Sickness, Stress and Self-doubt… And Then There’s Me….
OK, I was a miserable child, from what I remember. I was the only kid with glasses. I moved about because dad’s work moved about. So I joined my junior school mid-year. Don’t ask me at what age. Anyway I was bullied at junior school for ‘some’ years and had horrendous nightmares. By high school though the world was a much better place. I remember it as being good. Although I was terrified of PE lessons as I was rubbish and we had to go through that indignity of team picking by the two best sports girls. I was always a reluctant choice of the last two. I wonder what happened to my pair in this weekly public humiliation. But by the end of high school I was in a serious relationship, loved up and very happy. I was sixteen.
This first relationship lasted three years and was very good indeed. The perfect way to learn about relationships. The break up was hugely traumatic and I was immature and embarrassingly inappropriate about it. I have berated my behaviour of then ever since.
There are two other things I never forgave myself for until I had counseling in my forties. Firstly my relationship with my mum. My fault not hers. I made it my mission to make her cry. Well that’s my interpretation of it. And secondly, something I am deeply ashamed to this day. It resulted in me hurting and losing my closest friend.
It took decades to realise that during this time I had periods of deep anxiety and developed a self-harm/OCD coping behaviour to deal with it. That’s a story for another day. One I’m not yet ready to share.
My life and life’s challenges were not exceptional. Nothing ‘happened’ to me. I wasn’t sexually abused as a child. I haven’t had a violent relationship. My parents remain happily married after fifty years. I’m reasonably well-educated. I’ve not had to deal with a major loss or been diagnosed with anything life threatening. Throughout my life I’ve had choices. I’ve followed dreams. I’ve been loved. I have love. My son is practically angelic.
What I’m saying is I have no ‘excuse’ to be stressed, anxious or depressed. And this is the mantra in my head that fuels the guilt.
I should be Wonder Woman, with the opportunities and freedom I have. I have even felt like Wonder Woman. I’ve grabbed life by the reigns and steered myself through many great adventures. I’m on one now. The ride is awesome. The opportunities endless. I have so many ideas and plans. So many joys and interactions.
However there are places I should not be. Not locked in my car screaming and shaking, unable to move or communicate. Not finding myself 250 miles from home hiding out in an old friend’s spare room. Not sat in therapy with a box of tissues wondering why I’m so worthless and inept. Not having a major panic attack every time a phone rings.
I’ve been in all those places and more. I’ve been to some pretty undesirable places. Less so these last few years. More so a few years back, less so a few before that. More a few even before that.
When things are great, they’re great. I’m on top form, life is good. I have fingers in loads of pies, just like I like; a variety of flavours. Engaging, creating, inventing. Go go GO. Then one invisible fault line appears. For a while it’s not even noticeable. Maybe it was caused by a passing remark; maybe I took one tiny step too far out of my comfort zone; made a small mistake that wouldn’t normally matter; said something I shouldn’t. That tiny invisible crack seeps in self doubt. Just a little, enough for the crack to be visible, if you look closely enough. Most people wouldn’t notice it. Not enough to think about. Not really. But then the air gets to it, it starts a chain reaction, the edges of all the other adventures, activities and actions, instead of being exciting, start looking slightly flawed. They begin to crumble. They no longer feel safe.
The self doubt hides its true self as headaches, or stomach ache or tiredness. It excuses me from activities and locks away my creativity. I can’t do the things I do. I’m going to look foolish and embarrass myself. People are laughing at me rather than with me. My work is amateurish. My writing, childish. My love, not worthy. My skills, faked. I will be letting people down. Friends will hate me. My partner will leave me. My son will be ashamed of me. My parents will worry about me.
I don’t like that me.
This me is the real me. This ‘me’ is gregarious, generous, outrageous, outspoken, fun, conscientious, empathetic, loving. This me writes and paints and creates. Ideas and activities excite me. I can sing from the rooftops. I can fight from my soapbox. I can challenge and articulate. I can advocate and empathise. I can console and comfort, support and offer strength. I can do a hundred and one different things. Everything is an opportunity. Every door is worth opening, every path is worth venturing down.
Everyday life is great.
And then it’s not.
One day, out of the blue I am no longer that person. I am this other. I am nervous, timid, AFRAID.
Self- doubt and embarrassment flood to my core. I can no longer give anything of myself. Something has stolen it away. It’s not that I lack motivation; it’s that I’m paralysed. I’m fearful. ASHAMED. I will be found out. My whole life is a sham. This is the real me, this one. This needy, pathetic one who can’t function in the real world.
There are rare moments when I can see that both are important. Each supports the other. I may not like the all of me but I’m learning to accept and embrace my whole.
There’s me, Bernice; then there’s the alter ego me, Lady Lily The Pink. There’sthe past of ‘normal’; 9-5 office job, life in the suburbs. Then there’s now. Life as an artist; an artisan; an activist; an eccentric and a blogger. I live in rural Wales in the UK, I run a small guest house with my partner of over 20 years and I enjoy a ‘rose-tinted, less ordinary life” which you are welcome to venture into via my blog.