I think a lot. Too much, sometimes. I’m a huge fan of thinking, but overthinking is where I start to trip on myself.
Lately, and for the past couple of years really, I’ve been struggling. I struggle with a lot of issues personally. I’m fortunate in that I don’t believe I’m currently depressed. As someone who has been diagnosed as severely depressed more than once historically, I can tell the difference now between down and full-on depressed.
Back in 2005 when I returned to the United States after living in Germany for five years, I became so depressed that I was ready to simply check out. My life was a mess. The kind of mess that gets you alienated from your family and worries your friends.
I made the tough choice to check myself into a mental hospital for a week. It sounds scary (and it felt scary at the time), but it was ultimately a very good thing for me. I learned a lot about myself and about the struggles of others. I had a very kind therapist there.
When I returned home, I started seeing a therapist who quite possibly saved my life. Dr. Richardson. She was tough and wonderful and had a terrific sense of humor. She must have seen through some of my issues from miles away and gently steered me towards those truths. There were breakthroughs. They were difficult. I started going to a support group which helped me in so many ways, I can’t even stress enough. I met people I love to this day. I finally put in the hard work and figured out why I did some of the things I did that, more or less, ruined my life. It was an incredibly painful time, but a productive one, to be sure.
I recently decided that returning to therapy would be a good thing for me. I frequently think people don’t like me. I’m more than willing to acknowledge that’s not true in most cases, but it’s accurate in others, and that’s hard for me. I try very hard to be a good friend, and sometimes even the smallest thing derails my feelings about myself.
This is going to sound ridiculous, but stick with me.
This week I found out someone who I had only ever tried to be nice to blocked me on Facebook. That was really hard for me. I’d had no interactions at all with that person for the past handful of months, and I felt strange. I wasn’t sure if I would have felt better about it had there been an actual impetus for that block, or if it was better to have someone that clearly didn’t want to be my friend save us both the time and trouble and do what they did.
It got me thinking.
I care a lot about what people think of me. Sometimes I think I care too much. I care so much about the people in my life, whether that is my partner, or his family, or friends. This extends to friends I’ve made through the internet and gaming and have never met in person. I truly care about people.
And as much as I think about what others think of me, this week I finally looked inside and asked: do I even like myself?
And boy, if you ever want to stop yourself in your tracks, that’s a hell of a way to do it.
I actually had to sit there and think about it.
I acknowledged that I would like to have myself for a friend. I think I can be a pretty good friend. Certainly not perfect, but I try. And I care. And those have merit to me.
There are some things about myself I am nearly proud of. I write on a schedule. I’ve never missed a day. Never through all the chronic illness, through the Great Sick of 2017, never.
The more I thought about myself, the more I realized that I do, in fact, kind of like myself.
That surprised me.
I have so much self-loathing. I could not dislike my appearance more. I feel and am unfit. I need more exercise. I need to go outside more. I need to not sit inside and dwell on the negative aspects of myself.
So, I’ve been trying a new mental exercise: when I’m awake and feeling badly about myself, I try to find at least one thing I can point out to my brain that is positive about myself. These things range from, I love and care about creatures to, I cleaned the bathroom and it is sparkly. They don’t have to be big things, but reminding myself that I am not the colossal piece of sh*t I frequently think I am is a good thing.
Back in therapy, I learned a technique for letting go of negative thoughts, and I still employ it to this day. When visited by an unproductive negative thought about past decisions, I imagine it as a balloon. I imagine myself declaring amnesty for it, and releasing it to float away. It legitimately works for me.
One day I’d be grateful to genuinely like myself. Without prompting. Without reasoning. I’d simply like to like myself.
I am very private about music, but this song, this one song, is not only my most favorite song in the world, but I also think it best describes me. If you give it a listen, well, that would be quite nice. And, on my gravestone at the end of my hopefully very long life, I’d like it to say simply, “I tried.”
I always have.