I read a heartbreaking post this morning entitled “A Never Ending Nightmare” (written by my dear friend Ms. Alana at “Something Worth Fighting For: Life Goes On”).
The sentiment that “I am not enough” is a common theme in the lives of those who have experienced trauma and come out on the other side… which is ironic; because if we’ve managed to survive the horrors of trauma, shouldn’t we feel like warriors versus feeling less than? But sadly, it doesn’t seem to work that way.
When you add mental health disorders on top of trauma, those feelings run even deeper. For me, it’s often a matter of wondering why I can’t curb the behaviors that accompany my mental health issues. “If I weren’t so weak, I could control this shit,” is an internal lie born of external stigmatism.
Hell, there’s even sigma attached to mental health disorders through our health insurance providers — mental health is kept apart from physical health, with a different set of rules and parameters (and often, with separate and more costly co-pays). It’s no wonder we feel “less than” when compared to those who are fortunate enough to escape the pain and isolation of being diagnosed as “mentally ill”.
Then, throw addiction into the mix — an issue that eventually condemns a person to a prison of their own making — and you have the makings of a perfect “I absolutely suck” storm of thinking.
My Limitations Don’t Define Me
It’s taken me a long time to realize that I have very real limitations — both mentally and physically — that other people don’t. It’s taken even longer to come to accept, and honor, those limitations (and I don’t always do it well… it’s hard not to judge yourself in comparison to others).
Mitchell plays an important role in this, because he never judges me (not intentionally, anyway) by what I cannot do. He’s proud of me when I’ve managed to do the simplest of household chores and/or errands; and that makes a huge difference. He’s also the voice of calm reasoning in the midst of my “crazy” episodes.
Just yesterday, I weighed in at the gym and found that I had gained 2.8 lbs. I worked out anyway; but I was distraught by this “failure” (even though my routine is getting easier, and I’ve been able to increase my efforts). Afterwards, I called my husband and broke down into tears.
“What the hell? I’ve been working out five days a week and I’m gaining weight! This is ridiculous. Dr. Taylor’s not going to believe that I’ve made any effort at all to control my weight!”
“Baby, calm down. You look thinner. You’re moving more easily, and you’re accomplishing more outside of the gym. Muscle weighs more than fat, and you’re building muscle. This is going to take time; and you can’t measure everything by the numbers on the scale.”
“How the hell am I supposed to measure then?!”
“You measure by what you’ve accomplished. The rest will work itself out in the end. Trust me. You’re doing an excellent job, Honey.”
I still felt dismayed; but I dusted myself off and tried to get through the rest of the day… something I probably couldn’t have done without Mitch’s support.
This past week, I also went to the grocery store — twice! — after the gym and picked up easy-to-make dinners, so that Mitch wouldn’t have to stop on his way home and try to plan meals; and he was thrilled by this. However, on the second day, I wasn’t able to do much more following said errand. I’d gone to the gym, had run around town in the blistering heat, and was exhausted by the time I got home.
It took real effort to throw myself into the shower; and after that, I was spent. I didn’t get any laundry done… and more importantly, I did not judge myself for this.
It’s important for me to recognize when I’ve done something I wouldn’t/couldn’t normally do, no matter how small… because in doing so, I start to realize what I am capable of doing.
Sure, my capable might not live up to someone else’s capable… but guess what? Someone else is not me, and I am not them. We’re not better or less than one another; we’re just different. (And if we weren’t different, what a boring f*cking place this world would be.)
Reading Between the Lines, When There’s Nothing There
I find that I often read much more into a situation than is actually there.
A while back, after an intense argument between Mitchell and myself, I took out a notebook and wrote down what Mitchell had said in one color of ink, and what I had heard in another.
It turns out that most of what I was angry about was in my own damn head.
Mitch had made a benign comment about me putting something back in the refrigerator incorrectly, and what I had heard was, Are you really this stupid? How many times do I have to tell you how to do something before you get it right?! Jesus, Lady! Get your shit together!
Similarly, if someone looks at me when I’m out in public, I always wonder what in the f*ck they’re thinking. What? You got a problem with me? Bring it! You have no right to judge, Buddy! And in all actuality, they’re probably not thinking anything about me at all.
It’s that internal critic — a symptom of trauma and mental health issues — that makes the external world a hostile place; and I have to remember to try and keep it in check.
I’m Not Broken, I’m a Limited Edition
I have encountered monsters that tried to break me; but they didn’t succeed, because I’m still here. The bastards haunt my dreams because they have lost their power in the waking world… and the nightmares they are a part of are nothing more than an illusion of memory. I vanquished them once, and I will do it again — as many times as I need to — in order to free myself from their spectral grasp.
Sure, my brain might work a lil’ differently as a result of the actions of these monsters… but I am not broken. I’m a limited edition; and that makes me more valuable, not less.
If I have more cracks in the glass than most, that simply means that I have the capability to let more light into the darkness.
I am more than enough… and that “enough” has grown with time, distance, and experience.
And no one has the power to take that away from me… because I do not grant them permission to do so.
Dear Reader, you are enough… just the way you are.