Was I or Wasn’t I?

I have three distinct inner voices. Now, I know that sounds a bit weird if not out-right crazy, but hear me out.

Inner Voice #1 embodies logic, calculation, and perfectionism. This is the voice that points out the cost-to-benefit ratio of different actions and tallies the ground I have gained or lost throughout the day. It is the voice the insists on knowing as many of the variables as possible in order to make an informed and effective decision, and loathes inefficiency while simultaneously courting it in its quest for perfection.

Inner Voice #2 embodies emotion, intuition, and morality. This little twit enjoys prancing all over Voice #1 and is directly responsible for my tendency to cannonball into the deep end when making life-altering decisions. It holds freedom and joy in the highest regard, yet is prone to self-sacrifice in the name of “doing the right thing”.

Inner Voice #3… I don’t like giving attention to Voice #3, despite the fact that it’s what this post is about. Voice #3 takes Voices #1 and #2 and tweaks what they are saying. It does this so subtly that I am unable to tell the difference at first. One moment I’m feeling light-hearted and content as I relax and read a book; the next moment I believe I hear Voice #1 chiding me for brushing off my responsibilities.

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Where'd you come from, anyway?

I am not sure when Voice #3 began insinuating itself in my mind, but I believe it began around the age of 10. I experienced my first bout of depression at that age, complete with suicidal thoughts that I came damn close to acting on. If it weren’t for the fact that I knew beyond any doubt that my parents and sisters would  be traumatized, and I would essentially be trading my pain for theirs, I may have tried it.

There was no discernible reason for the thoughts and feelings that crept into my heart and mind, telling me that I was never going to be happy, never going to be good enough. I was 10, for crying out loud. My parents loved me, fed me, tucked me in at night and read bedtime stories. I had friends and I was earning good grades. Yet it was still there, whispering all my shortcomings and telling me that this is what I had to look forward to for the rest of my life.

Hindsight is 20/20, or so they say.

From then on, I have dealt with depression in varying degrees. Much of it can likely be attributed to the waking of my reasoning mind and the disparities I was seeing in the church. Not in the beginning though. I still had a couple years before that shit storm truly crashed into me.

Weren't we discussing Voice #3?

For me, depression and Voice #3 are inextricably linked. As depression began to define more of my life, Voice #3 became stronger and more, well, vocal. It started pointing out all the little ways in which I was inferior, less than what I should be. It crowed over the fact that I had friends whose lives were much more difficult than my own, and they were bubbly, cheerful individuals who refused to let things weigh them down.

“Who are you to complain?” it whispered. “All this evidence pointing to why you should be happy, and you still sink. Pathetic, that’s what you are. Get over it already!”

Up until roughly age 21, the bouts lasted a month or two with some short bursts through out the rest of the year. Voice #3 was still there, but Voices #2 and #1 were pretty adept at talking over it, forcing it into the background.

Oh boy did that change. I was newly married and had just had a baby. Up until that point, I had been feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by the gargantuan changes occurring in my life, but I like to imagine that I was holding myself together. (This is untrue, according to witness accounts, but I digress). I didn’t realize how quickly I was falling apart, chalking it up to my regular, run-of-the-mill depression. Postpartum struck, and Voice #3 quickly established dominance, drowning out and often mimicking the others, lulling me into complacency.

It was helped along by the layers of resentment and anger that were building between my husband and myself. “He’s never going to get his spending under control. He doesn’t share your values, you’ll never be able to fully trust him. He’s proven his unreliability so many times over, how long are you going to stay?”

All logical, perfectly reasonable thoughts. These were legitimate issues in our relationship.

“If he keeps spending all the money, you’re never going to get ahead. Keep watch, stay vigilant, confront him about all the ways in which he’s doing things wrong. Remember what happened the last time you let your guard down? He hurt you! Sure, sure, he says he’s trying, and it looks like things are getting better, but look there! He f’ed up again! You should have listened earlier!”

A little paranoia never hurt anybody, right? The distrust was earned over the years, I was NOT being controlling.

I analyzed his every gesture, his every word, looking for signs of broken promises. Whenever I would start to question what I was doing, knowing that it was unhealthy but unable to stop, Voice #3 would reassure me, reminding me of all the times before, and how much I had already sacrificed for him, moving away from my family and support system.

Um, hello? Divorce is a thing, ya know...

Why didn’t I pack my bags and leave? Because I knew, somewhere in the recesses of my soul, that I would regret it for the rest of my life. The brief moments and sometimes even days of clarity and peace gave me an anchor to hold to. A measuring stick to compare with. Those were the times that Voices #1 and #2 were able to speak without subversion. They pointed out the ways in which Voice #3 was wrong, misleading, and in some respects, delusional.

I reached my breaking point on my 27th birthday. My parents had made the 3.5 hour drive to spend the weekend with me, cooking me a mouth-watering birthday dinner and offering their strength when I started to crack from the pressure to pretend that I was fine, that we were fine, that everything was FINE. They knew I was miserable. They knew that I would deny it until I either died or it was my idea to talk about it.

After they left back to their own lives, I made the first decision purely for myself that I had made in a long time. I was moving back. I was broken and nothing my husband and I tried was working. He was my rock and my sinking sand and I needed the rope of a support system to get back to solid ground.

“He’s not going to move back with you. You’ll move back, get settled and start earning enough to support your family until he’s able to find new employment, and he’s going to stay anyway.”

I stopped listening. My heart broke at the thought, my mind tried to obsess over it, but I stopped listening to that voice. I took a leap of faith, the first I had taken in years, that I was wrong and that he loved me as much as he said he did. That he would stand by me and trust me even though it appeared that I was trying to leave him.

It paid off.

Voice #3 is easier to ignore now. It’s still there, whispering and scheming, but my rope is tied firmly around my waist, and my hands hold fast to my rock.

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