The mean reds

There are good days and bad days and in-between days. Lots of days. And there there are days like today, when I am reacquainted with the feeling of what it was like when I would go off the rails.

Therapy taught me to distinguish between what is real and which are the thoughts that do not come from truth but instead come from a brain that is misfiring. I call it Fox News because everything is a lie disguised as my own voice. It can be incredibly persuasive at times.

It’s hormonal. I know that. I know it’ll pass. I know better than to follow every impulse to go down shame spirals or do anything that would cause permanent damage. Limit exposure to others. Distract myself. Be kind. Wait for it to pass. I have the tools to handle what previously would have short circuited into suicidal ideation. That used to be my go to. I would imagine very grim things. Ways to hurt myself. Ways to end everything. Anything to just stop feeling so much pain and self-doubt.

But now I just sit with it. And as an idea comes into my head that is hostile to my survival, I just let it pass. I give it room. I don’t rush it. Resistance, as the Borg say, is futile. I don’t tackle problems on days like this. I don’t make big decisions. And I don’t give too much weight to what people say or the fact that some people don’t say anything at all. There is a difference between being alone, being lonely, and being forgotten or intentionally shut out.

There was a time in my life when I was intentionally shut out by the people who I relied on most for my self-worth. The silent treatment was the most effective short cut to letting me know I was bad and would have to somehow claw my way back into their good graces.

And for a long time, I just assumed that silence from others was more of that same. Disapproval and rejection cloaked in silence. I’d imagine people thinking the worst of me, completely justified because I was awful and unworthy of love.

I came across as overly needy. I needed constant affirmation that things were ok. If I didn’t get it, the imaginary fights would play out in my head. Me…my own worst enemy. I’d squirm in the uncomfortableness of my own skin, wishing it belonged to someone else.

I can sometimes backslide into those feelings. The difference is that I don’t short circuit to the worst case scenario and act on negative feelings. It took a lot of work, more than most people would be comfortable with, to get to the point where I can distinguish between intrusive thoughts and my own actual self-doubt.

When the feelings come now, a single word pops into my head as I cringe. Courtney. She was my saint. She held my hand through those hard years when I stood my ground and took my lumps in order to get past a merry-go-round of self-destructive behavior. That her name is the one word that comes, and not that of my mother or father or anyone else for that matter, is a testament to the power she had to help. I could text her with my thoughts. She would show up at my door. Or invite me out. Or tell me I was ridiculous. Or just listen.

She was the first person I could trust to not hurt me. The guys I dated weren’t so kind. They were damaged. And like attracts like, so I guess we were all in the same boat. I learned a lot as I burned through them. Good riddance to most of them. Bad on me for hurting the soft ones. I wouldn’t have survived all that trial and error error error without Courtney by my side.

Today I feel insecure. I’m prone to second guessing myself and doing silly things like posting a video to Instagram and then immediately regretting it. But I’m not taking it down. I just have to sit through it, as uncomfortable as it makes me. I have to be responsible for my actions. Taking it down would be more destructive than having put it up in the first place. Accepting the consequences of my actions is vital to holding myself accountable. Don’t wan’t to regret things? Don’t do things you will regret. But if you do them, be ready to accept what comes your way. Be a stand up human being. Don’t cower or shrink away or equivocate. Be a person of integrity. Be the best version of yourself. Be the person others admire you for being on your best days.

And just wait it out. This too shall pass. And when it does, you will see with clarity.

Courtney is my safety blanket. Courtney is the word that my brain thinks of when I am in need of mercy. It reminds me to be as kind to myself as the real Courtney once was to me when I barely deserved it. Even if she’s not in my life now, she’s been absorbed into my coding. She lets me know that my brain isn’t my friend today. Nothing I can do about it. No pill will rescue me. No drink will dull the message. Just eat well. Breathe. Entertain myself. And wait it out. Sitting alone in discomfort while my brain pulls an all out assault on me is not easy. But it’s better than all the alternatives. And it is a gift to my future self.

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