Disappointment is Necessary

I crashed and burned after the wedding, there’s no way around it. I was a whir of energy leading up to that day, emotions all over the place, a near-constant stream of goal-directed activity. It felt fantastic. The celebration itself was fantastic. Being surrounded by so many people I love and who love me …

Now it’s gone. It’s been gone. I didn’t get enough sleep and it left me exhausted. Over a week later, I’m still exhausted. I felt so good; I thought I could build on the energy and do things to improve my life. Clean the apartment, find a job, join a group, get out and socialize more, even just maintain some kind of contact with some of the people who came out to see me. Anything…

I’m too tired to do anything. I’m pouring what energy I do have into The Sims 3. I think it appeals to me because my sims can go out on the town and have vibrant social lives that I control and accomplish their goals in a much shorter amount of time than in real life: combine control, vicarious living, and instant gratification. After I restarted my current game for the second time I realized that my perfectionism was taking over, forcing me to give up progress in a game that was going really well because there was one thing I didn’t like and couldn’t fix.

I think part of why my perfectionism is taking over is because of how much I had to suppress it to cope with the reality of the wedding. There were a lot of things that didn’t go the way I wanted; I’ve been trying really hard not to dwell on them because if I focus on them I’ll feel like it was a complete disaster. But keeping the focus on the positive is exhausting, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure it’s healthy. We need to acknowledge the not-so-good aspects of our lives, even if we can’t do anything about them.

The thing that’s bothering me the most is that, because of how the space was set up and where my bridal party ended up standing, it was very difficult for my guests to see what was going on during the ceremony. I felt doubly bad about that because we hadn’t invited the majority of the guests to the legal ceremony last year, so this was their chance to see us ‘get married’. At least they were able to hear it?

Worse, I completely forgot about the audio recorder I’d brought specifically to record the ceremony and especially our vows – a compromise so we wouldn’t have to pay for a videographer. I don’t have the audio recording, and no one was able to take video because they couldn’t see it, and my memory of audio input leaves much to be desired… So, in short, the only record of the most important aspect of the entire affair – our vows – is written notes that exclude the parts we improvised.

I don’t know if I would have remembered to set up the audio recorder if things had gone differently, but we could have at least had the bridal party positioned so the guests could see. (Then maybe someone would have taken video!) We didn’t have time to have a rehearsal because we were late getting to the venue and then I lost track of time and I don’t even know where everyone was, so I probably would have had a difficult time getting them together. And some people – mostly members of Fox’s family – came early and started talking to us. So no rehearsal, and bridal party pictures had to be taken during the reception … but at least the space was partially cleaned and the handicap-accessible restroom didn’t smell of cigarette smoke.

Part of why we were late getting to the venue was because it took longer to get things together than I’d been expecting, and part was because I got in an argument with the bridesmaid who’d been kind enough to do our centerpieces. She wanted to get them from her parents’ car (which would be at the venue a little bit later), but I knew we wouldn’t have time for her to find her parents, get their key, unload the centerpieces, and reload them into Banji’s car. We were both butting heads for a stupid amount of time before I realized I could (and should!) just go. Then I felt bad for leaving Banji to deal with the situation, and I thought we were an hour later than we actually were because I’d forgotten to set my car’s clock back, so I was a furious raging mess. People kept telling me to calm down but to be honest I was glad I could express myself, and I needed to do so; it was what was healthy at the time. Can you imagine if I’d kept all that in? It would have been a nightmare.

No rehearsal meant that random things happened during the procession and introductions that weren’t what I wanted, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. “The show must go on.” For the most part it was fine; none of the guests have complained. No one has even said anything about not being able to see the ceremony. I think, really, they’re just happy to have come together and enjoyed themselves for an afternoon. That was my goal, the rest of it was just details.

I had a nice long conversation with Mom in the middle of writing this. We talked about all the things that went wrong before and during the wedding and complained to each other about annoying things that people did. We both expressed how we felt about all these things. She assured me that no one’s upset about not being able to see the ceremony. We also talked about some of the things that went well – mostly good ideas she had. I found the conversation to be helpful and energizing; I meant it when I said I enjoyed talking to her (as we hugged goodbye for about the 5th time).

I think I just really needed to process this stuff. Now that I’ve done it, I might still need a while to get my energy back and get back on my feet doing useful things, but at least I don’t have to waste energy suppressing part of my experience. There were some things that were disappointing, that I wish had gone differently. I accept that and you know what, I allow myself to feel disappointed that they didn’t go the way I wanted. That’s okay. It’s natural and healthy.

But I also choose not to dwell on them. I choose not to focus on them at the expense of the important things. I’m missing a couple of items I’d brought to the venue with me; finding them is very important so that’s a good way to direct my energy. Going forward, I choose to focus more on the stuff that went right: most importantly, that I got my big family wedding and everyone had a great time – including me. I choose to remember dancing with my loved ones, seeing them having fun, goofing off with my friends, and the love, all the love! Feeling so fully and vibrantly alive. That’s what’s worth remembering.

Confronting the Critic: Taking Back My Thoughts

The Critic is the voice in my head that criticizes me. It goes beyond pointing out legitimate mistakes and tears me apart emotionally, often over very minor missteps or decisions I make that are completely neutral.

I’ve actually been hearing less from the Critic since I started taking Zoloft, but it’s still there. It has been hiding in the form of expectations of harsh criticisms from other people. It wants me to believe that I can hear their thoughts, that they are the ones who think whatever I’m doing is stupid, or wrong, or ugly, or dangerous, or gluttonous, or whatever. They are the ones who question my logic, my motives, my abilities.

It is irrelevant whether the people around me actually think what the Critic is telling me they’re thinking. It is up to them to think it, and to express it – preferably to my face – and then I can respond. I keep telling myself this, but it isn’t easy.

I’ve also been trying to reclaim the Critic as a part of my own mind, while simultaneously confronting it and reducing its power over me. As painful as it is to admit this, the Critic’s denunciations are my own thoughts.

I am the one second-guessing myself, finding flaws in my thought processes, thinking that I could have made a better or healthier choice, wishing I had prepared better, doubting my abilities, etc. etc. etc. When I accept the Critic’s words as MY thoughts, then I have a say in how they’re worded and thus the impact they have on me. I can think through them, learn from my mistakes, and make decisions about how to move forward. I don’t have to be the victim of verbal abuse from my own brain.

I can be a person who thinks through multiple aspects of and perspectives on a situation, including the ones that contradict. I can acknowledge the difficulties I face living as an imperfect being in an imperfect world, making decisions and facing obstacles as best I can and sometimes – often – making mistakes. I can be frustrated when, despite my best efforts, things don’t go the way I’d planned. I can admit to not having all the answers.

Maybe I can even admit that I don’t have control over every aspect of my life. Sometimes, it’s not something I could or should have done better. It’s not a matter of being worthy or unworthy. It just is.

I also need to admit that I feel insecure and worry about what people think of me. I wish I could be above such concerns, not care what people think, be unshakably confident. But the bottom line is, I’m not. I want people to like me, or at least accept me as I am, and on some level I’m constantly worrying that I’m going to do or say the wrong thing. I’m afraid I’ll either hurt someone, or get them angry enough to hurt me. I’m walking on eggshells. I don’t want to be abandoned again.

The Critic lets me externalize these concerns. That’s not me, it’s society being stupid. That’s not me, it’s that person being judgmental.

That’s not me, it’s the mental illness.

I can let the Critic live in my brain for as long as it likes – and keep suffering its abuses.

Or, I can OWN my self-criticisms, doubts, and insecurities.

I can admit that it’s very hard to live in a world where unattainable images of “perfection” are everywhere. No matter how much we try to make ourselves believe we don’t care about attaining them, the message does seep through and become internalized. Several of the thoughts I have in the form of the Critic’s abuses are expressions of my own internalized perfectionism, and of anger at myself for not conforming to it. Maybe now that I’ve acknowledged this truth, I can start to let some of these thoughts go.

I can let go of the pride that dictates that I can – and therefore must – be perfect. Pride lies. The truth is that I cannot be perfect, and therefore I need not strive for it. This is not a personal failing. It is a universal reality.

I can also make a commitment to myself: to work through and overcome my fear of abandonment, to accept myself, and to allow others to accept me as I am.