sob right then & there. Trust me, when I was in the safety of my car I cried harder than I have in a long time.
The end result of this situation is that suddenly I felt just as small as I did so many years ago when I was in elementary & middle school & many of the other kids teased me & used my “weaknesses” to make themselves feel stronger. Memories of being teased about everything from not knowing what an erection was to wearing the wrong style of clothes to forgetting to shave my legs to being “too smart” to being out of touch with popular music & TV shows to sucking at sports all came flooding back in a deluge of torment. Many of these memories had not crossed my mind in well over a decade. But suddenly the pain of those moments was just as real as if they had happened yesterday. Suddenly I was the last kid picked in gym class all over again. It was as if all the self-confidence I’ve built up over the past decade since leaving high school had evaporated like the morning dew on a sunny day.
And here I am two days later still struggling . . . Am I over-reacting? Of course. But I’m an intelligent, sensitive person who cannot help but take criticism to heart. I do this because I truly care. I want to be the best I can be at everything I do. I’m not saying I need to win some kind of award for everything I attempt in life. Hell no! I’m just saying I have very high standards for myself, probably too high sometimes, & it’s difficult to take criticism, especially that which feels unfair & poorly presented, as anything other than evidence of a glaring failure.
I know I should just “shake it off,” forget it, & move on with my life. But that’s not in my nature. Trust me, at times like these I would give almost anything to be so light-hearted as to be able to do that. I’m trying very hard to remember that one person’s perception of me is simply that: one person’s perception of me & nothing more. I hate to sound like a whiny first-world bitch, but sometimes being smart is not all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve spent my whole life being largely identified & singled out for my intelligence. All things considered, I realize this isn’t a bad lot in life. There are definitely a lot worse characteristics for which one can be known. But the down side to it is that any “evidence” of failure makes you feel like you’re losing your whole identity, not to mention the inevitable phenomenon that everyone just expects you to deal with anything that comes your way because “she’s smart, she can handle it.” Then there are also the people who think that just because you’re smart means everything you excel at must come easily to you, that you haven’t really worked for your successes, which of course could not be further from the truth. And then there are the inevitable people who are jealous of your success & are probably just waiting for you to screw up so they can feel better about their own failures . . .
Anyway, it has also come to my attention lately that it is possible that I may be intimidating to some people. Because I have a tendency to still think of myself as the nerdy weird girl, a bit of an ugly duckling for lack of a better term, it’s really quite incredible to me that this could possibly be true. However, when I think about it objectively, I suppose a twenty-something woman who’s in good shape, reasonably attractive, successful in her career, happily married, & generally seen to be “on top of it all” could be a bit intimidating. And I am all of those things. I’ll never forget a situation in college where a friend of a friend told me that when he first met me he was really intimidated by my intelligence, but he then went on to say that he quickly discovered that I was also incredibly kind & any feelings of inadequacy on his part melted away. When he told me that (probably 8 years ago now!!), I remember being totally flabbergasted because the idea that I could be intimidating to anyone, much less a guy, just seemed utterly unthinkable. But I doubt he’d have admitted to such a thing if it weren’t true. As much as I cannot help but admit that being known as intelligent & “successful” is indeed flattering, I sincerely want to be known at least as much for being kind & generous & helpful. I guess the reason the criticism I faced earlier this week got under my skin so much is because I felt like it implied that I’m none of those things.
I really don’t know why I’m writing all of this other than to try to maintain my own sanity. I suppose the message I’m trying to convey is that even those of us who may seem to “have it all together” are extremely vulnerable & just as hard on ourselves, if not more so, than anyone else. The truth is none of us has it all together. We’re all facing our own unique battles. Perhaps it’s to my own detriment that I am so adept at seeming like I’ve got it all together because it masks the battles I’m facing with my own anxiety. I’ve said it before & I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I truly believe the world would be a far better place if more of us were honest about the battles we’re fighting on a daily basis. Anxiety is my battle, the anxiety monster is very real, & right now I’m fighting it harder than I have in a very long time. So in an effort to live up to my own beliefs, this post is me being truly candid & letting you know that at this point in time I’m really struggling . . . But struggling though I may be, I won’t be defeated . . .
Before I end, I feel like I must include this quick side-note: to the people who say those of us with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses should just pray more or read the Bible more, I may as well tell you to pray away your diabetes or your cancer or your heart disease. Now do you realize how ridiculous you sound? If you’re going to take the view that disease is a product of sin & can be cured by pure faith, then at least be consistent about it. If you’re going to criticize me or anyone else for taking medication for a mental illness, then I better not catch you taking an antibiotic, a pain medication, a blood pressure pill, or anything of the kind. Just saying . . .
I’ll conclude this post with one of my favorite “pick me up” songs by the talented guys from Redlight King.
My favorite lyrics from the song are below:
Risk it all, I’m gonna risk it all
I’m gonna break my back and risk it all
I’m gonna pick my spot, take my shot,
Swallow my pride and risk it all
I’m gonna risk it all
And I won’t look back
I’m gonna pick my spot,
Take my shot, swallow my pride
And risk it all
The light’s on, the last round
The dark horse keeps on fightin’
I’m gonna make a comeback
I’m gonna dig six feet up tonight
I’m gonna get it all back
I’m gonna make a comeback this time
Anxiety, you will not win. I know I’ll never bury you completely, but you will not take away all the progress I’ve made. You may have won a few battles here lately, but trust me, you are not going to win the war.