STORYTELLING, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

I Hear You, Panic Attack, I’m Listening

Panic attacks.

I get them when I’m triggered.

I get them at 3 am in the morning.

I get them at 5 am in the morning.

I get them when I have to wake up to start my day.

I get them after reading an email.

They scare me and they demoralize me. They bring me to my knees.

My panic attacks can feel like a thousand chaotic voices.

This isn’t good.

That isn’t done.

You aren’t good enough.

What a failure.

When they start, I end up with waves of fear from my futile attempts to ward off the attacks.

I try silencing the voices.

I recoil in terror from all their accusations and predictions of doom and gloom.

My brain vibrates from the yelling and the shrinking, the pointing and the defending.

* * * * *

I’m learning to thank them, yes, appreciate their intention to protect me from — well — danger.

Danger from harm to the core of who I am.

Somehow, I ended up with a blinding fear of criticism about my judgment and decision-making abilities.

I have had to change my attitude of fear of criticism about my past unchangeable decisions.

* * * * *

Now I try to to tell myself:

  • I accept the past
  • I did the best that I could with what I had
  • There are consequences to all decisions
  • The only thing I can do is think about moving forward
  • My new decisions might still not be ideal
  • In the future I will be dealing with the consequences of my choices today
  • A knee-jerk reaction will be counterproductive
  • What’s the one baby step I can take right now that at least moves me in the right direction?

Okay panic attacks.

I’m ready for you.

I’m ready to listen to your warnings.

But I’m going to respond in a calm way to let you know that I can only do my best, that I did my best in the past, and that hounding me about what a terrible person I am is not going to make my life better. It’s making my present and future worse.

But I thank you for trying to protect me.

I thank you for trying to teach me.

So — now that I’ve heard you, I need you to be quiet so that I can figure out what next step to take.

UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

The Perfection of Mediocracy

“Mommy,” my 11-year old gravely starts off, “Mommy, I know that you probably won’t be too happy about this, but I think I have to tell you anyway.”

As a parent, you are always worried about your children, their safety, their happiness, their future… As I braced myself for his confession, I tried to guess what this was about, predict how I might react, manage how I should not over-react, and keep my mind from getting carried away with what he could possibly tell me that I might not be “too happy about”…

“Mommy, I know you want me to be a straight A student, but I think I’m going to be a B+ student. I might be able to get some As, but I’ll probably get mostly Bs… maybe even a C or two…”

The Tiger Mom in me just wanted to roar at him and indignantly state why he should strive for better and how important grades are, but the calm mom in me marvelled at his self awareness as we proceeded to have a conversation about why he felt this way.

I quickly admitted to him that I had mixed feelings, that I admired him for knowing himself but that I hoped he had confidence in himself to achieve anything he set his mind to. We discovered that he wasn’t sure the additional effort to get the As were worth it to him. It sounded like he was practicing self care and managing his resources based on his goals of learning and getting enough sleep to be healthy.

It got me thinking about how much we celebrate success, strive for perfection, and encourage achievement. For some, this is absolutely appropriate and they go on to do great things. But how many people are struggling every day, feeling like failures because they did not live up to some lofty goals they set and constantly compare themselves to? For some, overcoming obstacles and barriers to reach their goals makes them happy. But is that true for everyone? Are others comfortable achieving what they think is good enough so they can focus on aspects of life that make truly them happy? Maybe they are content being content.

My son got me thinking about happiness. You don’t have to be successful to be happy. You don’t have to be perfect to be happy. You don’t have to be rich to be happy. You have to want what you have to be happy. You have to appreciate what you have to be happy. You have to enjoy what you have to be happy.

So he wants to get good enough grades that accurately reflect his ability and still have enough time and energy to enjoy his life. He knows what makes him happy. I’m good with that.