My greatest fear used to be a fear of Failure. I remember sitting in session with my first serious twice-a-week therapist (the Great and Amazing Kate) and discussing this fear.
“Failure is insidious,” she said. “You don’t have time to fear it, because it happens in tiny ways, small bad decisions, and it’s over before you even notice it’s coming. If you are worried about failing a class from the beginning, you probably won’t fail the class.”
I’m paraphrasing most of that, but she definitely said that failure is insidious. I remember that language, because I had to look it up. Google says it like this:
sly – treacherous – guileful – crafty – perfidious
Yesterday, as soon as the clock passed 1:00 pm, the time I was supposed to be at work, as soon as I knew I wouldn’t go, I knew it was over. I had failed to keep my job. It happened just the same way.
Here’s what was gradual, subtle, and harmful: I did not admit to anyone, not even myself (especially not myself!) that I was not taking enough anti-anxiety medication. We had agreed, Dr. P and I that 4 mg, stretched out over the course of a whole day, might be enough. I had held myself to that number even as my sleep disappeared and my thoughts scattered. Even while I looked over my shoulder, convinced that someone must be noticing all the mistakes I must be making, even if I couldn’t quite name the “someone” or point to specific mistakes.
I refused to admit that there was a pattern emerging in my absences from both babysitting and school jobs. That I couldn’t go a whole week without missing a day. That the mom I babysit for had a real point when she called me on it. That I was crying too often. That, on the weekends, I couldn’t so much as walk the dog without freaking out.
I have not learned to fail gracefully; I don’t think it’s possible. But I have learned to fail with humility and with a sense that I will learn something.
I have learned that even when I fail, I am not a failure. I do not feel that I, as a person, am a failure. I can examine my mistakes to learn from them, to learn about where I am. I take that knowledge to my husband, my therapist, my psychiatrist(s). And I move forward. In fact, I am blessed. So much help. So much support. So much love. With all this love, all this family and these friends around me, how can I be a failure? It’s not possible!
And so, I accept that I lost something I should have held onto. That I also did the best I could. That I also sabotaged my own efforts. That all any of this means is that I must accept the fact that I need more medicine.
Another therapist, Monica, once told me that I draw “lines in the sand.” 4 mg/day? A line in the sand. I must learn again and again that these are not real boundaries. That I must cross the boundaries I create if that’s what it takes to keep me healthy. That my health matters more than the stubborn attachment to The Best Way to do anything, especially if that Best Way is something I made up and didn’t tell anyone about.
The quickest, most insidious way to failure is to embrace denial. To pretend that everything is ok, even as it spins out of my control.