The Ideal Self is an idealized version of yourself created out of what you have learned from your life experiences, the demands of society, and what you admire in your role models.
My former ideal self was a smart business owner and writer who had a funny blog and a thriving consulting business. She also wrote a book.
My real self was, and is, a person living with a chronic illness with symptoms that would never allow for any of that to become true. Symptoms like brain fog, racing thoughts, and clinical depression. I’ll get into specifics of each symptom in subsequent posts but here’s the definition of brain fog so you can get an idea.
Brain fog can make a person feel as if the processes of thinking, understanding, and remembering are not working as they should. It can affect their: memory, including the ability to store and recall information.
I clunge so desperately to my vision of what life should be. Of who I should be. Even though I could never be.
I wanted to be like everyone else.
But my brain isn’t like everyone else’s. I kept getting disappointed. And depressed. I remained insecure and I was my own biggest bully. Brain fog made me feel stupid, like a loser, and to me, there was nothing worse I could be. It was unacceptable.
It felt like my mind was a melting pot of chaos. And I wasn’t making it any easier. I was too busy trying to improve myself instead of healing myself.
It was a vicious cycle that was powered by a disturbed mindset. A mindset that said I was the problem. And if I would just change the bad qualities that were bestowed upon me by MS, I would be able to live a happy ideal-self life.
My mind was an unsupervised circus and I attempted to reign myself in with therapy, meditation, medication, spiritual stuff, Instagram quote stuff, religious stuff…ALL THE STUFF. I just wanted to feel better. But mostly, I wanted to achieve whatever goals I set for myself at any given time.
I probably released an ocean’s worth of cortisol during this time because as I’ve said, that is impossible.
My mind didn’t allow me to let go of my expectations until it was ready.
It was a Thursday in January 2019 when it finally clicked. I was in therapy and verbalizing my racing thoughts. It just came out.
“I am a sick person playing the role of a healthy person.”
I shocked myself, and when the doctored uncharacteristically nodded his head yes, I knew it was time.
Saying it out loud made it real. But also, I had reached a dead end. Each time I tried something new, I did some mental gymnastics and found ways to convince myself this time was different. I wouldn’t fail because (insert skillful justification here.)
This time I tried to become a freelance writer and editor on Upwork. I was chill about the process but quickly learned I’m not capable. The market demands 5000 words for $2 and quick turnaround times. I’m slow like molasses. I realized there was no way I’d be able to deliver quality work consistently.
I gave up one last time. I retired. I was tired, mostly of myself. Things needed to be different. I had a new goal: no new goals. Retirement was about taking it easy. I had spent so much time on my self-help journey so I was already equipped with a mental health tool kit to take me through my days. I also had a new responsibility that was more important: Valentina.
Not trying to live up to an unreachable standard set me free. I felt empowered because I suddenly released the blame. Surrendering made me feel in control. I accepted my lane and no longer felt stupid. I felt like a person who has multiple sclerosis.
I let go and accepted my messy life. I try my best and give myself space when I don’t think it’s good enough. I’m figuring out what I think is good enough. It’s always going to be a journey. For now, I’m buckled in and ready for what’s next. I will certainly keep you posted.
Originally posted on Medium.