On today’s episode of Mental Smackdown, I share what happens when an external trigger sets the demons loose in my head and how I attempt to bring order back to the chaos that’s created.
I was having a really good night, feeling genuinely optimistic about life in general. And then my lesson was cancelled. Cue descent into darkness.
I know, I know, so dramatic! It’s just one lesson. Disappointment, sure, but descent into darkness? Really? Financially, it helps me because it stretches my last lesson payment that much further. So what’s my problem? Well, like any good addict, sometimes the only thing that gets me through the day is my next fix. I think it’s been well established that I am addicted to ballroom and my heart and soul gets poured into it. Good or bad, I desperately rely on my two standing lessons to get me through some weeks. I may be hating life, but at least I have a lesson to look forward to. So when that oasis I’m crawling toward turns out to be a mirage? Let’s just say the struggle is real. Still too dramatic? Just wait, it gets better.
But first, let me take a step back. Lessons have been cancelled before, of course. Not every cancellation throws me into a pit of despair (inconceivable!). Timing was an issue this time. I was on an upswing, at the positive peak of my emotional rollercoaster. I knew the drop was coming, but I could focus on my next lesson to help temper it. After all, ballroom is my refuge. Maybe I could ease my mind gently down to neutral instead of cruising past it into darkness. So I thought. The other factor was the weather. If it’s gloomy, I’m gloomy. And it was starting to get gloomy. So I was walking on the edge before my phone even beeped to notify me of a text.
Before I break down exactly what went on in my mind after reading “sorry girl, gotta cancel tomorrow” on my phone, let me be clear that none of this has anything to do with my teacher. Don’t worry, I’ll explain. But he’s an innocent in this story. I don’t know why he cancelled, but it doesn’t matter. The point of this story is to once again put myself out there on the odd chance that someone else goes through the same thing. You’re not alone!
Ok, where was I? Ah, the text message. I read it as I was walking into my apartment late at night. The apartment was dark, but for some reason, I didn’t turn the light on. I proceeded to run into a wall trying to get to my bedroom, which is right across from the front door. No, I wasn’t texting while walking, I had put my phone away already. I also kicked the dogs’ water bowl, which was full. So water all over the floor and fresh bruise on my hand. Nice. The water bowl did not bruise my foot though, thankfully. I don’t know if this part is related to my reaction to the text, but it amuses me because as graceful as I look dancing, I’m a klutz and always have bruises from running into things or hitting things, like coffee tables and walls. I don’t know how I’ll keep my knees bruise-free if I ever start competing in rhythm. At least the smooth dresses cover them!
Anyways, the cancellation triggered a major mood drop before I could do anything about it. What happens when I’m suddenly thrown into the pit of despair? Or the image of the oasis is ripped from my eyes to reveal nothing but wasteland? (I can’t decide what dramatic metaphor to go with.) Well, what actually happens in my little head is a flood of negative thoughts from those nasty buggers, my demons. Things like he’s not doing what he said he’d do (very sensitive subject for me!) and he didn’t tell you why because he just doesn’t want to dance with you. These thoughts are accompanied by unjustified feelings of worthlessness and rejection. Yeesh! I told you, dramatic! But I also told you, nothing to do with Teacher. I wrote about using boxes in my mind to help me separate and focus things. Well, these negative thoughts and feelings were already packed in a box, created because of past experiences with other people. NOT my current teacher. But when I’m caught off guard under the right conditions, that box flies open and everything spills out. And it’s a big ol’ mess!
At this point in the adventure, I am not mentally strong enough to clean up the mess quickly or hold the box closed as it tries to spill. I need outside confirmation that those negative thoughts and feelings are unjustified and should be packed away again without any consideration. In other words, I need the other party to tell me it’s not me. Or rather, I need them to tell the demons that it’s not me. Because I can tell them. I do tell them! But it’s all in my head, so all in my voice. And when you hear the same voice saying different things at the same time, it’s hard to distinguish the words and you end up hearing whatever is being said the loudest. My demons can get very loud. And they like to make me the center of the universe, but not in a good way. If something negative happens and there is no clear explanation, it must be something I did, or didn’t do. Even to the extent of making me think I jinxed myself! Oh, you were looking forward to that lesson too much, that’s why it was cancelled. What?!
It circles around to the trust and expectations I struggle with so much. Poor Teacher hasn’t done anything to deserve this kind of reaction. But past experiences left me in a sorry state, and the brain is very good at finding connections even when there are none.
So what do I do? Start cleaning up the mess and repacking the box. Like I said, my mental strength needs improvement, so I have to use incidents like this as workouts. I have to practice telling myself it’s not me, it’s not my fault, and believing it! And it’s not Teacher either, it’s all crap from the past. Just like I practice my footwork and my frame in ballroom, I have to practice replacing the demons’ thoughts from the past with my own based on the present. How else do you improve? Practice, practice, practice! I’m getting better, it’s been a long time since a cancellation triggered a spill like this one. I can recognize the thoughts that are coming from past fears and hurts and not actually related to the current situation. That’s a huge step! Next big step is disconnecting from those thoughts, so they don’t affect my feelings about the current situation. Luckily, I have an amazing group of people in my life that help and support me, so I don’t have to do it all by myself.
You don’t either! Anyone out there feeling crazy for having what seems like a huge reaction to a small thing, you’re not alone! Your feelings are valid but they don’t always hold the truth. Just because you feel worthless does NOT mean you are worthless. Recognize what feelings are born of the present and which ones are haunting you from your past. Banish those ghosts!
Thank you for joining us today on Mental Smackdown. The demons apologize that it had such a positive ring to it. My mental strength has grown more than they thought!