Dealing Hope, Mental Health

March 6, 2022

Dealing with my Negative Tapes

have a day
I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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So, it’s been a while since I have written a blog for Willowjak.  A long while in fact!  I was invited, as were all contributors to Willowjak, to write a blog that would go out.  We were asked to write about something that maybe others don’t know- the word “secret” was used.  I don’t like the word secret because there were far too many of them in my growing up.  There were too many things that I needed to keep to myself because I feared what might happen to me, or to those I loved.   So, I’m not going to write about a “secret”, but I will write about something real for me.  I don’t know if it will help you as you read it, but I hope it gives you permission to be real, to be authentic and to keep on “keeping on.”

Recently, I came across a quote on Facebook- because where else would I come across something like this?    

“I know you’re sad, so, I won’t tell you to have a good day.  Stay alive.  Feed yourself well.  Wear comfortable clothes and don’t give up on yourself just yet.  It’ll get better.  Until then, have a day.”

There are days where all I can do is have a day. 

The days when I am tired.  When I just want to stay in bed. 

Or I have no motivation- no energy- no joy. 

There are days I just want to stay curled away in my house. 

When I can feel the worry and panic welling up in me for no explainable reason. 

There are days the negative tapes circle around in my head. 

If you have similar tapes in your mind, you know they are self-defeating, and you know they beat you up rather than build you up.  Yep- depression and anxiety are real!  

Facebook does not help!  As much as Facebook has quotes such as I shared, it also has the latest accomplishments of colleagues.  It has the innovative ways they are excelling and their latest great ideas.  It has friends who are seemingly enjoying life in a way I wish I could.  They are posting awesome times with family when I struggle to find the energy or the time.  And then the judgement kicks in full time. 

“You are not good enough.”

“You are going to fail.” 

“Why should people listen to you?” 

“You are not working hard enough!”

And then I remind myself, Facebook shows the highlight reels of other people’s lives while my mind contains the “behind- the-scene” life I live.  

Medication helps with some of the depression and anxiety, but not all of it.  The part it does not help, comes down to intentionality about what I choose to think!  My father was the loudest voice in our house.  His standards were beyond high.  I came by my perfectionist mindset early on from him.  If I received a 94% on a test or project “what happened to the other 6%?    If I came 2nd in a competition, why had I not won?  This is one of many tapes that have haunted me throughout my life.  

I was in grade 11 and my next youngest sister was in grade 9.  By grade 11 I had become a decent discus thrower and shot putterJavelin was mediocre.  I had competed internationally at Junior Competitions.  I was well on my way!  It was early in the season.  Our track team had a competition in the GTA as a primer for the season that was about to begin.  This competition meant nothing in terms of ranking or standings.  The field I was competing against was poor.  I was there competing against myself!  I was going to compete in shot put at the meet and my sister was going to compete in the long jump and one of the sprints.  They did not have discus or javelin, so it was going to be an easier meet for me. 

At the time I lived in Orillia, and so we boarded the school bus, and headed to the small track meet.  I warmed up as I usually did.  My name was called when the competition began, and I entered the circle for my throw.  I faulted the first throw (I stepped over the toe board).  The throw was not recorded.  I had done this before in all three of the throwing events in which I competed.  It happens!   I was not worried.  The officials called each athlete up in order. 

The second round began, and my name was called again.  I went into the circle and knew that I needed to get a throw to count.  Once again, I faulted (I stepped over the toe board).  Not a big deal!  It was predicted that I would win the competition quite easily, in fact would probably throw twice as far as my nearest competitor.  Once again, the other competitors took their second throw. 

We were now into the third and final round before the finals.  I needed to get a throw to count, or I would not advance to the finals.  I stepped into the circle and I knew I should have done a standing throw rather than gliding, but it was a warm-up meet.  It didn’t matter like provincials or nationals.   I would simply take it easy and stay in the ring.  I faulted a third time, I stepped over the toe board again and I did not make the final.  In fact, rather than coming in first as I should have, I finished last because I did not register a throw.  I felt sick! 

All I remember of the bus ride home was my sister sitting next to me, worried about what I was going to tell Dad.  What was I going to say?  Not only was I afraid, so too was my sister!  It was a long ride from Toronto to Orillia.  The walk from the school to our house was not long enough.  We walked through the door.  It was dinner time and so our parents were home.  My father asked me how I did!  I told him the truth, that I faulted all three throws and didn’t record a throw. So didn’t make the finals and that I came last! 

I truly believe that in that moment it would have made little difference if I had told him how I did in the meet or that I had been arrested for murdering someone!   He flew off the handle.  There was a stream of words coming out of him that reminded me that I was the worst human alive.  I was a failure and a whole lot worse.  The yelling went on and on.  The negative comments were a barrage of negativity and judgment directed right at my very core, my sense of self.  I ran down the stairs, went to my room, slammed the door, lay on my bed and cried for what felt like hours.   

The barrage that had assaulted my very sense of self ripped open the scab from previous times where I was reminded that I was good for nothing.  He, on the other hand, stormed out of the house, took off in the car.  He returned some time later calmer.  In fact, he always returned and acted like nothing had ever happened.  Me on the other hand, my soul died just that little bit more until some years later, my spirit was absolutely crushed.  

I spent many, many years in therapy dealing with this, along with many other things.  I have it together now!  But every once in a while, those tapes are brought out, and they are replayed in my mind.  When I’m exhausted, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, when I spend too much time comparing myself to others, rather than listening to my heart, those tapes begin to bring me down.  Those days I give myself permission to check out from social media.  I give myself permission to be gentle with myself.  I give myself permission to simply be who I am in that moment.  And then I force myself to do something for someone else.  When I do something for someone else, I am taken out of my own mind and I’m making a difference for good.  

If you too have those days that cannot be described as good days, know that I won’t wish you a good day.   Rather, I will hold you gently.  I will pray that you are able to stay alive, that you will feed yourself well, that you won’t give up on yourself just yet.  I know that it will get better, but not without work on your part.  Until then, I wish for you that you have a day.

Blessings

Rev. Michelle

Read More of Michelle’s Blogs Here

Rev. Michelle Brotherton

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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