I know what you’re thinking.
That’s great, Clarkisha, but how is that relevant? And what does that have to do with me?
As always, that is an excellent question and maybe to you, I am just spouting straight nonsense and uttering unintelligible musings. But if you are any kind of survivor who has encountered the mental fuckery that ensues when you no longer have to just “survive” anymore….this is relevant to you and you know what I’m talking about.
So, where to begin? Ah, well, if I were to give you the equivalent of a roundabout ESPN highlight, I’d say that I spent the first couple of days this year dashing all my petty fears and it paid off in a *major* way. A surprising way. And a fairly romantic way. All ways that are foreign to me and usually elude me.
I slid into someone’s DMs. And it…worked? I was NOT roasted. And now I cannot believe that my Chicken Run ass took this long to say something, mostly because saying that we have good chemistry and that good times await would be such an understatement.
Now fast forward to some weeks later and a bitch. just. can’t. stop. smiling.
It’s…odd! I should be relishing this newfound giddiness, right? And the stomach flips should be fun, right? And what of the butterflies?
Shouldn’t I be leaning into that too?
I should. Normal people would. In fact, normal people wouldn’t question such happiness. Or elation. Or straight-up JOY! But my depression and my PTSD have equipped me with an [un]healthy suspicion when it comes to good things happening in my life. In whatever part of my life. Some, like Teen Wolf, call it regression to the mean. Except in the case of Teen Wolf (and you know, psychology), the phenomenon has more with extreme things happening in a singular place or time in your life and eventually swinging back to a place that’s more neutral, so to speak. This means things won’t always be terrible but also won’t be great 24/7. For me, the negative side of this phenomenon is usually what I experience and it manifests itself when life is either going great or okay, but I can’t help but think that shittier times are ahead and that I would be naive to not prepare for them. That I would be remiss to just throw myself fully into my happiness because I don’t want to get caught off guard by something catastrophic because I was too busy being a sap.
I call it the “When Will The Shoe Drop?” Syndrome. And because I’m me, I take it further. There’s always a question of how long my happy situation will last. If I’m projecting. Whether this is truly a reality or just an illusion. And if there’s a person who is one of the focal points of said happy situation (be they a friend or whatever), there’s always the additional question of how long it will take before they grow tired or annoyed with me. Or if someone put them up to this. Or if, quite frankly, they took a wrong turn and simply ended up here. With me.
This string of unhealthy hypotheticals always threatens to rip me from the happy situation I’m currently in and put me in some of the darkest corners of my mind. I know this because it’s a pattern of mine (and perhaps yours, too) that I’m fairly aware of and that I have been trying to break and not succumb to, for a very, very long time.
I remember when I first discovered this was a thing (college). At first, I thought it was a normal thing and that it was just my way of looking out for myself and not being so quick to fall for the okie doke. You know, because I was being wise! Emotionally cognizant. Wiser beyond my years.
Basically, all ways to tell me that my trauma had effectively changed my life but, you know, make it fashion!
Still. I thought I was so smart. I thought I had life all figured out. And then someone on Twitter succinctly stated that there was no way for us to thrive (but mainly me) with the coping mechanisms we had developed and refined for survival. And that doing so was a recipe for ultimate failure, and most importantly, self-destruction.
It left me shaken for a really long time.
I say this because normally I would have ignored such a fairly topical and pointed tweet (because I’m so fucking headass), but because I had briefly dabbled in therapy before I couldn’t afford it anymore, my therapist had made it clear fairly quickly that some of the coping mechanisms that I had used to draw lines of demarcation between me and my family or to emotionally shield myself would bring me nothing but misfortune in the future.
“You have a tendency to be self-destructive, [redacted],” she once said. And this is before she dragged my life by pointing out how weird I get about happiness. And how I eventually isolate myself from the person or thing who is bringing it to me. Compare this realization to that oddly-specific and well-timed tweet and I found myself asking myself why the fuck I was like this and how the fuck I could possibly fix it.
If you’re anything like me, maybe that’s something you have been asking yourself too. And the truth is…I don’t have an easy answer for you. I’m lucky because my person in question has known me for a minute and is semi-aware (semi because I’m not so sloppy that I’d reveal all my good and bad quirks all at once LOL) of how…neurotic…I can be sometimes. And they’ve also made it safe enough for me to talk about this shit with them so they that they have the chance to reassure me when I’m doing the absolute most. I realize everyone doesn’t have that and I don’t really take that lightly.
But still. What are we, recovering survivors, to do in the interim as we attempt to return to “normal” and untraumatized lives? With or without help in tow? Again, that’s a good-ass question. Part of me is sometimes self-defeatist and wants to accept that this is just my reality and that I have to come to terms with the fact that happiness, if it doesn’t elude me, will never sit well with me. But the other part of me knows what a crock of unhealthy bullshit that is and how it is ultimately imperative for me to unlearn all this shit.
And that’s the thing, too. Unlearning unhealthy survival coping mechanisms is a tall order and it doesn’t happen overnight. But it must be done. Because one (unless you’re a bigot) deserves nice things and one can either
develop new ways to truly handle said nice things (like happiness, contentment, and joy) or they could face the possibility that the various ways in which they “survived” in the last couple of years will surely destroy them if left unchecked.
It’s your move.