What It Feels Like to Make a Mistake When You Have Anxiety

My insomnia has kept me up all night, waking me every time I manage to get just two or three hours of sleep. Sleep-deprived and unable to function, I end up crashing back into bed after lunch. My cup of coffee this morning was simply not enough to keep me awake the entire day.

It’s now 5:13 p.m., and I have just woken up. I check my phone and receive the shock of my life. I have slept through the alarm that was supposed to ring at 4 p.m. I am now late for my therapy session that was supposed to start 13 minutes ago. There is a text from my therapist, wondering whether I am going to turn up. I have never missed a therapy session, and usually, I’m not even late. I silently berate myself for making such a blunder. I quickly reply her text to apologize and ask if we can reschedule. Being the wonderful person that she is, she offers to arrange another appointment. There’s just one problem. She is going to be away for a few weeks, and I’ll only get to see her in three weeks’ time. I panic. She is my only source of support. The one person who knows how much I struggle just to get through the week. I really needed to speak to her about how bad things are getting. Now, I had messed everything up.

It didn’t take long before the vicious cycle of self-loathing began.

What is wrong with me? Who even falls asleep in the afternoon? Why did I not wake up when my alarm rang? It’s all my fault. I just wasted my therapist’s time. How irresponsible of me… She must think I don’t care about our sessions because I don’t even bother to show up. All I had to do was wake up when my alarm rang and get to my session on time. I can’t even do something as simple as managing my life and my schedule. This goes on and on and finally ends with a single and all-consuming thought: I hate myself.

This is what it’s like for me living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. All it takes is a single slip-up for the catastrophizing cycle of self-deprecation to begin. Every time it happens, it feels like everything I have worked so hard to achieve is crumbling right before my eyes. All my accomplishments simply turn to dust and fade into nothingness. I feel like I have nothing to be proud of. There is nothing good about myself, and I feel completely worthless.

My mental illness lies to me all the time, and it’s a constant struggle to silence its lies in my head. It blurs the lines between the past and the present, making me feel as if I’m right back there in the terrifying moments of my traumatic experiences. Some days it wins, but not today. Today, I’m choosing to show some compassion for myself. I made a mistake. Just one mistake. And it’s OK.

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