How do you start to love someone you don’t really like? Say, for example, that you’ve mistreated this person for most of her life, repeatedly kicked her when she was down, constantly berated her for not measuring up and ridiculed her for her looks, her flaws, and her failures.
Most people would never treat someone that way, and yet that’s how I treat myself. I’m the one person I’m supposed to love unconditionally. After all, I’m the one person I have to spend every waking and sleeping moment with for the rest of my life.
I would never tell anyone else that I thought they were past their prime, that they were incapable of doing something, that they were overweight, were a failure, were someone to be despised. I would never tell someone that they were mediocre at best. I would never look at them in the mirror and tell them they were ugly, and hopeless, and disgusting. I would never tell them to date people who are bad for them. I would never tell them they should find any way they can to escape themselves. I’ve never even thought most of those things about anyone.
I would never tell them that they should maybe just die.
I say all these things to me, though, and I do it every day. It’s a running narrative in my head. When I give it deeper thought, I feel truly sorry for this girl, this person I’ve treated so horrifically. I wouldn’t ever treat another human being the way I’ve treated me. Re-reading the very first sentence of this stupid post is proof. In what I thought was a completely innocuous sentence when I wrote it, I say right out loud that I don’t like myself.
So if I feel sorry for me, maybe that’s a start. At least this awareness of the problem indicates I’m maybe empathetic enough to care that I treat myself badly. A friend of mine has a podcast, and he recently talked about self-love, and learning how to do it. I don’t think I have the tools yet, so this week I started filling my toolbox. I signed up for a “resilience reset” workshop starting in two weeks with a woman who came recommended from my friend. I will start neurofeedback treatments with her as well in the next six to 12 weeks, also based on my friend’s recommendation. I also accessed my employee assistance program and set up six sessions with a therapist. The first one starts tomorrow.
So that’s a little self-love, right?
When I talked to the neurofeedback lady, Darla, she asked me why I thought I needed the program. I told her I was having trouble concentrating, that I was not able to do my job properly, and that I wasn’t treating myself well. When she asked what’s been going on in my life, I told her that in the past 14 months I have had a breakup, I’ve moved twice, and I started a new job. I was prepared for her to tell me that I probably didn’t need neurofeedback, that I wasn’t “sick” or “ill”, that I hadn’t had any true trauma, like domestic abuse or rape or an accident.
She surprised me. She told me that in a little over a year, I’ve had three of the ten most stressful events a person can experience: a divorce (or split, in my case), a big move, and a new job. She told me that a person’s reaction to these kinds of experiences often manifest themselves physically, as in physical pain, or temporary loss of mental faculties like memory, concentration, and decisionmaking. She told me I was a great candidate for neurofeedback therapy. She told me she could help me even more immediately with her workshop. I signed up.
It might all be hogwash, and I’ll be significantly poorer whether it is or not, but I’m willing to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. I’m banking on the fact that the neurofeedback therapy helped my friend, and that Darla was recommended by his therapist. When Darla told me she could help me, I cried. It was the first true light at the end of the tunnel that I’ve seen in more than a year.
I also realized that yes, I’ve been through some shit. Her empathy was a come-to-jesus moment for me. I’ve been truly stressed out for over a year. I’ve been in fight-or-flight mode all the time. Since I despise flight, it’s been mostly fight: run hard, bike hard, lift weights hard, play hard, fuck hard. But flight is there too: books, tv, booze, social media, anything I can possibly do to NOT spend time with myself.
I realized tonight, while writing this, that I do advocate for myself sometimes, as evidenced here by some of my past posts. I don’t think I’m clinically depressed, although I feel like I’m slipping in that direction. The harmful narratives in my head keep the part of me that wants to feel better from succeeding. It’s like part of me is prostrate on the ground, and I’m simultaneously trying to lift that part up while standing on its hands. That kind of abuse is worse. It makes any goal even harder to achieve because it just seems that much further away.
I think the key is to set the bar fairly low and do some small steps in the right direction. I made the counseling appointments almost without hope, and without really caring whether they were going to see me or not. I truly didn’t think anyone would help me, and I still had it in my head that if I just tried harder I would be able to figure this out on my own. But the truth is that I think the downtrodden piece of shit in my soul knew better, and in a weirdly intimate episode of Stockholm Syndrome, did its best to rescue me, its abuser.
Onward then, and (hopefully) upward.
“What’s the meanest you can be/to the one you claim to love/and still smile to all/ your new-found friends” – Jawbreaker, “Accident Prone”