The should’ves consume me
Envelop my body and bury me
neck deep in quicksand.
My fingernails are black and bloody
trying to claw my way out.
My chest heavy.
I. Can’t. Breathe.
Claustrophobia eats me whole
Walls thickening, windows shattering.
I should’ve done the dishes already.
I should’ve exercised.
I should’ve called my mom.
I should’ve gone to bed.
I should’ve. I should have…I should…I…I…
“Should. It’s an interesting word isn’t it? It’s the biggest clue about what is going on…
The thing that leads most people to feeling depressed is not about reality. It’s about expectations versus reality. It’s about the word “Should.” It’s not the reality that is causing the problem, it’s the expectation.”
Today on Facebook, I stumbled across this article. Shared likely because May is Mental Health Awareness month. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, and visited/s a therapist at different stages of my life, I have started to identify my anxiety triggers.
And mine are the “should haves.”
Otherwise known as the expectations that my mind, my subconscious has construed at some point:
Expectation that I should be somewhere in life and that doesn’t measure up against where I am;
Expectation that I should be able to cope with life better than I feel I am coping;
Expectation that I should be a better person that I think I am.
There is a lot of truth and familiarity in this article. Pinpointing exactly where a person’s “should haves” stem from can be a complicated process. I do believe they tend to live in a person for a long time, regardless if they actually surface or not.
While I have always been a worrier and a nervous kid, I am not quite sure exactly from where my “should haves” stem. In many ways, I think I have always been my own worst perfectionist. Perhaps because I was the “odd” kid out — not interested in sports or ANYTHING my siblings did. I always wanted to take my own path in life. The whole “not fitting in” and “not being good enough” trigger an array of emotions in me, even now. Another part of me, the now unreligious me, wants to blame the “Catholic guilt”; knowing that even as a young kid I did not believe in many of the teachings but being told if I didn’t that I basically would “go to hell.” I am sure it is a combination of all of the above and at this point, isn’t what is important. At least not anymore. It keeps me stuck in the past and not focused on the present.
What is important is knowing when my “should haves” are triggering and embracing the emotions and finding positive ways to cope. Maybe through excessive cleaning or maybe through sleeping or meditation or painting or writing. Whichever the chosen coping mechanism may be — knowing that eventually it will pass and that it will be okay. That I am okay.
If you suffer from depression, anxiety, or another mental health illness, and do not have a positive and productive self-care coping skill, please seek out professional help. Unfortunately, mental health illness is often a silent illness. But there are many resources available to help you. If you do not know where to start please feel free to reach out and I will try to connect you someplace.
A huge thank you to wakeup-world for sharing Dawn Walton’s article “You Are Depressed for a Reason… But It Is Not What You Think” and to Calvin Merry on flickr for use of the excellent photo. Both mediums have contributed and inspired me to write and share this post.