Feel Like A Failure? You’re Doing It Wrong!

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Those of us who struggle with mental illness are really, really, good at this one thing: feeling like a fuckin’ failure! Everyone I know, no matter their illness, no matter where they are in their wellness, at some point or another expresses the fact that they feel like they’re not rockin’ the road of life. 

Why are we so hard on the hard parts of our existence? Simple. Because we don’t “fit in.” We’re misfits, all of us, in our own special way. Most folks are wandering the world without a haze of debilitating depression or extreme social anxiety or our brains telling us we absolutely have to touch the doorknob 12 times before leaving the house. And watching them human around makes us feel like we’re not humaning correctly!

We compare what we’re not doing to what everyone else is doing and draw the inevitable conclusion that we’re not doing life right at all.

There was a period of my life where I didn’t work at all. Like, 4 years. And if you’ve ever met me outside of the blogosphere this probably would shock the shit out of you because I am pretty much a recovering workaholic. (I’m using the word “recovering” a little loosely here.) This was also the period of my life where I had back-to-back-to-back Major Depressive Episodes and was so resistant to treatment that it nearly cost me my life. Twice. 

Now, if I step outside of my own experience and look in, it makes perfectly logical sense that I wouldn’t be working. Uncontrollable shaking, going mute for days on end, and the inability to raise my arms doesn’t exactly sound like a great way to get through a work day. But when I was in it, I felt like the world’s biggest, most utterly useless piece of shit all because I wasn’t punching a time clock.

It took me years, YEARS, to get over the shame I felt for not going all Mary Tyler Moore and taking on the workforce. Never-mind the shame I should have felt for spending years of my life not taking care of my mental health.

We get it twisted. Period. And we do it because we’re comparing our lives to people who have never ever experienced even a fraction of the kind of struggle we’re going through. I wanted to work because everyone else was working. The less I was able, the worse I felt, but I never considered the fact that all of those briefcase Betties were walkin’ around with functional, healthy brains, which was why they were able to put in the 9 to 5!

Embracing the fact that you have a mental illness is a journey. I’d love to tell you I could write a quippy blog post that will get you there, but the truth is that you’re the only person who has the power to do that. And while people like me can encourage, support, and advise you, a doctor can give you the tools, but you’ve gotta put in the work. 

But once you own it, and I mean really own it, all kinds of awesome things will start happening for you and you won’t be trying to live a life that absolutely can’t conform to the reality of what it means to be you. Which is, by the way, what you’re doing if you feel like you’re failing. 

Once you’re able to accept that you are who and what you are, you can stop comparing yourself and your circumstances to people who are nothing like you!

We all play the comparison game! It’s in our horrible human nature. We look at things other people have and the things that other people do, and we assess the state and value of our own lives against that. Sure, some people might tell you that you shouldn’t ever compare yourself to anyone else, but that’s a level of personal peace I’ve never come close to finding and I’ve never really met anyone, outside of a monk, that can say that they live that way. 

So when you compare yourself to others, be real! Who are you comparing yourself to? When I started shifting my focus to people who struggle with the same conditions I have, guess what happened? It’s probably obvious so I’m only going to continue writing this to keep you in suspense. Like in the movies where you know exactly what’s going to happen because 1) it’s totally fucking obvious and 2) all of the new ideas in Hollywood get thrown out long before the movie is shot so you just end up with the exact same plot twists over and over until you say “screw it” and stop spending your money at movie theaters because who wants to fork over $20 for stale popcorn and the same plot you’ve seen played out by maddeningly skinny mavens too many times to count?! 

Sorry, sometimes I gotta rant. 

Anyway, what happened was I found out that a lot of people like me deal with the same crap storm circumstances I do. They’ve gone through periods of unemployment. They’ve looked for love in all the wrong places. They’ve allowed ultra toxic people to move into their minds and strip them of every ounce of self-worth they had until they full on snapped and nearly didn’t recover! 

These people, my people, YOUR people, know exactly what it’s like to live with the challenging challenges that come along with mental illness and, even better, many of them are doing better than we are, which always gives us something to strive for, hope for, and fight for!

So, the next time you’re having a sulk sess and swimming in that feeling of failure, take a step back and ask yourself why you’re beating yourself up for dealing with the difficulties that come along with having your illness. Reach out, talk to people who share the struggle, get all up on the Horribly Human social channels and check out the rockin’ people who participate in mental health discussions! I bet my bottom dollar (wtf does that mean?! Bottom of what? Where am I placing this dollar and why can’t you have the one on top? The top one is way more accessible, right?) that you’ll recognize that yes, it sucks, it super sucks to not currently be in the place you want to be, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get there. 

That’s the thing about journeys; ya gotta go through to get through.
Alicia Gibson2 Comments