One day my life changed.
That day will forever be know as The Accident or The Car Accident. Living members of my family, myself included, uses both terms interchangeably. But it is always one of those two terms. Always.
There are three time frames in my life:
Before The Accident.
After The Accident.
No matter how you look at it, much of my life has been defined by The Accident.
On the surface it seems like grieving their sudden and unexpected death of my mom and sister via a tragedy as a teenager would shape my entire life in countless yet obvious ways life. But, I recently discovered that this event, has shaped my After The Accident life more then I had ever realized. A rather odd observation at this point in my life. How is this even possible?
Me: I screwed up at work work. I replay it in my mind a thousand times over. It keeps me awake at night and I think about it during the day. And yet, rationally, I know it is 150% not a big deal, but I cannot let it go. So, why can I not just let it go? Why can’t I let anything go? Like really let it go, for more then a day or a week or a month? We keep having this same conversation every few months for a few years now. I’m frustrated to say the least.
Counsellor: Talk to yourself. Remind yourself to leave it. Do it over and over again until your finally listen to youtself.
Me: Ya, I do that. But then it just comes back. Seriously, I do it all the time! Do I need to play the Disney movie over a thousand times until that’s all I can think of? How do I do it? How do I really do it?
Counsellor: So, what if I accidentally spilled my coffee on you? Would you replay that?
Me: No, probably not. I’d be burnt, but I’d recover. It was just an accident and that’s okay. I’d be okay with it.
Counsellor: What if you accidentally spilled your coffee on me?
Me: That would not be okay. I’d probably replay it constantly trying to figure out how I could have prevented it and how I could make sure never to do it again. It’s one thing for you to make a mistake, but I simply cannot.
Counsellor: Have you always been like this?
Me: No, I don’t think so. I don’t really remember too much about my early childhood. I remember generally being happy and a few specific incidents, but not too much. My life memories really start at the time of The Accident. And ever since The Accident, yes I think I have been like this. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s my family, friends, work, or anything, I hold on to it. I think a lot of me changed when The Accident happened.
Counsellor: What that word you just said?
Counsellor: At the age of 14 you learned the consequence of an accident is death. As you know it, accidents are deadly and destroy lives. Therefore, having an accident or making a mistake is deadly. And every time you refer to that event you use the same language, and you remind yourself the deadly consequences of an accident. It doesn’t take a brain scientist to realize the way you’ve interpreted this.
Me: Well, evidently it does take a brain scientist, not once did I put this together…
Counsellor: So, for all these years you’ve put it in your mind that you cannot make a mistake or have an accident because it means someone will die. From now on, when you make a mistake I want to you ask yourself two thing:
- Is someone going to die because of this?
- Can I forgive myself?
Given your line of work it’s almost impossible that you will make a mistake that will cost someone their life. And you need to learn to be gentle with yourself.
Me: Be gentle with yourself, now you sound like a doctor after a miscarriage!
(The conversation continued on of course, and this is just a paragraphing of it, but I suspect most readers get the point).
So, my desire to lead a perfect life, might just be rooted a lot deeper then my perfectionist tendencies. In fact, I may now know the exact cause of my insane and deeply seeded fear of failing or even just screwing up.
I guess when you learn at 14 years old that accidents and mistakes kill and destroy lives, that lesson sticks.
But yet, a few days after the conversation I’m sitting here wondering, how do I do this? How do I unwire/rewire my brain after this many years? I’m back to that question of how do I actually do this.
Knowing the cause, doesn’t mean I can fix it. But, I guess it wont hurt to try, right?
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