I sang for the first time in 6 months today.
It was like autopilot; I pulled out of my driveway, and as I put my car in drive, I turned on Ida Rose’s “If I Don’t Have You” and started humming. I had the driver’s side window open, and felt the warmth of the sun on my arm and sang the first chorus with her. Something about the last 48 hours in my life started running through my head, and I started to feel normal again. I started to feel like I wanted to live again, and clean my car. I thought about the last couple of days, and how I pushed myself to take a shower and brush my hair. I thought through every last action, up to reading my son a story at bedtime…because I haven’t done that in quite some time. By the end of the song, I had tears streaming down my face, and a feeling of lightness in my body. Was this what it’s like to feel ok? To feel normal? Is this what everyone feels like?
My whole life, I sang. Not well, but I sang. I sang when I wanted to release pressure, anxiety, happiness, and sadness. I was never so sad that I stopped singing. Until this year.
2021 hasn’t been kind to many, and it’s been a year of a lot of gritty feelings, and a lot of pushing through pain. My family is no exception. Our pain started in March, and after pairing our loss with a continuing pandemic, tough world affairs, and divide, we found ourselves hit hard.
In the same timeframe, work started ramping up and things seemed to be going extremely well. So, I ran with it. I worked harder than anyone I knew and threw myself into my work to get away from my pain. It worked…for a couple of months. And then we were hit again, and again, and again. Loss after loss of various people in my life passing away that I almost started losing count of who I still had, and who I may have limited time with. Throughout everything, I was struggling with extreme imposter syndrome at my job and I stopped going to the gym. My fail-safes failed.
I just…couldn’t do it anymore.
I stopped caring about myself. My self-talk became extremely erratic and harmful. I let myself believe that I was not anything but taking up space in this world. I stopped going to Home Goods and stopped trying to improve our house, my motivation and drive withered to nothing. I fixated on specific things, and picked apart myself with a magnifying glass. Any flaw I could find, I told myself I should be better, I should be prettier, I should be happier. And then one day, I started getting that feeling of no feelings. I’ve been down this road before, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be in the same position as before. This time, I said something to a friend. I said what I felt and how I felt without fearing she would judge me. I told her I thought I had OCD, and that my depression was getting bad again…and she gave me the name of a place and told me to make an appointment. It took me 3 weeks after getting the name of the office to muster up the courage to call. Not for fear of judgement, but because I was exhausted, and calling someone on the phone was too much for me.
I had been down the therapy road, and I was better! How could I possibly be sick enough to go back? I didn’t let myself believe it for a while, but as I got worse, my habits became more erratic. I sat in silence at home, ignoring my child and husband. I had disassociated myself with everything that meant so much to me. I drained my energy at work and in my social life to ensure that I never gave off the impression of any sort of sadness. I’d put on a brave face and be the funny one, the smart one, and the put together one. I tried to make up for how much I hated my insides and how much space I took up. I made jokes to make people laugh because I couldn’t laugh at anything. I played myself, because while others thought I was okay, I was just ready to disappear.
However, I called. Despite my negative self-talk, I called the office and I asked for an appointment. When the secretary said there was a two month wait- I started to cry and told her it needed to be now. Something about that sounded off alarms, because I got a phone call later that day from a therapist asking which days she could fit me in. I had to be an advocate for myself, because if I didn’t, who would?
My first couple of sessions brought up a lot of trauma from my past. A lot of talk about my first attempt of suicide, and if I was feeling any sort of way now. I said no, but only because I was so tired. She asked me to tell my husband so he was aware. Later that night, we spoke, and I told him everything. Not that he didn’t know what was going through my mind, but this solidified what he already knew.
The next couple of sessions were a blur. I talked about dumb things; my family, my friends, and my work. I talked about myself and shamed myself for everything that I *think* I do wrong. I was either shaming myself for not being present with my husband and son, or not signing my son up for soccer in time. I spoke about how much I loathed my body, my personality, and the way my life is turning out. Lastly, I spoke to my therapist about the “good” things that happen in my life.
Two sessions ago, at the end of my session, my therapist wanted to point something out to me.
She said, “I’ve noticed that you tend to change your language when you speak about the positive things that are happening to you.” and I inquired what she meant. She went on to say, “When you talk about hurtful things, things that you shame yourself for, you say ‘I’ and own the responsibility of the actions or failure to act… BUT when you speak about things that are positive and exciting in your life, you speak about yourself in the third person, as if you don’t believe it’s happening to you.”
And boy, did that hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t own a single one of my accomplishments. I downplayed them, I made them into a team effort, or into something not that important. Slowly, I tried to recognize my self-talk. I gave myself grace, and I let myself sit in some “failures.” I didn’t jump to volunteer for every committee at work, and I let myself understand that just because I don’t do something, or don’t go out every time someone invites me, it’s okay…because I’m looking out for myself.
The last couple of weeks, I stopped drinking to the point of no return, I stopped putting myself in situations that could lead to problems in the morning, and began to respect myself. Am I finished improving myself? Absolutely not. But, for today, I sang. I sang every Taylor Swift song I know, and made sure everyone heard me.
Sure, I still look at myself in the mirror with a magnifying glass and wonder how anyone could love me some days– but today, I let myself off the hook. I’m choosing to not see myself as a burden, but rather someone that is meant to be included, and celebrated.
And that is self care.