A trail of voices

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acceptance / cognition / emotional health / human experience / mental health

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SHE goes to sleep right beside you. SHE thrives on remaining close and reminding you of who you are and what you are made of as the last thing you think about before nodding off. In your heavy sleep SHE sometimes belongs to that dream state you wake up from when the alarm you set for work abruptly goes off. Lifting your head off the pillow you shrug and wonder what it was that you were just dreaming about. Why your generally uniform blankets are in a disarray, your hair sticking up in strange places as if you actually took some kind of journey during the night. You wonder where you went and who was with you and why you’d dream with such emotion involved. Your arms automatically reach out to no one as you stretch, hands toward feet. As you hear a cracking of bones connecting to align themselves in your spine, your brain goes through the various memory cues that might shake your thoughts awake, only to be interrupted by HER whiny voice commenting, “My God you’re getting old!” After several seconds of truly feeling your age, you say hell with it and get up with a blank expression. You aren’t sure how to feel.

It’s no surprise that SHE’s right there with you at breakfast. SHE suggests that “you shouldn’t eat the French toast, they go straight to your already cellulite-laden hips.” Of course you already knew that but didn’t really want to care this morning. You block HER out and put extra butter and syrup on your toast. SHE’s an annoyance, always criticizing you anyway. Do what you want, you say to yourself defiantly, and shut up! You say to HER. SHE is always within hearing range.

You stuff yourself. SHE says SHE told you not to do that, adding that “You are a pig and must be pretty stupid if you can’t follow simple directions. You must want to be fat since you refuse to try hard enough!” You now feel your body physically flinching at this summation. Not true. You think to yourself, I passed my licensing  exam yesterday so I must not be stupid! “Barely,” SHE chimes in automatically, “Everybody knows you are lazy and barely study. You could have done better.” Is SHE still here? You don’t counter, hoping SHE’ll just go away this time. Who asked HER to join you anyway?

You very consciously shrug HER off, clean your dishes and go up to your room to take a shower and get dressed for work. On the way to the shower, you catch a glimpse of yourself naked in your bathroom mirror. Out of the clear blue you hear. “OH. MY. GOD! YOU HAVE LIKE FIFTY POUNDS OF BACK FAT!! YOU’RE LIKE CARRYING AROUND A FAMILY OF FOUR – JUST ON YOUR FRIGGIN BACK! WHAT A SLOB! Have another piece of French toast, why don’t you?”  SHE mocks you. Doesn’t SHE know how hard this is for you? And yet still SHE chastises. Once in the shower you do what you normally do and wash your body thoroughly. “Stop it!” the voice that surprisingly sounds  like your mother’s says. Stop WHAT?  You say as if you are accustomed to authority figures criticizing you in your own private bathroom. “Stop touching yourself like that! It’s dirty! God is watching!”  Wait, what is my mother’s voice doing here?

You hurriedly finish rinsing, very consciously ignore the mirror as you dry off and dress; all the while attempting to ignore the voices that suggest your “thighs resemble that of an elephant with its sheer mass and wrinkly texture” and “that if you would exercise in your free time you could really work on that.” But “that you probably won’t because you are too busy being lazy.” Dabbing on a hint of makeup, brushing your teeth and hair all come rather automatically. Today you see a tooth that has been chipped for months. It glares at you. Is it that obvious? “Yes,” SHE answers. Another flaw you think and rush downstairs to go to work.

While at work a peer smiles, waves at you and states matter-of-factly, “You look nice today!”

You look up, smile weakly and say a barely audible, “Thanks”, while still moving toward your office. Actually, I look like shit and you must be blind, you think.

Your boss calls you in her office and suggests that your work with a client needs more of your time and investment. You are pissed. You are embarrassed. Your pants are too tight. You ate too much breakfast. You are a pig. Your tooth is broken and hideous. You are stupid and now you can’t do your job correctly. All morning “people” have told you how slovenly you are and this is just the pinnacle of it all. You nod like you understand what your boss has just said to you, though you are still in your own head fighting yourself. You immediately get back to your office. Shut the door. Put your head down on your desk. Then taking note that tears are flowing and mascara is bleeding down your puffy, wrinkly face, you grab a tissue and wipe your tear-stained “Midnight” L’Oreal mascara off, which takes with it your Revlon “Light Brown Haze” eye shadow, and Minerals “Plum Fantasy” eyeliner. You suddenly feel naked.

What’s it going to be? It’s merely 10:00 a.m. and life is still moving forward while you sit stuck with yourself in a room with a door shut and hundreds of negative voices telling you what you are; who you are; why you are; what you can and can’t do. There’s just one very important voice missing.

Yours.

Make your words mean something positive. You don’t have to live with the recordings from your childhood. Nor do you need to send those messages along with your children. You do have to work to rid yourself of them though and there are ways to do that. If not they will attack while you sleep. Do it. Today. Now. Life is too precious to hear anything but what you can do. feel. love. help. be. live. strive for. enjoy. create. marvel at. pray to.

  • Forgive. yourself. You didn’t realize you were putting that kind of burden on you or your loved ones.
  • Make your words count. The ones you tell yourself and those that you share with others.
  • Love yourself enough to practice positivity. Yourself first, so you can share it genuinely with others.
  • Sarcasm is that which is not genuine. It is angry and often hurtful. We use it to stifle people when what we really want to say may be angry, hurtful and counterproductive.
  • Deal with your feelings. Feelings turn to words…the good, the bad and the ugly. Feelings just are. Stop judging yourself and others for their feelings. If not dealt with they end up flowing from the top downward. Our children end up flooded with words coming at them from parents, grandparents, great-great grandparents and so forth.
  • People might think you are funny. So was Robin Williams. At the core of funny can be hurt and pain. Get to know you. Accept who that (you) is or make changes, but do it with a loving  and open heart. Start with the words you tell yourself.
  • Many thanks are in order to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Can I get an "Amen!"?

    Many thanks are in order to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Can I get an “Amen!”?

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The Author

I am a licensed clinical social worker who just happens to adore the written word. I have had a private practice and am now writing a memoir on my life in the company of my father and many of my clients who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I hope to dispel some myths and break down some barriers for those with mental illness. I write out of need and complete joy, which I hope to convey throughout my blogs. The human experience is not exclusive to one group. I hope to appeal to most as I touch on some pretty heady material with some self-deprecating humor and raw emotion thrown in for good measure. I have four amazing children, one HUGE dog and a tolerant husband. I am blessed.

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