One of the most difficult things about recovery is being able to give myself credit for my achievements. It’s a recurring theme during my sessions with my therapist, I’ll share something positive that happened since our last meeting, or I’ll recount an example of my mindfulness in practice. She’ll ask “Can you give yourself credit for that?”
I’ll reply with something along the lines of “I get why it’s a good thing, I can view it rationally as a positive, but I just can’t seem to emotionally congratulate myself or give myself any credit for it.”
If I begin to feel some anxiety and can stop the negative thought processes in their tracks, that’s good, right? It’s a step forward from how I was a year ago when I would let my anxiety envelope me and pull my down for days. But for some reason, I tend to view my ability to deal with it not as some great accomplishment, but with a dismissive and judgmental “So what? There are millions of people who don’t allow anxiety to slow them down, you want credit for it?” My instinct is to downplay it, to not be proud of the achievement. I feel guilty about it sometimes. Imagine that- feeling guilty because of something great you did. This isn’t about being humble or modest (just ask my friends). I can do the whole cock-of-the-walk thing when it comes to something like winning at trivia night or joking with family and friends. But when it comes to achievements with my struggles with depression, anxiety and alcoholism, I cannot bring myself to appreciate the progress.
Later this week is the anniversary of my suicide attempt and, the following day, my soberversary. I have some strange feelings about it all that I’ll address in some other posts, but I want to keep this on the topic of giving myself credit. I was down visiting my parents this past weekend and like me, they know that these dates are fast approaching and each of them at different points during the weekend took some one-on-one time to tell me how proud they are of me and the progress I’ve made in the past year. As they each concluded with a hug I was feeling incredibly guilty.
Guilty because I sometimes wonder what progress has actually been made. I’m still depressed and anxious. I still live at home. I still sometimes feel directionless at work and in my personal life. I’m still overweight and too inactive and make too many unhealthy choices. These are all the things that run through my head when they congratulate me. But before you get too worried, I also know that I have made progress and I recognize that while I’m still depressed and anxious, I’m managing it. Through therapy, medication, mindfulness meditation and being more open about my struggle, it’s not as bad as it was a year ago. While I’m feeling kind of directionless, I’m sober, managing my finances and have myself in a position of stability compared to where I was last year to make good choices about those things. I’m still heavier than I want to be and less active, but the truth is I have lost weight in the last year and am not downing ten beers a night. It’s not that I don’t recognize the progress. It’s that I struggle giving myself credit for the accomplishments and feeling good about them.
So I want to ask, what are some ways to recognize the achievements? What have others done on their anniversaries of sobriety or of surviving a suicide attempt? How do you give yourself credit for these things and take pride in the progress that you’ve made?
1 thought on “The problems I have patting myself on the back.”
I know this is probably bad, but sometimes when I get that way, I compare myself to those that aren’t coping as well as I am. “Yeah, lots of people manage their anxiety really well, but others don’t, so I should feel good that I’m in the top half.” Not the nicest, but since we’re being honest… I guess you could alter it to say “I didn’t used to manage my anxiety well, but now I do, so I’m better than I once was.” A little less condescending.