This morning I had an altercation with my wife.
I wouldn’t call it a fight – nobody called anyone names and nobody yelled. There was just an instance of me being called on something I had been doing for some time, and my reaction to it.
It all started when I reached for my checklist this morning and remembered that I missed one very simple thing yesterday that would have given me a perfect day and got upset about it. Internally, I was kicking myself for missing such an easy task and my wife tried to console me about it.
That’s when I pointed out that I exercised yesterday, something I rarely do anymore because I’ve been waiting for her to come home from work in the evenings so she can join me and invariably we both get distracted and don’t exercise. In my own self-directed anger, I came across that I blamed her for my not exercising.
Naturally, she got defensive. She raised her voice, but never yelled. She pointed out that yet again she was being blamed for something I failed to do, and that it wasn’t fair of me to make this a habit – which is true.
But the second she raised her voice I went into full panic mode.
I shut completely down and basically let everything go in one ear and out the other because I couldn’t stand the fact that I’d upset her to the point that she was being critical of me. In my head I was listening to every other time anyone had ever criticized me and the red-hot embarrassment that I felt in being called out on my actions. I was deeply ashamed at myself and I was losing myself to my shame.
And the longer this went on the more I obsessed over it.
It finally took the distraction of the outdoor kitty wanting attention for me to start getting back to normal and watching a new movie trailer to fully snap me out of it.
But I still reflected back on all the embarrassments of my life for a long while after that, and the shame that I felt during every single incident.
And I realized that every single time something like this happens, I’m replaying dozens of instances where I felt shame.
Now, I’m not saying I didn’t deserve it. On the contrary, I’m glad she called me on what was errant behavior on my part. It’s something that I’ll need to work on in the future. But I couldn’t separate this instance from every other one that I’d experienced where I’d felt the same thing, and every single one of those past occurrences came back just as fresh as if I were experiencing it for the very first time.
I don’t know why I do this. I wish I understood so I could work on it. But this happens any time someone is critical of me. Call me thin-skinned, I admit that I am, and that I need to suck it up and learn to deal with criticism. But I cannot for the life of me stop this tidal wave of the past crashing down on me every time I’m criticized for anything, and I have no idea how to do so.
Now imagine me at work, receiving criticism from my supervisor.
It’s always been everything I could do to hide the fact that I was rapidly going almost catatonic in an attempt to hide from the shame and those kinds of rebukes, the ones from work, always resulted in weeks of me being terrified that I was about to lose my job. Which invariably cause me to make more mistakes, which brought more criticism and shame and terror that I’d lose my job, until I oftentimes did.
This is likely one of the biggest issues that I need to work on in therapy but I’m so often distracted with the day to day goings on that I’m failing to address the big stuff.
I need to cut the crap and get serious about getting well. I only have a year left on my disability before they reevaluate it, and I need to be ready to go back to work at that point, because we cannot afford for me to lose the disability payments without replacing them with employment income.
The clock is ticking.