I’m doing a piss-poor job of finding or making peace for myself lately and I feel discouraged about it. I am acutely aware that there’s a tiredness inside of me that nothing seems to budge and I know that I am very likely suffering the same plight that beset me for months right around this time last year, (many, many more years before that).
Still, I can’t quite wrap my mind around it or let myself off the hook for feeling so generally miserable when I have no particular reason for it beside some nebulous excuse like “it’s the season.” But Eileen, I think, you live in southeastern Virginia, where winters are pretty mild; how is it you’re so markedly and negatively affected? It might just be your fault. I don’t understand it, though evidence would suggest seasonal connection. But, as you can see, my lack of understanding leads me to pin the blame squarely, if subconsciously, on me and my inability to effectively cope with life, despite the tools I’ve acquired over time. What’s wrong with me that I consistently undergo this system overload and seem powerless to lessen its effects? What’s wrong with me that I can’t see it coming and steel myself against it? What’s wrong with me that I can’t simply switch the station in my head to something soothing and pleasing? What’s wrong with me that I can’t just focus on the positive and decide to be in a good mood.
I’m making a lot of faulty assumptions there, assumptions I would never hoist on someone else in the same situation. But I feel guilty when I’m not always in a good mood, when, in fact, my moods feel out of control. I’m embarrassed and self-castigating. I don’t want people to know this furious, sometimes spiteful beast exists inside me. In fact, I don’t want to know it exists because it’s anathema of this “nice person” belief I have about myself. And I am, at root and often in practice, “a nice person,” but sometimes I’m not. Sometimes, I feel like a shrill, disapproving, unweildy bitch and it shows.
And whether or not those feelings and their expressions may be warranted and appropriate, I can never be certain because, mostly, I’m terribly ashamed of them and wish they didn’t exist. Even when it’s a case of being assertive and expressing my wants, needs, and preferences, it feels a little too dangerous and I start feeling like I let the bitch-cat out of the bag too much. Maybe that’s because I know the anger that lies coiled behind it all.
I usually think anger is a non-issue for me, but for the last couple of months I feel as if my anger could swallow me whole. Much of it is aimed at my co-worker, who has pretty much passed the point of no return in my good graces. She’s lazy, self-serving, self-important, and unreliable — at least by my estimation, though I’ve been told by multiple upper-level sources that they see it too. And it’s not just at work — this co-worker is also a NAMI facilitator and has been to, I think, one meeting in the last three months. She routinely cancels on her duties, leaving the three of us who are consistently there to carry her load.
And I’m angry about all of it — not just healthy angry, but spiteful angry to the point that, at times, I struggle to even be civil with her or look at her. I get spitting mad. I come home some days with so much pent up rage that all I can do is smoke cigarettes, drink wine, and shove food in my face. All constructive coping techniques, no? In fact, I’m acutely aware that I’m more angry than is necessary or healthy for me. It’s excessive. I expend far too much thought and energy on someone who is neither family nor friend. And, again, I’m ashamed that I not only feel all this anger, but that it occasionally overflows into my daily and working life in ways that might make me look worse, or more childish, than her.
But I feel like all that concurrent shame and regret only makes it harder to overcome the excess negativity inside me. And nothing seems to placate me, not even the fact that, when it comes right down to it, I really love my job and I have a sense of mastery in that I feel I do my job well and even that I’ve been told repeatedly by my supervisor and the councelors that they see the good work I do and support me fully (and that they see what my co-worker doesn’t do). I try quite hard to focus on the positive — because there’s a lot of it — but it doesn’t seem to keep me from sinking into the negatives, from getting spitting mad, from feeling just tired and used up. Because that’s what’s underneath the anger and shame — a bone-deep tiredness with the living of life in general.
My mom frequently reminds me I felt this way last year and it passed. And she’s right. I know something extremely real but temporary has overtaken me and left me working on what I call “safe mode.” I know I need to ride this out to the best of my ability and have faith that the color and joy will return in spring. But it’s mighty hard when you’re caught in the grips of something larger than you that saps you of your ability to see and soak up the sunshine, literally and figuratively. It takes away so many of the qualities and self-control I like best about myself and does so for so long that it does start to feel like a permanent condition. I forget that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train, but actual sunlight.
For now, I’m chewing on some heady issues and trying my damnedest to still be the best me I can be. But I hope you’ll all forgive me if I make some missteps or even fall. And most of all, I hope I can find the compassion to forgive me once the worst has passed.