I found out yesterday that I failed one of the two exams I took for a post-graduate qualification back in December. This was a huge shock, as it was completely unexpected. I had felt good about the exams and fully expected to pass. I’m not used to failing academically, so this was also a big blow to my sense of identity.
After opening the envelope and seeing the result, I went through a lot of emotions very quickly… first, disbelief; then, an incredible sense of hopelessness and fear, feeling completely overwhelmed. Then, a flight reaction – wanting to get out of the situation, my mind went into plotting mode: what now? Move away (my never-fail solution); quit the course; quit my job and get a temp job locally; and other various assorted nonsense. It occurred to me that as my work had paid for half of this course, quitting wasn’t an option open to me (not that I would really have done it, anyway), and I felt trapped.
The whole sense of being overwhelmed, that I actually put work into this and failed, adds up to a big blow to my sense of who I am. I see myself as a capable, intelligent person and especially in this particular field I feel that I know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t help that there is no feedback, nor any possibility of getting feedback, as to why I failed, so I don’t know what the problem was.
Anyway, I am just not used to failing professionally. Whenver I would get close to failure, I would quit before getting sacked and go away. Get out of the situation. I have never before really sat it through when things get though. This time, I saw the options before me very clearly – flee into some kind of mindless activity (TV, playing computer games) until the first shock wore away and I could rationally look at the situation after burying my feelings, or I could work this through. And I chose the latter. I called my most trusted friend, had coffee with her, talked about it (and cried, for goodness sake – about an exam!), and left feeling like a victory has been won inside me. I am not what I do. This exam has nothing to say about who I am.
Why I am sharing this is because I find myself now at a point of my recovery where I can make such conscious choices. I never used to have such choice. Before getting abstinent, I would be in the food without even realising what was going on beneath; yesterday, food never even came up as a way out. In my early recovery, I would have sought solace in an abstinent crutch: TV, mindless activity, anything to escape. I am so grateful for this program that has allowed me to grow to a point where I can recognise, address, and deal with things without running away.
Does it hurt? Oh yes. But it’s good when the pain lets up.