I have this theory.
It began with this post.*
I have never thought of myself as self-destructive, never considered harming myself. I thought I took decent care of myself. In fact, I often have thought I spoil myself, that I compromise the discipline I ought to have too often.
To make a long, and (for this post) vague, story short, since losing a particular outlet and experiencing hope deferred on several occasions, I find myself hanging by a thread some days.
Too many days.
I’ve been telling myself I need to try harder, do better, just get through it. Suck it up. Keep calm and carry on. Be strong. Be stronger. Adapt. Push. Pray harder. Have more faith. Be patient. Do everything I possibly can as right as I possibly can, maximize my chances for finally getting the thing I am desperately hoping for. Or at least a good day.
Some days I really felt like it was okay. Or okay enough.
But most days I just hurt.
So then I started telling myself it was a season. I’d learn, I’d get through it. It’s just because of specific circumstances that I feel this way.
Then I read that post. The bit about ‘not wearing enough when it’s freezing out’ made me pause.
See, the cold doesn’t bother me much, I grew up where it was colder. It just rains a lot here, but I tend to say ‘It’s just water; I’ll dry eventually.”
I’ve lived here 6 years and never bought a raincoat. I only wear my winter coat if there’s snow on the ground, and even then it’s primarily because I dislike being under scrutiny from people who think I should wear a coat.
I probably should wear a coat.
The ‘masked little things’ …that stopped me cold.
I have this theory that maybe I do some of those masked little things. Maybe so well that I didn’t realise what I was doing to myself.
I have this theory that I have somehow created a lifestyle where I deprive myself of what I need and what I want under the guise of discipline and sacrifice.
I don’t mean to imply discipline and sacrifice are ‘bad’. I firmly believe the exact opposite.
I just suspect rather strongly now that I have abused the concepts in relation to myself.
And I don’t mean ‘want’ in a trivial manner; the wants of which I deprive myself are of the soul-craving variety. The starved-to-the-brink-of-desperation kind of wants. The things my heart yearns for, misses terribly, that are always, always in the back of my mind.
I must be disciplined for my school, my work, my life in general. To be a responsible adult. This all involves some sacrifices, and I’ve accepted that, chosen it. Whether it’s being far from family, investing a great deal of time, energy, and money in grad school, putting other things on hold for several years while I try to complete this phase in my vocational pursuit, my spare time being given to volunteer work, time with friends and family so I don’t entirely alienate them, and then managing to get my introverted self by on fumes for a few weeks or months at a time.
And I don’t mean all this begrudgingly or in a martyr-like monologue.
That post though. I cannot dislodge it, like a song that keeps running through my mind, but more ominous than Ra Ra Rasputin.
I have this theory that I’ve trained myself quite well to put other people first. That’s what a good Christian, a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend, a good teacher ought to do. I love all these people, of course I’m more than willing to sacrifice a little for them, especially if I see them suffering and I think I can help somehow.
And this is what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it? Aren’t I supposed to love my neighbour, give to the poor, love the outcasts, honour my parents, be a friend, give everything?
But that post.
I started arguing with myself, saying I spoiled myself with TV and movies when I should be working, sleeping in on the weekends and spending hours on Tumblr and Pinterest when I should be doing chores. I give myself ‘treats’ far too much.
But that post.
I finally ran out of arguments, and began considering those maybes. Maybe I am just a tiny bit…couldn’t bring myself to say ‘self-destructive’. Surely not me. I mean, I don’t hate myself.
I stay up late to finish something when I probably ought to go to bed. Or I penalise myself for watching TV earlier by only allowing myself a four-hour sleep that night so I can catch up on paperwork. I meet my cravings with food that’s not so fantastic for me, on a regular basis. I know I should eat better; somehow the fruits and veggies go bad in my fridge more often than not. I put off hiking, yoga, playing piano, reading, all my ‘fun’ projects because I have this list of things I should do first. When I finish all those things, then I can do what I want. That’s responsible, isn’t it? I can do those ‘want’ things tomorrow. Or on the weekend. Or over the summer. Or over Christmas break. Or over Easter break.
Suddenly it wasn’t an argument anymore.
Suddenly I have this theory.
I keep giving up things that I want from the very core of my being. Things I need to be, I think, a decently healthy, functional person who isn’t miserable and on the verge of tears 2-4 days a week.
And I give them up because I have somehow convinced myself this is what a grown up does. This is what a good Christian girl does.
Until that post triggered the specifics, and I started thinking, “A good Christian girl doesn’t eat well? Doesn’t sleep enough? Doesn’t spend time reading her Bible because she has this massive to do list she ‘ought’ to work on and reading time is a luxury she doesn’t deserve until it’s finished? Doesn’t wear a freaking coat?”
I don’t think I hate myself. I don’t want to think I hate myself.
But it’s pretty clear that I haven’t done a very good job of loving myself.
I have attempted to stave off those wants and needs by feeding my body and soul junk food, in varying forms. Binge-watching TV and movies (often as a distraction while I attempt to be productive, so I don’t think about how behind I feel, how miserable I am for whatever reasons, so I don’t end up spiralling in highly unpleasant ways), treating myself to McDonald’s (because obviously what my soul needs is a McWrap), buying little teddy bear figurines at the thrift store (but not a freaking raincoat), spending hours on Tumblr and Pinterest and YouTube and Facebook while trying to psych myself up to leave my bedroom and get going, then punishing myself with no sleep or no walk or no piano or whatever for yet another day.
Pseudo-rewards. The illusion that I treat myself decently and then go above and beyond and need to balance everything out with some deprivation.
I have this theory that I don’t entirely believe, deep down, that I deserve my time and energy and attention. Other people, certainly. Almost always. Unless someone is actively abusive, to an extreme, I believe they deserve me.
But I only deserve me after everyone and everything else is looked after.
I don’t really know how I got here. I don’t know how I became so mixed-up. I don’t know why exactly I am so bad at loving myself, caring for myself, why I am maybe a little bit…’self-destructive’. Maybe.
Maybe the immediate circumstances of my life aren’t a sufficient explanation for my recurrent misery. Maybe there really are too many days where I am fighting to act normal and not burst into tears while I go about my day. Maybe people aren’t supposed to feel like this.
Maybe I’m not okay.
I have concluded that at this point, I don’t really know how to love myself. I have theories. I know it’s important. I see it referenced all over the place. Even in the Bible: Mark 12:28-31 says that a teacher of the law asked Jesus which of the commandments was the most important. Jesus replied: ‘The most important one is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’
I am fairly certain I have messed up royally on that second commandment. Got some decent practice on the ‘love your neighbour’ part. Virtually ignored the next two words. Which is not stellar obedience on my part. Which in turn means my theology is in error.
If there is one thing I cannot abide, it’s sub-par theology.
This has therefore become my tipping point.
I don’t want to stop loving others. I don’t want to stop loving others. I don’t want to stop giving of myself, or being disciplined, or sacrificing what I know I need to for the things that are so very, very important to myself. But my wants cannot be satisfied with mere junk food. My needs cannot be met with just a bandaid. I have spent a long time trying to just tide myself over…and now I am not okay.
Hence, this blog.
This blog is going to be my online journal, my personal journal, where I am going to write about this whole mess as I attempt to fumble through figuring out how to actively love myself.
It’s terrifying. I want very much to shove it all down and ignore it, but frankly I’m afraid of what might happen if I continue with that particular coping method.
So instead, I’m going to write to process, to be honest with myself, to try to unearth why I am this way, to try to learn to do better. To make myself feel at least somewhat accountable if someone out there knows. It might be an unmitigated disaster. It might be brilliant. It might be utterly mediocre.
I don’t really care.
This is for me. Not meant as a template, guide, suggestion for anyone else, ever. If people find something meaningful, bravo. Because I am a mess and it’s likely this blog will be too. Maybe my theory is entirely wrong.
I just have to try something.
I am not after sympathy or advice or attention. I don’t want to discourage people from commenting or messaging, they will always be open, people are always free to share. I cannot guarantee I will respond in a timely manner, or even at all, as this is another aspect of self-care I am attempting to explore.
I am writing this for me. I am trying to make myself love myself.
Welcome to my mess.
*original post viewable here.