I’ve been scattered recently. I’ve felt overwhelmed, then frustrated by my overwhelm. I’ve been stressed, then frustrated by my stress.
When I get in a cyclical pattern like this, it’s often difficult to break myself of it. It takes far less effort to convince myself that it’s not worth it, that I should just quit whatever it is I’m working towards and that it’s fine that I feel down because that’s a more comfortable and familiar place to be than the happy, encouraged, excited, motivated place I have been living in these past few months.
This is the way that my anxiety and depression tends to manifest. It starts and ends with my thinking.
Yesterday, I had a meltdown. It was bred out of this frustration, but ultimately catalyzed by a difficult day with my kiddo. He was doing all the things he’s supposed to be doing at two, pushing, testing, battling me at every turn. It’s his job and it’s how he learns what is and isn’t okay. But I didn’t have it in me yesterday to not come undone by it.
My well of patience had dried up by 9am and I was a frazzled mess. I’m actively working on my patience because pre-child, I was not a patient person. Get out of my way on the road, move out of my way at the grocery store, stop preventing me (people/cars/life/world) from getting from A to B or doing exactly what I want to do, exactly when I want to do it. It’s essentially a prong of anxiety, where the perceived notion of controlling time makes me feel more secure. But there is no real good that comes of it.
You have to have patience as a mom, at least more than I used to have. It’s all part of learning to be a present and safe place for your kid. It’s really important to me to not lash out or let my frustrations pour over that have nothing to do with him and all to do with me. (Okay, a little to do with him when he throws his bowl of food across the room for no reason other than to see what I’m going to do.)
I am learning how to manage this and doing a pretty good job. I don’t oversell myself in the same way that would mean I’m racing against a clock. I don’t promise to be somewhere at a certain time that would be easier for others instead of also considering what would be manageable for myself with a toddler. I’ve let myself relax about things that I used to think really mattered (showing up with my hair done, make-up on with a prepared dish of food) and instead focusing on what really matters (showing up). On a good day, I’ve found a way to breathe through the frustration, access the calm pools of zen within me and gently guide my toddler through the more difficult moments.
But yesterday was a challenge. Yesterday was minute to minute. I had no pools of zen or gentle guidance in me. I had bubbling, volcanic frustration simmering under the surface waiting for an opportunity to erupt.
I somehow managed to keep it together with the help of a long walk and the child area at the library (thank god for libraries).
When I finally got a chance to steal away with my computer and thoughts after my husband got home, I sat staring at the blank screen that I had been craving all day and nothing but jumbled, frustrated words poured out. Nothing terribly coherent, or at the very least, nothing terribly interesting. Another added frustration to an already difficult day.
I melted down. Hot, volcanic rage.
I can’t do this, I thought. I can’t do the writing thing and the mom thing when they both require so much of myself.
If I want to create great work, or at least work I’m proud of, I need energy and brain power, both of which I didn’t have by the time I had a moment to myself.
I let myself have my pity party. I spoke to myself as I would never speak to anyone else:
You don’t deserve to be happy. You’re an idiot for trying. You’re not even that good. You don’t know what you’re doing. You think it’s because you’re tired and worn out, but it’s really because you don’t have what it takes to be successful.
Over and over again, this mean, angry girl yelling at me.
This girl has a lot more practice talking to me than the strong, kind woman to which I’ve recently given the steering wheel of my mind. I’ve listened to this mean girl for so long, allowing her to hold me back from what I want or from what I need. She’s lead me to epic breakdowns and many missed opportunities. Just like any mean girl, she’s scared and insecure. She is hurt by real or perceived issues and lashes out because she doesn’t know how else to protect herself.
But just because she has a louder voice, doesn’t make her right. There’s so much evidence I have to dispel these cognitive distortions within me, but it’s up to me to listen to them.
I took a deep breath. I calmed down. I gave the strong, kind woman the mic:
Honey, I think you’re just tired and overwhelmed. You’re allowed to be. Why don’t you stop for today, and go read a book? See how you feel in the morning.
That sounded much better. Though I felt a twinge of guilt as another day passed without writing a post, I closed the laptop. I read until I fell asleep and woke up today completely reenergized. Completely motivated. Less overwhelmed and scattered.
I needed the kindness that I afforded myself and it made a world of difference.
Ultimately I am both of those voices. I am the mean girl and I am the strong, kind woman. I am the pools of zen and I am the volcano. It’s up to me, it’s well within my reach and scope of choice, to decide which to listen to, which to be. I’m never going to be perfect at it, but I do have the choice. We all do.
As time goes on, I hope I can quiet the mean girl with a badass montage of success, just like all the best 80’s movies. But I have to keep at it and I have to shed light on the uglier parts of myself in order to let the sparks shine through.