Lately, I’ve been noticing a lack of follow-through in myself. By ‘lately,’ I mean basically ever since my dad passed away. I wish that didn’t sound cliche or excuse-like, but there it is.
I’ve talked before about how grief has changed me. How the trauma of suddenly being thrust into some of the hardest parts of adulthood has changed me. But, I don’t know if I’ve really talked much about the shame I’ve felt about that. I used to have a solid sense of who I was. I was a doer. A responsible, reliable, follow-through type of person. Maybe, deep down, I wasn’t actually that person. But either way, I know that I’m much less that person now.
Post-trauma, I’m more anxious, and that has practical and real effects on my abilities. My memory is worse. My attention is worse. My ability to deal with stress is, generally, worse. My ability to relate to people on a shallow level is substantially worse. And my ability to stick with things has definitely been on a decline.
Right after my dad passed away, I had more responsibility than anyone my age. I suddenly had to call lawyers, accountants, hospitals, crematoriums, tax experts, federal retirement agencies, etc. I handled it all, somehow. Sometimes, I think I spent all my responsibility and mental capacity on that period of my life. I wonder if maybe my current state is a primitive rebellion against all that required responsibility. Somewhere in my brain, I’ve shut down those qualities for a while.
Of course, I’m not a total disaster. I get to work on time. I am still a generally reliable employee. I pay my bills on time. But my capacity for stress is simply diminished. I cannot trust myself the same way I once could. I doubt everything I do.
This is hard to deal with, especially when I’m surrounded by seemingly ‘normal’ people who have the capacity to do all the things I used to do. I start to feel like a failure because I didn’t do this or that project that I got excited about. When it comes to my ‘career,’ it’s especially crushing.
My heart is constantly telling me things that I would love to pursue. Then, my head gets involved. It tells me how I’d hate that. I’d be overwhelmed immediately. I’d crumble under the pressure. So, I explore the options, then I get dissuaded by fear and shame. I know it is holding me back.
But what do I do?
I do the things that are vital and hope I’ll have time to do the tings I really want to do. I spend all my energy on survival. On basic normalcy. So far, nothing much is left over to contribute to my own fulfillment and creative projects. I’m not sure where to get more mental energy from. They tell you exercising gives you more physical energy. But mental illness is tricky.
As I write, I’m in the process. I know I’m not alone in these feelings. If you are struggling, I’ll tell you what I try to tell myself. Survival alone is impressive. Being content is amazing. Life is a constant cycle of ups and downs. Sometimes we will be stuck in dark moments, but that doesn’t mean it is forever.
We can wait out the storms. We can patiently stare the hard stuff, the shame, the depression, in the face and tell it, “I see you. I know you’ll feel better in a little while, and I’m ready to wait.”