So, as I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t had the best few months. I had … I want to say, a spectacular meltdown, but there was nothing spectacular about it. Nobody saw. Nobody knew for the first few days.
I had a crazy over-the-top stressful couple of weeks at work, and once I reached my days off, I just collapsed. I went straight back to that place where I am useless and worthless and I hated myself, and I wanted to be dead. I got closer than I ever have before to making plans to kill myself. I think I sobbed for two hours straight.
I am, in some ways, incredibly blessed, because I never seem to spend long in that terrifying place. For me, it’s more that suicide becomes a logical answer to all of the problems that I’m trying to deal with, currently. And tells me that something is seriously wrong.
This all made me really sick. I’m starting to realise that I struggle a lot with anxiety – especially when I’m already unwell. So my anxiety levels were constantly at a ridiculously high peak. And after a dip like that, after staring my mortality in the face, I drop into a moderate depression. It is not a depression that lasts – for which I am eternally thankful to God – it’s more of a reactive depression.
I had to call in sick to work – a truly terrifying phone call, made a million times better by a very understanding member of staff – and then I had to start telling people that I was sick, which was also completely daunting, because I’m so good at hiding my illness from everyone – including myself.
What I find hardest about it all is that I didn’t know. I didn’t realise how unwell I was. I knew that I wasn’t great, but I really didn’t know just how close the edge I had come. I was just so busy that I kept pushing myself forwards and onwards and continuing until at some point, I just couldn’t.
Probably the first or second person that I told that I was sick was one of my closest friends who lives a good 500miles away. And she came to look after me, for a couple of days. She is awesome, completely awesome, this friend, she was just completely understanding and supportive and amazing. She made me go to a massive theme park and we had an amazing day (in spite of my occasional bouts of anxiety).
[she has just called me mid post writing and made me laugh. A lot. She rocks.]
Anyway. I could spend a long time talking about how hard that time was, but maybe another day.
What I want to talk about today, is WHY it was so hard. I thought that I had learned to love and accept myself for who I was, months ago, when I was this ill before. But if you have really accepted yourself, you don’t then regress and come back to hating yourself again. So what I had to face was the truth that I had never really stopped hating myself – I had just learned to plug the gap and then moved rapidly on.
Nobody wants to stay in the place where they are hurting, where they are really ill and considering leaving it all behind. But actually, I needed to not rush away this time, I needed to give myself time to really process what had happened and find the root cause, properly. So although taking time off work – and then having to talk to the people at work, about the fact that I was ill – was unbelievably hard, it helped me to really, properly, actually deal with all of this.
It turns out, that instead of learning to love myself, I gave that job to somebody else. I don’t know when or how I did this. I know that I’ve probably been doing it all my life, to some degree – I have always needed other people to validate me, because my core belief was that I was worthless. If I was worthless, then so were my opinions; so if someone else thought I was good, they must be right, because I’m always wrong about everything.
I’ve been working so hard to ignore the opinions of others in society, and the standards I felt that they held me to, when really I could not break those bonds because my entire self worth was bound up in them.
I guess around the time I was recovering from my first bout of suicidal thoughts, I got to know a really, really lovely girl from church. She and I really hit it off, and we became more or less inseparable. She’s an awesome person. Not perfect, but I thought that she was, because we agreed on so many things; she validated me. So, unbeknownst to either of us, I gave her all the weight of my self worth.
So, when there was a problem, and we didn’t talk so much for a little while, I overreacted massively. I honestly don’t know what the root of this problem was, any more. I thought I did, then, but now I think it went back further to her drawing back slightly and me panicking – because I had made her my world.
Although we talk some now, it is not the same, because I went completely off the deep end when there was a problem. I don’t know how to begin to heal this friendship; sometimes I don’t know if I want to. It turned into something deeply unhealthy for me, and maybe I need to protect myself from that happening again. I don’t know. I know that I’m still grieving for the loss of this friendship.
But hey. So, my support structure had pretty much crumbled, and work got really stressful, and home got really stressful (I have chronic noisy neighbour problems, really not helped by being hyper-sensitive to noise) – and I shattered.
But then, good things happened, in a time when I was very, very deeply hurting. I managed to be really, totally honest and open with some other friends [without, I hope, asking them to hold me up]. And I started seeing a new counsellor, much more regularly, and somewhere in amongst all the tears and the self-hatred, she managed to help me step in to the light.
I held a core belief that I was bad. Irreversibly so. So whenever someone told me off as a child, I took that as evidence of my inherently bad nature. And this carried on into adulthood. Whenever I got something wrong, or made a mistake, this was just proof of my worthlessness.
I had to work, all of the time, to prove myself to be a ‘good girl’, and hide my real, bad, worthless self inside. I had to bend over backwards to be perfect, to be accepted. And yes, I took not just some, but ALL of my self-worth from the outside world; from people, from society, from just managing to present myself as the pretty, successful person I should be. I lived in terror of people discovering who I actually was – I could never get angry with anyone, because they would see the rottenness inside, so I got angry at myself, instead.
Discovering all of this has not been exactly pleasant. But it has been so very, very freeing.
My worth, now, comes from God. Direct from the One who made me. He made me good AND bad – in a balance. I have both good and bad in me. I am defined by neither one. I can choose to be positive and good, I can choose to be negative and bad. I can choose.
I remembered seeing this (probably on facebook!) and it made so much sense to me. I really, really understand this, now;
(I googled this picture and found it here – I know not its origins!)
Also, and just as importantly as accepting that God loves all of me, I love all of me. I have, at very, very long last, learned to love and accept myself. My whole self, not just the nice bits.
Obviously, I’m terrified – what if this doesn’t stick, again? What if I lose this acceptance of myself, again? What if there’s something else in me that I need to challenge?
I don’t have the answers for these questions; I’m just going to take this one day at a time. I have a lifetime’s worth of assumptions and beliefs and mindsets that I now need to tackle – one at a time. It’s not going to be easy.
But last time I wrote, I talked about how my faith keeps me up, keeps me going each day, and that is only more accurate with each moment that passes. I am still so vulnerable to everything, that without the shield of faith to protect me, I might not survive it all. But I find that visualising it is SO effective. It’s fantastic. I’m challenging myself to learn little bits of scripture, too, so that when I’m in a bad place I can comfort myself, and calm myself down, along with the anxiety coping techniques I have learned (in abundance!) of late.
I’m off work for a week’s holiday just now, and I’ve done pretty much nothing. A little house cleaning and a couple of catch-ups with friends, but otherwise I’ve just been resting. I struggled with this at first (lazy is one of the many negative self-labels that I’m busy challenging), but especially after writing all of the above, I am okay with it. I think I’ve earned a bit of down time..!
I hope and I pray that this is my light at the end of the tunnel. Please, please Lord, let me have found the real source of all of this hatred, please let me be moving back, slowly slowly, to healing myself once more.
If you’re still in the tunnel, or if you’ve dropped again after doing well for so long – please take heart.
This, too, shall pass.