holding onto pessimism by choice

I’m a pessimist. I always have been. Even as a child I always expected the glass to be half-empty. I always thought of the problems that could occur and was convinced that they were going to. It was nice when they didn’t but it didn’t prove to me that perhaps I should be an optimist or if not that at least let go a little bit of the pessimism.

I’m still this way. I don’t think any amount of therapy, DBT, things going well or medication is going to change my pessimistic outlook on life. However, this week Beth challenged me in session. I kept asking “what happens if this occurs when I start school” or “I just know thisis going to happen”. She asked why I was anticipating and already expecting the worst. I think I probably looked at her like she was the crazy one.

My reasoning for my pessimistic thinking/expecting problems or the worse thing to happen probably sounds odd but to be honest I like to prepare myself for situation I could potentially find myself in. And when I say situations I mean anything and everything under the sun. When I was a child this meant that I tried to prepare myself emotionally for when the tree fell on the house, when I got an F (I was an A student), when we had a hurricane (we live in Kansas – that one was a long shot) or when I got picked on or made fun of in school. The first three examples I honestly didn’t need to ‘prepare’ myself for. A tree was not going to fall on our house, I wasn’t going to fail and certainly a hurricane wasn’t going to come. However, preparing myself to be bullied was a real worry. And it was a real worry because it kept happening.

I firmly believed that if I prepared myself emotionally not to have friends it would be easier when I found myself alone on a Friday night as a junior in high school. Or it would be easier to accept the insults and taunts my peers threw at me. And also to endure the physical bullying. I don’t think ‘preparing’ myself made a difference. It still hurt when any of that happen. Perhaps though it hurt a little bit less than if I had convinced myself that this was going to be the year that everything was different. 

I thought that college was actually going to be able to be the year everything was different. So for the first time in my life my pessimistic thinking was slightly overwhelmed by optimism. I was going to meet new people, new friends, love my classes, thrive in college and never want it to end. Sadly, the opposite was true. I didn’t allow myself to admit that college had turned into a form of torture until almost two years after the ending of my sophomore year while I was at the Center for Change. Suddenly, it all came crashing down. College had been horrible. It had sucked. I had been hurt, scared and terrified while I was there. My hopes and optimism had meant nothing. In the end I was left with trauma, memories and wishes of what it would have been like.

So, back to yesterday. As Beth and I talked about returning to college this fall (hopefully, my credits will transfer so I’ll at least be a second semester sophomore) I refused to allow her encouraging pep talk get me to change how I feel about returning to school. I feel scared. I feel unprepared. I fear that history will repeat itself. I certainly can’t let myself anticipate friends, a social life or actually enjoying the social aspect of school. I know academically I’ll do well. I like to learn. I may not be the brightest student but I can study enough that I get decent (or even good) grades. But socially – no. I’ll be ‘prepared’ for the possibilities that can happen. They’re endless but I can at least expect nothing. I can be prepared for meeting no one, not fitting in or dozens or other social problems that could occur.

If something wonderful happens and I meet people that I love to spend time with. Have a social life and enjoy the social aspect of school then great! But I am not going to let this be the year that everything will be different. That idea sets me up for disappointment or failure from the beginning. So I guess to sum up this jumbled post I’m holding onto my pessimism and worry. I’m not ready to let it go yet. I’m not ready to trust life, God and whatever to make my experience great. I’ve had far too many horrible experiences for that to be a possibility yet. So helpful or not helpful I will move forward from here with the knowledge that school could be wonderful but just as likely could be horrible.

The important thing is: I’m returning to school. I’m trying again. And I am leaving space for it to be something different than what school has been in the past.


If you have comments, advice or opinions on this post I’d really appreciate hearing them. 🙂



Filed under bullying, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, faith, Independence, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

2 responses to “holding onto pessimism by choice

  1. dkerr7991

    Kate, i totally understand the pessimism and not wanting or more being ready to let go but i also believe in you and that you are ready to go back and will succeed. Take it one day at a time right now, enjoy the summer and prepare but also come fall know that you aren’t alone and have others to support you. I had some of the same fears going back, especisally socially and being bunllied, but i was and am now healthy, in a different place and somewhat a different person. You can do this and im here for you.

  2. Kate, my heart hurt for you when I read this post. It is not fair that you had to endure so much. You are a beautiful, sweet girl and you shouldn’t have to settle for the kind of college experience you’re setting yourself up to expect.
    I, too, had a miserable social experience my first couple years of college. When I went to Renfrew the summer after my freshman year, I repeatedly told my therapist that I would rather be hit by a bus than go back to Vanderbilt, but that I was going back. I was terrified and held on tightly to my negative beliefs. I found, though, that having no hope was a) exhausting and b) led to my pushing away anyone who did try to get close to me. I was sure that if anyone got too close, they would hurt me, and so I tried to protect myself against that feeling. The one friend I did make, I would tell repeatedly that I had no idea why she was friends with me and would try to convince her that she’d eventually get fed up with me and we would drift apart. And after several years of my droning on and on about how awful I was, we finally got in a big fight and basically stopped talking. I was hurt, but it was probably caused by my low expectations and it certainly didn’t hurt any less because I “saw it coming.” I repeated this pattern of “don’t you dare get close to me and then leave” with Tom, and I’m guessing he found it disturbing, too. I’d try to talk him out of loving me, and I must have eventually succeeded. I know that your fears are valid, but don’t let them get in the way too much. Having the walls up only protects you against so much. You deserve better than that. I’m not saying be reckless and kid yourself into thinking it will be perfect. But set your sights higher than loneliness– you are worth having friends. I know it’s so very scary and you have every right to be guarded, but I just wanted to share some of my regrets about relationships from college for what it’s worth. Also, I didn’t mean to write this much, so forgive me for rambling. I love you and am praying for you. You DESERVE hope in your life.

    C.S. Lewis said it better than I can: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The only alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be completely free of all the dangers and perturbations of love is in Hell.”

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