Posts Tagged ‘disappointment’

Today I got yet another reminder of how importance persistence and tenacity are, as well as another chance to work on not letting my trauma brain take over. It’s amazing how the littlest things can trigger trauma brain to kick in and start raising my anxiety levels. It’s a little surreal to find myself in the position of middle manager between my healthy, intellectual brain and my trauma brain. Now that I’m capable of recognizing when trauma brain is trying to take over, I can generally calm myself down without having an anxiety attack. Reaching this stage in my healing process makes me feel confident that I’m prepared to ease off my medication soon, which is a goal I’ve had for a long time. I’ve been taking Effexor for about 2 years now, and for the past six months or so I’ve been on an extremely low dose (37.5 mg per day). For the first few weeks that I took the lower dose, I did notice some moodiness and heightened anxiety, but that gradually balanced out. I’m expecting that when I go off the medication, I’ll experience something similar, but knowing that it’s going to get better gives me a lot of confidence that everything is going to be okay.

Back to today.  I got a text message this afternoon from the girlfriend of the bass player in the band I joined asking if I could meet up with her for drinks. She characterized this as “girl talk,” but insisted that it was nothing bad. Still, somewhere in the back of my head, even though I knew that the most likely situation really didn’t involve anything bad happening, I was nervous. Really nervous. My stomach tightened up and I could feel the anxiety coming on. My mind instantly went to the worst case scenario – that this was going to be an uncomfortable talk that somehow involved something going wrong with the band. I recognized that my trauma brain was taking over and told myself to breathe and work through it. Trauma brain insisted that practice last night wasn’t that great…we learned a lot, but it was a difficult night for me vocally. I jumped right to worst case scenarios…my voice just wasn’t strong enough to allow them to keep me in the band; they just really weren’t feeling it; I needed way too much work…

Flash forward to a few hours later. I arrived at the bar for drinks, composed, but still nervous. The conversation started off in a direction that made me nervous, but as it progressed it finally sank in for me that I was making myself a wreck on the inside for nothing. While we were talking about personalities in the band and how the group dynamic developed, I wavered between waiting for the hammer to fall and telling myself that I was reading too much into things. Then she insisted that she had been meaning to have this conversation with me for a couple of weeks and I relaxed…it had nothing to do with last night’s practice, or any other practice. She was trying to give me friendly advice and insight because she wants this band to work, and so do all the other guys in it. They wanted to make sure I was comfortable. Not only was nothing wrong with the band, but she was trying to reassure me that all of the guys in the band (who are guys, and therefore will probably never tell me this on their own) are really and truly excited about having me join. They’re nervous about being too critical or pushing me too hard – which is reassuring in a strange way. I’ve been so worried about making a mistake that would screw up everything I love about this band, I haven’t taken as much notice as I should have of the things that are working well…and there are a lot of them. This goes back to my trauma brain, which tells me not to get too excited over anything, because my past experience tells me that any time something good happens to me, something bad will follow. I’m in a healthy place now and making healthy decisions based on thoughtful consideration, so I have every reason to believe this won’t be the case. Yes, there will still be disappointments and challenges, but those are part of life. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the good things too as they happen.

I left drinks feeling much better, and also more bonded with my band mates, even though none of them were actually present. Learning that they were getting disillusioned about the prospects of finding the right lead singer at the same time I was getting disillusioned about finding the right band mates was a strange sort of reminder that timing does happen at certain times for certain reasons. I truly do believe that we end up in the places we need to be at the times we need to be there for a reason, and this is a case where finally the timing and all the other factors fell into place. All the other bands I auditioned for that weren’t the right fit were trial runs for this one – and it looks like it’s going be a great experience. I love that my band mates have a lot of experience and a lot of technical knowledge that I can learn from, and after the conversation I had this evening I feel even more confident asking for their guidance and input because it’s clear to me now that they are excited about having me grow right along with them as part of the band. They are willing to invest the time and effort that it takes to make this all come together, and that’s the best kind of support system I could possibly have. Finally finding the right group of people to work with who can give me constructive criticism and feedback and help me improve is a really good feeling. I’m grateful for all the experiences that have gotten me to this point – steps forward and setbacks alike.

Someone told me once that attitude is the only thing 100% in my control. For a lot of the past 10 years since he told me that, I’ve been too anxious and too traumatized to really put it into practice in my life…it’s hard to have a good attitude when you’re miserable and depressed and hurt and angry and don’t understand why. I still struggle with this, but it’s good to finally see myself coming out at a healthy place where I can have control of my attitude…maybe not 100% of the time, but I’m working on it.


Jumping Off Points

Posted: February 12, 2011 in anxiety, disappointment
Tags: ,

And cliffs, maybe. Lots of things going on this week. In ever-present grad school news, I got an unexpected email from the chair of my department this evening that said essentially “We need to have a meeting to talk about your relationship with Dr. X in more detail. Tuesday, 10:00?” I can only imagine what this will entail. Probably more mundane details about what Dr. X is failing to do when it comes to helping me get ready for exams. In any case, it makes me nervous when he calls it “my relationship with Dr. X.”

At the top of a completely different cliff, I just submitted a video clip to the AvonVoices contest. The submission part is over, and now I get to sit back and wait to see if I’m selected, rejected, or…what other options are there? This is another one of those things I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to do a year or two ago, so in that sense, I’m happy that I’ve followed through on this. You can’t get rejected  from things if you don’t try, and if you don’t try, you never know what will happen. I promise I’ll post a link if the video actually makes it through the first selection process.

I’m still having a hard time dealing with the rampant drama in my department, and the fact that my main adviser has all but dropped off the face of the earth. He resurfaces every now and then, either because the chair of the department has contacted him to demand that he take care of some specific task (hello, prelim reading list…which I still had to get from another professor), or because he has demands of his own that he communicates through middle men who probably don’t want to play that role. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, because anything I do is going to entail the beginning of World War III. I’m also starting to feel like my professor is using his position to bully me into doing certain things, whether it’s taking classes I don’t need, doing research that isn’t benefiting me, or giving high marks to students that don’t deserve them (all of which he’s done in the past year, before going on sabbatical and dropping off the face of the planet).

Yesterday morning one of my professors that I don’t actually have any classes with right now dropped into my office to say hello and ask how I was doing. She asked how trying to study for my prelims was going, and whether or not my adviser had finally gotten my materials to me. I caught her up to date with the situation, which hasn’t changed much since last semester when I had a class with her, and mentioned that I was considering the possibility of changing advisers if I could convince one of the other members of my exam committee to take me on. She was very supportive of the idea, and suggested a coffee date next week to talk about the idea some more.

Then I meandered down the hall to talk to the second chair on my committee. He technically only specializes in one of my two fields, but he’s brilliant and I’m very lucky to work with him. I asked if he would consider switching to being my first chair…and he said no. For a long list of personal reasons which had nothing to do with me. Even though I understood where he was coming from, it still sucked to be told no. The fact that he recognized it wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear did strangely help, but it is testing all of my newly acquired life skills to manage the fact that even though this person has rejected one request, he is still working with me in other capacities. No matter what he thinks about this decision, I still have to interact with him almost daily. And I have to do it with a great deal of respect, which this professor rightly deserves. Not being able to resort to my habitual default plan (run, hide, cry, scream, have anxiety attacks, sleep too much, be depressed, snap at people, and skin pick, or some combination of the above), was difficult. To be honest, I did pick my skin significantly yesterday, but even this was drastically reduced over what I would have done even, say, a year ago.  I used to pick my skin until it bled…sometimes for hours at a time. Yesterday I lost perhaps a total of 20 minutes to picking. This is on the one hand basically nothing, and on the other hand a little devastating, because I wish the therapy were progressing faster. One of the things I’m still struggling to learn how to do is take a breath and just calm down for a second when things start getting overwhelming. It’s a lofty goal that’s easier said than done.

Back to the opinion spectrum. By 10:30 yesterday morning, I had two opposite opinions about what I should do. One professor said to jump off that ship before it sank any farther. The other said to stay on that ship and patch it up by whatever means were necessary. In the afternoon, in anticipation of yet another meeting with a professor who actually scares me with his enormously high standards, I went to talk to my department chair to get his feedback. He laid out numerous possibilities, some of which were feasible and some of which made me want to throw up in his wastebasket.  I didn’t, and went home to mull the possibilities (which now ran the spectrum from doing nothing to initiating World War III) and pick my skin instead. I was very very anxious about my meeting this afternoon, and lost sleep over it.

This morning, I decided to take a chance and drop by scary professor’s office during his office hours instead of waiting until my meeting this afternoon in the hopes of just getting it over with. He’s actually very nice, but I’m always afraid I’m going to piss him off unintentionally because his standards are so insanely different than anything I’ve ever experienced. It actually went fine, and I left feeling strangely relieved, even though nothing was really solved.

I’ve had four meetings, gotten four different opinions, and still have no plan of action…but I did get my Effexor prescription refilled, have lunch with a friend, and make significant progress in finishing an article that I’ve been working on for what feels like forever. I also picked at my skin a little bit this morning. Not sure what to make of this strange mix of healthy and unhealthy responses.

The bottom line: if you’re going to jump off of one ship that’s sinking, you have to have something else to jump on to. Easier said than done. Especially if you don’t know how to swim. I don’t. But I have every intention of learning.

Some things take longer than others to come full circle. For the past year or so, I’ve been working on putting a band together, which is something I haven’t seriously considered doing since I was seventeen. For most of that time, I haven’t been healthy enough. Being a lead singer requires willingness to be open to the critiques of others, and the ability to accept the fact that some people aren’t going to like you. It’s scary to put yourself out there where others can judge you. This is the same reason I put off looking for a literary agent for my novel…I knew it was going to entail a lot of rejection, and the thought of that was devastating.

The bottom line is that rejection, no matter how prepared you are, hurts. Unless you can add several doses of healthy self-confidence to counteract that, it can be devastating. I’ve avoided that devastation at all costs because I wasn’t sure how to do anything else.

I’ve been on several auditions and played music with a few different people in the past few months since I’ve been looking for bandmates. The chemistry just hasn’t been right with any of them. I knew that finding the right people to start a band with was going to be a challenge, but deep down, the same doubts and lack of self-confidence that I’ve always had have been threatening to resurface. Every rejection makes me wonder if I’m really cut out for this.

Then I have to stop and remind myself that I haven’t done all this work to get healthy just to isolate myself in my bedroom like I’ve done for the past ten years. Every time there’s a rejection, I get another chance to try again, learn from the experience, and improve. It hasn’t been easy putting that into practice, but it’s rewarding – if I’m putting myself in a position to be rejected, it means I’ve put myself out there and I’ve tried. That’s a good thing.

A couple of weeks ago I met up with a drummer who used to play for a fairly well-known band in San Diego. I was a little baffled that he was willing to work with me in the first place, considering how much more experience he has than I do, but so far we’ve hit it off. There are a lot of ways that hanging out with him reminds me of being sixteen again, when I was starting my first band. Last night we played music for a few hours with a guitarist I just met, and then listened to music until midnight, just talking about what bands we like and what kinds of music we want to make. It reminded me of the excitement I used to feel back then, when I still felt like I had all my dreams and my whole life in front of me, even if I wasn’t sure how to achieve them.

I’m finally in a place where I can recapture some of those dreams that I haven’t kept in sight for the past few years. I’m in a different place now physically and emotionally, so the path to achieving them will be different. When I was younger, that seemed like a negative, but now I’m in a place where I can see that it’s just as rewarding and just as worthwhile. I don’t know if this band line up is going to be “the one” that works, and there is still a lot of work to do, but at least I’m on the road to doing it.

…and again…

Disappointment sucks. Everyone has to deal with it; it’s a fact of life. I sometimes feel like I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to manage the aftereffects of crushing disappointment. It’s one of those things…as I’ve gotten healthier, I’ve learned better responses to deal with my disappointment. I recognize that disappointment is normal and it’s healthy to learn how to work through the negative emotions that it brings up.

But here’s the thing: it still sucks.

No matter how healthy I get, it will always suck. It’s one of the things that will always be a factor in life. That in and of itself is a little disappointing. Lame.

When I was seventeen, a teacher told me to always remember that “attitude is the only thing 100% in your control.” It’s advice that has floated around in the back of my mind ever since. And it is excellent advice. Putting it into practice, however, is the hard part.  I have a chance to do it right now, and so far, I’m admittedly not doing a very good job.

I had an audition on Saturday for a band that I really (really) wanted to get into. It was made up of experienced musicians that I could have learned a lot from. At the same time, since they were all in or approaching their 50’s, it wouldn’t have been a band that would have ever left the local area. I put up a good front. I sang my heart out. I was myself, and I was honest. I hit my high notes and had fun. Most importantly, maybe, I actually followed through at did this, and wasn’t a bundle of nerves. That in and of itself is a big accomplishment for me, and I’m proud of it.

I knew when I left, though, that something wasn’t working in my favor. It was just a sinking feeling. The band all expressed positive feedback, gave me half a dozen new songs to learn, and claimed to be excited to work with me in the future…but somehow, I just knew, something wasn’t right. I spent all day Sunday and Monday tied up in knots waiting to hear from them.

They finally emailed me today to say that they’ve decided to continue their search for a singer. No explanation, just rejection. Strangely, I feel better. It’s better to know than to wonder in some cases…at least, it’s easier on the nerves.  Unfortunately, I had very few nerves left by the time I got the email to day. So…in the past 12 hours, I’ve snapped at my boyfriend half a dozen times, cried because little things triggered my emotions, and yelled over a particularly recalcitrant sweet potato. But I’m okay. And it’s going to be hard, but I’m going to be able to use this experience to push forward and come out better than before.

But yes, it still sucks.