great, this again.

a POV looking downward at two feet on a sidewalk. the pavement is painted on the right with yellow arrows pointing downward, and scratched into the pavement above the feet is the phrase 'i tried'

cw: mental health

I had absolutely one of the most uncomfortable epiphanies yesterday while I was journaling to get my feelings out.

As a family, we are working on a fairly big project this year and we each have the thing or things we’re doing to help this project stay in motion. One of my jobs is to do some specific stuff, and one of my equally important jobs is to NOT do stuff. You know, hands off the wheel when you’re not the one driving. Let the process process without getting in its way. But as it turns out, not-doing-stuff is upsetting me on a bone-aching level, and thinking about it a lot (a lot) led me to this very rude epiphany:

I have a bedrock-deep belief that I, my self at rest, the natural resting state of the being that is Me, am not capable of doing things that matter. Phrased differently: I fail at doing the thing that would keep me & mine safe and okay. Or: I am incapable of follow-through. Or how about: I don’t deserve to feel what success and ease feel like because I don’t deserve them because I can’t actually accomplish anything that leads to success or ease.

My deepest fear is failing. And what, it turns out, I believe to be so true about myself that I don’t even need sources to believe it, is that failure is inevitable. It will get me eventually and I won’t be able to stop it.

Well fucking ouch, Me. That hurts.

Obviously, it hurts because it feels true. It feels like it is such a deep part of myself that it isn’t something that I could work my way through in six months or a year of regular therapy (context: I’ve been in regular therapy for several years). It’s the foundation underpinning so many other assumptions I make about myself and what I can or cannot do.

So, if half of my job during this period of time is to not-do-stuff, what I’m doing in that time is FEELING TERRIBLE, and feeling upset both that I feel terrible AND that I forgot that feeling terrible is my resting state. That I can’t escape it. That I will take it with me everywhere.

Okay, hear me out. This is what I am wrestling with, mainly in my own mind, although now I’ve written it down and hopefully that doesn’t make it worse.

I promise these things make sense to me so hopefully I can describe them well enough that you can at least follow my logic:

  1. If, as my elder has taught me, a ritual begins as soon as you start thinking about it
  2. and a big project is pretty similar to a ritual because of things I’m probably not qualified to explain
  3. and if part of my job in this project-slash-ritual is to be hands-off
  4. which means, for me in this context, trusting that our gods and ancestors have our backs
  5. and are doing their own work in order to help us do this thing we are doing
  6. but I’m getting distracted by feeling so utterly awful because I’ve discovered I don’t believe that I can do any of the things I’m working on
  7. then how long until I fuck it all up?!

I’m getting so in my head about this that I am pretty sure it’s time to tell my elder I’m feeling like this (which is probably something he already knows because I know he reads the stuff I write).

But the thing I’m afraid of the most is that my resting state really is one of unfixable brokenness. I’ve raised several kids up to adulthood now, and I’ve been working hard on deconstructing the evangelical life I was raised in, and I’ve also gone into ‘oh my god I’m queer’ and then ‘oh my god I’m trans’ — which is its own set of realizations and griefs and epiphanies — and it’s not that I think I can’t change, it’s more that I think I can change how I choose to respond to what happens around me but the core truth of me is that I am a failure and have been at the same time absolutely fooling everyone about it.

I know that doesn’t make sense. I know. But do you ever believe something about yourself so hard that even proof doesn’t change your mind? Why are we so shitty to ourselves?

I must have learned this as a child, which makes sense, I guess, but also: can I be DONE, I mean EVER, unpicking all the trauma and untruth from my childhood? I can’t even remember all of it. The proof I have that bad things happened to me is that I believe awful things about myself. Working on my shit is forever going back to the same tangled-up mess of delicate necklaces that I can’t quite detangle, no matter how good at detangling I happen to be. It always wins and I always need to go back to it because I’m never done.

I don’t want to leave you all depressed and/or feeling sorry for me, so please understand that I am really good at digging into my own mental health as well as finding things to distract me from it until I really do actually need to talk to someone else about it, and then I’ll do that. I can believe I’m unable to do anything right and also tell someone who loves me that I don’t believe I can do anything right. And I’ll do that.

But first I’ll publish this because I’m not perfect and my mental health is ragingly bad right now and maybe this will be a little bit of text a search engine finds that helps someone, somewhere, somewhen.


featured image is a photo by Umit Y Buz on Unsplash

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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