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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That’s an incredible epiphany – I am glad you worked that through with your counsellor. I hope that this awareness helps you rewire your brain and enable you to forgive (and forget!) when you make a mistake. Try to extend the same kindness and understanding to yourself that you do to others. I get it – I am the SAME way. I go over my mistakes over and over and over and I fret and fret.
Maybe rewiring your brain is just a matter of practice. Over time, it’ll end up being your default mode, just like being too hard on yourself is right now.
It felt like a pretty amazing epiphany, particularly since it’s been over 18 years since the car accident. I have no idea if I’ll be able to rewire my brain, but for some reason I do feel like awareness of this fact will make a difference, somehow.
And thanks for sharing that you too do the same thing, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one! And as you say, I hope you are also able to extend the same kindness to yourself.
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I’m very much the same way- replaying my mistakes or accidents in my head over and over and over again and not letting it go. I didn’t experience the tragedy that you did, but I suppose I must have my own “cause and effect” like of fallacious thinking happening too. I find it interesting that there seem to be a parallel between the Accident and your experiences TTC, with the deaths and all, and to me, it makes even more sense why you chose not to continue to pursue treatments to try to get/stay pregnant again. There’s only so much death and loss that a person can handle. I hope that this breakthrough you had with your counsellor helps you to work through even more branches of sadness.
I am sorry you are the same way with replaying mistakes. I always figured it was my type-a personality shining through, and part of me still thinks it is. But I do see a link to The Accident now which adds another layer of complexity.
You make a good point about the cause an effect between The Accident and TTC/RPL. My counsellor and I didn’t talk too much about, but it’s been in my mind all weekend because there is definitely something there. And I guess, what I keep thinking is that my body made a mistake and it had deadly consequences…. I’m struggling to process that and make sense of it. I’m thinking I’ll be writing on that subject soon enough.
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What a revelation. I hope you are able to use this knowledge to be easier on yourself. I constantly marvel at the fact that life is really lived in our own heads. A powerful thing for sure. Hugs to you.
Thank you my friend. I still think my reliving mistakes in my head is also part of my type-a personality, but this realization definitely adds another layer to the way my mind works. Here’s to hoping I can practically use this realization to be easier on myself.
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You are not alone. I go over my mistakes too over and over in my head trying to figure out how I could have avoided it. Your counselor is amazing.
If you learn any tricks to un-wire your thought process, please share them. Just know, you are not alone in this battle.
So far this morning I am loving learning that I’m not the only one who does this! Not that I want other people to live in their minds the way I do when it comes to mistakes, but it’s nice to know it’s normal! (I hope that makes sense) 🙂
If I figure it out, I’ll share. But somehow I doubt I will. At least not anytime soon.
Also, you are right, my counsellor is amazing! I am beyond thankful she’s been part of the last few years of my life. I honestly do not believe I’d be standing here today if it weren’t for her!
Good, hard and meaningful work. Yeah for you! The thing that has worked for me is that anytime I have a negative thought enter my brain I say to myself (yeah not out loud or people look at you weird) “Cancel, cancel, cancel” and then immediately look around and just observe my surroundings and note them “Look at that kid on the skateboard. he is good. the sun feels warm, etc” This has produced amazing changes in my life. You can find more about this by visiting https://chelhamilton.com/
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Oh my gosh you are right, it’s “good, hard and meaningful work”. Thanks for the strategy idea and the link. I’m absolutely going to try it, because at this point I’m willing to try just about anything to redirect my thoughts in a healthy and positive way!
Our mind can be such a complicated thing but yet so simple. It is often hard to rationalize things when you are so close to the subject. You are making great strides! Thinking of you.
Thank you so much Jo. You are right, often our minds can seem so complicated and yet so simple all at once, and this is one of those instances for me.
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Wow, that sounds like a great session. Now that you understand what’s going on in your head, you can hopefully learn to side step the obsessive thinking. Sounds like you have a fantastic doctor!
It really was a great session. Normally they are only 30 minutes, but we managed to talk for almost 75 minutes and it as so helpful for me and really just what I needed right now. I am truly grateful to have her in my life and a member of my support team! She’s amazing!
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Wow! What a revelation as to how the accident has affected you. It makes me think about how things do change us in our lives especially these tragedies like you have endured. Very powerful post!
It was a very powerful realization and something I just had to share. As you say, it truly is amazing just how much significant events and moments impact us.
Have you ever read up on and tried http://www.thework.com by Byron Katie? It is an amazingly powerful exercise I learned to help reprogram my thoughts. It helped me through my infertility thinking. Check it out… I think you might find the 4 questions useful. I worked through a lot writing down my questions and answers and the best part is the process is available online for free!
I have not heard of this resource, I am absolutely going to check it out! And I love that it’s free. Thank you so much!!
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Glad to help! Let me know how it goes
It’s so great that you have someone to talk to and that can help you work through everything so that you can have such a great epiphany. I hope that you are able to be easier on yourself going forward. You are such a strong woman and I really admire that in you. xo
Thank you for your kind words. Honestly, I am so fortunate to have stumbled upon this counsellor when I did and that she’s stuck by me through everything in the last few years. I simply couldn’t imagine being in the place I am today without all of her help!
You could have written this about me….I also had not put together that playing conversations and actions over and over in my head was connected to an accident…not that dissimilar to yours (although I lost my dad instead)…that makes a part of me makes sense. Thank you for sharing 🙂
Trying is all you can do. After a big trauma life does divide into before and after – trying to integrate the trauma back into the fabric of your life as a continuous path is not easy. I had this for many, many years, with something that happened a long time ago, and it took years plus a good counsellor for me to aee my life as one line instead of two halves, but we got there, in the end. And I believe you can too xxxxx
Wow. That there is breakthrough material. She nailed it! I think you can do it. It is like any big change we make, it takes small steps to get there. I had terrible anxiety culminating in panic attacks 5 years ago and it has taken me lots of therapy and effort to change the mindset but I am doing it. I am not there, not as well as I could be and this pregnancy certainly makes it hard but I can look back and see the progress and it truly has been small steps. I make mistakes and I stuff up but i just have to get back on the path and keep trying the things I know that work for me. I truly believe you can find the things that work for you. And honestly, I think you have done a remarkable job of being a pretty awesome person after what happened to you at a formative age. You could have gone massively off the rails and people wouldn’t have judged you for it after such a traumatic event and yet you’ve grown up to be a pretty awesome together person if you ask me. That is a testament to who you are and why I know you can change the pattern of almost a lifetime if you want to, bit by bit by bit. xxx
Well I’m glad that she at least helped you realize WHY your mind works the way that it does. It may take a lot more to figure out how to change your way of thinking. I wish I knew why I do the same thing that you do, replaying things over and over and over. If she gives you some other exercises to help you get over this way of thinking, please share!! I hope that this will help you heal a bit more though, and help you work through things that bother you.
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I do this all the time (replaying how I could have done things differently) but as I’ve gotten older I am more able to see what I’m doing and consciously try and let it go (as Elsa would say!). I know I’m not perfect and it’s pointless trying to be. I think the first step is recognising the patterns and then it’s practice. You are very introspective and insightful so hopefully it is something you can incorporate into your thought patterns… Nobody ever gets it 100% right. All we can aim for is the 100% and be happy if we get over 50!
This is such a great post…Wow…I do the same thing as you…replay “mistakes” in my head over and over again…like I can change it?! I did not have a tragic loss like you, but I can see how that would make it that much harder for you. You are such a warrior and such an inspiration with all you have been through in your family life and infertility life. Thank you for always sharing it all…you are helping so many 🙂 xoxo
Wow…I wouldn’t have put that together. I don’t know how you can rewire your brain, but I do hope you can at least in most instances. I can’t even big to know how this feels for you. Although I know that accidents can have deadly consequences, it’s not something I’ve had to live through in the way that you have. Sending you love and big hugs. You are one determined Woman, and I have no doubts that you will find a way to rewire/unwire your brain at some point. It will take a lot of work, I’m sure, but you are not afraid of hard work.