A lot of people feel inadequate. Like somehow, they just don't measure up to what they think they should. They haven't done enough, or aren't enough to be accepted. It is quite common to feel this way every now and again, however those of us with mental illness don't just feel this way every now and again. We feel it all of the time. It becomes a daily struggle to not only deal with our mental illness but also deal with the self doubt, self judgment, and self hate. Essentially, you are left with a stripped sense of self worth, a dissected image of yourself where nothing is where it is supposed to be and yet, nothing fits. You become a jigsaw puzzle ready to be put together but unable to find all of the pieces. The missing pieces have been torn away and scattered in the wind like ashes...
My battle with self hate started as early as four, only I didn't know what it was. I would punish myself because I had a bad thought or intrusive image, often times sending myself to go stand in the corner. I felt I needed to be punished because bad little kids get punished and surely these horrid images and thoughts meant I was a bad little girl. The self hate had begun.
Then as I grew older it became more about things I couldn't do rather than the things I could. It became more about my appearance and things I perceived as failures on my part. Failure. That was the one word that I used the most. The broken record of self abuse that never ceased playing. I was a failure. A worthless, stupid, ugly, unlovable failure. I fail. I failed. Why try, when I will only fail again?
Then teenage hood came. My mental illness had went into a form of remission from ten to fourteen. I was dealing with extreme bullying an nothing seemed to help. My Mom complained to the school but they looked at me as an outsider as well. In the whole school, only two teachers protected me and they couldn't be everywhere I was at the same time. I began to hate my hair color, my skin tone, my accent, my boobs that had started to grow faster than the other girls. I hated anything that drew attention to me because that made me even more of a target. I hated that we were dirt poor and mostly I hated myself because I felt less than the other kids. Ostracized and worthless. Ugly and different.
Then we moved and I went to a better school. The OCD silently stepped forward . The intrusive voice was back. I was reaching for a towel and it told me if I didn't touch the shelf with one hand the same way I did with the other that my Mom would die in a fiery car accident. I was aghast. I knew this wasn't normal and yet that voice sounded so very familiar. I had heard it before. All of a sudden, my mental block ripped away like a scab and the painful memories of this voice, came rushing back. It was familiar because I had heard it all through my childhood. I was old enough now to know it wasn't what normal people heard. I was secretly afraid I was insane. I had failed to be normal...again. I was worthless and damaged and broken. Who could love me and Oh my God, does this mean I have to be committed? God, please anything but that.
It took me a month of silent suffering before I told my Mom. I just couldn't hold it in any longer and she took me to a great psychiatrist who diagnosed me. Still, even with the knowledge of what I had under my belt, I blamed myself. I was the reason I was broken. I hid the self hate on and off for years. Wearing the mask many of us often wear. The "I am alright, nothing to see here" mask. The mask with the fake smile that never fully reaches the eyes. The mask made of paper mache, glue, and silent tears.
I had such bad panic attacks I had to drop out of high school three weeks before graduation. I failed at that too.
Then I tried Beauty school, in which the same thing happened and I had to also drop out. No one wants their nails done by a snot covered, crying, panicked woman waving a nail drill around in hysterics. The feeling of dread was so great, I simply couldn't go anymore.
The darkest period was when the depression set in. My first marriage was toxic and since I self hated so much, all of my self worth was wrapped up in how this man felt about me. I was unable to feel anything about myself but anger and disgust. He was way older and I had just turned eighteen when we met. I struggled with trying to be the best wife I could when we married. I tried to do what he wanted, be what he wanted. Thinking it would make me a better person. A person I could live with, maybe even get to like. Or at the very least, a person I didn't hate quite as much. I thought it was love, but in reality it was just another form of a paper mache mask. Hiding what I truly thought about myself underneath all of the smiles and late night dinners I cooked for him. And when he told me I didn't need medication, I should just take St. John's Wort, I listened. I took St. John's until the point I was swallowing half a bottle a day. I felt I couldn't even do this right either. It wasn't working and it was my fault. I had failed to even do that right.
I hated myself so much, I started punishing myself by starving and over exercising myself. I became underweight and still it wasn't enough. I was still fat, too fat, way too fat. I had developed what I call an almost eating disorder. It was almost because as rapidly as it had formed, it simply stopped. I am not sure why.
Then I had a miscarriage and any self worth I might have been clinging to was gone. It to me was not only devastating but yet another example of just how screwed up I was. Just another example of my failure. Failure to do the most natural thing in the world. The whole reason women were created. I was no longer even a woman to myself. I was a broken shell and I hated myself deeply for it. I became numb except in the center where my soul should should be. That had been taken over by a rolling boiling core of self hatred like I had never experienced before. To fill the empty shell I had became, I started to eat. I over ate. I stuffed any feelings I had with brownies, cookies, and cake. I stuffed them down my throat with cheeseburgers and french fries. I allowed myself all of the foods I wanted when I was starving myself but hating myself even more for swallowing them. I felt like each bite, each swallow was proof of what was wrong with me. I couldn't even not fail at being thin.
My self esteem got so bad I would thank my then husband after he had sex with me. I found myself so disgusting, so vile and repulsive I felt it had to be a chore to sleep with me. It had to have been hard for him to want someone like me. A huge, disgusting, failure. How painfully pathetic is that?
Then I got a job and penned all of my hopes on at the very least being able to work. Surely, I could do this. I only lasted four months before the anxiety stopped me cold. My physical health started taking a toll on me because my mental health was being ignored. I was losing the ability to leave my home. I became agoraphobic. In my mind, was not that I was still grieving, or that I needed help. In my mind, it was simply yet another thing I failed at.
And then the kicker...he fell in love with someone else and left me. Now, I had nothing left. All of the years I had tried to be what he wanted because I hated what I was, had left me hollow. I was lost. All of my self esteem was wrapped in someone who was no longer there. I was unsure of anything and of course I blamed myself for everything. I was a loser. I was unlovable, I had failed one more time. I wasn't good at anything except for maybe failing at things. That was something I was apparently, very efficient at. And I hated myself even more.
It was the closest to suicide I had ever been in my life. I started drinking to numb the pain but it didn't help. I thought of many ways to die , but my OCD and I couldn't decide on how to do it. I didn't want to traumatize anyone. It just proves how far off my thinking was. Everyone's suicide is traumatizing. And then magic happened. I got a bus ticket and moved back in with my mother and got a new therapist. I worked on my self hate issues and I started to realize that I was never really any of those things I thought I was. I was never ugly, or stupid, or worthless. I was never a failure. That just because OCD wants me to think that I am responsible for everything doesn't make it true. I am not God, and I do not control everything. It wasn't my fault I couldn't work. It was OCD. It wasn't my fault I was bullied. It wasn't my fault I had depression. It wasn't my fault I had intrusive thoughts or images. It wasn't my fault St. John's Wort hadn't cured me. It wasn't my fault I couldn't finish school or that I had panic attacks. It wasn't my fault he fell in love with someone else and left me. It wasn't my fault that I lost our baby. It wasn't my fault. None of it. And as I started to work through the lies I had let myself believe, I realized I had been blaming myself since I was four for every rotten thing that had ever come my way. I had blamed myself for every thing I thought I should be able to do but couldn't. I had to realize everyone is different and not everyone does the same thing, they don't have to. I started to let go of all of the anger I carried because I had OCD, or I was different, or I didn't do something I wanted to, or I was unable to. I started to get to know myself not just with the OCD but also separately as well and I found that I was hiding under a mask for no reason. I am not a monster, or damaged, or bad. I learned to let it go, all of it and to stop punishing myself. Because I am a good person even if there are some things I am unable to do. I am capable of other things like being a good mom, something I thought I would never be after loosing the first one. I found new love, real love with someone who would never instruct me to stop mentally taking care of myself or anything that would hurt me. I found support and even through this blog, a voice. Finally a voice to say, I have been where you are and I know how it feels, AND IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! Maybe I had to go through all of that pain to be where I am now. Maybe I had to hate myself before I could learn to forgive myself. Maybe I had to be broken to heal. I don't know really know. I just know that self hate isn't indicative of who you are. It isn't really about you. It's just the mental illness talking and it's wrong. You are none of those things just as I am none of those things. It's all in our heads. The self hate doesn't really belong to us. It belongs solely to the mental illness we suffer from and we are not responsible for it. I don't know why it had to take me so long to figure this out, but I am thankful I am where I am now, today, this very moment. I just wanted to share that I too have been where you are and it can get better. It does get better and you are worth so much more than the self hate lets you believe.