How to fail at your own life and keep playing anyway

I’m very upset right now. I’m still transitioning from my old medication to my new ones and it hasn’t been going smoothly, and I want to recognize that both internally as well as acknowledge it here.

In fact, I’m probably at the lowest I’ve felt in many, many months. And while I’m at this stage, I wanted to write some of this down to better understand where I’m at and why I’ve been writing like this.

But I wanted to get some thoughts down about my own life, if you don’t mind reading about it. See, about three years ago I had everything mapped out. I was engaged, starting a masters’ program in the most well-respected program in the country (for my field, that is), and had hadn’t needed my antidepressant medication for nearly a year. But that all changed, and although I’ve accomplished a lot of things since then, I haven’t been able to reach that same high of knowing where my life is headed since then. But in truth, that’s really for the best.

Writing is therapeutic for some people, or at least I’ve been led to believe. Although I love writing, I have such a hard time being able to sit down at my computer and get things down. Even though it comes naturally to me (usually), this fear always comes over me as soon as I think about doing something. And this fear affects me in most of my day-to-day life. It’s the reason I’ve had to take time off work and set boundaries for myself.

Although I’ve been able to moderate this emotion, it’s really been coming back with a vengeance over the past few weeks, to the point where just going outside to meet someone for coffee is a whole ordeal. But I’ve been here before. I know this territory because I’ve experienced this level of anxiety more than once and it does go away, whether through cognitive therapy or medication. And even though I know it’s all in my head, I can’t help feeling depressed and petrified right now at the prospect of… I guess it’s hard to explain.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself recently is that I seem to have a neurological pathway ingrained in my consciousness since… I honestly can’t remember ever *not* thinking like this, so I have no idea when it started. And just like when I got my first pair of glasses and learned, to my shock and frustration, how easily everyone else was able to see the world around them, I’ve only recently been able to put together how badly this mindset has affected my ability to cope compared with other people.

So this pathway is basically that I never let myself feel too proud or too happy at any given time. This may seem odd to some people who know me as a more upbeat person, but I’ve very, very rarely had times of excitement, joy, or relaxation where I wasn’t second-guessing what could go wrong, what I should be doing better, or that everything is fleeting so I should never get too comfortable. When I proposed to my then-girlfriend several years ago, I was happy, but I also had the constant thought, even as she said yes, that “You could have done this better, these decorations you put up are lazy, the letter you wrote to her isn’t long enough, she’s not as excited as she could be right now” etc. etc. etc. On my birthday, when I’m surrounded by people I love, I try to stay in the moment but all I feel is worry that someone’s not happy to be there, or that I don’t look thankful enough when I open someone’s gift, or that I should feel guilty I didn’t put enough effort in celebrating someone else’s birthday six months ago. And on it goes.

I know more than a few people who struggle with self-doubt and second-guessing themselves, so I don’t know if what I’m describing is actually quite normal and everyone deals with this so you should learn to get over it and stop complaining it doesn’t always have to be about you… That’s what I’m thinking as I write this. And I have no way to prove this voice wrong. Sure, I can tell myself everyone’s feelings are valid and even if you’re over-exaggerating your struggles, that doesn’t make them any less important, but then my mind moves on to the next thing: your writing isn’t good enough, you’re rambling without going anywhere, is that what you did four years of an English BA and a year of a Masters in Journalism for? Oh, and by the way, you dropped out of Journalism School because you were afraid you weren’t good enough compared to everyone else and you were scared of spending a career doing things you didn’t like would make you miserable for the rest of your life. Well, guess what? You’re still miserable anyway, so you managed to screw yourself over by not having finished your Masters AND you hate yourself, so congratulations!

At any rate, these are the thoughts I’m still battling to this day. I’ve by-and-large come to a point of peace about the decisions I’ve made and actually am proud of where my life is headed…or, at least, where I know it isn’t. I’ve spent the past few years really getting a better understand of myself, my limits, my weaknesses, while also learning to acknowledge and take pride in my strengths. Although I’m going through a rough patch right now, there’s a real sense of relief in being able to type out some of the negative thoughts I have and know that they no longer control me. I can look at the above paragraph and say “You know what, no matter how I feel, I know that’s crap.” These thoughts still follow me around and I would love to get to a point where they’re—if not completely gone forever—at least muted to a dull roar.

But it took me a long time to get here. I was so attached to the future I thought I was going to inhabit that even as I set out on a different path, I still attacked myself with the knowledge of what I had “lost.” Except I hadn’t lost anything. Sure, one very specific direction for my life isn’t viable, but I have the freedom of no longer being tied to “what has to be” or “the way things will go.”

I have no idea where things are going. And that’s scary at times, and frustrating at others. But it also means I can plot out a course that no longer prescribes what I need to be to get there. Instead, I make a path based on who I am and who I can become. I’ve acknowledged the changes that have come and the limits of my own person, but I’m also creating new elements for my life and finding where my real strengths lie.

I again want to point out I’m currently the lowest I’ve felt in quite a while. One of the ways I’ve been able to still find the positives in my own life when I feel this low is looking at others. I have many close friends and family who have had their own struggles. Some of them have come up from the bottom, while others are still in the thick of it. But I can’t help but look at the people I love and feel an overwhelming sense of hope and excitement. I have friends I know will change the world. I know people who are only beginning to tap into what they’re capable of. And I have family with talents and qualities you can only find in a million.

There’s still things I need to work on, and more than a few of them will reappear throughout my life. But I’m not giving up. I’ve come this far, and wherever “here” is, I’m glad to have made it.

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