My Worst Fear is Suicide

TW: suicide, self harm

I used to say that I did not fear my own death. I was thinking I would die – hopefully peacefully – “when my time comes.” It might be painful, it might be scary, but there would be something beyond. I expected to find peace in death, or if not peace, a new life to live. Or a new form of existence. Somewhere deep inside, I still hope that’s what death will mean for me.

I used to say my biggest fear was losing the people I love. But then 3 of the 4 people I lived with and loved as a child died. My grandparents died. My father’s side of the family abandoned me. My friends moved away and I lost contact with them. The classmates I once felt a connection with have moved on with their lives. I broke up with the first person I thought I’d spend my life with (not Fox, we’re still together). I came to realize that my mother has never been able to truly meet my emotional needs because she’s hurting too much. My uncle died, my college mentor died, and Schmoozer (my pet rat) died – all in the same year. I came to realize that, although my remaining family may love me, I don’t really have a connection with them most of the time. I don’t reach out to them enough and they don’t reach out to me enough, either. We all have separate lives.

It’s painful. It’s scary. But I know I can survive losing the people I love. I don’t want to lose them. I will work very hard to strengthen and maintain what connections I can. But I’ve accepted that people move in and out of my life and I need to let them go.

In a nutshell, what I fear the most is that I will give up on myself. I sort of did it for a while and got lost in video games. I was isolated, miserable, with no job, no outside activities or responsibilities, and I’d stopped making music. But people could – and did – pull me back from that. I had to do something: answer the phone, drive to where they were, invite them over … but they were there. Wakana has been there, lighting a fire under my butt whenever necessary. I haven’t really given up on myself. Not yet.

Now I’m slightly less isolated, considerably less miserable, with no job, minimal outside activities, motivation to complete my degree program and enter my career of choice, and I’m making music again. I’m also facing an illness that, left to its own devices, will only get worse. I have my ups, but the downs are murder. I hate the thought of taking medication and I want to pretend I don’t need to… but I’m clinging to every good or decent day in fear of having a truly bad day / week / month / quarter/ year again. I need some semblance of stability.

Then I get up the courage to reach out to psychiatrists and the only one who responds isn’t available until July 31st. I wasn’t even trying to reach the person I have an appointment with on purpose; the practice Fox and I set up our marriage counseling with offered to schedule individual psychiatric evaluations. I have no idea how I’ll be in a month. How I feel, what I can remember, the affect I show on that day will determine the diagnosis and thus medication I receive; it could be months or years before we figure out what I actually need and will benefit from. And in the meantime, my whole life is washing down the drain…

I think about hurting myself regularly. At least once most days. On days when I’m not thinking about or feeling an urge to hurt myself, there is often at least one point when I’m frustrated, angry, tired, and/or bored enough to visualize a knife piercing my skin. I become more aware of the underside of my left forearm; on good days I rub it with my right palm and hug myself. On some level it’s really that I want to break – or, well, cut – my way out of a feeling (or lack of feeling) that I don’t want to tolerate. But brain, come on! We need to come up with better, less painful imagery. Other times I think it’s at least partially an expression of what I feel is happening to me: someone/thing is cutting into me and hurting me, violating my final and most basic boundary. There are days when I think Mom and Fox would cut me open and climb inside me if they could.

If I hurt myself, my body will heal. There may be a scar, but honestly I don’t think I’d self-harm in a way that would do lasting damage or risk limiting my ability to do the things I love. If I’m self-harming, I still have a sense of self-preservation. I still intend and expect to live; I wouldn’t do anything to myself that I couldn’t imagine living with.

What I fear the most is that, on one of the horrifically bad days, I will actually try to kill myself. I will decide that there is nothing worth living for, not even the little things that have kept me going before. Not even composing. Not even love. I will decide that I am incapable of achieving any of my dreams. I will decide that I can never experience joy again. I will decide that I am not worth the air I breathe. I will decide that I do not deserve to be part of the Universe. That I do not deserve to be connected to anyone or anything. That I’m worse than nothing. That I never should have existed.

And worse than deciding all these things, I will act on that decision.

From what I’ve heard it won’t be one of the days when depression has sapped all of my energy and I can’t get out of bed. Then I’ll just be miserable, and it will suck. I fear I will commit suicide on a day when I have the energy to do something drastic, probably when I’m very, very angry. I’ll have to have stopped caring, not just about myself (that’s too easy) but about my loved ones as well. Or, more realistically, I’ll have to have a lapse in caring; it could be a moment when my impulses take over. (Which is why I’ll never own a gun.) Or maybe I’ll decide that, despite the pain and serious psychological issues my suicide would cause, my loved ones would be better off without me. To the point where pushing them away is not enough. To the point where I have enough days thinking like this to make and carry out a plan.

It’s a dark, terrifying place. I imagine anyone would be afraid to imagine someone else feeling and thinking this way. I imagine most people have never thought about themselves feeling and thinking this way. It’s just too horrific. Too painful.

I live close to the edge, clinging to whatever I can so I don’t look down and lose my grip. I’ve never attempted suicide and I’d really like to keep it that way. I fear a suicide attempt could result in lasting damage, impairments that would limit my ability to do the things I love. I fear the stigma people who attempt suicide face.

I fear becoming a statistic. Another sad story. Another “we never saw it coming.” Another thing for people to “survive.” Another piece in a puzzle that will never be solved as long as the only voices that are heard regarding suicide belong to people who have never stared it in the face.

Worse than all of that, I fear trapping myself in the very nightmare I would (ostensibly) commit suicide to escape. We don’t know what happens when we die; we might cease to exist. Some people think that’s terrifying and come up with alternatives; those alternatives have just as much chance of being true as far as anyone alive can tell. I’d much rather cease to exist – in comparison, that possibility is actually comforting – than trap myself in the misery and self-hatred that lie in the darkest and most wounded depths of my depression. That is my true worst fear: that I will commit suicide and not receive the peace and/or new possibilities I expect death to provide.

As long as I’m alive there’s still the possibility of experiencing happiness, even if it’s only for a moment. I can give and receive hugs. I can find ways to turn my painful experiences into creative endeavors that feed my soul and might inspire others to do something good for themselves and their communities. I can work on healing some of these wounds. And when I’m still and focus on my breath, I can know peace.

In response to Writing 101, Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page

Father’s Day

Fox and I visited his parents for Father’s Day. I decided to go because I like them and want to have a relationship with them, and I’ve been avoiding them. They know about our situation from my perspective, and they were both eager to show their love and support regardless of the decision we make. They are two of the awesomest people I’ve ever met.

We had a wonderful time and stayed up way too late last night, so I ended up sleeping over. Fox went to church this morning and his dad has work (which is why we celebrated Father’s Day yesterday), so it’s just been me and his mom. We had a heart-to-heart sharing our stories and family baggage and wants and fears, including what’s going on between me and her son.

“I’m sensing a pattern: there’s a lot of loss in your life, and you cope with it by pushing people away or withdrawing. You’re pushing him (Fox) away and he’s anxious and that’s why he’s being so clingy.

“I see you in a place in your life where you need to make a decision. Either you are going to use this relationship to learn how to be in healthy relationships with yourself and others, or you are going to keep pushing people away. You need to decide: either try to work with him to learn and grow together, or let him go.

“You need to either give yourself wholeheartedly to this relationship (and life in general) so you can learn and grow from it, or you have to walk away from it. Either way, the worst thing that will happen is you’ll get a divorce – and you’re already willing to do that. But if you keep doing what you’re doing – if you stay connected to him while simultaneously pushing him away – you’re both going to be miserable.

“So decide.”

I’ve had my quills out for too long. I’m poised, my hood spread, ready to strike. I was actually snarling at other motorists on my way here yesterday. I’m tired of being so tense. I’m exhausting myself and wasting my energy – energy I could put to much better use.

When I’m connected with people – open, honest, vulnerable – that’s when I feel the most alive. Listening to their stories, sharing in the creative process with them, enjoying a delicious meal, giving and receiving hugs… these are the things I thrive on. I need relationships; the most painful thing about the way I’ve been living with Fox is that our relationships with other people have become so limited. We’re disconnected. I’ve disappeared inside myself; I almost did that again by trying to drive home while exhausted last night.

“Yes I’m alone, but I’m alone and I’m free. Just stay away and you’ll be safe from me.”
“Actually, we’re not.”

~ Frozen: “For the First Time in Forever (Reprise)”

Everything comes down to one innate need: the need to be fully myself in relationship with other people. I’ve spent most of my life learning that I can have one or the other: I can be myself when I’m alone, or I can sacrifice myself and become enmeshed with others. To this day my mother actively teaches me to hide part of myself to be more acceptable to others (her).

Neither of those options is acceptable anymore. I can have periods of time when I’m alone, that’s not a problem. It’s healthy and necessary. But I need to be connected with other people; I can’t have being alone be a requirement for being myself. I need the people I care about to see me – all of me, not the mask and armor I’ve been hiding behind and trapped within. To feel safe doing that, I need to be able to see myself.

So whatever decision Fox and I make regarding our marriage, I choose to let go and throw myself wholeheartedly into our relationship – even though I find it terrifying. Not for him, but for myself. Worst case scenario I get the thing I’ve been leaning toward anyway and maybe I learn something useful I can build upon for future growth. Best case scenario I grow and I get an awesome life partner – with an equally awesome family – who can help me continue to grow. I think it’s worth a bit of risk to shoot for that.

I’ll close with a bit of wisdom from my father, one of the ways he’s still alive in me after all these years: Be honest. I choose to be honest with myself and with others, even (especially) when it’s scary. I love you. I need ______. No, I don’t want ______. I’m not sure if I want _____ but I think it’s worth considering. I’m sick and tired of _____. I’m sad I’m scared I’m angry. I can’t live like this anymore! I don’t want to talk about this right now. I feel _____ when you _____. Please give me some time to process. Please respect this boundary. Please listen.

Whose Goals Are These, Anyway?

It’s been four years since I realized the sadness that usually hits mid-January to mid-February wasn’t lifting, and decided to get help. Almost four years – let’s call it 3.5 years – of working with Wakana; in all this time we never discussed my goals. What do I want to get out of therapy? Under what circumstances will I decide I no longer need it?

Well, so far I’ve grown a great deal. I’ve learned the importance of setting and enforcing boundaries. I’ve learned that doing so doesn’t mean I don’t love the other person; it can actually help me love them better. I’ve gained more respect for myself, even coming to view myself as inherently worthy of love, boundaries, healing, etc. I’ve gained a stronger sense of my own identity and what I’m passionate about. I’ve reclaimed academic learning/achievement and music making as things I do primarily for myself – well, for the most part. I’m still working on practicing piano and guitar for myself and not to impress my teachers.

I still have some important things to work on. A lot of the emotions and experiences I’d suppressed are coming up again, with the potential to undermine entire days. I’m not sure I ever fully processed my emotions around needing to maintain extremely high levels of academic achievement to keep my parents’ relationship from descending into utter chaos. That seems like something I can let go of, though, especially since now I know that most of their problems had nothing to do with me, and the academic achievement did have some benefits for me. I’ve finally forgiven my father for his mistakes and, more importantly, released myself from the disappointment I felt.

There’s still the matter of my father’s family of origin, whom I’ve been distancing myself from; I haven’t spoken to them in ages and part of why I took Fox’s last name is so I would no longer have the same last name as them. They were horrible to my mom and clearly only pretended to care about me; they abandoned me as soon as I began asserting myself (and my right to receive part of the inheritance from my grandmother).

I’m fine with them not being part of my life anymore, but clearly I’m still angry about what happened. I’m definitely angry at my father’s brother, and I’m not sure if there’s also residual anger at his sister that’s still repressed. She just disappeared – whereas he failed to take on the role my parents had trusted him with when I was born, tried to manipulate me, and had the gall to show up at my uncle’s funeral. I feel threatened by his ability to reappear when I’m at my most vulnerable and remind me of all this shit; I’d much rather just be able to move on with my life.

And then there’s my mom. She’s been providing for my material needs and I’m very grateful for that. She cares and she wants to be supportive but somehow our interactions always become about me tending to her needs at the expense of my own. Even my desire for her to take care of me in my time of illness, to finally be able to open up to her and trust and be nurtured by her… in the end, it just keeps me from becoming self-sufficient and reaching out to others who can help fulfill those needs. At times I feel like an angry baby screaming at the top of my lungs that someone should coordinate all my mental health care for me and bring me to therapy and so on. It would be nice, considering she was willing to temporarily relocate to drive her brother around, if Mom would do something similar for me. Instead I get to be responsible for Dog for at least a few more weeks, and who knows what will come up once she’s home again?

But I’m an adult, and on good days I’m fairly high-functioning. I’d prefer not to have to make certain phone calls, but I can do it. (And I do believe the process should be streamlined to make care more accessible to those who need it the most.) Hopefully my insurance will include someone to coordinate my mental health care, once my coverage starts (in 9 days)… and if it doesn’t I’ll be disappointed but not incapable of figuring that stuff out on my own. I’ve already looked up a primary care provider and psychiatrist, each of whom is part of my plan and within easy driving distance. If they don’t work out for some reason, I’ll just keep looking until I find someone who does. As much as I want support in dealing with this shit, I can’t let lack of support keep me from receiving the care I need. (No, I don’t think I can rely on Fox for help with this.)

As for other goals, I’m at a weird place where everything from my loved ones to Wakana to my own inclinations suggests I need to “get a job” and preferably start my career. Ideally I will complete and perhaps even use my master’s degree. That seems like a – if not the – primary goal of my therapy: rehabilitation, so I can be a productive member of society. Right? Wakana certainly seems to think so.

Yet, every time I get a nudge in that direction, I dig in my heels. It feels like a death sentence. I’d be giving up everything I’ve worked toward these past 4 years, and going back to being a “good little girl” whose work benefits everyone else at the expense of my well-being. I’ve finally learned to put my own needs first, don’t ask me to stop in return for a paycheck… even if it is doing something I find meaningful, something that makes the world a better place. How can you ask me to abandon myself and focus on helping other people? Especially when my mother still hasn’t nurtured me?

Well, it seems obvious now, but that’s only because I allowed myself to have this gut reaction, to feel it, and to give it words. It’s out in the open, where it needs to be. My biggest fear: that if I move on with my life – starting my career, having a family, etc. – I have to stop taking care of myself. Like some authority will decide I don’t need (or deserve) mental health care anymore. I’m afraid what supports I do have will fall out from under me. That I’ll focus all my attention on taking care of others at the expense of myself.

That doesn’t have to be true. I can keep seeing Wakana; having a job might just mean we need to adjust our schedule a bit. I can certainly receive health care, even if it means having to take time off from work every once in a while. (The doctors I found work exclusively during normal business hours, when I imagine most employed people are at work.) If I do find medications that help manage my symptoms, there is nothing to keep me from taking them before, after, or even during work. I might even make better use of my free time because my life will be more structured; I won’t have the whole day to think “I’ll get to that later.” I might make friends. I might feel better about myself because I’ll see the difference I make in other people’s lives, even if it’s just helping them feel better while I’m interacting with them.

As for deciding I no longer need therapy… I don’t really know when I’ll decide I no longer need it – maybe never! I obviously don’t want to decide I no longer need it once I’ve started working again. In the past I’ve terminated therapy prematurely, in part because of problems with my therapist. So right now I don’t really trust myself to be able to tell when I’m ready to leave therapy, but that’s okay. There’s still time to figure it out.

And this blog will be here for as long as I need it. If I can’t write in this blog for some reason, I can start a new one or just journal privately. My demons will see daylight. And maybe some of them – like the fear that I’ll stop taking care of myself if I start working – will become allies.

“I Just Want a Day Off”

Every so often, I feel energized and motivated to do the things I need to take care of myself. But many days – most days – I really don’t want to be bothered with anything.

I don’t want to take a shower and get dressed. I don’t want to go anywhere. I certainly don’t want to do whatever Mom has asked of me! (We got a new dehumidifier for the basement that she keeps asking me to set up. “Sooner, rather than later, please!”) The rats are overdue for a cage cleaning. The living room is still a mess. I still don’t have a new psychiatrist – though Dad gave me some things to think about so when I am ready to find one, I’ll know what to look for and what questions to ask. In the meantime I might go back to Psychiatrist B just so I don’t go have to go off my meds again … assuming I can get myself to be bothered with making the appointment to see him.

Ugh! I want to get out and do something interesting – maybe try out archery at a local place that offers lessons and use of their equipment for $12 total one night per week. I want to neaten this place up. I want to spend quality time with Fox and other loved ones. I want to get better … AND I want to play Oblivion / watch Star Trek: Voyager. Or just relax. Read – I’m a couple chapters into yet another reread of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

But trimming some yellow leaves off the plants in my vegetable garden feels like it should be enough of an accomplishment for one day. (I was quite pleased to see small green fruits on the tomato plant. And, equally important, I was able to request and receive useful advice from Mom regarding what to do about the leaves.)

Why do I have to constantly question my choices, feel like they’re “unhealthy” (or morally wrong), feel like I have to change? Why can’t I just breathe?

Writer’s Block

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for the past few days, wanting to post something but unable to settle on a topic or focus on the writing process. Finally, today, I gave up on trying to express myself in words and decided to draw with oil pastels instead. Here is what I drew:

I colored with the oil pastels, then smeared the colors from left to right with a tissue. The shadow in the lower left corner was cast by me as I took the picture.

I colored with the oil pastels, then smeared the colors from left to right with a tissue. The shadow in the lower left corner was cast by me as I took the picture.

It is interesting to note that, like the sculpture I made a couple weeks ago, the face in the image doesn’t have a mouth. Fitting, seen as I’m having so much trouble expressing myself. I even had a hard time trying to answer Wakana when she asked how things have been for me. I had trouble forming complete sentences.

Worse, as I was drawing, The Critic kept bombarding me with some really mean thoughts. Some of them might be triggers:

  • You’re crazy
  • You’re decompensating
  • People are going to think you’re insane
  • People won’t get what you’re trying to say – are you even trying to say anything?
  • It’s rubbish
  • It sucks
  • An immature level of artwork
  • You should destroy it
  • You should kill yourself
  • It would be better if you used your own blood
  • WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS!?
  • Those eyes are too haunting. Make it stop.
  • You’re a failure and you’ll never amount to anything
  • Nobody cares about you
  • Why are you still breathing?

I showed the list to Fox and he said, “The one that stands out the most is this: ‘Those eyes are too haunting. Make it stop.'” The Critic is scared. It’s trying to keep me from expressing myself. All those horrible thoughts, lies*, to keep me from the truth.

What could I possibly have inside me that’s that terrifying?

* I tell myself they’re lies, echoing Fox’s Mom, but I’m not entirely convinced at least some of them aren’t at least partially true.

Insomnia

So, here I am at the end of a fairly productive day. I completed not one, but TWO assignments for my online class! They were a nice challenge; I definitely learned some things. I’m kinda looking forward to, kinda apprehensive about taking on the next assignment challenge! In my mind, that’s a good place to be.

I also acquired groceries, spent time with my rats (one of whom was surprisingly cuddly – at least for a short while), and played The Sims 3 responsibly. By which I mean I played for a handful of hours, then decided I’d reached a good stopping point and went off to do something else. I’m looking forward to picking up where I left off, but I don’t feel any particular urgency.

I was even able to take a bath without my mind wandering off into horrible, dangerous thoughts.

Fast forward to the present; I’m sitting here thinking, now what? The clock is telling me it’s time to sleep but I don’t really feel like it. In a way I feel like I haven’t really started my day – I haven’t exactly done any physical activity. Maybe that’s my problem, I need to exercise. Then my body will feel like I’ve done something today and decide it’s ready to sleep. Maybe my mind will follow suit.

Of course, right now exercising is the last thing I want to do. That tends to be how I feel most of the time – otherwise, I’d actually do it! In fact, given the choice between exercise and sleep, my body and mind seem ready to choose sleep. Well, if that’s what it takes to overcome my insomnia …

I think what it comes down to is that I’m afraid. If I stay awake, I can be pretty sure I can predict what will happen. I’ll do … whatever I want. I might be tired, maybe anxious, maybe sad. Okay, I’m used to those emotions, I can deal with them. Who knows? I might be happy! It’s nice and quiet. Maybe I can even be creative. It’s been a while since I’ve drawn or colored or improvised.

If I go to sleep … when I let my guard down the darkness starts to creep in. I feel anxious and it takes a while for my body to relax. I have bad dreams.

Dreams where the rules that govern reality don’t apply. In reality if I have an irrational fear I can use my understanding of logic and science to talk myself out of it. The empirical evidence usually supports this calming self-talk. Usually.

In dreams the fear manifests as something that my dream-self thinks is real; in that moment, it poses a real threat to me. For example, the “badly drawn babies with sharp teeth” in my previous post really had the potential to devour me if I did not get away! Even when I think I’ve woken up, often it’s just a dream-within-a-dream. Maybe the new reality is better, maybe it’s worse. It’s probably just as dangerous.

And when I finally do wake up, I feel groggy and drowsy. I don’t want to face reality. My dreams often haunt me, weighing on my mind. Sometimes I feel like I left something unfinished. The worst is when my dream-self was interacting with a loved one who really died, but in my dream they’ve just been gone for a while. When my waking-self remembers that said loved one is dead, it’s like a stab in the heart. I don’t know when I’ll get to see them again, and I probably won’t have any control over what I do or say next time we meet.

To say I’m going back and forth between dreams and reality is a bit misleading. It feels more like I’m moving between or among realities. Who’s to say that this one is any more real than the dream worlds? Sometimes the dreams feel more real.

To make matters worse, if I go to sleep, inevitably I’ll have to wake up again in this reality. Then, some unknown amount of time will have passed – time that I could have spent doing, I don’t know, something.

I’ll probably wake up less able to deal with reality than I am now. I’ll probably be haunted by bad dreams. Who knows what will be happening? It could be anything! My mother might want to impose on me before I’ve had a chance to put my guard up or, you know, eat something. I’ll have to face the uncertainty of feeling like I should do something useful with my time, but lack the motivation or energy or organization. There could be some disaster happening …

I think I’ve made my point. Going to sleep is scary because I don’t know what I’ll have to face in my dreams. Waking up is scary because then I have to deal with reality when I’ve just woken up and who knows what I’ll wake up into. I’d rather just deal with one reality full time instead of switching back and forth and having to adjust after each transition.

So I keep trying to think of things to do, anything but sleep. Lately it’s been The Sims 3. It just dawned on me that going through stuff and cleaning might actually be useful. I’ve probably made this blog post longer than it needs to be because writing is a viable alternative to sleep. Maybe I should try writing fiction. Or another poem? Or maybe one of the other posts that’s been sitting on the back burner …

Nightmare

It’s time
To take the final exam
But I missed the review
Didn’t study!

And I don’t even
Have the right test
Somehow it’s late
I can’t concentrate

My mind
Has turned
To mush

Let’s coordinate!
A dual wedding
Two couples, two ceremonies
One reception

But you’ve already been married and
Our bridal parties are too big and
Our ceremony is already long and
We don’t want to compromise!

Seeing through the eyes
Of a foster child
He tries to explain his life
To a family
That will never accept him

“Down the toilets there is a world
Inexplicably sad and scary”
And I travel down past
Real excrement into

The excrement of the mind where
Everything is red static and
Badly drawn babies with sharp teeth
Fly at me; try to eat

And I try to run away
But everything is spinning
Warping into ellipses
Stretching, rotating sideways

Even when I think I am awake!
There is no escape!
Forever doomed to wander
This red world

Confronting the Critic: Taking Back My Thoughts

The Critic is the voice in my head that criticizes me. It goes beyond pointing out legitimate mistakes and tears me apart emotionally, often over very minor missteps or decisions I make that are completely neutral.

I’ve actually been hearing less from the Critic since I started taking Zoloft, but it’s still there. It has been hiding in the form of expectations of harsh criticisms from other people. It wants me to believe that I can hear their thoughts, that they are the ones who think whatever I’m doing is stupid, or wrong, or ugly, or dangerous, or gluttonous, or whatever. They are the ones who question my logic, my motives, my abilities.

It is irrelevant whether the people around me actually think what the Critic is telling me they’re thinking. It is up to them to think it, and to express it – preferably to my face – and then I can respond. I keep telling myself this, but it isn’t easy.

I’ve also been trying to reclaim the Critic as a part of my own mind, while simultaneously confronting it and reducing its power over me. As painful as it is to admit this, the Critic’s denunciations are my own thoughts.

I am the one second-guessing myself, finding flaws in my thought processes, thinking that I could have made a better or healthier choice, wishing I had prepared better, doubting my abilities, etc. etc. etc. When I accept the Critic’s words as MY thoughts, then I have a say in how they’re worded and thus the impact they have on me. I can think through them, learn from my mistakes, and make decisions about how to move forward. I don’t have to be the victim of verbal abuse from my own brain.

I can be a person who thinks through multiple aspects of and perspectives on a situation, including the ones that contradict. I can acknowledge the difficulties I face living as an imperfect being in an imperfect world, making decisions and facing obstacles as best I can and sometimes – often – making mistakes. I can be frustrated when, despite my best efforts, things don’t go the way I’d planned. I can admit to not having all the answers.

Maybe I can even admit that I don’t have control over every aspect of my life. Sometimes, it’s not something I could or should have done better. It’s not a matter of being worthy or unworthy. It just is.

I also need to admit that I feel insecure and worry about what people think of me. I wish I could be above such concerns, not care what people think, be unshakably confident. But the bottom line is, I’m not. I want people to like me, or at least accept me as I am, and on some level I’m constantly worrying that I’m going to do or say the wrong thing. I’m afraid I’ll either hurt someone, or get them angry enough to hurt me. I’m walking on eggshells. I don’t want to be abandoned again.

The Critic lets me externalize these concerns. That’s not me, it’s society being stupid. That’s not me, it’s that person being judgmental.

That’s not me, it’s the mental illness.

I can let the Critic live in my brain for as long as it likes – and keep suffering its abuses.

Or, I can OWN my self-criticisms, doubts, and insecurities.

I can admit that it’s very hard to live in a world where unattainable images of “perfection” are everywhere. No matter how much we try to make ourselves believe we don’t care about attaining them, the message does seep through and become internalized. Several of the thoughts I have in the form of the Critic’s abuses are expressions of my own internalized perfectionism, and of anger at myself for not conforming to it. Maybe now that I’ve acknowledged this truth, I can start to let some of these thoughts go.

I can let go of the pride that dictates that I can – and therefore must – be perfect. Pride lies. The truth is that I cannot be perfect, and therefore I need not strive for it. This is not a personal failing. It is a universal reality.

I can also make a commitment to myself: to work through and overcome my fear of abandonment, to accept myself, and to allow others to accept me as I am.