“Be around people who love and support you and whom you love and support. Ignore everyone else as much as you can. Engage with nobody who is bad for you. When you get in the mud with a pig, the pig gets happy and you get dirty.”
For over a week, I have woken up with chest palpitations. Oh, anxiety. That pesky little devil manifests differently in everyone, but for me, it’s always chest pain. It feels like someone has two hands squeezing my heart, while placing bricks on top of my chest. Not fun.
In therapy, a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises involve challenging deep-rooted feelings as one way of eradicating anxiety. Over the past three years, I realize just how much I’ve been brainwashed. It’s way more than I originally thought.
Once, my therapist was asking why I wouldn’t tell certain people about my full-time freelance writing. At the time, it was a great source of anxiety for me. I had chest palpitations just like I do today. Obviously I was afraid of what others think, but what I talked about mostly was the “lazy” and “burden” label to G (my shrink). I’m not sure how I got there, all I know is that I answered instinctively and fast. The room went silent and I didn’t respond until G’s question broke through my haze–“Who told you that?”
I mean she knew, of course. I didn’t have to answer her.
I was shamed a lot growing up, and was told I was lazy, bad, and/or worthless for basically being there and breathing air. Lots of vicious words, mood swings, things thrown, and temper tantrums over the most trivial things: the incorrect placement of a garbage bag, not closing a window right, not saying hello to someone that they thought I should speak to. Anything was fair game.
At the time of this therapy session, I was still seeing a lot of these people. I was mind reading and envisioned get laughed at and being called lazy, if they knew about my desire to work from home and pursue writing.
G shut down the lazy/bad/burden label by pointing out things (recent accomplishments etc.) to help me bury those mean thoughts. And when she did this, I nodded my head and smiled but I didn’t believe her. I had been hearing that cruel voice for so long…
But today, I thought more about that session and things we have to unlearn. And not just the vicious, dumb things people say to us, but the heavier stuff about the way we live our lives.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading by James Altucher, Brene Brown, Harry Browne, Mark Sundeen, Robert Greene, and 50 cent–yes, you read that right. Check out The 50th Law! (No, I am not kidding.)
They speak a lot about what I’ve felt in my gut–people pleasing hurts only us and we have to take care of ourselves, first and foremost. And it took me 3 years to learn: don’t do anything you don’t want to do, don’t spend time with people you don’t want to (because there is probably a damn good reason why you don’t want to), and self-care above all else.
I’ve heard the self-care mantra for awhile now, from various sources. But it takes a long time to actually live it. I know this because I went from smiling and nodding my head at G, to another 2 years of misery. (Why didn’t I listen?)
It can take a long time to break free from harmful routines. I only started living it when I could not take it anymore. My anxiety was a result of letting my boundaries slip again. And the unworthiness and the self-hatred returned. It’s been with me at my darkest times and it still lives in a part of me.
“I let fear trample all over self-love. I made every decision with the mindset ‘What will people think?’ rather than ‘I am enough.’”
Brené Brown, Rising Strong
So many voices to quiet. So much to unlearn. Until next time.