On fear, and the uselessness of pain

Learning a language scares me. Coming up with a study plan, plonking down money for classes or tutors or textbooks or native-language materials scares me. It takes a lot of energy to talk myself out of, well, talking myself out of things. How dare I try things that aren’t going to work?

Fear holds people back a lot in general, but obviously for the non-neurotypical this might play even more of a role. I have anxiety and depression: I spend a lot of time being afraid (and then feeling stupid or guilty for feeling that way).

This year I’ve almost burned myself up trying to get the health care that I need (navigating labyrinthine and incompetent bureaucracy, getting doctors to take me seriously, enduring some pretty awful side effects while being told to wait and see, etc.) and working through some interpersonal stuff (… I’m pretty bitter and cynical right now). 2014 so far I think has actually been the worst year of my life (after the years immediately preceding have held that title!). And for all my efforts to try to make my life suck less*, well, results haven’t exactly persuaded me that trying will make any difference worth the expenditure of energy, or worth the heartbreak when things (inevitably) don’t work out.**

Against this background, sometimes trying to learn a language feels like a sign of faith in myself that just isn’t warranted. What if I put in all this time and energy and it’s still just too much for me and I’m just not good enough? What if I try to turn lemons into lemonade via language learning and I just fail again? How hopeless and foolish and naive would I feel then?!

I started this blog to talk about how I do manage to keep studying and learning sometimes, and to put a narrative of language-learning out there that I felt was largely missing online. But I can’t always be (relatively) upbeat.

Sometimes this is what it looks like, inside my brain, and sometimes there is no lesson to be learned or any cheerful, brave takeaway. Sometimes — a lot of the time! — I don’t feel like any of this is worth it, or that anything could be worth having to deal with how awful it is inside my head. Sometimes there isn’t any moral or any reason. It just is. Not acknowledging this feels suffocating.

This post won’t give you any useful tips or inspiration, but I had to say it. I know there are some of you who feel this way and maybe sometimes you feel like you can’t say it either. You can say it here, if you want.

Sometimes shit just sucks.

(Or, to say it more poetically: “Pain comes from the darkness/And we call it wisdom. It is pain.”)

* Let me tell you all about my yoga and meditation habits, my occasional flirtations with Couch to 5K, my efforts to get enough sleep and eat nice things and get out and do things, my therapy appointments and writing 750 Words, etc. etc.!

** I know all about locus of control and learned helplessness and how this relates to depression, so please don’t waste your breath on any lectures. Or toothless platitudes, references to religion, etc.



  1. Sometimes the weight of what I hoped I would get done, and what I hoped I would be, is hard to bear.

    And sometimes I can feel a little inspired, even if it’s just a little bit, by knowing that I was that person who had faith in myself, who bought that textbook with that hope and that determination. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like past-me was wrong or foolish for having that faith, but sometimes it feels like I’m building a path for myself that I can always go back to, even if I wander off. I hope you can be proud of the you who tried to kindle that faith in yourself even when it feels unwarranted.


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