Hey, it’s not Friday! It might be for you, wherever you are or whenever you read this, but I am fudging the date a little. Our weeks have been hectic and dominated by baseball, volleyball, meetings, end-of-year events and celebrations, allergies, appointments, random bouts of vomiting, and many other mundane but busy elements. In other words, I have not written, and I already know I will be too busy and tired to write tomorrow. Alas, you get your post a little early. There are multiple reasons for this, including many of the things listed above, but it all leads to my word for today: failure.
Why failure? It is such a downer. No one wants to think about failure of any kind. The dictionary has multiple meanings for failure: a lack of success, falling short on a task or goal, an inability to function or thrive. Failure can be different things for people. It may be a simple as sleeping through an alarm or losing a business deal. Some optimists try to spin failure into a positive action or occurrence (something to be learned or to grow from), but most people associate failure with negativity. No one like to fail at anything, regardless of what that failure may be, and everyone experiences this.
I’ve been feeling failure for some time now. There are the small things – forgetting a birthday, not spending enough time on a project or idea, neglecting housework – and there have been bigger things – not finding the right job or any employment, struggling to manage life here, feeling exhausted all the time. As I said, everyone experiences failure. You rise from it, you learn from it, and you try again or move forward. Sometimes, the failures weigh on you. The struggles, the exhaustion, the emotions, and the loneliness piles on and on, and failure becomes more than what it is.
If I’ve never talked about it, I have anxiety. It’s awful, embarrassing, and something that can impede both mine and my family’s lives. I manage it as well as I can, and I’m pretty successful on a daily basis. The past several months, I have felt like my anxiety was growing harder to handle. I would have ups and downs, and I found myself falling back into older patterns: avoiding things and places, trying to come up with excuses to stay home, forcing myself to take deep breathing moments more frequently, and using my emergency meds to avoid or quell an anxiety attack. I have also noticed that I am exhausted, the bone-deep, could sleep for days kind of exhausted. Yet, I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, which only compounds the problem. Finally, I was down – really down. When I caught myself wondering if I could just stay in bed all day and pay Anya to watch the kids, I knew I had a problem. So, I went back to therapy. I’ve used therapy intermittently over the years, and it always helps. I have had different counselors and therapists, each with new perspectives that either worked or did not work for me. Even if I think it is not helping, it usually is.
I HATE admitting that I need help. Do you know why I’ve never talked about my anxiety? Because I hate admitting it. I hate knowing that there is something that is vulnerable or weak about me, even though it isn’t a weakness. I hate the way it makes me feel and act. But as the husband likes to point out, when I know that something is wrong and should go back to therapy, I should. I’m usually stubborn about it, of course. And part of working on all this is admitting that yes, I have anxiety and yes, I’m working on it. I’m always working on it.
Where does all this tie into failure? I talked about this with my therapist as we were trying to determine what was happening to make this all flare up. It is easy to blame the usual stressors (husband gone, 4 kids, new home/country, usual life), and when laid out before me, I could see that my life is a little stressful. I always brush this off because this is the life I live, and everyone is busy and overworked, right? I grew up in a big family that was always busy, so this is all I know. She remarked that all of this is fine, but she really honed in on the word “failure.” I use it too loosely. Why does being unemployed make me a failure? Why is ordering pizza for dinner because I’m too damn tired a negative? Why is turning down an event something that is wrong? Why does feeling overwhelmed or sad make me a failure? It doesn’t. This is something in my head that correlates all this to failure, which leads to stress, then anxiety…and that is the part that I need to work on.
She asked me to make a list of things that are good and successful in my life. I listed some – the kids, a stable life, a loving husband, a beautiful place to live, a supportive family, intelligence – and as I continued, her point was clear. Failure is a relative term. When one takes all the successful, important, and happy elements of a life, the failures should diminish. Everyone is allowed to feel tired and worn out, to feel sad or lonely, and to feel like things are not perfect. This is normal and NOT FAILURE. I find myself repeating this a lot to myself, and it’s slowly helping.
I have been enjoying therapy again, and I have some new opportunities in the works right now (nothing that pays, unfortunately, but I’m excited for them anyway). I have stressors, worries, and fears, but I also have plenty of good and stable things to focus on, too. My brain tends to lean more negative, and I need to continue working on this. No matter how the day evolves or how I feel, I am not failing at anything but keeping my mental health stable – and admitting that is the most difficult yet most important thing for me.