Yesterday, I reluctantly bowed out of my last remaining extracurricular activity, a music group I’ve participated in since before this all started. Intellectually, I know it was the right and mature thing to do. But I’ve slept so little in the last several days that I’m not sure I can trust my own decision-making. My mind plays tricks on me when I’m tired, or otherwise stressed, from pain, weakness, or loneliness. Yesterday, I did nothing all day, unless you count laundry. A full day of rest kept my shoulder pain relatively manageable, and when the pain goes down, the doubt goes up. And that doubt brings with it my well-practiced, hypercritical inner monologue.
You’re a quitter. No-one can count on you for anything. You’re not in nearly as much pain as you were before, so now you’re just being lazy and selfish. It’s not as bad as you make it out to be. You should be at that rehearsal right now, instead of getting ready for bed at 7:00 at night.
I have excellent reasons for quitting, of course. I’ve already had to miss several rehearsals, and the mercurial nature of my pain level makes me reluctant to commit to performances, because I simply do not know how I will feel from day to day. It’s a small ensemble, and with performances in less than a month, it was time for me to make a decision so the group can plan accordingly. Since I can’t imagine how I might feel a month from now (and none of the medical professionals caring for me is willing to go on record with an estimate), the better part of valor seemed to be to step down. However, while it’s likely that the long performances would be too much for me to handle, it’s still possible I could be well enough by then to join them on stage. And then the inner critique will swell to a shout, and the voice of my better self will dwindle to a whisper.
Where does all this guilt come from? I have a serious and debilitating injury. I need to avoid any unnecessary activities that cause me strain, and a two-hour rehearsal every week certainly qualifies. But I am already heartbroken to have to let go of my last remaining social activity, and when I e-mailed the group to let them know I had to bow out, they sent lovely and sincere condolences. That made me feel even more guilty. They’re such good people, and you’ve let them down, and that’s just like you. You’re not worthy of being with people like that; you never finish anything you start. My self-critic can weaponize any situation, no matter how innocuous.
I don’t know why I still struggle so much with being kind to myself. If I were my own best friend, I’d have been completely supportive of this decision and gone on to suggest that, all things considered, it might be a good idea to incorporate more days of doing nothing but laundry into my schedule. I would have given me a nice long hug, and I would have assured me that I was doing the best I could, and told me I was impressed by my strength and perseverance through what must be an incredibly hard thing. And I would say how sorry I was that I had to go through this, and that I didn’t deserve it and it wasn’t my fault. And as I write these things, I am overcome with sadness. I realize that I wish I heard them more often, because I’m not sure I believe them.
But I should be saying these things to myself every day, because they are true. I am doing the best I can, and that is very well under the circumstances. I have nothing to feel guilty for. There is nothing wrong with going to bed at 7:30 at night when I’ve barely slept the last five nights counting. I am in need of special care right now and there is nothing wrong with that, either. There will be plenty of time later to decide what kinds of activities I can commit to once I’m feeling better. Now is the time to rest and repair, and be as gentle with myself as I am with all of my loved ones.
I am worthy of that, and I do deserve it. And maybe, if I keep saying it to myself, over and over, I will finally start to believe it.