CW: mentions of alchohol, mental health, ADHD, depression, RSD
I often feel like I’m losing time and it makes it hard to breathe. Watching my life pass me by, so many plans made and forgotten. Moving to a new country, not meeting new people, not exploring a new culture, just so much hiding. Some of it is justified, there has been a year-long pandemic assaulting us, but that isn’t all of it. There’s just so much fear. The pandemic hasn’t kept me from starting projects I wanted to start, or even working on the few that I’ve actually started. Not really.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failing, I guess — of rejection. Maybe, just maybe, I am afraid I will do something beautiful and have to admit that I am not a total fuckup. The self-loathing doesn’t just go away because I feel good about my tits on a Tuesday. It runs deep. And I sit alone with that powerful loathing, trying not to listen, but sometimes it’s downright impossible to remember that my brain lies to me.
There was a brief reprieve the other evening, we were invited to the only person we know in the entire country’s birthday party. I spent the week leading up to it terrified. Like, losing sleep at night, hands shaking, sick to my stomach terrified. We haven’t been to a party in years. Way before Covid. I worried I forgot how to people, what was I even going to say what I did all day? And for a living? What if they asked if I had social media? Every possible scenario was swirling and nauseating me.
The day finally came and I had a few drinks before we went to help calm my nerves (we live a block away, no one was driving.) Then I continued to drink there – way too much. I met some new people, watched my kid run around and dance, and be smiled at by lots of friendly faces for the first time since we moved here.
I even danced and stayed a couple of hours after my partner took the kid home because I found a woman around my age to talk to, the first one in over two years! I remember laughing and having a great time, yelling over the music trying to get to know each other. And then I walked home. The next day I was incredibly hungover, so that’s about all I thought about, but the day after that? That’s when the terror set it. I didn’t really remember leaving. And the more I thought about it, the more I kept worrying that I’d forgotten what I’d said. Did I make an ass out of myself? I must have. And then, like magic, I had myself convinced I had said terrible things and had burnt the only bridge we had built since moving here. I’d started sobbing and shaking, working myself into a full-blown panic attack.
So rather than be sick about it all day, I reached out to the girlfriend of the birthday dude and was honest about it. I explained that it’d been a really long time since I’d been around people, that I had drunk an embarrassing amount of booze, and that I had some missing moments in my timeline and apologized for my possible obnoxious behavior.
At first, she saw the message and didn’t respond. Which, as you know, can really get your imagination going. I made sure I said out loud to my partner, (who I had just interrupted at work to explain this Very Real Crisis that I had just realized was happening,) that it was possible she was driving, and that I should try and give it a few minutes.
She shortly responded with the most reassuring message, telling me I had nothing to worry about and that I was great, made new friends, had a night out, and that I should relax and be happy about the good time that I got to have.
I couldn’t have gotten better feedback about my behavior at a social gathering. I was so fucking relieved.
For a little while.
Then I found myself questioning her message. What did she mean, it was “fine and I shouldn’t worry about it?” Does that mean I did do something awful and she’s just telling me it wasn’t a big deal and that they’ve all forgiven me and are just going to be awkward and weird around me now?
Oh yes. That’s how my brain works. Sounds exhausting, right? I spent the rest of the day arguing with myself in my head, that no, she was not being passive-aggressive in the rest of her short messages, it’s how she always texts. It’s absolutely irrational and ridiculous how hard it is for me to just believe something good someone says to me. No matter how much I might want to.
I was given this very specific reassurance to my worry and it still didn’t really go away. It probably will in time, once I’ve been around them again, and it feels normal. I’m not trying to be deliberately obstinate, trust me, no one is more annoyed and disgusted with my inability to get with the program as I am.
As much as I berate myself for being difficult, I really did do what was within my power to get real information rather than rely on the cruel noise in my RSD-riddled brain, and that was to reach out and just ask for reassurance. Just because I wasn’t immediately comforted completely by her response, doesn’t mean it wasn’t helpful.
That part is so difficult for me. Mostly because I think I struggle to not make my asking for reassurance sound like an accusation. So, the majority of the time, I just try and logic my way through it. Which isn’t very effective, to be honest. It turns out it’s really hard to logic your way through certain thought distortions, especially those rooted in self-esteem and self-worth.
I’m trying to educate myself on ADHD, and readjust my mental health plan, but I’m finding it daunting, and quite overwhelming. I have spent years learning everything I could about depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and it’s most likely been ADHD all along. That’s a hella heavy realization to make on your own, without a therapist or doctor to talk to. I feel like it shoved me further into isolation.
It feels like starting all over, and I have to keep telling myself that a lot of the tools carry over. And that this is actually a good thing, knowing more, having a name for things, having resources that actually address some of the very specific challenges I have — that’s knowledge and knowledge is power.
But to genuinely believe I was enjoyable at a party? That I made a step in making new friends? That people talked positively about me the next day? That I left a nice impression? That’s nearly impossible for me to believe. But fuck would I like to. And that has to be enough for me to keep trying. To keep going.
That’s what I’m doing. Trying. I’ve spent two days making art and trying to get out of my head and out of my own way. I’m trying to be kind to myself because I know I really am doing the best that I can.