Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I've been working on a few posts. There's one about flu shots and why you should get them. There's one about World Arthritis Day, which was yesterday, so I guess better late than never. There's one about how I study in medical school. This is not any of those posts.

This is a post that was inspired by talking to one of my best friends, V. The context is unimportant, because the message is really what matters.

Part of depression and anxiety, a big part, at least for me, is the near-constant self-doubt. At times, it can be crippling. Despite having a list of pretty decent accomplishments, ranging from graduate degrees, to successful jobs, to personal accomplishments like marrying a fantastic man and having an amazing group of friends, there are times (a lot of times) that I feel like a big failure. Like someone who is just playing pretend at being a grown-up. Like someone who somehow doesn't deserve whatever good has come my way. Like someone who, at her core, is not "a good person," whatever that means.

Another part of it is the exhaustion of feelings. I tell people all the time that they have to "feel their feelings," and that having feelings, no matter what they are, is totally okay. (Of course, I'm not as gracious to myself.) I joke a lot about having a lot of feelings, a la "Mean Girls," but it is seriously true. I have a lot of feelings. What's worse is that I have feelings about my feelings. That is the exhausting part. But, as Kelly Williams brown aptly puts in her book, "You don't have to have feelings about your feelings." My therapist also tells me this. I tell other people this. And yet, here I am, having feelings about my feelings on a regular basis.

We've all done it at least once.

"I know it's stupid, but I feel nervous when I fly on airplanes."

"I shouldn't feel jealous of that girl from high school who got married before I did, but I do."

"I'm so mad that I am so upset by the fact that my boyfriend broke up with me. He was a total jerk!"

And on and on. But it's okay. You can be afraid to fly on airplanes, you can be jealous and not be a bad person, you can be sad about something, even if in the end, it might be better for you.

The time I sabotage myself the most, oddly enough, is when I feel good, though. You would think that someone who suffers and struggles through feeling functional, let alone feeling good, would welcome "good" with open arms. That positivity would feel amazing, not terrifying. Maybe for some people, that's how it works, but not for me. The minute I start to feel good about something, whether it's an upcoming exam, or a job prospect, or life in general, there's a tiny voice in the back of my head that says, "You can't feel good. The outcome could be terrible, and then you'll have felt good about something that turned out to be BAD. And then what would you do?"

Spoiler alert: This usually ends with me in what I refer to as "the doom spiral," the ending of which is always that Ken will leave me, and all my friends will leave me, and my family will abandon me, and I will live alone, in a box, in a van, under a bridge, down by a river, and there I will die, childless, and alone, and I will be eaten by wolves. Basically, a bad time.

Second spoiler alert: It doesn't MATTER if it turns out terribly. How I feel right now has literally NO BEARING on the outcome of whatever I'm feeling good about. It only affects how I feel right now, and if I feel good, then I need to just let myself feel good. I don't need to feel anxious about feeling good, I don't need to feel sad or stupid or angry or anything else about feeling good. I can just feel good, and that's fine.

This is all easier said than done, of course. Anxiety isn't something I can fold up and put away on a shelf because I want to. But for me, it helps to remind myself that if the thing I'm feeling good about goes well, then I got to feel good, and then I will feel even better! And if the thing I'm feeling good about goes badly, then having felt good about it doesn't make the bad outcome worse, and if I had forced myself to feel negatively about the whole thing, it wouldn't make the bad outcome LESS terrible. The two events have nothing to do with one another. How I feel right now has no effect on the outcome of this thing. So if I feel good, I'm going to feel good.

Or at least I'm going to try.

Here's to feeling our feelings, and letting ourselves feel good without repercussion from our inner anxiety and depression voices.

What do you think? Do you have feelings about your feelings? What do you do to make it easier for yourself to feel whatever you're feeling? Are you sick of hearing the word "feeling" at this point?

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