I got called a “love pussy” the other day. I’ll admit that I had to ask for clarification as to what exactly that meant. The explanation I was given was, “you’re a pussy when every thing is perfect.” I was still a little confused. Sometimes I can be a little dense. She broke it down for me a little more, “you get scared.” Viola! I got it. Sadly, it is true. I can rush into a burning building, and have as a matter of fact, with minimal fear, but when everything seems to be moving along at an even keel and everything is good, I freak out!
I could probably go into about a million different reasons as to why I constantly expect the worst or how and by what life experiences I have been conditioned to do so. I think that they are valid reasons, but what I find most interesting and problematic is what goes on in my head on a regular basis, whether that other shoe is going to drop or not. Sometimes these thoughts cause a lot more damage than if the shoe had actually fallen.
My mind can be an absolute torture chamber sometimes. I am not positive, but my guess is that it has always been this way. As a child, I was a constant worrier, terrified of everything. I remember having panic attacks during Desert Storm, just from watching the news. I would write letters to George Bush, imploring him to think about the ramifications of war. Hey, on the bright side, I was am activist! I was constantly working myself up into such a state that hyperventilation was a regular occurrence. I spent my fair share of time breathing into paper bags or with my head between my knees trying to gulp in air. It was a serious problem. I don’t think that my mom had any idea what to do with me.
Fast forward twenty-something years and you have a (kind of) grown woman who has learned to grit her teeth and face her fears, for the most part. I have learned over time, that if I just meet things head on, then the amount of agonizing is substantially less than if I hide from them. I know that it will have to be dealt with one way or another, so I might as well get it over with now. My threshold for discomfort is much lower than it once was. Thank God.
I am still scared or frightened by a lot of things, some real but most are imagined these days. The fears are no longer paralyzing as they once were, but are just as disruptive. When I was a child, I would wake up from a bad dream and not be able to move. It would take what felt like minutes for me to gather the courage to scream for my mom. Those seconds after the scream before she answered are still burned into my mind as some of the most terrifying moments of my life. I do not know what exactly I was afraid of, but afraid I was. Now I just spin around inside my head until I have no idea what is true and what is false.
Today what I am left with is this mind that is an accomplished terrorist. It likes to scare the hell out of me! My mind looks for anything and everything with which it can unsettle me. It looks for anything that it can grasp onto that could in one way or another be considered even remotely problematic. It can locate and hone in on even the smallest negative and blow it completely out of proportion until it is the only thing that I can see, and then use it to terrorize me unceasingly until I am a basket case.
Over the last couple of years, I have been working to change these kinds of thought patterns. I am not sure how they were created in the first place, but they certainly do not serve me any longer. I have made progress, but there are days when I cannot get out of the loop. A day like last Friday happens and I am reminded that I have much more work to do.
It was a day just like any other, nothing much was going on and yet I was in complete fight or flight mode, as close to melting down as I get these days. Everything was/is going very well in my life, school is good, my internship is going well, my finances are stable. Hell, I am even making a dent in my minimal credit card debt, and there is this man who gives me butterflies. Everything sounds pretty great, right? Everything in reality is! It’s the imagined problems that are troublesome.
A friend of mine says that I like to collect evidence. It is completely true. Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if I collected only good evidence, or even any! That is not what I do though. If out of 300 things that happen in a given day, only three are bad, then those three will be the only ones that I will see and they will become larger than life. My mind only collects the evidence that proves my own misguided belief that I am not good enough. This is a belief system that has been very hard for me to disassemble. I keep chipping away at it, but it is pretty damn entrenched in me.
There was about eight years of my life where I lived in full on self-destruct mode. That time has given me plenty of evidence that proves these negative beliefs that I have about myself. There is almost as much time since that show me that I am a different person, yet somehow the good cannot outweigh the bad in my mind. My mind is a tricky adversary. The “you’ve done it again, why can’t you do better, you’re so selfish, he doesn’t really like you, you are making things up” thoughts are challenging to see around sometimes. And once I buy into just one of them, the downward spiral is quick and awful.
Luckily I have amazing women (and men) in my life, who I trust enough to share ALL of my crazy with. They don’t judge me too harshly and often laugh and remind me that I am, indeed, crazy when I cannot see the good, the truth, that is obvious to everyone but me. I have solutions that work more often than they do not, when I actually bother to use them. I know that these old patterns were some kind of weird coping mechanism that kept me alive when my life was a darker, sadder place. I also know that they do not serve me any longer and that I am letting them go bit by bit. I have learned that I can go to a yoga class and drop it all on my mat and leave a lighter, saner woman. I am thankful for these things. I am also thankful that I have learned to see that these are only thoughts, that even when I am experiencing a day like Friday when I am full of fear, I can know logically that they are not real. Today I know that I am enough, exactly as I am. Maybe I can do better next time, or I am deluding myself, hell, maybe he doesn’t like me, but I know that if that is the case, there will be someone else who does. Everything is okay as it is. I know that God made me as I am and I know, without a doubt, that God does not make mistakes!