elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
So this morning, my boss said something vaguely about wanting to talk to me for a minute when I had a moment, and added "nothing big."

And I promptly panicked. Clearly I was fired. Clearly something was wrong wrong wrong.

This happens to me ...a lot. I catastrophize. I borrow trouble. A few years ago, my New Year's Resolution was to learn that nothing is as bad as I think it's going to be. It sort-of took, in that I learned to remind myself that it -- whatever "it" was -- was survivable, and not that big a deal in the long run; it did not take, in the sense of freeing myself from the first horrible lurch of oh god what's wrong what did I do the world is sliding off its axis omg omg.

But a couple of weeks ago, I had a revelatory conversation with my therapist, where she pointed out that the guilt I was feeling about an ongoing thing in my life was incredibly disproportionate to ...well, reality. (That wasn't the revelatory part. I knew that.) And then she added that she thought that it was probably the feelings of guilt from my parents' divorce that I was actually feeling.

The next five minutes were me spluttering and swearing. Because holy what the actual fuck !!!!

She's totally right. Not just about that. I had honestly thought I had escaped feeling guilty over the divorce, because I read the books, all of which explained that children of divorce often blame themselves for causing it, or not preventing it, and I, being me, and a serious reader even at age six, decided that reading the books and the warnings therein, would protect me from falling into this trap.

Oh, brain. Oh, tiny [personal profile] elizabeth. The hind brain? Did not get that memo.

That worked out great, let me tell you. For the past twenty years, I have been constantly guilty, constantly afraid not of fucking up, but of having fucked up. Constantly hearing j'accuse! in every criticism, every request for a moment of my time. Let me tell you, this is exhausting.

(It absolutely baffled my mother, who has been asking why I have such a guilty conscience for years. I don't know if I'll tell her why.)

So this is where so much of my fear comes from. This is why I have such a hard time with people who have power over me asking me to account for myself -- not because I can't do it, because the six-year-old inside me doen't understand what is going on, doesn't understand that her world falling apart is not her fault, that she is not to blame. And so the twenty-five-year-old panics.

Ever since my therapist dropped that particular bombshell -- seriously, I never in a thousand years would have come up with that -- I have been able to defuse more than one moment of oh god oh god my fault my fault everything is wrong and I have to fix it but I don't know what's wrong and everyone is angry and it's my fault what did I do wrong oh god. I'm not saying they've gone away, those moments, I'm not sure they ever will -- twenty years have engraved that pattern deep -- but I know them for what they are now, at least a little. And that means that they aren't in control. As much.

It is amazing.
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