It's Giving Rejection Sensitivity
Hey there. Been awhile.
It's been a whole pandemic since I wrote here last. Some good news: I wrote a book since we last chatted! A sci-fi comedy novel called Brenda Returns a Blazer that I'm currently trying to get published. It has it all: an evil AI obsessed with Brooks & Dunn, flying muppet creatures, five versions of early 2000s Joan Allen, a squid-elephant alien named Diane, and *multiple* deeply intelligent Shania Twain jokes. If you like the 1990s or department store blazers or time travel, you should tell your publishing friends about it!
I haven't written a blog in awhile because, well, I've been busy with the book and also I know how annoying and navel-gazing my blogs can be. There really hasn't been any progress on that front. I'm still self-pitying and deeply hurt I was never "picked" and blah blah blah.
Actually, if something is different it's that I'm finally 39. Less than a year till I'm 40. And I suppose it's inevitable that some things slip into focus when an arbitrary milestone like that approaches. Namely, that (SPOILER ALERT!!!) I'm not the massive overlooked talent I thought I was, or told myself I was for most of my 30s to justify my many failures to launch.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Grandma Moses didn't paint her first painting until she was 793 years old, there's still time, etc. I get it. I'm not "giving up" or "throwing another pity party," I'm just acknowledging that the person most responsible for my lack of "success" is...me.
I never did the self-promotion thing well, I've always been a limitedly effective actor and improviser, and I've skillfully evaded opportunities because of fear of the scrutiny that comes with success. That is, if I do a good job once, people will expect me to do a good job all the time and I can't bear the idea of letting anyone down.
I had a rejection email a few years ago that literally crushed me into a thousand pieces. I was creatively despondent for months afterwards. And I happened across it the other day searching for a document in my email. Literally all it said was "Looking forward to reading your next version of this."
That's it. It was an invitation to continue engaging, yet I saw it as a deep rejection and spiraled.
Turns out (I guess I do have something to report) I learned through therapy that I have something called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. It's a condition, often found in ADHD individuals (p.s. I also probably have ADHD), where even the slightest hint of criticism or negative feedback sends you into a spiral.
It's not just being overly sensitive. It's sensitivity to a debilitating degree. It's hearing someone say "Oh that shirt is interesting" and immediately translating in your brain to "God damn, that shirt is ugly as a dog's dick. I fucking hate you and hope you die." And then spending hours afterwards in an anxiety-spiral, thinking to yourself "You know what? I *should* die! Everything about me is awful and I'm bad at everything, including wearing shirts! "
It's why I bawled until I couldn't breathe when I was 8 and got a silver star from my piano teacher instead of a gold star.
It's why I literally have to go lay down for a bit before I open any work email containing feedback on something I've written.
It's why, when I got a standing ovation for my solo show years ago, I entered a days-long guilt spiral because clearly I had tricked the audience. What kind of fucking horrible asshole tricks an innocent audience with a great show and makes them give you a standing ovation? Fuck! Clearly, I should've banished myself to a shack in the Yukon and never talked to anyone again.
As I approach 40, I understand this aspect of myself more than ever before and am working hard to lessen the effects of RSD on my life. It's why I went public with my novel. Surprise! I've actually written two others, but never attempted to get either of them published or share them with friends because of fear of rejection. If I kept them secret, then there was still a chance they could good.
It's a motherfucker, being almost purely driven by outside approval and acceptance and defining yourself by your creative success while simultaneously having a crushing, clinical phobia of rejection.
But, she persists. And as I get older, I think the mighty expectations I had for myself are slowly eroding. Someday, I hope, I'll just be able to purely enjoy the creative experience. I'm getting there.
Brenda Returns a Blazer is, hopefully, a big turbo boost on that journey.