The Third Day of Griefmas: Aw, Crap. I Screwed Up

I apologize for not posting yesterday. By the end of the day, my brain was full of cement, and I couldn’t finish my jobs.

It happens sometimes in depression and grief. And it happens in “regular” life, too.

When you’ve screwed the pooch, it can be hard to decide whether to let yourself off the hook, or grab your cat ‘o nine tails and bloody your back.

Let’s… Um… just a sec.

Critter is tapping my shoulder.

“Hey Critter. Can you hang on a second? I want to apologize to everyone and make a point about shitting the bed when you’re low.” I say to my imaginary raccoon/garbage-munching mental health therapist.

She twists her head down toward my lower back, puts her nose into my waistband, and snuffles.

“HA! Quit it. That tickles.” I say.

“I don’t smell anything,” she says as she emerges. “No shit here.”

I roll my eyes.

“I didn’t literally shit. It’s an expression. To ‘shit the bed’ means you screwed up; dropped the ball; failed to perform.” I explain.

Critter tilts her head as she absorbs this.

“People are strange.” she concludes.

“No doubt,” I answer.

“Anyway,” she sighs, I heard something about whipping, and I hoped we were talking about sex again.”

I chuckle.

“Not this time, Critter.” I say.

Critter droops. I scratch behind her ears, and her frown flattens into a lazy smile. She crawls up onto my lap.

“I was referring to emotional self-flagellation, beating yourself up when your brain crashes and you miss your mark.” I explain. “I think there’s another way.”

“Well, sure there is,” Critter says. “Whipping can be fun.”

I raise an eyebrow.

“Hush, you. Take a nap” I say, and give her heavy strokes from scalp to tail until she melts into a fuzzy grey puddle on my thighs.

Okay… where were we…

Oh, right. I missed yesterday’s post.

I was afraid this would happen. When I hit publish to announce this daily series, stomach acid splashed up into my mouth. I normally post once a month or less. I knew daily output would be hard for me, and I dreaded this moment when I fell behind.

I am sitting here with itchy armpits, feeling a combination of shame and desperation to get back on track. The good thing is, this gives us a chance to talk about the Catch-22 of Emotional Overwhelm:

When you’re low, your brain runs poorly. The hallmark symptoms of depression and grieving (like fatigue, indecision, and difficulty concentrating) mean that you can’t do everything right now. Stuff is going to fall through the cracks.

That’s a problem, because life hasn’t slowed down just because you have. People need you, and you can’t deliver what they are expecting.

It hurts to see their disappointment. If you’re not careful, depression will attack you right then. Like a serpent’s shadow, it will slither into your ear.

“You’re disgusting. You need to pay,” it whispers.

So you punish yourself. You turn up the soundtrack that says, “I’m useless, I’m damaged, I’m a waste of flesh and bone,” and you mentally just lay down on the floor and listen to it, like Daryl Dixon at the Saviors’ Hotel.

Every time you repeat that garbage, the lights inside your skull dim a little more.

My counsel to you tonight, and to myself, is this: FIGHT THE LIE. It is crippling you more than your sadness ever could.

The only way to fight lies is with truth.

Today, I’m starting here:

Truth #1: I feel awful because I didn’t follow through on my promise. My word means a lot to me, and I hate to show people that I can’t deliver what they need from me.

Truth #2: What matters to me, even more than being impeccable with my word, is getting this job done.

I WANT to finish this series. I want to put these posts out there and spread whatever comfort, chuckles, and strength that I can.

So, even though I’m shaking because I fell on my face in front of all of you (these posts have reached almost 700 people so far!), I’m going to get up and keep going.

And I hope that you get back up, too.

If there are things you have let fall while you struggled through this season – lost your temper with your spouse, ignored your kids, bailed on social plans, or left your boss and clients hanging… I want you to take a moment right now to regroup.

  1. Listen to your inner voice; can you spot the lies among the whispers?
  2. Sort out your rat’s nest of feelings: What is the truth in there? What is the MOST important thing to you?
  3. Decide: if you can’t conquer everything right now, which tasks will you focus on?
  4. Get back on that horse; do your most important thing.
  5. Apologize. This can be the hardest part. We worry how people will react – will they be angry? Will they berate me? Will they bite off my head and spit it on the floor and paint the walls with my arterial spray?

In my experience, a genuine apology almost always brings peaceful relief. Usually, people appreciate it when you acknowledge your mistake; they are relieved to hear that you haven’t forgotten or dismissed their need.

When I apologize (and I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it’s HARD, and sometimes I do it in a, “Yeah, I’m sorry that I got out of line, but as long as we agree it was really your fault, I won’t feel too bad about it,” kind of way) but when I do manage a real, honest apology, I think of it as an opportunity to tell someone they matter to me. That’s a lot more motivating than fishing for forgiveness, knowing that they may not feel like granting it.

As I finish typing this, Critter stirs on my lap. She lifts her head, eyes closed, and then stretches out her arms and legs in an enormous yawn. She smacks her lips a few times, then cranes her neck to look up at me.

“You done?” she asks.

“I think so,” I say. “It’s not my most exciting post, but I think it needed saying.”

She raises herself up to peek at my laptop, and I scroll for her while she reads it through. Then she turns back to me and puts her paws on my chest.

“It’s not your best, but it will do,” she says. Then, she adds, “It’s better when I get to talk more.”

I laugh.

“I know, Critter. Next time, okay?” I answer.

“Alright,” she sighs. “Can we talk about sex next time?”

With a firm maybe, we’re going to leave that right here.

So, go ahead and face your “aw, crap” moments this Griefmas. And remember, somewhere out here, Critter and I are rooting for you.

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