Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

The harshest critic

I’m not perfect. I know I have my faults and I’m honest about them. I’m honest about my bad habits too, and I don’t allow myself to make excuses. I know what my weaknesses are. I don’t like myself very much, but I think that’s pretty normal. I saw a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) specialist for a while and she was horrified by what she called my “character assassination”. She said I judge myself far too harshly and that I need to be kinder to myself.

But what she saw as harsh, I see as being realistic. After all, I’m the one inside my head. I’m the one thinking these thoughts, feeling these feelings. I need to be honest with myself. It’s taken 20 years for me to acknowledge that my depression is as much a physical illness as a mental one and that I will probably be taking medication for the rest of my life. I’ve made my peace with that. But I am less comfortable with other aspects of my mental health.

Take my anxiety, for example. While I know it’s a mental health problem I also know it’s ridiculous to be in a constant state of worry and consternation that my husband or children could die or be critically injured at any minute. I know that not wanting to meet new people, not feeling comfortable in social situations, is silly and limiting. I don’t feel like this about others who have anxiety, just myself. The therapist said this was self-stigmatising; I think it’s just being realistic.

The same is true of my disordered eating (I’ve blogged about this a few times). I admit that my eating is disordered and that I am struggling to cope with this. But the suggestion that I may have an eating disorder seems preposterous. So what if I tick all the diagnostic boxes? To say that I have an ED would be like making an excuse, absolving me of responsibility. In reality I am weak, greedy and lacking willpower – that’s what’s wrong, not an eating disorder. My eating problems are my own fault and nothing more.

I could go on – my self-loathing is deep and boundless. I am not the wonderful mother I assumed I would be. I’m not the successful career woman I assumed I would be. I’m not the sociable, popular individual that I used to be. The schism between who I should be and who I am seems almost unbridgable.

I know I am critical of myself, but who isn’t? Who doesn’t wish that they could change things about themselves? This post may seem self-pitying but it isn’t. I am brutally honest with myself because I need to be, I can’t allow myself to make excuses. I don’t like who I am and I need to confront myself and be truthful if I am to make changes.

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Comments on: "The harshest critic" (2)

  1. Mamaduck said:

    It takes a lot of courage to admit that, no matter how much we want to be perfect, we aren’t. We all have faults and imperfections, and there are always things we don’t like about ourselves. I always tried to be perfect but felt that I failed miserably and constantly. I didn’t know my dds as much as I thought I did and it’s been hard accepting that failing. What would they be like now if I had seen what they needed and seen the signs so much earlier?
    I always thought that my parenting was an improvement on my parents but it’s not, Just different. That hurts sometimes.
    However, I have a much closer relationship with my dds than my parents had with my sibling and I. I know that my dds have a close relationship with each other, whilst my sibling and I have had to overcome many years of deliberate wedging apart from our parents (thankfully we are now close and enjoying our new found relationship). I love my dds so much, and I make sure they know that almost every day. I try to be there for them and to me, my family is the most important thing in my life, more than anything else.
    I know that you are a loving wife, a loving daughter and sister and a great mother to the best children ever. Life is tough, and there are many times when you must feel that giving up would be an easier option, but you keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, and carry on. And that, my dearest girl, is the most courageous thing of all.

  2. “I don’t feel like this about others who have anxiety, just myself.”
    “I think that’s just being realistic.”
    Serious question: how can those two statements coexist?

    “So what if I tick all the diagnostic boxes? To say that I have an ED would be like making an excuse.”
    If ticking the diagnostic boxes doesn’t convince you of a diagnosis, then 1) why not, and 2) what would? Incidentally, I *don’t* tick all the boxes, at least not under the old definition, but I don’t think anyone would dispute that I have a problem.

    “The schism between who I should be and who I am seems almost unbridgable.”
    Every single person worth their salt knows this feeling, from what I’ve seen. Most just don’t want to admit it. And it kind of makes sense – it’s that hunger and dissatisaction that keeps us striving. No-one would ever achieve anything, in their career, interests or personal life, if we all got to 22 and thought, Right, done now. There are some people like this but they’re no fun in the pub.

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