This morning I awoke at 7:30 or so because of my back (the alarm doesn’t go off until 9:00) and I did my vitals and brushed my teeth. Went to prepare coffee for both of us, which usually means putting sleeves on the cups (we use the plastic reusable Starbucks cups: they’re durable, they’re stackable, and they cost a buck apiece), putting one scoop of xylitol and two scoops of creamer into the cups, and preparing two reusable K-cup filters’ worth of regular coffee per cup, then using the small cup button on the Keurig when brewing. I was planning on prepping both cups for me and my wife, but only brewing mine until she awoke.
I got as far as getting the sweetener and the creamer in the cups when I suddenly was overcome with doubt that I had done it correctly – I thought I’d only put one scoop of creamer in each cup instead of two. I opted not to toss what I’d done and waste the xylitol, since we were pretty low, but instead just set them aside and quietly freaked out over screwing up the coffee. I went into the bedroom and snuggled up to my wife, who woke up and asked me what was wrong. I told her and she tried to reassure me that everything would be okay, but my brain, in the time it took to realize what I thought I’d done, stand there for about fifteen seconds contemplating my options, and then slowly pad into the bedroom with the gait of someone that’s guilty of committing a grievous offense against humanity and was caught doing it, wasn’t having any of it. I’d hit full meltdown mode and I was refuting everything she was trying to reassure me of.
Somewhere in there I got sleepy again and felt that it was wrong of me to have woken her up while I was still sleepy. Again she refuted me and asked me where my evidence was that I had done wrong. After getting her frustrated to the point that she was starting to kick herself for not fixing my problems, we both went back to bed and didn’t wake back up until 11:00. The sleep was the reset that we both needed.
The problem that I have with this is that I have the tools to refute my brain weasels on my own, yet this time I failed to use them – just like I’ve failed to do so very often throughout my life. The version of reality that my brain tries to convince me of is the only thing that I can hear, even in the face of overwhelming concrete evidence against that alternate reality. Maybe I wasn’t awake enough to bring those tools to bear – I oftentimes have morning meltdowns and that might be one of the reasons why. Maybe it’s because I felt like I had to be awake because I woke up and it was light outside, and my body really wasn’t done sleeping, and I was dealing with that fight that my body and my brain were having with one another. I really don’t know what caused it this morning, but I knew that it was almost instantaneous, the feeling that I had massively screwed up and the overwhelming need to be comforted through it.
Things worked out this time, but next time something like this happens I’m going to try and be more critical of it, refuting the brain weasels best I can. (Incidentally, if you’re wondering why this doesn’t work all the time, well … I wish I had an answer for you. If we could just talk or breathe our way through our emotional crises like this, we’d put the vast majority of therapists out of work. A lot of times events like this morning have a deeper root than we’d like to admit, and sometimes it takes digging deep to find the root problem and work on that. I think this was one of those times. I couldn’t point to a single instance from my childhood that would have formed the behavior that I exhibited this morning, but I can tell you that I was under a great deal of pressure from my parents to excel at school, and I think that’s one of the reasons I didn’t, to rebel against the pressure to be the golden child. Or I could have been kicked in the head by a horse when I was a kid. Who knows. Also, that bit about the horse actually happened to me, but that’s a blog post for another time.)