Dear readers, may I present to you, a rather incomplete, but no less impressive list of various things that happened when I finally decided to stop hating myself:
- Relatives started asking if I got taller because I wasn’t slouching in an attempt to will myself out of existence.
- My relationships drastically improved, both romantic and platonic, because I could stop using the time I used to devote to thinking about how awful and unlovable I was into being present for those I care about.
- I stopped trying to get hit by a car in the parking lot on my walk into work.
- Food started tasting better because I allowed myself to enjoy it.
- My dog likes me better.
…and this is where it starts to sound like I’m writing a bad self-help book:
- I got a promotion.
All this and more can be yours for the low, low price of hundreds of hours of cognitive behavioral therapy, a dedicated medication regimen and over a year of daily meditation. It’s been a process to get myself into a place where I don’t hate myself any more. I won’t give you my full diagnosis (you’re not my therapist—her name is Karen and she’s the bomb), but the list isn’t exactly short.
Basically, I grew up in a household where someone else’s emotions were always more important than mine. Over time that denial of my own feelings developed into full-blown self-loathing. I was never really a happy kid. I first remember contemplating suicide the same year my age entered double digits. That’s not exactly right, I didn’t want to kill myself—I wanted to stop existing. Poof, gone. I would disappear, and everyone’s lives would be better.
Shit. This is supposed to be a funny essay. Here’s a joke: What did the furniture-maker give his son? An in-chair-itance. (Karen, I know I’m not supposed to use humor as a way of deflecting, but can you cut me a break just this once?)
The thing is, I realized that if I hated myself, everyone who made me feel like my emotions didn’t matter won. My brain was broken and I could either do something about it or continue wanting to die. Note: this is really different than just “deciding to be happy” or “just looking on the bright side.” People who think depression and other mental illnesses are a choice are the worst. I spent six hours a day outside and I was still depressed. I did a lot of yoga and was still depressed. So that girl from high school who keeps sharing those bad motivational quotes on Facebook can suck it.
I took my broken brain and did something about my constant state of misery. Well, I decided to go to therapy, hated myself some for not finding a therapist for a few months, hated myself more because I was disappointing my wonderful, supportive boyfriend, hated myself for having a hard time navigating the difficult world that is medical insurance, then hated myself for crying in Karen’s office six months later.
Therapy is fucking hard. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from some good old cognitive behavioral therapy, but it is not easy. I make the conscious decision to not hate myself on a minute-by-minute basis. I have to make a conscious decision to love myself every single day. And God, I wish self-love and self-care was just Lush bath bombs and not going to parties, but I don’t live in a romantic comedy written by a man. My self-care is eating fucking vegetables and writing this damn essay after putting it off for months.
At 19, I used to joke that I didn’t trust people that didn’t hate themselves, but that’s just because I was learning to trust in myself. The idea that other people don’t intentionally hurt themselves or spend hours mentally tearing themselves down was a mind-blowing discovery I made in January of this year. I’m loving myself, or not hating myself, or just trying to live—whatever you want to call it. This all comes to the sad realization that:
- I wasted over a decade of my life hating myself, and I feel really guilty.
Can you imagine how much more fun I would’ve had in high school if I liked myself? In college? Fuck, I missed out. There’s this completely other person I could’ve been if I made decisions like I thought I’d live past 18. And as I much as I want to love that cooler, more self-assured version of myself, I want to love the scared, self-hating me more. I’ve been through hell and I did it to myself. No one could ever treat me worse than I treated myself. Fire can’t kill a dragon. Loving myself is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it sure as hell beats the alternative.