TL:DR - not meeting our own expectations; learning to fly at a lower level. I know - I talk too much.
This is similar to past threads, but possibly with a different slant. It’s more of a general discussion topic than Personal Diary entry. (Probably.) It’s similar to:
and a lot of others. It’s different in that what I want to talk about isn’t so much as missing who you were and what your old life looked like as much as missing who you thought you would be or are supposed to be. (I think my role here is emotional ballast, or maybe just to explore the philosophical side of MAV. Idk.)
I was raised to be everyone’s savior. Not a good childhood. My parents tried, but they really weren’t prepared to be parents and never did pull that skill set together. Neither is a happy person; both are lonely people. In my mother’s case, it’s a mental illness. My father’s just living in the aftermath of a train wreck of a childhood. Much baggage. As the smart, quiet, not as sick as the other one, my job was to take care of everyone else emotionally, and also in the case of my younger sister, to be a secondary mom. There was much drama and trauma. Two broken adult children with one disabled child and me. Concern for me personally was low; expectations were high.
My dad was a very strict fundamentalist minister when I was growing up. My mother worked for child protective services directly dealing with removing abused children from their homes. Between the two of them, my childhood was an extended morality play. The upshot, is that I’m supposed to be perfect in every way, thin, beautiful, tall with wavy golden hair, successful, self effacing, the provider to everyone, famous and the general savior of the world - or, failing that, it’s martyred saint. No pressure.
I expect that every child coached to do or be far greater than their parents, experiences this constant sense of never measuring up - and just keeps trying anyway until they break. It’s the Horatio Algiers story combined with American Exceptionalism writ small. MAV is that final straw that taught me where my breaking point is. (I’m still harder than the press, mind you, but I’m in great need of side stepping it for a while.)
So, I won Grand Prize at all the science fairs, and was the Northstar Elementary School’s Superstar in my last year there. I was the HS valedictorian. I beat the HS record on the SAT by a lot. I took on a rigorous and punishing STEM education that didn’t suit me in the least, but was required for world saving activities. Needless to say, I failed in that endeavor. Not only did I not save the world; the world doesn’t want saving.
I have a cousin who did measure up. We were raised together. He went from the trailer park to the C-suite of Google and then Space X. Right, no pressure coming from that comparison.
In the last five years I have - maintained a truly happy, healthy marriage; made a lot of friends; started, grown and operated a successful and very demanding small business; had minor surgery (three times) and a major surgery (all in 2016); had about 400 doctor’s appointments including 100+ PT sessions; had an ER IV migraine cocktail; learned to distinguish between pain and discomfort and that the 1-10 scale is exponential; gained and lost the same 25 pounds three times; developed chronic MAV (2017 though I’ve always had it to some extent); tried and failed several MAV drugs; raised a couple of teenagers and basically lost my shit.
Lost my shit? Yep. Not in the flamboyant public way - yet. If migraine is a global disorder of the central sensory system that puts our brains in constant fight or flight, I’m the poster child. (Anxiety lives in my chest; depression has the whole house at the moment. It outgrew the shoe box house I made for it - again.) I’ve been in fight or flight for so long, I’ve forgotten what safety even looks like - emotionally anyway and to a large extent safety from the chaos that lives in my biochemistry. Which is hard, because I’m supposed to be all things to everyone. I was speeding right along but now appear to have lost a wheel on the highway. I should have a T-shirt that says ‘excuse my cringe’.
I guess we can only take so much stress for so long. And we can’t avoid grief about who we thought we were supposed to be or how we’re supposed to feel. MAV is forcing me to re-think everything. In the last two weeks my doctor told me I need to take ‘at least a month off’ if I want to avoid an epic crash and burn. My therapist separately stated if I worked for a regular company instead of owning my own business, she’d write me a prescription to take 3-6 months off on Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits. She suggested a month is too short and that if I don’t take the time, I can coast for a few more months and then likely enjoy an involuntary stay at the St. Joe’s Psych Ward for a while. I really wanted to argue with her and laugh her off as melodramatic. I couldn’t. I don’t know if she’s right, but the fact that I’m still debating it suggests the truth. Even my dermatologist told me to take a break and re-group. (What the hell?! I came in asking for help with my PCOS related acne and rosacea. No dice, just mental health tips from him - and a cream that makes me break out even more.) Evidently the chinks in my armor are showing. And my MAV thresholds are hovering around ankle level.
To quote a MAVerick friend, “I feel like I am fighting a battle I can’t win. I can’t make peace with the status quo neither can I give up fighting. Pretending to be sharp versus my old naturally sharp self is proving to be taxing.” Master of understatement, that one. I’ve been in a state of on-going grief at the shutting down of my once stellar potential and the loss of who I thought I was supposed to be. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. Hopelessness. Overwhelm. (Not suicidal though, that went when Effexor went.) It is really hard to accept a new normal, especially as I run out of classes of meds to try, or lose interest in living with the side effects. I’ve said it before, chronic illness is an extreme sport and an endurance race. It absolutely challenges who you thought you were, where you thought you’d be. It makes you feel like you can’t contribute or that you’re constantly failing - at work, at home, as a person. We suffer and grieve silently while pretending everything is ok. Because MAV doesn’t stop our obligations to our family, friends, coworkers.
I don’t have a smiley homily or philosophical profundity for this one. I’m on uncharted ground. How do you reconcile who you are with who you thought you were supposed to be? There is so much peer pressure in America to be successful, wealthy, beautiful. We are judged by such superficial things.
I figured out I was never in charge of saving the world. I made choices that took me on better paths that suit me. Still, I’m having real trouble with the superstar that isn’t. How is a solo proprietor supposed to back away? How am I to provide for my family? How am I to face myself in the mirror when I realize I’m not Superman but was just Clark Kent all along? How am I supposed to put myself - my own physical and mental health - first? It sounds decadent and shameful to my ears (but then fear and shame are a big part of my dad’s shtick and self loathing practically defines my mother, so maybe it’s not my ears.) Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others around you, I guess.
Here’s one thought: Your Work Peak Is Earlier Than You Think - The Atlantic. MAV just gets us there a whole lot quicker. MAV is forcing me to reinvent myself based not on my superstar qualities, but based on my frail, beautiful, powerful humanity. It’s long overdue.
Here’s the other part of that conversation I was having with my beloved friend, this time from me, “I told all my clients I am preparing to take a month long medical holiday. God bless them, they are good to me. Every single one told me my health is more important to them than any deadline. They also ALL said they love me. I live a charmed life.”
I guess I’ll take what I’ve been given and run with it. No idea whatsoever where that puts me in the next five years. Maybe I still have a company; maybe I don’t. Maybe like Chris (@Hammet89), I’ll be graceful and reinvent myself into something that works with MAV while letting me be the person I was always meant to be - just an ordinary person with a lot of love to spread. Maybe what I’m looking at isn’t and end to a dream (one that wasn’t working anyway) and is instead an open door of opportunity. MAV has a way of offering gifts in disguise. Now, to find the courage. The motivation is already here.
(So where do I send the $35 co-pay for my therapy session?)