Conquering Fear.

February 14, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Posted in Crazy Talk (aka: Therapy), My life | 15 Comments

A couple weeks ago, when O threw a massive fit in the morning right before we had to leave and I was nearly at my wit’s end, I climbed into the car, him sobbing in the backseat, and started crying myself.

And I remember saying out loud: I am so tired of being scared all the time.

I’m going to be honest.

I can’t say I’m thrilled with the amount of money I’m going to drop into my therapist’s lap this month.

Truth be told, it’s giving me palpitations. Anxiety.

The idea that I’ll have to do this for multiple months and still not get any better makes me nearly panicky.

And because I want to be better, I’m working hard at GETTING better.

Which honestly, isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds.

What it requires? The ability to take a step back and look at myself as a person, from an outsider’s viewpoint.

Here’s what I see.

I see a woman who seems to have it all – a good looking husband who is engaged in all things domestic and parenting, a gorgeous, smart, empathetic son who adores her, a full time job that affords her flexibility at a very good salary, a nice house in the suburbs with land and great neighbors. A woman who runs half marathons at a pretty decent pace in her spare time, who seems to take care of herself, who has a great family and friend support system.

Yet I’m plagued with fear. Every day.

And until this past week, I wasn’t certain what, exactly, it was that I was AFRAID of.

(And if I’m being honest, I’m not certain that I know for SURE why I’m afraid, either. This is about as close to it as I can get, though.)

I CAN’T have been the worst kid to raise. I was pretty thoughtless, and I wanted to do my own thing, and incredibly resistant to my mother’s control freakishness.

And though my parents’ criticism of me was because they were thoughtless, and young, and stressed… well, over the years I assimilated this view of myself.

I call her my Inner Critic. And she’s pretty damn mean.

I’m fat. I’m lazy. I’m no good. I don’t work hard enough. I’m not worthy of being loved.

Calling her my Inner Critic sort of gives it objectivity, like it’s something I can turn off at will.

I can’t.

She’s pervasive.

You might call me an overachiever. Which is true. The overachiever in me finds some measure of happiness by getting BETTER at something, working hard and seeing results, knowing that if I put my mind to it, I am CAPABLE of doing amazing things.

It can be good.

But it’s NOT good right now.

Judy’s death reminded me that I haven’t spent enough time with my family. And since she’s gone I STILL haven’t talked to my uncle and cousin and made plans to go down and see them.

Infertility – well, yeah, it’s a big Fail. I can’t control it and we’re not getting pregnant. Somehow I’ve taken this to mean that the universe thinks I’m too fat, lazy, and no good to be a parent to a sibling for O.

Work – well, it’s not going great lately. I’m paranoid since they keep finding excuses to fire people in my department. And with the death of my aunt and the cycling and OHSS and obsessing over ART, as well as some other things outside my control with some external vendors this year, I’m not meeting the objectives I set for myself in the beginning of the year. Which means I’m average, not above average, when I’ve ALWAYS been rated above average. And I’m freaking out because average = fired to me.

My marriage is faltering because all of this makes me feel like I’m useless and no good and lazy, especially when J steps up the tasks list. So instead I work work work WORK WORK WORK even though I desperately need a break from our task list. And Fail in reconnecting with him because I’m too damn tired to yell at him for not understanding that WE NEED A BREAK.

And with O?

Well, I grew up afraid of both of my parents. I DO NOT want that for my son. So I bend over backwards to make sure I’m ALWAYS on call for him, patient, kind, dancing around the tantrums and trying to motivate him to do something he doesn’t want to do like put on his coat/get into clothes/change his diaper/go outside.

I’m so good to him because I’m afraid of making him fear ME.

Because at some level, I still think I’m no good.

I say all of this not because I want comments that say “Oh, Serenity, you’re amazing, I wish you could see it.”

I’m saying it because *I* want to see it.

I’m tired of living my life in fear, worrying about everything, working my ass off when nothing is good enough for me. Beating myself up over some decision I made years ago/yesterday/am going to make tomorrow.

I’m tired of it. I want to be HAPPY. Like really happy, the kind of person who CAN leave dishes in the sink and the living room a mess with toys and see past the dust in her car and not be ASHAMED of it.

I want to swim and run because I LIKE it, not because I want to go faster than I did last time. I want to look at other runners who are faster and fitter than me and be okay with the fact that I’m as fast as I’ll ever get.

I want to accept me for WHO I AM, instead of trying to be better and more responsible and supportive and patient and kind and [insert vision of some unattainable goal here].

I need to figure out how to BE me and let go of the idea that I SHOULD be something I’m not.

To that end, I borrowed this book from the library. Not only because it’s written by MY IF author – the one who helped me take my life back from infertility when we were trying the first time – but because it seems to have been written for me.

And my focus since I realized this has been to identify times where my Inner Critic starts berating me.

It happens a LOT.

I had no idea how pervasive it was.

I haven’t yet figured out how to talk myself out of the fear. It’s something that I’d like to discuss with my therapist and find tools for in Ali Domar’s book and figure out how to work around the fact I don’t feel worthy to feel happy.

But it’s a start.

And I have to say that, even now, I feel a lot less overwhelmed.

Right now, anyway.



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  1. It is really really hard when you see the world that way. I know, I’ve been there. When nothing is good enough and the fear is so thick it sticks to your tongue. I won’t say that you are amazing (though you are) because you won’t really believe it. But I will say that I have faith that one day you WILL see it. *hugs*

  2. I have an inner critic, too, that was also birthed from over-critical parents. I think you are taking the first step in making her voice quieter (I don’t think she ever goes away, at least she hasn’t for me). Just knowing when you are hearing her, when it is that your inner critic is talking diminishes the powers of that voice. Once I could recognize that it was my inner critic talking, I could also start questioning where it came from. Was it from reality or from the ingrained thoughts I learned growing up? Most of the time, it was not from reality.

  3. Not that you need any addvice or more books, but I found this one to be particularly helpful in working on my inner critic:

  4. I think you are doing a great job of realizing yourself and your issues and to actually recognize these faults or perceived faults is a huge step. We cannot “fix” the past, but we can move on to the future. And I think you will find your future self happy and healthy! šŸ™‚

  5. I don’t know, but it sounds to me, a non-professional, like you need at least 2 things:
    – time away from your routine of working yourself to breaking point
    – time to find yourself and figure out who serenity is now, and who you want her to be
    – and maybe, time to talk with your hubby and communicate your feelings honestly to him

    But I don’t know for sure, I can’t promise what I say would be helpful. Sorry about the financial worries, that can’t be helping things. šŸ˜¦ best wishes with everything. You will find your strength, I know it!

  6. thank you for helping me realize i’m not alone. we’ve all got our inner critics and i’m dealing with the fear one too. and i totally can relate to you what you do with O. i am always bending over backwards to make sure my girls know how much i LOVE them cause i didn’t always feel loved and i wonder if that is where some of my insecurity comes from.

    you’re doing an amazing job at identifying what needs to be worked on. i think i might check out that book…

  7. I understand this … and almost wish I didn’t. The therapist is like any expense when you’re not well … you wouldn’t think twice about paying a doctor’s bill for your son, right? I’m really glad that you’re doing such a brave thing for yourself.

  8. Love you bunches, and hope you’re able to make great strides over time. You’re taking great first steps now.


  9. If it helps at all, I can really relate to all that you are saying here. I am finding more and more that many women seem to have a similar problem in their 30’s. One theory I am forming is that maybe we high achievers keep on going and going, and then in our 30’s we have achieved a lot of what we set out to do, married, kid or kids, own a home, have a pretty good job, and suddenly, not only has that not managed to make us feel we are living happily ever after, we no longer see achievable goals to be working toward in order to achieve the happily ever after. That, of course, sends us into a tailspin of feeling like nothing will ever make us happy and what the hell are we doing here? Just my thoughts. Keep on working on it. I’m glad to see someone else working on figuring out how to be happy in life. I’m in the trenches with you. Battling one day at a time trying to live in faith not fear, focus on the good, and being grateful and happy. It is a struggle and I hope you know you are not alone. If that helps at all.

  10. OMG, I am RIGHT there with you, sista! I was commenting to my husband last night and a fried yesterday that since part of our home study process requires that we write an autobiography, I’ve had to examine my childhood in a way that most adults are not called to do. And, even though I describe it as “happy” the truth is it is not what I would call happy if it were happening to my son. We were intimidated by our parents, especially our father and driven and pushed in unhealthy ways because my mom wanted us to have more or better than what she had.

    I won’t go into all here, other than to say that I hear you on the inner voice, the loop of mean self talk, of being an over achiever for sometimes not good reasons, and wanting to be sure that I don’t instill that in my son.

    One of the most powerful Oprah shows I watched was some years back and it was on mothers and how they were passing their negative self images (sometimes unconsciously) onto their daughters. And Oprah said something like, “Being a parent means NOT passing your wounds on to your child” and that has stuck with me all these years.

  11. Well my sweet guess what ? I have no advice. HAH.
    Here’s the thing, I DO think you’re amazing, I do wish you could see it, I do wish that you knew how much I envy that life of yours…but I know how you feel. That until YOU feel those things, what good are my words? Hey. doens’t mean I won’t keep saying them, but I do Get need to BITCH slap that inner critic, because she’s a FAIL too.

    I was afraid of my parents too, but I want the boys to be just a tiny little bit afraid of me and J. I want them to have a healthy respect of the part of the equation that is “I’m the PARENT” but I know how you feel, I never want them to look in my eyes and see thier fear there either.

    I hate when my car is messy or dusty, I hate leaving dishes in the sink and for me no book is going to change that, I’ll spend time with my sons, but I will also do the dishes, that makes me happy. It’s weird but true.

    You have so MANY GOOD THINGS happening in your life and you need to get there…and know that those people around me, see ALL THE GOOD….and love you just the way you are.

  12. It is hard to write a post that’s this honest. I know your blog is technically anonymous, but I think there are a bunch of readers you’ve met in person (yay!), so it probably makes it that much harder to be open about how you feel. It definitely shows you’re doing a lot of reflecting on why you feel this way, and I think that is really important. I definitely give Ali Domar a thumbs-up, too. And although I obviously can’t fix it, it does make me sad to think that you feel this way. As you said in your post, you DO have a lot going for you, plus you are sweet & nice & a good bloggy friend. So I really hope that the therapy helps you to make some progress.

  13. I’ve been there, done this, but didn’t have my hubby or son at the time. I’m sure it would have been much scarrier if I had.

    I don’t think I’ll go into detail here, but I will say it was very hard to work through and come out OK on the other side. I did “see someone” and I found a way to recognize the “inner critic” that was killing me.

    I can tell you that I’m MUCH happier with me now, and I’m able to let go of things that hurt – criticisms, failures, leaving the dishes overnight. I’m OK with it, and that makes it OK. It took a while to get there though. I’ll tell you it feels damn good to get to the other side – when your feet get planted firmly under you again. šŸ™‚

  14. I have felt like that SO many times in my life too! I guess I’ve always lurked on this blog because I appreciate your honesty. It’s nice to know that it’s not all flowers and roses for everyone else and that some people feel like I do! I lurk though because I don’t have the IF experience and don’t want to offend (I also read your blog to gain knowledge which helps when I do assessments for IF couples).

    Anyways, back to my point (and good God, I do have one, I promise). I really appreciate your honesty! I think there are a lot of women out there who also feel overwhelmed and scared but don’t admit it. I’d rather be us!

    I too wish I had more money to drop on therapy right now. I’ve always felt it should be free!

  15. I feel like I appear that way on the outside too — internally, it’s a crapshoot.

    No advice. Just hugs.

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