I have long struggled with feelings of worthlessness. Upon examining them, I found it difficult to support those feelings. However, they always lingered. Traumatic events (no matter how out of my control) often reinforced the idea that “I did not deserve to be happy.” It felt like no matter how much effort I put forth and preventative measures I took that it always went awry.
Over time, I internalized this belief. I was unworthy of happiness. Instead, unfortunate events defined my existence, or so it felt. When a situation came up, one of two things happened. I tried my best to resolve it. Though, it seemed that I got hit by the next event without any recovery period. Or if things were going well, I awaited the next bad situation without enjoying my momentary contentment.
The last three to five years of therapy and reflection helped me to work through those core beliefs. That is not to say that it was easy to overcome, but, overall they have been kept at bay. They do have a tendency to rear their ugly heads from time to time.
Sadly, that is exactly what happened over the last two weeks. For a variety of reasons (that I would rather not share), I slipped backwards into this pattern. I bang my head against the wall, hoping that it might knock some sense into me. Instead, the pain worsens. Ruminating thoughts latch onto the old ideas. They feed an emotional void left by years of torment.
Recent events trigger this. The difference now is that I make myself aware and challenge it. For instance,I spoke to a few close friends and family members about how I was feeling. I hoped that maybe I could receive feedback to snap myself out of this funk or that I might spew out some fantastical realization. It only slightly helped this time. It only provided temporary relief through distraction and validation.
At the same time, I made a old mistake. I was spouting off what was going through my mind and getting it off my chest. In turn, I heard what my loved ones said. Heard. HEARD. I heard their words leaving their lips to my ears or read them on a screen. Unfortunately, my brain neglected to process their message. I “heard” them, but I was not listening.
Tonight, while speaking to this one kind soul who puts up with my shit, it dawned on me. I needed to listen. I told her how I had been feeling down and out. She validated my feelings, but then provided contrary evidence. I kept thinking, “This sounds familiar.” In my mind, I reviewed the last two weeks when this topic came up. All of my loved ones acknowledged a similar message in their own words.
Well fuck. Not only did my loved ones say it to me, but I had even had this conversation with several clients recently. I will preface this by saying that counselors should listen to themselves more often, but we usually don’t.
The way we feel does not always match up to reality.
-The Caring Counselor