My mother used to say to me, every time she was about to punish me for something as a teen (a less than stellar grade, or the time I got a speeding ticket for going 45 in a 35 in town coming home from work) that she didn’t see that instilling more on to me than I was already putting on myself would correct the incident or benefit me in any way. She would say, “I think you have punished yourself enough.” She KNEW how hard I was on myself. Even then. Or so she thought. I would think of ways to make whatever I had done better; study more, pay better attention on the road, stop being so incredibly stupid…
A blog post I read on AAS today made me recall times like these. As if those times are behind me. I am still like this today. If my husband gets aggravated at me for something…I apologize and know that I am just a terrible wife/person/human when in fact whatever it is I have done (spent too much on something unexpected, for example) wasn’t really that horrible of a transgression after all. He never gets too angry at me, anyway. I got “written up” at work once and instead of defending myself I signed the write up, which if I had expressed my reasoning behind being gone from work unexpectedly one afternoon for a half day (a near miss of hospitalization, which I let my friends at the office know scant details of at the time, as I thought my boss was on vacation and did not want to bother/worry her) I imagine I would have not been written up but I just justify it to myself as I imagine I probably did something else deserving of being written up and accept it as deserved. If one of my children has a bad day, gets a bad grade, behaves improperly; I just KNOW it is my fault. I am a horrible parent and should spend more time teaching them better study skills, more appropriate behavior expressions, or just be there more often…somehow. I know I am a failure. But I do the best I can, so I am just incompetent. This is what goes through my head every day; every hour, every moment. I rarely discuss it because I DO NOT want to be reassured or worse: felt sorry for. That just makes this worse. This is a part of me, ingrained in my psyche. I imagine myself a terrible, horrible, evil person. I try to make it better; make myself better. I volunteer as much as I can. I “pay it forward” any chance I see the opportunity but it feels fake. I see myself as an imposter, not portraying who I really am.
I tend to forgive way too easily. My former in-laws hate me. I came to understand this recently as some custody issues were ironed out and it devastated me. I fell apart in the mediation room when I was told by the shocked mediator. They always disliked me, I knew that and I loved them so much. I still care for them unwaveringly, but somehow, I know I did something to deserve this hatred. I understand they hear one side of my ex and my break up story. He has told them a detail that is untrue. He may have made himself feel it is true, but it is not. I feel horribly about myself but I KNOW I am no cheater. But I still feel the hate is deserved. I think they see me as I really am, even if this one detail never happened. I am a person deserving of their disdain. I almost soak up the mean glares and thoughts they are having about me. I deserve this. I am not good enough to have what I do. I do not deserve all the good that has come my way. But my children do, so I just accept it and continue on. The hurt I have inside for family lost forever I brought on myself. I love them still and miss them… So be it. I feel no ill will towards my ex. The father of my lovely Little. He created half of her and if I had ANY ill will toward him that would somehow reflect in her. I cannot. No matter what I imagine or actually hear that has been said or done. I immediately dismiss that and feel for him again. Not love like it used to be, but understanding. I understand why he does and has done what has been. I care for how his life is and will be. I do not want him or anyone else to hurt or do without. I feel guilty. He is a good and talented person, really, and only does what he does to protect himself. I guess we all have our own ways of coping. He has his, I have mine.
I have had relationships that were hurtful; physically and emotionally. My therapist says that I was in that so long because I felt it was deserved. “We accept the love we feel we deserve.” I stayed until I was forced to leave. Confronted with multiple wrongs that were so obvious I could not ignore them or pretend they didn’t exist anymore. It was affecting my ability to parent, so I left it. So I wonder now how I have ended up marrying someone who is wonderful in every way to me. I know I don’t deserve that and again, I feel guilty. What has HE done to deserve someone like me? Nothing. I am so thankful for him every day. He and my children have saved me; from myself. They love me and that is enough for me to ignore how I feel for myself.
How can a person hate themselves so profoundly? I have asked myself and my therapist this time and time again. I torture myself with it. I have been so self-destructive in the past; fluctuating between trying to destroy myself and trying to prove to myself that I deserve to live (I am smart/I am stupid…earn degrees/ promotions/ work to achieve physical goals…and then wonder how I managed to fool everyone in to giving these to me) it is a terrible cycle. Horrible. I know this.
Am I a narcissist? To be so focused on myself, even if it is all negative?!? I realize this and try to stop focusing on myself so much… I volunteer, get lost in my clients’ events and work extra hard, and spend time with my kids; ANYTHING to not think about how horrible I am because this is selfish. I am so self-centered.
This cycle, it has never ended. My whole life, this is how I have thought. Medication doesn’t help this, it just helps me from becoming completely hopeless and tired. Depression can make me so tired and feel as if nothing can make any of it better. It’s like when I have the stomach flu and I cannot move or think because I am so sick. But instead of being my stomach that has me unchangingly down for the count, it is my brain. That is EXACTLY how this feels. It is unchangeable and completely out of my control when this happens. Like a stomach flu. Imagine having to move and work and parent and function while having this physical ailment…the stomach flu but worse, people understand how this feels but they do not understand PROFOUND depression. Unlike mild depression in a way that a fire you set in your fireplace (controlled and only mildly uncomfortable if you get too close) is different than a forest fire that burns for days/weeks and takes out a neighborhood and destroys lives. No comparison. Meds help me have a little more energy to function; for my kids, for my family. When I feel I am a complete waste of human skin I do think of them and put my self-hatred aside; my narcissism, self-centeredness, my absolute focus on myself and all of my flaws and missteps.
I have written down my ‘accomplishments’. The things I do when in that part of this ‘cycle’. The things that make me feel like I might be a decent human being. Do I do this to prove I am human for myself (self-serving) or for the people around me, who are probably sick of it all as well? I don’t know, but there it is. I go back and look at these things and feel many things, but pride is not one of them. I think it could be a waste. A complete waste. I have gotten letters, messages of thanks for writing about my illnesses from those who feel this, too. Those who understand; but do they really? Are they are completely self-focused/self-despising? I have had to defend myself before. Not because I didn’t feel I deserved whatever I was being attacked/disciplined for but because I KNEW if I allowed that to continue I would die. It would kill what little remains of what keeps me here. I have literally almost walked out of something I knew I shouldn’t because I understood that if I didn’t it would lead to my further self-hatred and thus, demise. But then if I did walk away, that also would. Luckily, I think that person partially understood this and held steady to resolve the friction, not letting me walk away. And I am thankful for that. But I did tell that person that I couldn’t handle that sort of confrontation. As my mother said…I am hard enough on myself. I do try to understand why, but it doesn’t help me.
I suppose I always will be.