Starting the Year with Hope

I have a big problem. It’s a problem with me, with my behaviour, with my reactions. I don’t like the way I act, or react, a lot of the time. New year, fresh start, right?

It started when I went on birth control a few years ago. Like clockwork, the third Wednesday of my cycle I would go apeshit on everyone. I screamed and cried and got really emotional. I took things way too personally. Everyone was out to get me. There was no point in trying anymore. I was a bad mother, a horrible wife, and a complete failure as a person.

Four days later I switched to the little white pill instead of the little pink pill. Another day and boom, completely rational me returned.

Okay, it didn’t start out that way. But by the time I stopped taking the pill it was clockwork. Predictable. I’d throw a fit and then come out of my bedroom all sheepish “It’s that Wednesday. I’m sorry.”

Finally my husband said, “Stop taking the pill. I want my wife back.”

So I stopped taking the pill. Problem solved, right?

Apparently not. Because what we failed to take into account was that negative thought patterns are habit forming and addicting. It’s just so damn easy to give up. It’s easy to believe that people are out to get you, that everyone is judging you. I’d get these anxiety flare-ups reading my Facebook feed. I dread getting “so-and-so replied to your comment” notifications. I was still reacting poorly to my husband and children. Too often I was thinking “What’s the point? I’m going to fail/lose/screw-up anyways.” Too often I was thinking “I can’t even get this right. Why am I such a failure?”

I was forgetting to let go. I was forgetting that making a mistake, or a bad call, didn’t make me a bad person. Making a mistake doesn’t equal failing. And these little things were snow balling – I’d burn supper, and then the kids would almost miss the bus, and then I’d forget to do the dishes, and then, and then, and then, and then. And then I was a complete failure. I couldn’t get anything right. See? Here’s the list. Here’s proof.

I needed validation for damn near everything I did and one misstep would shatter it all and I’d be back to square one.

I got in an argument with my husband the other night. Apparently I had taken a joke too far and it was no longer funny, it had hurt him. Oh how badly I wanted to rage and defend myself. It was a joke, I hadn’t meant to hurt him, here’s all the ways it was a joke but also true. I didn’t want to be wrong. I didn’t want to be at fault.

But I stopped. I thought about it. Had I meant to hurt him? Did I want to hurt him? NO. Had I hurt him? YES. Simple then. I apologized for hurting him. I apologized for taking the joke too far, for not being more aware of his discomfort. And that felt good.

But I still had all those other feelings bottled up inside of me. So I got out of bed and sat on the couch for a while. I separated myself from the situation and gave myself time and space so I could process.

This one mistake didn’t define me. It didn’t make me a bad wife or a bad person. He hadn’t forced me to apologize, he wasn’t controlling me. He hadn’t won and I hadn’t lost because this wasn’t a competition. It was done. I was going to let it go. And when I went back to bed I felt much better about everything.

It’s still too easy to slip into a defeatist attitude. But I am determined to change. I am determined to get back to the person I was 5 years ago. I am determined to undo all these bad habits and make myself happier and more at peace. It’s going to take A LOT of time. I’m going to make mistakes. And that’s okay. A mistake does not equal failure.

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