Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Posts tagged ‘self-loathing’

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.

Do you love yourself?

My daughter asked me this last night as I was tucking her into bed. We had been talking about family and love and she was earnestly insistent that everyone should love themselves as well as other people. I smiled and replied “Of course I do!” and she went to sleep happy.

I lied, of course. Not a little white one either but a big fat whopper of a lie. Some days I loathe myself to the point of repulsion; some days I merely dislike myself. But I certainly never even come close to loving myself. I just don’t want my children growing up to feel this way about themselves and the longer I can hide my self-loathing from them the better.

So what’s so bad about me? To be honest the reasons are pretty feeble. The first one, always top of the list, is that I am fat. But then I have always hated my body and been convinced that I was fat, even when looking back I can see that I plainly wasn’t. However these days I really am. Measuring in at around a UK size 20 I have rolls and flab and looking at my body fills me with revulsion. For a variety of reasons losing weight isn’t easy for me but the 2 main ones are that exercise is difficult because of my back pain, and that my eating habits are disordered to the point of possibly having an eating disorder (I’ve written about this before). I don’t really believe that though – I’m just greedy and have no willpower. My size is my own fault.

Moving on, another reason I dislike myself is that I am needy. I want others to approve of me and other people’s opinions, even those of strangers, matter to me. That’s why the previous paragraph was so hard to write – I don’t want online friends to know what I look like below the neck, I don’t want them to know how awful I look. I crave friendship (after the events of the last few years I have few real friends left) but I struggle to bond with anyone offline, perhaps for this reason.

There are yet more reasons and I can’t go into them all. But off the top of my head? I despise my inability to cope with normal, everyday life when I used to be highly successful at a complex job. I hate what I’ve become & hate that I seem unable to escape this fate. I loathe my anxiety because I know that I am being irrational. I detest myself for not being as good a mother as I want to be, as I had always assumed I would be. In short I am ashamed of both who I am and what I look like.

And yet…

And yet there are things about myself that I quite like. I am intelligent. I have a great sense of humour. I like my green eyes. I may not be as good a mother as I thought but I’m not a bad one either. I like my breasts (even if they do make buying clothing tricky!). I’m not bad at baking. I am a good friend. I care about people.

So maybe I should try to stop focusing on the negatives and recognise the positives. This may sound easy but it is a daunting prospect – even writing down those few good things took me ages. There’s a constant little voice in the back of my mind criticising and rubbishing and belittling my every attempt at positivity:
“You think you have nice eyes? It’s a shame the rest of you is so hideous”.
“You’re a good friend? That’s easy to say when most of your friends have vanished from your life” and so on.

But I am going to try to drown out that little voice and attempt to like myself a bit more. I would hate to see the sadness and disappointment on my daughter’s face if she ever learned how I really feel about myself so I need to change that. I need to learn to like myself despite my faults and flaws instead of focusing on them to the detriment of everything else.

It seems an impossible task but I have to try.

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