I don’t recall the incident exactly, but I recall the feeling. My mother had promised to take me somewhere and for factors irrelevant to my childhood mind, she couldn’t do it. I was crushed. There was a physical feeling of pain and emptiness that rumbled from my head to my chest to my stomach. My face burned in that way when it readies for an eruption of tears.
I was disappointed. Painfully so and it is a vivid memory of experiencing an emotion for the first time.
Disappointment has stayed with me since then. It runs a spectrum. I am disappointed when I drop the last bite of my favorite food to being disappointed that a relationship is ending. Last week, I got disappointing news. I wasn’t selected for a job I really, really, really, really wanted. I really wanted it. I have wanted nothing more in years. For the first time, someone remarked, I looked and felt excited about something. I didn’t get it and I settled into a numbness. I think partially because 1) I started a new medication which prevents me from feeling much of anything, and 2) I had mentally prepared myself for disappointment.
It’s a survival mechanism of sorts. I resist hope with every fiber of my being because I fear and loathe disappointment. Hope leaves me vulnerable. Open to the unexpected and I lack the ability to cope with the unexpected. I don’t have emotional flexibility, nor am I able to navigate the emotional waters that come with bad news. It physically hurts me. When I think about the root of all my fears, it comes down to being afraid to be disappointed. Rejection by others and failure to accomplish something all connects back to disappointment. I am disappointed that my hope for romantic acceptance isn’t going to happen. I am disappointed I didn’t earn that fellowship or job or get the last slice of pizza or award or raffle prize or civil rights. You know how it’s said that the number one fear in people is public speaking? I would consider myself part of that group. It’s not the getting up in front of people part, it’s the chance I’ll be disappointed by their reaction to me. What if they don’t like what I’m wearing? What if I say something stupid? I hope I come off looking like an attractive genius, but I’ll be disappointed if no one perceives me the way I expect them to. There is a sense of worthiness tied to my disappointment and when I am disappointed, I question the value of my existence. It’s a tricky place to be.
Expectations. There is something about these things. I have slowly started to whittle down my expectations for everything, almost. Especially for myself and for others. I have learned that expectations are the number one cause of disappointment. I used to have expectations for myself. I used to set goals. I was just asked to assess myself by my new boss. I hate self-assessments. A depressed, suicidal person with an anxiety disorder should not have to be forced to assess herself. It’s not fair. Perceiving my own value, assigning it a negative or positive connotation is painful. “What are you most proud of?” Getting out of bed today. Huge accomplishment. If I set the bar low, failure doesn’t feel so bad. Expecting growth or areas of improvement for me into a space I don’t want to be in right now.
Pride. Risk. Disappointment. I have another thought here. Being proud of my work is impossible. It’s not something I am capable of doing and yet I keep myself in a major rut by refusing to take risks. BECAUSE risk —>vulnerability —> possibility of disappointment. And you know what? If I do manage to accomplish something, I downplay the achievement because pride in this moment will – in my mind – lead to a future incident of disappointment. And I must avoid that at all costs.
I can’t tell if I’m in a transitional state after receiving my sucko news. I can’t determine the permanency of my numbness. There is some freedom in it, I’ll admit. I’m just afraid of what happens if it wears off.
When I think about it, I put a lot of effort into avoiding hope. I wonder what is more taxing: avoiding disappointment or working my way through it? However, at this point I’m too tired to figure it out.