Yesterday night I had a meltdown and cried myself to sleep. It was triggered by a small and trivial event that reminded me of all the problems in my life.
That morning had been good, as far as I remember. I had slept until about 9 a.m., had breakfast and spent a few hours reading and writing quietly. After lunch I went to the gym, to do an exercise routine a staff member had given me last week. But the paper in which my routine was written was missing, so I could only do the parts I remembered. Besides, a staff member told me I had to leave my purse in a locker. But I needed to have brought a lock of my own for that, and I didn’t have one. So I had to leave it on a chair in a corner, which I thought was unfair (if other people could keep their phones, water bottles and towels with them as they exercised, why wasn’t I allowed to keep my purse?) That sent me quickly into a bad mood and I eventually decided to go back home early.
I showered and prepared for the evening. I had a snack before leaving, quite early, for college. I had time to stop by the Graduate’s Center to ask about the graduates discount. They told me it was ready: my father should be able to pay the monthly fee with the discount already. So I left satisfied for the psychology faculty, where I had an informative talk on many administrative matters of college. All students were released at 8 p.m.
On my way home I texted my dad to tell him the good news about the discount. He tried to pay the fee, but the full price appeared in his screen. So what they told me was wrong. And he had just one day more to pay the fee before the price goes up! The rest of the bus ride home I cried silently, wishing I was at home so that I could melt down safely without everyone watching me.
When I got home everyone in my family had already had dinner and were wearing their PJs. My mom sat with me as I had dinner and asked me what was wrong. I told her I was stressed out by all the paperwork I had to do for college. The discount, the class enrollment, the equivalence of classes from my previous course of studies, the new teacher-training course I am planning to take… everything seemed just too new, too much, too hard. I don’t even know how to begin getting organized. I don’t know how to do the paperwork, or who to ask about it. I have already asked, and it didn’t work. I don’t know how to do these stupid, basic things. I don’t know how to look after myself. I don’t know how to be a grownup.
She tried to comfort me. For a few minutes it worked. But when I finished my dinner she went to bed. I changed into my PJs, brushed my teeth, went to my room and lay down on my bed. All the unfinished paperwork, the insecurities I have about my future, the pressure to grow up and find a job and the fear of being a failure forever did not leave my mind. The only way I could send away those unwelcome thoughts and feelings was by crying, rocking and punching my pillow with all my strength until exhaustion took over me. Finally, I cried myself to sleep.
This morning I saw my therapist and talked to her about what happened. She says the problem is that I hold myself to impossible standards: I often believe I ought to know everything and sort everything out on my own, and then I become disappointed and hate myself when I can’t live up to my expectations. She says I should not think I must know everything about college paperwork, or teaching, or school psychology (I’m just beginning my first year, after all). But after feeling like a failure all my life it is terribly difficult to stop being hard on myself.