Taming Demons: Not Just for Exorcists Anymore May 29, 2012Posted by Gina in Skepticism and atheism.
I woke up yesterday feeling distressed and hopeless. This happens to me every once in a while (and, thankfully, much less than it used to), and if I take proper precautions I can keep it from spiraling out of control for the rest of the day. Sometimes I can’t get through it by myself though. I often need to talk things out with Wes to figure out what’s sparking the distress and to determine a course of corrective action.
I struggle with insecurity…a lot. When I tell this to people who know me socially, they are often surprised by this fact. When I’m out in public, I tend to carry myself with a relatively high amount of confidence. In addition, a lot of the things I do have a performance component to it, so my ham-it-up nature suggests that I don’t worry about what people think of me or something. But much in the same way as many hilarious comedians are actually quite depressed and disturbed, my social persona is not the entire story. In fact, my outgoing nature now is the result of a lot of work.
It has been a long standing goal for me to become the person I am in public when I am alone or amongst those very close to me. It used to be that the insecure, crying, irrational girl only showed herself when she was sure that no one would see, except for Wes. It bothered me that I could be completely fine most of the time when out and about, amongst people who didn’t know me as well, but would be floored by any little thing when I was at home. Before, it was a matter of exerting lots of energy to be OK for all the people who didn’t matter as much and by the time I came home I wouldn’t be able to cope with stress. And yet, it never felt like I was exerting that much energy. When I was out in the thick of social interaction, I just didn’t think about it. I just “was” and when I would get home, I would let my mind wander to dark and sinister places where all the judgment of the entire world hid. And, if there was not sufficient evidence that people actually felt the way I feared they did, I would invent it.
I have made a lot of progress towards rational handling of this kind of thing. This is why I talk about it in the past tense. I have done well to merge the two personas so that the people in both my public and private life see generally the same version of me. This means that I am calmer and more rational at home and that sometimes I have issues in the public eye. In general this has led to a marked increase in my own sense of sanity. By bringing the two sides together I am happier all around.
But, this is certainly not to say that the issues are gone. I am still insecure often. I worry that all the things and people in my life who make me so happy are actually just fleeting occurrences and that the only thing that keeps them near me is me being perfect at all times. Any mistake I make, any moment of weakness, any bout with irrationality could be the thing that snaps the thread. This fear is so profound that even when I ask people directly if my fears are founded and they tell me that I have nothing to worry about, I can’t quite bring myself to believe them. When I hear the words, I have a lingering thought in the back of my mind, “Sure, you say that now, but wait until I really mess up”. And I translate me “really messing up” to crying one too many times or misplacing some item of theirs somewhere during a cleaning frenzy.
I have never been to a therapist, so I don’t have a name for this other than extreme insecurity. I couldn’t tell you where it comes from, what specific thing (or series of things) during my childhood led to me not believing people when they say that they like the person I am, flaws and all, but it is there. But I think I’ve gotten to the point where I can accept that this is both something I have to constantly work on and be vigilant about, but it is also a constant part of who I am. We all have our demons. I am not different from anyone else in this regard. It’s just that it’s very important to me that my demons don’t control me.
The biggest difference between the me of today and the me of a couple of years ago is that the tears don’t come so easily and that when I am weathering an episode of insecurity, the language I use has changed. Yesterday while talking to Wes about various things I admitted fully through tears that I was likely projecting all of these things, that if I ask myself rationally what kind of evidence I have to support my claims I can only answer that I have none, and that I have an active imagination and have invented this yet again. And while this may sound like I am too hard on myself, it is this type of questioning of my neurosis that leads to calm and progress. Yes, when I find that I am inventing and projecting, I disparage myself for it still, but the disparaging is less severe than it used to be because my goals now have shifted. I don’t just want to get better overall, I want to be able to deal better in the moment. No good ever particularly comes from me tearing myself apart for being weak. It is important to acknowledge it and say that it is not behavior I particularly want to repeat, but that’s where it needs to end. No one was ever as good at abusing me emotionally than me and I’d like to think that I am pretty reformed these days.
I set out to attempt to write about this is an amusing way, but as I thought about composing the first sentence I found that I had nothing funny to say. I couldn’t be self deprecating about this particular aspect of my personal struggles because it is pretty much the underlying cause of all of my problems. I can’t distance myself from it. I don’t have any hilarious stories about when I was really insecure…I generally regret all of my bouts with it and can’t glean a bright side from it. The only bright side is that it is so much better now. While I honestly and openly say that I struggle with insecurity, I don’t feel completely controlled by it anymore and sometimes that’s the best we can achieve. Being in control of our own life is truly the only definition of freedom that has ever made sense to me.
Thank you to all the people who have shown me such love and patience while I have waded through my mental mire. You know who you are. May you never doubt how much I appreciate you. And if I come to you and cry “How could you love someone like me?!?”, just smash a cream pie in my face, OK?