(As previously posted in a short-lived blog, where I thought I’d try to separate my regular life from my struggles, but it didn’t feel genuine, so here we are…again.)
Staring down the barrel of two more months of school, I sat frozen in my office, sick to my stomach at the very thought of going back the next day. What had started out as fun and interesting quickly showed its true colors, and the truth of it wasn’t easy for me to take.
I didn’t really want to be in school.
Then…why did I go back? Why was I so excited?
I bantered back and forth with one of my closest friends, edging in on the truth that I wanted to scream about at the top of my lungs, but I held it back instead, fearful she’d think less of me. Afraid everyone would look at me and finally give up on me once and for all.
As Monday arrived and my husband woke up to find me at home and not at school, I told him “I just didn’t want to go today.” Or ever. Never, ever again. Ever.
My friend asked me if I’d be back on Wednesday. I said I didn’t know. But I knew. I knew my heart raced and my head felt woozy and my hands shook when I envisioned driving back and walking into a classroom, any classroom. The thing is, it wasn’t that the work was too hard (I found much of it more time-consuming than hard), and it wasn’t that I didn’t like my classes (in fact, out of my four classes, I absolutely adored three of my teachers, and maybe it wasn’t the fault of the fourth that she totally reminded me of and smelled like my mother), nor was it the fact that I was much older than most students on the university campus. The simple truth boiled down to one thing: I was only in school because it felt like I should be, that it impressed others, that it made others proud of me, and ultimately, even if I made it to graduation, the honor would never be what it should be because I wasn’t doing it for ME.
But the idea of leaving filled me with shame. How many times can I try something and walk away? I can dress it up in all the pretty words I want – going in a new direction, making a new decision – but what I was doing boiled down to QUITTING. Again.
“I think I need counseling,” I told my friend. “I have to stop doing things that I don’t want to do for the approval of others.”
It’s more than that, of course. It’s a cycle of seeking approval, people-pleasing, and self-sabotage. And as much as I long to pretend I am over everything from my very ugly past, you can really only stuff things down for so long before they keep sprouting up again in different parts of your life.
So I set up a consultation with a local counselor who specializes in anxiety and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and true to my nature, I became “sick to my stomach” the morning I was supposed to see her. In the days leading up to the appointment, I had all but convinced myself I was just fine after all, that all I needed to do was walk away from school and all was well again. In reality, I knew I needed some help now more than ever.
The consultation was a huge relief. It opened the door to so many things I had thought about in abstract ways, never having put them together before, and I declared what it is I really want.
“I want to stop being so afraid. I want to stop hearing the voices of my past tell me how I will never be good enough, pretty enough, smart enough. I want to stop trying to gain the approval of others and just live my life for the approval of myself. I want to see a beautiful person in the mirror. I want to stop hurting myself, sabotaging myself. I want to be ME.”
I accept: Something is wrong with me. I am struggling, sometimes drowning in the memories of my painful past. True, I have learned amazing coping skills, and I am much more resilient than many, but I am still scarred, still hurting, still a little girl who longs to be better, to let go of the ghosts of my past, to be fully who I am meant to be.
So, I begin here.
(This was the first post in the previously mentioned short-lived blog. Read the About post HERE.)