Falling Short Still Hurts

I’m generally quiet when meeting more than one new person. I like to observe for a while before jumping into the fray. My entire life, this has led to people to assign me to one of two categories: mysterious or, more often, snobby/standoffish/bitchy. Being perceived as mysterious is fun (because I actually an open book), but the snob label caused me a lot of distress when I was younger. Fortunately, being called names has lost its importance as I age and the associated upset has dissipated.

In recent months, a similar distress has reappeared from a strange source: social media. I feel bad for not engaging with readers. I’m sorry I’m not promoting the great work of other bloggers. I hate that tweets and comments sometimes sit for days before I can respond to them. These are legitimate reasons to be unhappy with lackluster attendance to social media, but the anxiety took me by surprise.

My preoccupation isn’t about the names the kids at school call me. I highly doubt anyone is saying, “Kerrie didn’t retweet me. What a snob.” It’s that I very much want to participate, but am struggling to even do the bare minimum. That leaves me feeling like I’m letting people down and failing at my goals. Like I’m once again a kid who is falling short of expectations. Except this is worse because it’s my own expectations that I’m not living up to.

Feeling like I was falling short was once my default mode. It was particularly true in my early years of being disabled. The shame of being sick enveloped me and I constantly criticized behaviors that I thought I should have control over (but didn’t… because I was sick). After some intense self-compassion work last year, I thought I was over that. Wrong. The difference is that last year I felt well enough to keep up with almost everything I needed to do. When I couldn’t, catching up didn’t take long. Also, my expectations were much lower. It’s not like I was better at social media a year ago; beyond a cursory involvement, it wasn’t even on my to do list.

That I’ve started to call 2014 my good year is an indication of my current mental state. The temporary backslide that started this spring has begun to feel permanent. It has reignited all sorts of issues I’d thought resolved. Turns out it’s easy to resolve something when you’re not feeling it acutely. Fear, grief, shame, disappointment… they weren’t gone for good, they were just on an extended vacation.

I’m still committed to being kind to myself and avoiding harsh self-criticism, but it’s a lot harder to manage when every day brings several new reminders of ways in which I’m falling short. I can tell myself I didn’t do X because I was sick (and not because of some personal failing), but the fact remains that I didn’t do X. Whether I’m at fault is irrelevant; the outcome remains the same.

10 thoughts on “Falling Short Still Hurts”

  1. I am a fellow observer in groups, and have often had that leveled against me as snobbery. I remember a night over a decade ago, when a group of our friends were gathered. I turned to you and asked, “So what’s new with you?”

    Without missing a beat, you answered, “I’m not very good at this.” As a member of your “let me just settle in before I engage” tribe, I got it instantly, and I’ve used that line many times since. It’s such a powerful example of knowing your limits and expressing them with grace. To me, that’s one of your defining characteristics.

    In this post, you are discussing your own expectations, rather than those of others, and I love that your genuine, thoughtful approach is the same. Except that with your own goals, maybe the line is “I’m great at this, but not *today.*”

    1. Katie, thanks for the kind assessment. What an interesting memory of me. I now try to avoid saying that I’m not good at something, instead saying that certain situations are difficult or uncomfortable for me. It’s a minor shift, but it keeps me from limiting myself automatically. Maybe I could be good (or great) at it, if I dedicated myself to improving in that area. Or maybe I’m OK with how things are. Either way is fine, but both are a choice I make, not the necessary outcome of something I’m bad at.

      Your last paragraph comes at the perfect time. I’ve been alone in Sedona for the month, writing and planning what I want to do next. The biggest problem I keep coming against is that I know I’m capable of everything I want to do, but my time, energy, and cognitive function are determined by something that’s out of my control. I’m finally absolutely confident in my ability to succeed. That’s great, but it’s also frustrating because *today* applies to so many days.

      Thanks for your thoughtful input, as always.

      Take care,

  2. I’m so sorry for all you are going through.

    First, you have been the blogger that has influenced me the most since my daily migraines started. I think its because you are so open, so raw about what you have been through and what you continue to go through…good and bad. Here’s the thing, you don’t owe any of us anything! You give us your time, your thoughts, ideas, emotions, etc. for free. I appreciate what you have to give and understand that there are limits. There should be limits.

    Second, the one thing 2014 showed you is that after so many years, your brain and body are not “stuck” in migraine mode. That it is not a permanent state of being. Your brain remembers how to not have a migraine. I know that you know all of this, but in the midst of things, it’s often hard to have hope. Even so, I know you must be feeling the disappointment that any normal human being would feel after having relief for so long. There are no words for that. I just want you to know that I will continue to root for you.

    I hope I did not overstep. You don’t know me and I really don’t know you. Still, you have been kind enough to put your struggles and triumphs out there for all of us in order to try and help people going through something similar and I can’t help but say to you the things I would say to a friend. I hope you feel better soon. I hope you can be kind to yourself and realize how many people you help.

    1. Hope, thanks for the kind words and encouragement. I wrote this post in the midst of a few difficult days. I’m doing better now, but still struggle with the difference between my goals and dreams and what my body is capable of. I expect that’ll be the struggle as long as I remain in chronic migraine. And, no, you didn’t overstep. 🙂

      Take care,

  3. Ah, yes. Well, I can certainly relate. I’m on hour 72 stuck in my bed right now, and therefore am three days behind on things I needed to get done. Thanks for sharing so we know we’re not alone.

  4. I completely understand this feeling, especially as a die-hard type A. If anyone can understand your reasons for not responding or engaging it should be those of us here in the migraine community. We all understand how difficult it is to feel so much pain and exhaustion and yet look relatively normal. To have countless people judge us and question the severity of our disibility. I hope that for you this can also be a place where you feel no judgement, no expectations, only support. You deserve that.

    1. Thanks, MZ. I know other people understand, but the fact remains that I want to do more. The way I wrote about it was kind of misleading—I don’t care what other people think; I’m frustrated that I have goals I’m unable to meet.

      Take care,

  5. I feel like I could have written this myself. The amount of guilt I suffer because of the limitations imposed upon me by my migraines is staggering. Some of my friends are finally starting to understand the enormity of what I am going through, and that has helped a lot. But I know I need to be gentle with myself, first and foremost. Keep fighting the good fight!

    1. Diane, I’m so glad to see you are getting more support from friends and family. That validation helps so much. And, yes, being gentle on yourself is very important, too. In recent years, I’ve mostly been able to separate myself from things that I (don’t) do because of migraine, but I still want to do more! The fact is, I’ll _always_ want to be doing more.

      Take care,

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