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Once upon a time there was a voice that got a bit too loud… My journey with the inner critic

Five years ago when I moved to Helsinki and started studying, something happened. 

I was in a new environment. I had moved into a new apartment by myself and I had started studying in a new school. I kinda started over, but I just didn’t know how. Eventually, I found myself completely lost. 

The thing is. When you have lived most of your life in your own shadows; not really connected with yourself mentally or emotionally, it is quite a journey to start finding out who you really are. 

And this was the journey I was about to take on. 

My first years of studying went on in a blur. I was living my life from an autopilot. I managed to complete my tasks and from the surface pull it all together, but in the middle of my third year, I couldn’t handle myself anymore. 

I started to get panic attacks and in the beginning of 2017, I fell into a hole. A hole of fear, anxiety and depression. From there I didn’t know what to do. I was in this zone where nothing really mattered. I felt so weird feeling so down. I mean, everything was on a way “okay”. But inside, I felt that I really wasn’t okay. I had lost my fire. 

Fortunately I knew myself well enough that the zone I was in was something I didn’t want to stay in. So I reached out for help. I saw a psychiatric who prescribed me medicine for anxiety. I took that medicine for three months and as a quick fix, it helped me to get out of the hole for a while.  

But what helped me more was a change. I was moving to Amsterdam to study as an exchange student for five months. The change helped me to get some clarity in my head. 

During my exchange I started to question everything. For example partying and drinking alcohol. I was often the one who didn’t show up to gatherings or had something else when there would have been a chance to go to a pub crawl or meet other exchange students. I wasn’t interested in getting waisted. 

Fading out from social events in general brought me to a slightly lonely place, but there I wanted to stay. I felt that it was necessary for me to get to know myself better, and in a new city it was from time to time somewhat fruitful. 

Having adventurous experiences and time for myself weren’t unfortunately enough to lift me from the hole back to light. Because after returning back home, I fell into the darkness again. This time though, I didn’t want to get the quick fix. 

Instead, I started to question myself. My behavior. Why did I do things certain way, why did I live my life the way I did. I was in agony to find out what the hell to do with myself. With this life. 

I reached out to find answers from the external stuff. This was something I did a lot. I searched for external changes that would change me from the inside. I though that if I just had something interesting to do, I would feel alive again. But that’s not the whole story. What I know now is that everything starts from the inside.

In spring 2018 I started psychotherapy. I went to talk to a therapist once a week. I was actually very eager to do this. I learned that I am a person who needs reflection a lot and I was happy to get some tools to understand myself from a deeper level. The therapy sessions helped me to open up my mind. I got new perspectives and reasons for my inner storms. 

And after some time, I started to realize that the reason behind my darkness was a really critical self-talker.

This talker inside of me ruined everything for me because I believed it. 

I believed that all those fears and insecurities it pointed out were true. I believed that I was actually that negative self-talker. And sadly in some ways that made me hate myself. 

And because I was suffering so much, I couldn’t see the love around me. 

The good thing is, when I started to understand myself, I could start noticing that critic inside of me. That it was just a conditioned voice. And that it was not me.

This opened up a whole new world. I started to realize that I wasn’t broken or a bad person. I just had listened to the critic for a bit too long. The shame, the fears, the sadness, the beliefs of being faulty or just in general, bad. 

I also understood that being aware of that critic was only half of the story. Practice is needed to make anything habitual. So I needed to change the pattern from believing my anxiety to start understanding it and then letting it go. 

Now, instead of listening to that critical voice inside of my head, I am learning to become more compassionate towards it. And what I really am learning is, is to become more compassionate towards myself. 

With compassion I am slowly feeling the fire again. And it feels awesome. It’s like my fire is now getting more oxygen to burn instead of the water that I have been drowning it with.

Some occasional water spills still occur. But now there is more oxygen to prevent the water from shutting the fire completely down.

Now.

Looking back, I understand. I understand that I was afraid of myself. I was so stuck in my head that I became my own enemy.

And that is okay. I clearly needed the wake up call from the identification with the inner critic. 

So in many ways I am grateful for the anxiety I have been faced with. It has now started to find ways out and oh boy how much I have learnt from this journey! 

I am grateful for the inner critic for teaching me that everything starts from the inside. And that when we are suffering, there’s actually nothing to be afraid of. That suffering is just a wake up call to learn necessary lessons on the journey towards ourselves. 

xx

Maija

 

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