I Know, Right?

Seven years ago, I was wearing a blue long-sleeve shirt. It was robin’s egg blue, my favorite shade of blue for when I’m tan. A friend came up to me and complimented it. She said it made my eyes look nice. Instead of saying “Thank you so much!” or something else similarly appropriate, I said “I know, right?”

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^That was me banging my head on my keyboard. Literally. That’s how much this stupid little conversation is bothering me. I’m not conceited, or snobby. I just didn’t know how to respond to a compliment because I had received so few over the years.

I can’t stop thinking about mis-steps and mistakes from years ago. I try doing all the little tricks to forget them. None of them work. I’m ruled by my anxiety some days. There’s nothing to do about it, I just can’t shut my brain up. Instead of worrying about things that make a difference, I obsess over conversations from when I was a teenager, which is so helpful. I get overwhelmed with guilt, shame, and general embarrassment. My face and hands start to sweat, and my heart starts racing. I’d give anything to go back in time and apologize to those people.

But nothing changes what I’ve done. No amount of logic is calming my brain down. It’s completely pointless and utterly unhelpful to have a panic attack over something this trivial. I still had a good half hour of not being able to do anything.

I make lists in my head of all the things I’ve done wrong that made no difference in the world. I think of all the little things that have hurt my family or friends. I beat myself over the head with them because I don’t know what else to do with them.

It’s hard to deal with this kind of anxiety, because there is no possible way to explain it completely. Someone once asked me why I was crying and I said, “I spilled tortilla soup on my bosses shoe in 2005!” They asked if I had spilled a lot, or burnt her, or something. Nope. It was a tiny drop, but her shoe was soiled!

These scenarios inevitably leave my companion of the moment bewildered, or convinced that I’m “overly dramatic.” I wish I could change it. It just feels so real to me in the moment that I can’t help but feeling it.

This is intrinsically tied into my PTSD. I have so many strong associations with being “bad” or “wrong” that anytime a new one comes up, it is added to the roster of my flashbacks. This means my brain has a never-ending supply of guilt, shame, or self-loathing. It’s good to know I’ve got my own back, and a knife to stick in it.

As an update: I still feel like crap, and have been emotional all day. So has the Girl. We may both be the victim of the weather, or some kind of minor sickness. I hope it goes away.

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20 thoughts on “I Know, Right?

  1. zooey

    “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” — Christopher Germer This was the quote for today on my site. You forgive others for stuff, do the same for yourself.

    Reply
      1. zooey

        When my IT chants at me, I chant back the same thing over and over. Maybe finding a phrase like that will help. Example: ‘That was then, this is now.’ ‘What’s past is past, time to move on.’ ‘I’ve learned from that.’

        Most likely that person doesn’t even remember that conversation. 🙂

  2. Pati Cook

    Personally, I think your response, in the case of the shirt, was fine. Nothing wrong with being “proud” of figuring out something like which color brings out the color of your eyes (or similar stuff) and acknowledging the fact when someone mentions it.
    On the other hand, I think we all have those moments in the past that we cringe about now. Whether words or actions. It is a part of growing up. Mistakes are how we learn. The problem comes when you don’t learn from it.
    The key is learning not to beat yourself up about it, acknowledge it and keep on keeping on.

    Reply
  3. TheFakeGourmet

    Every time you start obsessing over one of these conversations/events (and we all do it from time to time), you can punish yourself by MAKING yourself spend 5 minutes thinking of some other occasion when you did something right. Maybe it will help you shift your focus?

    Someone told me once that when my kids were spending all their time complaining about a teacher/class/activitiy, to make a rule that for every negative thing they said, to make them come up with a positive one, just for balance. Balance is the key.

    I can’t guarantee that it will work, but it might be worth a shot.

    Reply
  4. therealsarahc

    I have to agree with Pati Cook. There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance and accepting a compliment by conquering with it. But I understand where you’re coming from. I do this to myself often — looking back on things my former self did and said that still cause me shame. This morning, I was in traffic, letting my mind wander as I so often do. I was thinking about my mom and how much I miss her. And suddenly, I remembered this fight that we had when I was a high school student, over a project that she was helping me with. I was having a hissy fit because she wasn’t helping me enough (meaning: she wasn’t doing all the work). Later, my poor mother (this kills me to this day) came and apologized TO ME for not having complied with my selfish request. Not long after that incident, she passed away from cancer. Now I look back and think how much time I wasted taking her for granted… I want to go back in time and throttle myself for being so damn stupid.

    Reply
    1. Rory Post author

      I know this all too well. My last interaction with my father before he died was “I’m busy, can we talk later?” I never talked to him again, but he didn’t die until months later.

      Reply
  5. Amy

    I often lie awake at night panicking about something I did or said decades ago, just like it happened five minutes ago. Why do I do this to myself? I don’t know. It seems like I am determined to find reasons to hate myself, and to convince myself that everyone else hates me too.

    Reply
  6. Michelle

    I get that. I do. I recall a conversation that I wish I had different with my first grade teacher. In 1969.

    I would be willing to bet that this conversation that your worrying over is only remembered by you. I know that doesn’t make you feel better, though.

    Reply
    1. Rory Post author

      You’re correct, and it doesn’t. At least, not when I’m anxious already. I work hard to keep it in mind when I feel anxiety coming on, though.

      Reply
  7. laura

    Wow, thank you for writing this and also for others’ helpful tips. I struggle with this constantly (and also have ptsd), so what you said makes a lot of sense, especially about how it triggers the general “shame” bank. I’m going to try some of these strategies! What I’d also like to be able to do is figure out how to slow myself down and be more in control of my mouth so that I can stop adding to the already long list of things I’ve said/done about which I immediately feel pretty stupid afterwards, but I guess that’s another story…

    Reply
    1. Rory Post author

      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad this helped. I can’t stop my mouth either sometimes, so I dunno what to tell you there!

      Reply

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