I have a confession to make. I don’t always fully disclose what I’m thinking or how I’m feeling. It’s not that I intend to engage in deception, obfuscation, or lies of omission. In my mind, I consider other issues far more important than something that occupies the entirety of a single head weasel’s diatribe. When it comes to therapy, I drill down below the layer of the feelings to general, foundational matters that could be holding them up. With others, I take the opportunity to shift my focus from something that refuses to change to something I feel I can change, and ask for help with it.
The fact is, the more I tread this road of getting better, the more I realize how lonely it is.
This is ongoing work, and precision work at that. When it comes to my own heart and mind, who is more qualified than myself to hold the metaphorical scalpel? Time and again, I’ve probed into the dark corners of my shadow, finding behaviors that have impeded me, or that even have informed toxic behaviors. I’ve cut them out like cancers. I try not to feel diminished by this, but liberated, because just like not every child is special, not every part of the self is good or valuable. Certainly, these aspects of ourselves have things to teach us; unfortunately, some of those lessons are learned in very hard ways.
Especially when we’re called on those problematic aspects by others. Or, worse, when aspects that need to be lovingly touched upon for healthy healing are instead exploited for the gain of others through shaming and emotional violence. But that is a discussion for another time.
No matter how we are made aware of what is required for us to get better, the realization can trip us up, perhaps even cripple us for a time. Anxiety over the past and present overwhelm us, attack us. Grief and self-recrimination join forces, twisting knives in our hearts and tying our innards in nauseating knots. We retreat, we hide ourselves away, we grief and we shudder and we cry.
We are not okay. And that, in and of itself, is okay.
I wouldn’t be where I am, able to articulate this, if I hadn’t spend a good amount of time not being okay. I’d visited that place repeatedly, falling almost immediately into suicidal despair, only arresting myself and getting the most direct and scorched-earth type of help I could. Doing this got me accused of “attention seeking”; all I wanted was some fucking help, right the fuck now. I wasn’t okay. I wanted to be okay. I wanted to get better.
I didn’t want attention for it. I had to do it alone. And I expected to. I didn’t want to. But, on some level, I knew I had to.
At one crucial point, it became clear that the lonely road, and hard days of walking it, were my only real option. To say nothing to the outside world, to share nothing of the walk along that road, to make my focus getting better. I was alone in my grief, isolated in my anxiety. I could, and did, get help when and where I could, in person and from professionals, out of public view. I wanted to get better for myself, not for the sake of any public perception.
When, in a recent discussion, the subject of ‘being on my side’ came up, I said this:
I’m not going to say anything calculated to get you on my side. All I care about is showing up, in this moment, in the best possible way I can. People can make their own judgments.
It’s taken me a long time to figure out that I don’t have to live up to anybody else’s standards. Sure, in a working environment, standards must be met if I wish to remain employed. But in my personal life, on personal projects, the only required standards are my own. To be honest, I think a lot of the blame that’s been placed on my shoulders for things past came from my personal standards being so low and secondary to the standards of others. When others became aware of the fact that I prioritized their standards over my own, it became easier for them to shirk personal responsibility and push the causes for discord solely onto my shoulders. This isn’t to say I had no part in the course of events; indeed, I’ve had to look back critically to find which of my former behaviors pushed events in one direction or another. I’ve accepted that it’s what happened, I own the things I did wrong, and I’m working, constantly, to get better in that and many other regards.
I’ve had to let go of how others see me, of wanting so badly to be accepted, welcomed, loved by others. I’ve had to learn how to love myself, to care enough about myself to want to correct myself, shape myself into a version that meets higher standards that I alone set, to be a better self. It’s been difficult. It’s been heartbreaking.
It’s been lonely.
I’ve worked to get past the public shame. I’ve worked to define myself, by myself, for myself. I’ve worked to get fucking better.
And I’m not done yet.
I’ll still get anxious. I’ll still get nauseous. I’ll still be haunted by memories, sidelined by grief, temporarily crippled by heartbreak. Some things, some people, we simply do not get over.
I am not going to let that stop me.
Neither should you.
There’s an aspect of each of our selves that we’ve picked up along the way, through informed behaviors of others or the endemic troubles of society around us. It’s up to us to push those aspects away, put them down, walk away from them, let them wither and die. That is how we move forward. That is how we meet higher standards for ourselves. That is how we get better.
It’s not selfish for us to do this for ourselves. It’s necessary if we want to survive.
And we shouldn’t, for a single instant, feel guilty that we’ve torn ourselves apart, thrown away and destroyed that which has held us back, and put ourselves back together.
It’s a hard road. A lonely road.
For my part, it’s the only one worth walking.
And when it comes to those parts that were in the way of me finally getting better, when I give them a face and a name, and I cut them free of who I was, away from who I want to be…
I’m really, really glad they’re fucking dead.
Tuesdays are for telling my story.