An Irrational Hatred of Self

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I went to see my therapist today.

She asked how I’ve been doing, and I was honest with her: the last few days have been filled with such deep seated self-hatred. I cannot shake the feeling that I’m always doing something wrong or not doing enough for the people in my life or somehow screwing something up, and that quickly builds into completely polar thinking. I get distracted and things are just fine for a while, and then something happens and I remember I’m supposed to be mad at myself, and the whole cycle starts over again.

This is nothing new for me; in fact, it could be said that this is my modus operandi. Start with a faulty thought, let it cascade into a stream of faulty thoughts, hate myself for thinking that way, hate myself for hating myself, continue until I get to the point that I want to end the cycle but don’t know how so rather than listening to anyone I simply continue the cycle into absolute irrationality. Up is down, black is white. Nothing is correct, nothing is the truth. It’s exhausting to go through this because it’s starting to happen in cycles rather than isolated incidents. Where I once worked my way through episodes like this in a couple hours, now I’m stretching them out over several days.

My therapist asked me to write down the expectations I have of myself, as a way of getting the irrationality down on paper and in a tangible, refutable form. Then she asked my wife, who attended the session with me, to write down the expectations that she has of me. There was a considerable difference in the two lists. Hers was simple and direct – take meds each day, take time for yourself, accept acknowledgments of tasks and accomplishments, accept supportive praise, don’t give up on yourself, be honest about what’s on your mind. Mine was full of intangibles – do more, earn more, be better, and all delivered as a “should” statement, which if you don’t know is often used as a type of cognitive distortion. (The idea is that a “should” statement goes beyond a simple statement of fact, like “I should have stopped at the dry cleaners on the way home,” to an intangible method of self-abuse, like “I should be doing better.” It’s a very slippery slope for “should” statements to go from constructive to destructive, and a lot of it is the intent behind the statement. If you are using the word “should” as a punishment, then it’s moved beyond statement of fact and into cognitive distortion.)

She also asked me to write a list of the things that I do accomplish, and the list was typically self-deprecating – I clean the kitchen, I sometimes cook, I sometimes help with laundry, I sometimes help with menu planning, I sometimes pay bills, I make the budget and maintain it. (That last one is a weirdness – I like spreadsheets and enjoy manipulating data to get a desired effect, in this case being how we can manage our money to where everything gets paid as close to on time as we can and above all avoid missing anything to be paid out.)

My therapist then asked me to address each one of my expectations realistically, and I came up with a second list to combat the first, irrational one. One a week I dust, a new thing that addresses the need for me to do more around the house. (I dust, just not weekly.) I am allowed some downtime. I get some guilt-free time during the week, either a few hours daily or a day weekly. I understand and accept that earning more money right now is currently out of my control. I would like to – not should – meet the guidelines my wife has written for me to be a better partner, remembering compromise, communication, and assertiveness. Text or call my daughter more often. I will try harder to understand and accept reason when faced with it. I will acknowledge that low periods or days are a part of life, and I will try to be easy on myself when they occur, remembering that “this too will pass.”

All in all, the session took a lot out of me. I came home and immediately went to bed and stayed there for a few hours, getting up to try – and ultimately fail – to do my radio show, at the behest of my wife. She reminded me that today was a low day, and that I need to be easy on myself and not try to put on a brave face for radio.

The self-hatred has passed, though there’s a certain fatigue that’s set in now that it’s gone. Being irrational and having my emotions and logic completely out of control for as long as I have been is an exhausting thing. Like I wrote in my session earlier today, it’s a part of life with mental illness – but this too will pass.

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NaBloPoMo Day 29: Old Tricks Aren’t Working

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My brain is a weird place, and sometimes I do not like how it works.

Early yesterday, I realized that on the 27th I broke a two month long streak in logging my vitals. I missed my evening blood pressure, the first time I had failed to log a reading since late September. I brushed that off like it was no big deal – just time to start a new streak.

Last night at about 11:40, I realized that I hadn’t blogged yet, nor had I done my learning exercises. I got the blog post done, I managed to complete my Duolingo, which actually tracks the number of consecutive days you meet your learning goal, but I failed to complete my three exercises in Elevate before midnight, and it reset my progress to start over with two done.

And as midnight started getting closer and closer, I started getting sloppy with my answers, as I was rushing through to meet this self-imposed deadline. When it became obvious I wasn’t going to make it in time, I became furious with myself, yelling and slamming my phone down on the couch (it’s fine). I finally got calmed down after my wife ran through the old centering exercise that I hadn’t needed in weeks. Satisfied, I went to bed.

I’d like to take a moment to stress that the most important parts of these activities were completed. I blogged in time to count for day 28, and my streak on Duolingo is still active.

Now, normally, sleeping will reset my brain and have me waking up thinking about fresh starts and optimism. Not this time.

I woke up furious with myself that I had lost my cool the night before and dove straight into an irrational argument with my wife over anything I could to demonize myself and turn myself into evil incarnate. Finally I got calmed down and we went to go brave the throng of shoppers at Bed Bath and Beyond to go pick up another set of cheap but effective filter cups for our Keurig. (Two of ours have broken through overuse. They’re reusable, but not quite permanent.)

Failure to reset after a night’s rest is a recent and disconcerting trend. used to be, there was nothing more effective at getting me to stop the downward spiral. Now it seems like I’m waking up remembering what an idiot I was the night before and it starts all over again, thoughts of fresh starts completely gone from my mind.

The impetus seems to be the belief that I’m in trouble, despite no one telling me that I am and nothing to outwardly show that I am. “I was such an asshole last night,” my brain seems to be telling me, “so of course I must be in trouble, because who could possibly forgive the outward manifestation of the symptoms of a chronic illness that I sometimes have little to no control over?” Even confirmation by my wife – the one I usually believe I’m in trouble with – that I’ve done nothing wrong doesn’t dissuade me from my errant belief. The more she tries to convince me, the harder and deeper I dig in my heels.

There are times that I really, really dislike having a mental illness. (I’m never crazy about it, but I mean a passionate hatred of my symptoms and how they affect me and those around me.) This morning was one of those times.

I’m doing better now, but even recanting that episode is putting the seeds of doubt in my head, that now that I’m TALKING about what happened, NOW I’ll be in trouble for sure. I’m fighting it as best as I can, but my evening is starting to go south and I’m not sure what I can do about it except go find a distraction.

Crashing to the Ground

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I haven’t had a rational thought in a day and a half. I’ve barely gotten out of bed. I’ve given up on almost everything. And I can’t stop myself from metaphorically hitting myself while I’m down. Everything I feed to myself is self-hatred, everything I hear is negative, anything positive is a lie.

I can’t stop the cycle of self-punishment for something I did wrong to someone, somewhere, sometime, I don’t even know.

All I know is pain, all I feel is suffering. I just want it to end. And I can’t do anything but perpetuate it.