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Mental Health: It’s okay to be scared

Last year, I wasn’t doing very well. I fell into that black pit called depression and I’ve been having a hard time climbing out. Although I have been feeling a lot better lately, I realise that this is going to take a while. I have to re-discover myself and that’s proving to be quite the challenge.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for a while now. I try to meet up with her once a month, just to talk. She’s almost like a mirror. I throw ideas at her and she tries to untangle my thoughts. It’s been very helpful. I don’t think I would have figured everything out on my own.

So here’s the thing. There are three Ellens. The first one is me, the person who’s talking to you right now. She’s the middle, the balance, the person who’s “okay” and trying to get to “good”.

Then there’s the critical one. She’s a bit of a bitch. Nothing’s ever good enough and more importantly, she’s the one who’s convinced that everyone in the world hates me. She thinks it’s her duty to remind me of this fact at every possible hour of the day. The problem is… I’ve gotten used to listening to her because this was how I felt every day for two years at my previous job. I constantly felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough, wasn’t working hard enough, wasn’t doing a good enough job and therefore everyone was annoyed at me. I’m not going to go too much into this right now because all that is in the past and I try not to revisit those feelings too often. This critical part of me needs to learn when to shut up. But she’s very good at convincing me. It’s a constant struggle.

The third Ellen I only discovered through my therapist. Turns out, my critical self convinced me that this third Ellen was actually me. But she’s not, she’s a different part of myself that I have been fighting for years. She’s scared… all.. the.. time. Of everything. Of the entire world. She lives in a corner of my mind and when I’m not feeling well or when I’m tired (especially when I’m tired and I’m tired all the time right now) she comes into play.

Here’s how I see it: I have walls separating the three Ellens. When I’m not paying attention, those walls disappear and the three Ellens come into contact with each other. The critical one starts bitching at the scared one. The scared one gets more and more scared. And me, I start to panic.

An example:

When I go grocery shopping, I normally go to the store, walk around, put everything in my cart and so on… A while back, I realised that I wouldn’t have the time to actually go into the store, so I decided to order everything online and have it ready for me to pick it up at the store. “Collect and Go” as they call it (the smartasses). To you this may seem simple, just an everyday thing. For me, it was hell. I have to say, I was very tired at that point but I don’t need an excuse really. This is what happened.

Me: This is a good idea, I’ll have everything I need without having to spend time looking for it.

Critical Bitch: If you had planned everything better, you wouldn’t be in this situation. You know the other day when you drove home after work because you wanted to relax? You could’ve gone then. You had time but nooooo you were “tired”. You’re so lazy. Other people can get everything done but not you… You’re so bad at this whole parenting thing. You should be ashamed of yourself, you’re such a failure.

Scared Little Ellen: I’ve never done this before. What if it doesn’t work? What if I get to the store and the groceries aren’t there? Where do I even need to go? Who do I ask? How does this work???? This is going to end badly!!!

Me: *ball of stress, almost in tears* Drives up to the store. Everything goes well, of course, feels stupid for overreacting. Is ashamed.

Critical Bitch: Ugh, you’re so stupid why can’t you just do the things? You always break down. *rolls eyes*

Circle repeats itself

So where do I go from here? Well, I need to get these two other Ellens to behave. The Critical Bitch can be critical but only when it really matters. Like when I’m reading over my work and I’m not sure if a sentence works or not. That’s when it’s good to be critical. The Scared Little Ellen needs a comfortable sofa, a blanket and a cup of coffee (preferably a good book too) and she needs some love. Because the truth is, it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to fear change and new things. It’s okay to not be okay. But it’s not okay to just let it take over your life.

Example

My boss asked me to pick him up this morning because his car was out for maintenance. I HATE driving people around because:

Critical bitch: You’re so bad at driving. Look at all these people driving much better than you. He’s going to think to himself “wow, look how bad Ellen is at driving” and then what? Right. He’s going to laugh at you. Maybe not to your face but behind your back and let’s face it, that’s even worse.

The thing is, I’m actually really good at driving. And I knew she was just doing what she does best = making me feel like I’m worthless at everything. So I looked over to Scared Little Ellen who was already starting to cry and I told her: “hey, we’re going to worry but we’re not going to freak out, okay?” And she nodded, dried her tears and took another sip of her coffee.
(she was in the middle of ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller, so I’m hoping she sees how much of a badass Circe is and finds some comfort in the thought that even a goddess has her less-of-a-badass-days.)

And you know what? It was fine. My boss is a really nice guy and we get along really well. We talked the whole way and I’m going to drive him back later today. I’m not looking forward to it but I’m not going to freak out. Or try not to at least. Because I need to remember, it’s still okay to be scared.

 

 

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