This is the first writing of mine that I have shared on Elephant Journal 🐘 But it is something that I have wanted to do for years! I’d really appreciate it if you could click through and have a read, I’d really love this one to do well 🧡
This morning on social media, I saw a post by a woman who
achieved something wonderful yesterday; she ate lunch.
She didn’t feel that it was something wonderful, or that she
achieved because, well, every one
eats lunch, right? So why should we celebrate this as an accomplishment?
Around the same time I was also having a chat with a friend who suffers from fibromyalgia. He was asking me how I managed the transition between work and home, how I knew what I needed when and also, how I coped? He told me of a time when he worked and the exhaustion would be so great that he would fall asleep as soon as he got in through the door and wake up in the morning in the same clothes, even with his shoes still on, and having to do it all again…
It brought me to mind of a period of time last year when I
knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. I was depressed, quite
severely so, but I didn’t think that was the sole cause of just how exhausted I was. However, I did that
thing we all do, I compared myself to others and ultimately ended up feeling
worse. How could I warrant being this
tired? My friend worked and studied,
and had 2 children and she wasn’t
My husband worked 6 days a week and I only worked 5, how selfish of me to be too tired in the
evenings or weekends to not be able to do anything fun.
My parents, both past retirement age had days fuller than
mine and still had energy to spare!
You can see how these thoughts spiralled…
I now know that yes, I was severely depressed. I also had
undiagnosed fibromyalgia and I was taking an anti-depressant that was a) no
longer working and b) a sedative, it was no wonder I was so exhausted all of
We do this though, we all do. We minimise our own feelings
by comparing them to others and we don’t just do it with exhaustion, we do it
with pain and we do it with experiences of trauma – on the flip side of that,
we do it with how much we manage to achieve during the day and we do it with
what we achieve throughout recovery.
I understood how the woman on twitter felt this morning,
because I have had those exact same thoughts. I have felt embarrassment and
even shame when I have been congratulated for walking my dog, or for enduring a
whole day at work. How ridiculous that I should be congratulated for doing
something that millions of people – including those supporting me – do every
day! And so I didn’t hear it; I didn’t hear how proud they were of me or how
this was another step forward in my recovery, because I was too busy beating
myself up for it.
I know now, that I should have felt proud of myself for
achieving those things. Yes, my husband may not think twice about getting our
dogs lead on and marching him around our local playing field every evening –
but I did, I still do. I had a period of about eleven months where I couldn’t
leave my house alone because my anxiety was so bad. All sorts of scenarios
would play out in my head, and that was just me, alone. Add a dog into the mix
and those scenarios doubled!
It’s not easy to change the way we talk to ourselves, I
certainly haven’t mastered it yet, but I think I am beginning to learn just how
important that inner voice is. Last week in therapy we discussed how my inner
voice is very critical and also how it has almost replaced the voice of those girls that bullied me all those years
ago. I wouldn’t dream of ever talking to anyone the way that I talk to myself.
But I think I do need to hear when others talk to me kindly
and to learn from them that I am a woman worthy of praise. When my parents, or
my husband or my friends say they are proud of me, they aren’t lying; they aren’t
saying it just for something to say.
These are people who I know, and trust and choose to surround myself with – I seek
their counsel and value their opinions on everything else, so why would that
suddenly change when it comes to their opinions regarding me?
I also know, all too well how I relate to others. If someone who struggles with anxiety tells me that they have managed to achieve a task that was difficult because of their struggles then I am proud of them – that could be from walking their dog to talking in front of thousands of people, if you have anxiety there could be very little between the two in terms of terror. I don’t roll my eyes and go ‘well, duh, 9 million* other people also walked their dog today’ because, y’know, that would be kinda ridiculous and also it would be ignoring the fact that we are all different and we all face our own struggles every, single day.
That person that talks confidently in front of thousands of
people, they may have a deep rooted and overwhelming fear of gaining weight. It
may be an achievement for them to sit down and eat a meal without feeling panic
That really bubbly person in your friendship group, they may
absolutely hate being alone. They may achieve something just be spending some
time with their own thoughts.
That polite receptionist, she may be battling depression and
fibromyalgia and it could be the hardest thing in her world to work for nine
hours straight *ahem*
There are literally billions of examples. On my good days I
know I should be proud of myself because I am working, because I am in a good
routine and I managed to eat/socialise/ sleep well etc – and it is the little
things amongst that that I have had difficulties with in the past. Those little
things, when I achieve them should be
celebrated and acknowledged, because they are the things that keep life ticking
over. The getting up, taking care of myself, taking responsibility, setting
boundaries, doing the therapy, saying when something is wrong, addressing my
emotions as they come up and learning how to manage them – these are all
important things that are part of my recovery and if anybody else was doing
them then I would be there in the side-lines cheering them on all the way.
But I need to learn how to do that on the bad days as well
as the good. I need to find out how to silence that little inner voice that
hisses ‘So what, you got out of bed
when you were feeling crap? Let’s look at the list of things you didn’t do!” – Because that voice isn’t
helpful, and it is also how no-one else
thinks of me.
I am definitely still a work in progress, but I think the
more I encourage and praise others for their
achievements and stop looking at them as ‘big or small’, the more that little
inner voice will get the message that actually, on some days, having a shower
is tantamount to climbing a mountain.