Nearly every day, my mind plays the same draining tape: “You are lazy. You accomplish nothing. You should be ashamed.”
Eight or nine hours worked six days every week? They don’t count. Any preparation for my masters program this coming autumn? It wasn’t enough. Any cleaning or other task? I should have done it weeks ago.
My brain settles naturally into negative self-talk. Perhaps that is the reason I return to these thoughts; they are familiar and safe. If I berate myself, at least I am aware of shortcomings. If I praise myself, I might slip into contentment and never achieve anything in life. My frustration propels me forward and forces me to be ambitious.
Another part of me just wants to rest. To keep moving forward but not feel ashamed for having time to relax. To meet up with friends or act on stage or sing again. To just be content with myself.
These past months (perhaps longer) I have tried to convince myself that all of my mental and emotional struggles have disappeared. When my heart starts racing and I can barely breathe from anxiety at work, I berate myself. I traveled around the world; I can handle a simple job back home. When I cannot understand someone’s social cues or instructions, I call myself stupid. Since I don’t fit the stereotypical image of a person on the autism spectrum, I feel ashamed to admit that it affects me every day. Refusal to acknowledge who I am mixed with fear of regression keeps me from being honest with myself. After all, no one can go to China and still have anxiety in public, right?
However, moving to China didn’t make me a new person. Yes, I gained confidence, social skills, and independence. Yet, I am still Anna Rose. I have anxiety, depression, and autism. I struggle with self-doubt, understanding auditory directions, and reading maps (I still get lost everywhere. It’s a blend of humor and frustration.)
I am Anna Rose. I have lots of ambition, a hard work ethic, and a big smile. I excel at noticing beauty in everyone and everything, talking to cats, and reading quickly.
In order to stop these taunting tapes in my head, I need to make a choice. Letting them haunt me is easy but leads to moping and self-hate. Perhaps pausing them, even for a few moments every day, can help me find the courage to toss them out forever.
I don’t need them anymore. They no longer keep me safe. They never did.