The Danger of Self Loathing

Trigger Alert: If you are someone you know is contemplating suicide, please seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free and anonymous service. Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. 

Selfhatred (also called selfloathing) refers to an extreme dislike or hatred of oneself, or being angry at or even prejudiced against oneself.

Not_Good_Enough_by_graphiqual

I thought I’d never get to that point again. I guess that’s the danger of thinking you’ve overcome something. I still have a lot to learn and realize that my family’s involvement in AA* (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA* (Narcotics Anonymous) has a lot to teach me. Never stop thinking that you are an addict. You are an addict. You might be in recovery, but the moment you think you’ve conquered your addiction is the moment you fall off the wagon. That being said, I thought I was over feelings of wanting to die.  Until last week.

Self loathing and shame are powerful emotions, ones that lie and lead one to think that they are worthless. And truth be told, they are the two emotions that I have battled much of my life. I don’t know where it comes from, but I have constantly thought that I was unworthy. I could never make a mistake. I was never good enough. All of these thoughts have fueled my desire to further my education and constantly seek to be better. All in all, these aren’t bad things to seek but I’ve learned that the motivations – self loathing and shame – are deadly.

My desire for to be perfect leads me to have zero tolerance about making mistakes and I am inherently ungracious towards myself. More about this thing called grace later…

This past week, everything that I feared became a reality – making a public mistake, disappointing people that I care deeply about, engaging a man in an unhealthy relationship, scaring my closest friends – you name it, it happened. Basically it was one of the worse weeks of my life. And the feeling of wanting to disappear, to leave and never come back, to die, returned.

I didn’t think I would ever be there again. I didn’t think that I would make decisions that would put me in danger. But I am realizing that the longer I go trying to cover up rather than embrace the dark side of myself, the easier it is for me to slip back into thinking that I am worthless. My tendency during these moments is to withdraw, to shut out loved ones and crawl into myself. I’ve found that my thinking is flawed during this time because my mind leads me to wonder why anyone would care. At my lowest moments, I believe this to be true. And this is dangerous.

I am thankful for the community of support that surrounds me in spite of myself. I am thankful for the women in my life who push through and don’t take no for an answer. I am thankful that my decisions did not lead to a point of no return. I am thankful that God’s grace abounds even as I struggle with it and can’t fully comprehend it.

I am continuing on this journey of healing – meeting with my therapist, taking my medication, getting back in shape, taking care of my body – but I realize that there will be setbacks.

My prayer is that feelings of worthlessness disappear as we look them in the eye and declare that they don’t have the last word over our lives.

My prayer is that I grow in grace and compassion towards myself and that you do the same.

My prayer is that love abounds – love of God, love of self and love of others – as I continue to realize my self worth.

Love,

Me

*Alcoholics Anonymous is an international mutual aid fellowship founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio. AA states that its “primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety”. Narcotics Anonymous describes itself as a “nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem”.

Advertisements

Breakdown

The tears well. My heart races.

Thoughts run rampant through my mind.

I don’t do the unexpected. I can’t handle the unexpected it.

I fall apart.

I lose it.

Faith is supposed to be my mantra.

Worry tends to take its place.

Stop. Breathe. Focus. Remember.

Repeat.

Be still and know that I am God

For Everything There is a Season…

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. It is a day that we celebrate our mothers. I have expanded my definition of mother to not just include my biological mother but also include the women in my life who “mother me” – those who provide guidance, encouragement, love, discipline, conviction and never-ending support. For me, these mothers are women of faith who care for themselves and their families. I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

Mother’s Day also brings out some darker emotions in me. I am a 31 soon-to-be- 32 year old divorcee who has yet to conceive a child. The assumption by most people is that I will have children at some point. I’ve always struggled with this because I am terrified of physically carrying a child and thoughts of what might happen to my fragile mental state paralyze me. I know now that I am at high risk for postpartum depression and other mental health issues because of my history. Pregnancy and the subsequent birth of a child will exacerbate these issues. However, there is something that happens this day each year, something that I’m quite ashamed to admit. I get a twinge of longing for the role and title of mother and feel like I’m not woman enough because I haven’t born a child. Then I feel guilty for focusing on myself on a day when so many others focus on the amazing women in their lives. And the cycle continues…So, I decided to write about my feelings today.

I had a glimpse of what it might be like to be a mother when I was married. My ex-husband has an amazing son from his first marriage and I was privileged to get to know this amazing child from the time he was three until he was ten. While he lived with his mother on a daily basis, he spent his summers and holidays with my ex-husband and I. During these times I fully embraced the mothering role and was amazed at how naturally certain things came to me. I began to care for and love this boy like he was my own. It was quite surprising to me and I lament that this relationship has been severed. I’ll probably write more on that later…

I’ve always struggled with what it means to be a woman. Is it defined by my gender? Is it defined by my participation in heteronormative relationships? Is it defined by certain characteristics? Is it defined by my role as wife? Is it defined by my role as mother? Is it defined by my desire to want to be a mother, wife or any other role that is lifted up as ideal?

Today at Shekinah Chapel, I heard a message that felt like it was meant just for me on this day. The preacher was a woman who preached on Proverbs 31. I must confess that this is one of my least favorite texts in scripture because of how it’s lifted up as how woman should be. I have always felt like if I’m not the Proverbs 31 woman, I am not woman at all. As the preacher began her message, I told myself to sit still and listen. And I am so glad I did.

The preacher talked about the text and connected it to the hats that we as women are expected to wear. She even used imagery at one point and placed six or seven different hats on her head. It was a powerful illustration because it showed how it’s not only impossible to wear more than one hat at a time but that it also looks just plain ludicrous. I appreciated this sermon on so many levels and my spirit resonated with the struggle that so many women face – to try and be all things to all people at all times and still maintain a certain attitude and character, which is often how Proverbs 31 is lifted up in communities of faith. Towards the end of the sermon, the preacher quoted Ecclesiastes 3 (see below) – For everything there is a season…

Before I knew it, tears started to fall. Even as I write this post, the tears well up in my eyes. But they are cleansing tears not tears of sorrow. I realized in the preached moment today that I am living in a certain season of life, one that has not called me to be a mother or a wife. I feel like I have always fought this reality and made apologies for why I was not living into these roles. Today, I felt like I had permission to shed any and every expectation of me that was not God given. God has blessed me in many ways and I know that I am walking in a season where I am called to be an advocate, a friend, a mentor, an aunt, a leader and a visionary. I am not called to be a mother or a wife right now. And for the first time, I truly believe that it’s ok…

For everything there is a season…

For those who have lost mothers…

For those who have had terrible relationships with their mothers…

For those who long to be a mother and their body’s won’t let them conceive…

For those who have suffered one or many miscarriages…

For those who feel like a failure because they have not become a mother…

For those who will never be mothers and don’t want to be…

For all women who struggle to define themselves against the ongoing tide of societal, cultural, familial expectation…

I pray. You are not alone.

Love,

Me

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

seasonsOfLifea time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time…

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11

Ruminations and Recriminations

It goes a little something like this…

I don’t feel good.I think I may be sick.I should stay home from work.

Who wants to be around me anyway?I’m pathetic.I’m a failure.I’m divorced.I’m crazy.I run men off.Who would want me?No one can love me.I don’t even love me.

I could have done better.I should have done this/that differently.I feel so guilty/ashamed because…I will never be forgiven.

If people really knew what I was thinking, they wouldn’t love me.If people knew the real me, they would never want to be around me.If I were a better friend/employee/lover/sister/daughter I wouldn’t be alone/depressed/anxious/afraid.

What if I never have children?Does that make me a failure?Isn’t that the one thing I’m supposed to do as a woman?Who am I kidding? I couldn’t take care of another human being if I wanted to.

I’m going to be fired.My work isn’t good enough.Did I make the right choice?What should I have done differently?Why is this so hard?

I’m not good enough.I’m not worth it.I’m inherently bad.I’m irrevocably broken. There’s no hope…

What was God thinking?Is there anything good here?What’s the point?What if I ended it all?Would anyone care?Then people would know that I am really a coward.

God help me.

These are actual thoughts that have plagued me. They start off slow, without warning. They’re amorphous and at times, unidentifiable. Truth be told, if you aren’t paying attention, they can creep up on you. One minute you’re fine. The next minute, you are so sad, or even worse, you are so numb. Before you know it, you are literally paralyzed by your thoughts and incapable of emerging from the darkest of places.

When you can actually feel something, the worst feelings take over – despair, hopelessness, guilt, shame. When you’re incapable of feeling, you just know you’re bad, worthless, forgotten, abandoned. The feelings and numbness take you to dark places, make you feel like your life isn’t worth living.

They don’t seem that bad. I mean, they’re just….thoughts, right?

WRONG.

gandhi_thoughts_postcard

Rumination is the act of focusing on the things that are distressing. Recrimination is a retaliatory accusation, in this case against yourself. Ruminating and recriminating have been my downfall and are signature markers of when my depression is at its worst.

Our thoughts have the power to be life-giving or life-taking. For those of us who struggle with depression, our thoughts are things we must pay attention to and fight on a daily basis. Guilt, shame and inadequacy can literally kill us by causing us to believe that we are worthless. Many people end their lives. While I’ve had suicidal thoughts, I’ve never taken steps to kill myself. I’m not sure why…

For me, the best things in combating these thoughts are medication, therapy, exercise, and spirituality. I’ll write more about each of these later but suffice it to say, without medication (Prozac and Xanax), therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on a REGULAR basis to be exact), exercise (participating in a variety of dance styles including Pole dancing – more on the benefits of this later) and spirituality (deepening my faith life through my Christian tradition and embracing Buddhism as a way of life) I would NOT be where I am today.

My prayer is that your thoughts breathe life into you rather than take life from you.

My prayer is that if you struggle with ruminating and recriminating, that you seek help and support.

My prayer is that you are able to reclaim the goodness within and never doubt who you are, what you can do or your value ever again.

If you or someone you know are contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For more information about treatment options, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Visit Monday’s blog posting, which may provide some support through some very powerful lyrics – Music Mondays: Shine the Light by Sugarland.

When your thoughts threaten to take you under, please remember this one thing: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Love,

Me

Fear of Silence

I drove home the other night in complete silence. I worked a 16 hour shift and left my job at midnight. It had been a difficult week but before I knew it, it was time to leave. Walking to my car I noticed how cold and dark it was outside. We were told to anticipate freezing temperatures and I planned accordingly, wearing my winter coat and gloves. The sky was clear and I couldn’t see the moon. It was very quiet.

I never drive in silence. I’m normally listening to NPR, my favorite Pandora station or the top 25 tunes on my iPod. On this night, however, something within me needed silence.

I don’t like to sit with myself – with my thoughts and my feelings. The silence scares me but on this night I took a chance.

I know my medication is working when I can be aware of my thoughts but not be overrun by my thoughts. I can reflect on my day. I can feel the sadness and loneliness. I can grieve for the people I’ve lost. I can FEEL without spiraling into the depths of despair. My time in silence tonight reminded me that I have nothing to fear.

I think I need these moments of silence more often, not only to be in tune with myself but to listen for the still, small voice within that reminds me not to be afraid. Maybe one day you’ll be able to take some time to just listen.

Love,
Me

Music Mondays: Alright by STARBOARDERS

Today’s song holds special meaning for me for a variety of reasons.

The first reason is that the title, “Alright”, is a reminder to me in that I am not alone and that one day, everything will be alright.

The second reason is that it is written and performed by some of my best friends. Starboarders is comprised of Matt Simpkins, Bill Porter and Greg LaRose, three men that I was introduced to almost three years ago. These guys have not only become like family, they are instrumental in providing support and encouragement in my darkest moments.

The third reason that I love this song and this band is that they have managed to do something that very few people ever achieve – embrace their gifts and make a difference in people’s lives. This band writes excellent music that is not only meaningful but purposeful. The band decided that all proceeds from their first album Chroma would go to purchase LifeStraws, water filtration devices that can be used in places where people suffer from a lack of access to clean water.

This band is focused on something other than themselves, and I am learning that when we do this, our own healing takes place. So the lesson I’ve learned not only from this song, but from these guys is that we are called to care for and love one another. This brings about abundant life for everyone and helps make everything alright… Thanks guys.

Love,

Me

STARBOARDERS Links

Why am I so SAD?

This time of year is always difficult for me. I don’t think I paid much attention to it before the Great Fall of 2001. I love the holiday season – Thanksgiving and Christmas – because I get to spend time with family and friends. I love the smells. I love the food. I love the meaning of the Christmas season. But I hate the cold. I hate the short days. I hate the dark. I am the person who wishes that we could do Christmas in July every year. So you might say that I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year.

I start noticing my demeanor shifting after Labor Day. When it starts getting cooler, I spend more time deciding what I am going to wear. It takes me longer to get out of bed. I go into work later. I’ve even been known to call in sick just because I can’t stand the thought of leaving my house. I now know that a major part of my depressive reality is Seasonal Affective Disorder.

When I was talking to a friend who is a mental health advocate and all around know-it-all when it comes to these issues, she said that many people use the SAD label who don’t necessarily suffer from the disorder. It has been found that those most prone to SAD are those who already have mental health issues, especially those with depression. I’m realizing that I have to be more vigilant during this time of year. I have to pay attention to the signs and be proactive in caring for myself.

It’s hard though. I feel like sadness lurks just beneath the surface and there really isn’t any rhyme or reason. I want to cry all the time. I am more aware of my emotions and feeling like I’m alone – even though I logically know I have an amazing support network. My tendency is to hibernate and re-emerge when Spring comes. Except, it’s impossible to live one’s life only two seasons of the year and take off the other two. So I am on the journey of figuring out how to live with my reality without feeling ashamed or guilty. My plan for today is to put one foot in front of the other, to focus on the things I have control over and to let go of those things that I cannot control. Just for today…

Love,

Me