I run away from everything. In the last (almost) four years, it has seemed like there is almost nothing too big for me to run from.
Here’s the test: am I going to have to take responsibility? Admit fault? Will I have to be vulnerable, talk about my deficits, or parts of my past? Well then, I just won’t. I’ll lie, hide, run, do anything to avoid the emotion. I can lie without a second thought if it means that I won’t have to acknowledge difficult emotion.
The habit snuck up on me, really. It started so simply: I can’t call into work and tell them that I’m too depressed to get out of bed, so I actually have food poisoning. It might be a couple days.
Oh, shoot, I just spent $1,000 on things that I thought would make me feel better and now I can’t pay off my credit card. (Wait, what credit card?)
I made a mistake. I jumped back into work too quickly and a chose a job that was too intense. I had to quit suddenly and with little warning because if I kept going I wouldn’t survive. Except, I’ve left a wake: $3,000 owed here, $2,000 there, and lots of people looking for explanations. So, I’ll just stop picking up my phone, delete the voicemails as soon as I get them and pretend I never heard them.
I’ve moved back to my hometown. I need to buy groceries, spend time outside, walk my dog. Except, I might run into people I knew before I got sick. I’ll have to explain why I live with my dad, why I don’t have a degree, why I’ve gained weight. What if they ask about where I’m working? I’ll have to say I’m not. What if they don’t understand? What if they think I’m lazy? Entitled? I can’t handle that, so I won’t leave my house.
I haven’t written a blog post in a few weeks. I talked it up so much, how passionate I was, how excited I was, and now I’ve petered out after seven posts. What do I say? What will they think? What if they don’t believe me? What if they think I’m just another millennial looking to make my mark on the internet? Well, then, I’ll just pretend it never happened. I’ll stop checking Twitter, ignore the emails to update my website, and brush people off when they ask.
Sounds productive, doesn’t it? A great way to keep moving forward in my life and recovery, right? I know it’s not. Actually, confronting how much I avoid things is another thing that I’ve been avoiding. The other day someone asked me: “What do you do when you are put in an uncomfortable situation that you cannot leave?”
I (the woman with an answer for anything) had no answer. I’m just never in a situation like that. It has been so long since I’ve been in an unavoidable situation that I can’t even remember what I did.
I am the Queen of Avoidance; it is my first and only line of defense, and it is starting to bring my recovery to an absolute halt.
Even things that don’t seem avoidable, like conversations with my dad (we live in the same, small house), I can avoid mentally. I shut down. I stop listening, I stop talking, and I focus on one little thing. Is that spot on the wall dirt or a bug? Are his drawers out of order? Is the wash done? When will this be over?
I’ve been in a wonderful CBT program at a local(ish) hospital for a couple months. I meet once a week with a wonderful nurse and we talk about strategies and coping mechanisms to help me get better and stay that way. It’s been wonderful, but it’s not like my talk therapy, it’s an informative, class-like session. We use some things from my own life as examples, but we’ve never dived too deep. Last week, she asked me about why I get so anxious about other peoples’ opinions of me. As is typical of CBT, every answer I gave was met with ‘why?’ to try and get to the root of the problem (my ‘core belief’). I wasn’t prepared for her questions, I didn’t want to get into the messy web of pain, hurt, and betrayal that has led to my wariness. I knew I would dissolve into tears, it would take forever to explain, and maybe she wouldn’t understand. The last nurse I tried to tell didn’t understand.
So, just like the adult that I am, I tried to brush her off. I’m fine. I don’t want to talk about it. I read the same paragraph on the page in front of me over and over so that I wouldn’t have to think about it. I looked everywhere but at her. I wasn’t able to listen to more than half of what she was saying. Before I knew it, our session was over and I went back out to my car. I drove away crying.
No matter how hard I had tried to avoid the pain of my past, it had come around anyway. Was crying alone, in my car, actually better than discussing it with her? Was it going to get me anywhere better? I mean, obviously it wasn’t.
I’ve gotten to a point in my recovery where I am ready to start facing my anxieties and solving some issues, but I haven’t. I’m too busy avoiding the possibility of being uncomfortable that I don’t have the opportunity to try or change. Yes, going outside still absolutely terrifies me most days, but at some point, I’ll have to do it. It’s going to suck. I might have a panic attack. But, I’ll use the strategies I’m learning and it’ll get better over time.
If I just keep avoiding taking the first step, I’ll never get the chance to go anywhere at all.
The truth is, I just hate being vulnerable. I hate it when other people see me cry. I hate when they feel sorry for me or have to clean up my messes. I hate that my dad walks my dog because I can’t even imagine the possibility of forcing myself to do it. I hate that the only reason I’m not getting better is because I’m standing in my own way.
I avoided my blog for almost three months because I didn’t want to have to feel anything about it. Reality is, it wasn’t so bad. If someone said or did anything about my absence, they would be the outrageous one, not me.
I want to get better. I want to improve. I want to move on. I, apparently, just don’t want to be the one to do it.
What about you? How has avoidance factored into your life?