I was sitting in her office. Listening as she told me to close my eyes and picture a time in my life when I felt safe and had no worries. I wanted to be so mad. I’d made it through so many therapy sessions without actually talking about feelings and I was not about to break that streak. You see, I’m not a crier. I’ve just never been one to cry easily. I typically hold the pressure in my head until it feels like my head is going to pop off and fly around the room like a balloon at a kid’s party. I would classify myself as a last resort crier. I will analyze the shit out of something and try to rationalize it all costs to avoid crying. I don’t see crying as a sign of weakness. I hold a great deal of regard for my friends and colleagues, many of whom are criers. It’s just that much like rompers… crying just isn’t for me. Much like rompers, crying looks adorable on some people, but on me it looks like a Michelin Man with a heat rash.
The thing is, I treat myself very differently than I treat everyone else and judge myself far more harshly. Which is one of the reasons I ended up in the chair that day, my therapist words cutting through the air like a hot knife through butter, “I know you like to pretend that you don’t need to talk about emotions, but I need you to take a deep breath, and let it go. Breathe in and then let it go. Pull up an image of a place that makes you feel safe”. And there it was… two years of therapy and EMDR. Conversation after conversation and session after session about why it wasn’t my fault. How I didn’t choose it even though others tried to tell me I did. How I didn’t want that to happen to me. That God didn’t hate me. That I wasn’t damaged… and I never once cried. I took pride in that and no-one was going to let the puffy Michelin Man out of hiding…no one. I spoke in a very matter-of-fact manner. I didn’t want to deal with how I felt. I wanted to just follow the simple EMDR process, remove the memories like something out of Harry Potter, chuck it in the fuck-it-bucket and move on. But night after night I awoke to flashbacks and body memories, until it came to the point, where I just didn’t want to fall asleep. I was afraid of what would happen. And even more so, I had filled my life with so many activities, committees, commitments, and work projects that my plane was going down… fast. I was on a downward spiral with no parachute. And I had used my sharply honed over-achieving skills to avoid everything I didn’t want to deal with…. Until the moment it all came crashing down.
And so there I was, crying in her office. Not over the memories that remained from an abusive relationship, but over a childhood memory. A time in my life when things were simple. When all I lived for was going to the campground, waking up and watching The Flintstones on Saturday morning and playing in the lake all day. I could see a younger me fishing with my Dad, brother, and cousin Nate. I could see the campground and feel the freedom as we ran through the paths mowed into the tall grass. I could see my Mom and I doing dishes by the sink.; she was washing and I was drying. I could feel. I could feel the hot tears running down my face. I wanted to be so mad at her, my therapist. How dare she make me feel something. I had become so good at not feeling. But what I hadn’t realized, is that by blocking out all of the bad feelings, I was blocking out all of the good. I had been on a career motivated fast track and it had worked… until that very moment. As it turns out the brain doesn’t possess the capability of only feeling the good feels. Insert sigh. It was at that moment that I decided to cut myself some slack. To stop holding myself to an impossibly high standard. My whole life I’d always been called “highly motivated”, “going places”, an overly achieving “over-achiever”. But at that moment, tears running down my face, I decided to make a change.
As it turns out writing is very therapeutic for me, and in most cases, it can prevent my head from popping off and flying around the room. As it also turns out I happen to enjoy it and find it very relaxing. This blog is a journal of sorts. I’ve always firmly believed that we can all learn from each other’s journey’s. I invite you to follow along on mine. I can’t promise it will always be “Well with my Soul”. There will be moments where “The Struggle is Real” and some that are just plain “Meh”. Because like it or not, we all have to feel “all of the feels”. My hope is that others will feel empowered to take the plunge and do the purposeful work of retiring themselves as an over-achiever. So here it is, my journey; the Confessions of an Ex-Overachiever… almost.