My brain is really excellent at binary thinking.
Given any situation, I will come up with two answers, one of which is complete failure (resulting in failure) and one of which is unattainable perfection (resulting in failure). Therefore if I choose either column, I fail, and am therefore subject to more mental berating.
If I attempt to choose another, more moderate option, I am berated for not being good enough to try for the perfect. There is elaborately cooked, time intensive dinner, or there is failure. There is compulsively clean, 100% taken care of house, or there is failure. There is 100% kindness to everyone all the time, or there is failure.
It’s a kind of twisted perfectionism that I’ve spent most of my life perfecting, it seems. (I should mention that even if I come up with something I initially think is good, my brain will pick holes in it until it looks like every other failure, even if I’ve accomplished something. It’s … kind of sick.)
Nowhere is this better illustrated than with exercise.
With exercise, there is either “exercise until exhaustion” and “nothing”. Compound this with my joint disorder, whereby I can’t do things like lift weights (because my joints go squishywibble and won’t work properly, so I can’t even get my muscles engaged) or run (impact is bad, yo) or really most “normal” exercise, and there are two options. Do nothing, or walk until you can’t feel your knees and then go lift weights anyway, even though it makes you feel awful for two days.
There are two kinds of exercise I mostly tolerate (verging on enjoyment) – biking and yoga. I’m not allowed to bike because of the pressure it puts on my wrists (which, plus my hands, are the only joints that hurt on an everyday basis anymore). I just bought a new bike in October. Failure. I’m not supposed to do yoga for the same reasons.
But Anna, yoga has infinite variations and modifications! Why not do one of those?
Because so far I can’t. Well, physically I could. Mentally I must either do the full version of the pose, or I might as well not bother because I’m a failure anyway. This is compounded by my relative ease with kinesthetic adventures like yoga and dance, which I learn quickly. I’m also naturally extremely flexible, so I have never really done modified poses. I am still adjusting to this new way of living in my body. (Also, let’s not even get into being fatter.) Doing a modified version anyway, in a sort of “fuck you, brain” only results in having to listen to myself for the rest of the day.
To be honest, I feel a lot of sympathy with Gollum.
It’s all extremely unkind, and difficult to live with a lot of the time too. There are entire days when I wish my brain would just SHUT UP and GO AWAY. I’ve tried asking it why I only have these two options, but the answer isn’t fit to type.
I fight against this every day, some days with more success than others. Some days the crazy is just too loud, and I don’t really function beyond going through enough of the motions to not get fired. Recently the crazy has been very loud, and so I’m not getting much done. It’s too much work to try to deal with it, to try not to resist, but to … not accept. Just… allow it to exist and do whatever I need to anyway?
My awesome therapist says that “What we resist persists” – the more mental energy I throw at resisting and arguing with the crazy, the more it pushes back. Instead, I’m supposed to say “ok, I appreciate that you feel that way” and do whatever else anyway. (I know it sounds crazy, but somehow this works better than the alternatives.)
It’s very draining, just doing everyday stuff.
I’m trying really hard to “work on it”, but its hard to change something that seems built in, if that makes any sense. Meditation helps, as do naps. Journaling helps when I manage to do it without automatically setting myself up to fail at it. (How you fail at journaling, I’m not sure, but I manage.)
Today I managed 8 hours of work, plus 3 sets of pushups and squats and a set of “hang on the pull up bar and think really hard about it” (I can’t do pull ups). I’ll put something together for dinner – probably out of the freezer (maybe tamales). After dinner I will sit on the floor and attempt to get my brain to slow down for awhile.
And that’s going to have to be enough.