After sharing my weird journey with my mental health, this time I wanted to focus on something positive that came from some of the worst of those years. I mentioned that one thing I’ve gotten better at navigating over the years is shame. One of the most self-sabotaging things I used to do was let shame rent way more space in my head than it deserved, so I hope dissecting this will be helpful to anyone who’s reading.
Shame is one of the biggest obstacles to improving your mental health, because when you feel ashamed of your struggles, it’s as if you’re not only trying to deal with whatever awful thoughts are plaguing you, you’re trying to face those thoughts while repeatedly punching yourself in the stomach at the same time.
One of the biggest turning points when it came to alleviating the shame of living with anxiety and PTSD is when I realized that almost everyone I’ve ever known had seen me have a spectacular meltdown over something that probably made no sense to them, but they still wanted to spend time with me after all was said and done.
Sure, some people are shitty and judgmental and there’s nothing you can do about that, but for the most part, if you surround yourself with decent human beings, those people will see that you are not your jerk brain, and that you have a million things going for you that outweigh that one time you lost your shit at Sheetz or whatever.
Let me repeat that and add something, because there are so many people who don’t realize this, including younger me and sometimes current me:
You are not your jerk brain, and if anyone in your life tries to invalidate you based on your struggles to the point that it makes you feel like less of a human being, go ahead and give ’em the boot.
That being said, I also used to be cynical about other people’s motives. I went through life with the assumption that everyone sucks at empathy and that nobody would ever understand. If anything, this attitude is what pushed some people away, not the time I curled up into a tiny ball on the grass because there were too many bees near my head. (I like bees now, so the current version of this is probably stinkbugs in my eggs, fuuuuuuck that).
Everything changed when I realized that the people in my life who mattered the most not only stuck around but barely seemed to notice the aspect of my personality that I assumed was larger than the rest of me. Everyone tells you how true it is that you’re your own worst critic, but I didn’t see that until I stepped back and tried to see the world – and myself – from a perspective other than my own.
I was so busy complaining about how everyone else sucked at empathy that I isolated myself and started sucking at empathy too.
Then, something even more important happened. I thought about how a lot of those people who had seen me in what I felt was my most embarrassing state ever…I’d seen almost all of them get extremely upset over something I didn’t fully understand, either.
And I stuck around, too. In fact, not only did I stick around, but when I thought of how I saw those people, an event that they might have seen as embarrassing and catastrophic looked like no more than a footnote in our entire relationship from my perspective. Either that, or I completely forgot until they reminded me of it.
Again, some people are always going to be dicks. Or sometimes, they’re not dicks at all, but they may not have the capacity to understand someone else’s struggle to the point that they grow apart from that person.
And that’s fine. But please don’t put any weight on it. You’re still excellent. There is no reason to compare yourself or your situation to anyone else’s to feel that you’re excellent, either. Everyone has struggles of their own that aren’t always visible to others, and the best thing we can do is be as forgiving of ourselves as we are to everyone else.