Making Progress

Most people feel good when they do something for someone else.

I have thought about that a lot over the last few weeks. I used to hate myself when I did something for someone else. I would get home and just cry for hours after I dropped off an anonymous gift at someone’s house or gave someone a letter or took food to someone.

People always say that when you’re depressed or having a bad day, you should serve and help someone else because it makes you feel better. It didn’t make me feel better. In fact, I had to stop doing things for people for about a year because I was so depressed that doing something like that would have pushed me over the edge.

Yesterday I did something good for someone. I didn’t even do it anonymously, which is usually the only way I can handle things like this. I did something kind for another person, and I didn’t hate myself afterwards. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t curl up on the floor and cry for hours. I just felt good. It was such an amazing experience.

I want to feel like this every day. I want to feel like I can be myself and see the needs of someone else and not be terrified to do something about it. I want to love myself. I hope this feeling lasts because I so desperately want to love myself. I don’t want to have to forgive myself for acting on my generous thoughts. I just want to do things without even thinking about it, without wanting to punish myself for it. I want to be okay with who I am. I want to feel good when I do something. I want this feeling of peace to last forever.

Thoughts on Bathrooms

I don’t talk about transgender legislation. I don’t talk about my feelings about gender or sexual orientation mostly because it’s controversial. I avoid conflict or even the very thought of conflict. And in general, I avoid conversations with people.

But today I’m going to talk about a specific topic that I cannot get out of my head. Bathrooms. I have always hated public restrooms. Not because of cleanliness or noise or lack of privacy, but because they are almost always gender specific.

There is a boys bathroom and a girls bathroom, and you have to choose which one to go into. For most people, it’s a pretty obvious choice. You simply go into the one that fits you without even thinking twice. But for someone who doesn’t fit, it’s like choosing between depression and anxiety, you don’t want either one but life might just push you into one anyway.

The worst is locker rooms. There is no privacy in locker rooms. And even though you go into the locker room that correlates to your body parts, you can never feel comfortable changing where you don’t belong. Even though I was threatened with detention every day I changed in the bathroom of the girl’s locker room, I still did it. I would rather be punished every day than be exposed every day.

For as long as I can remember, I have wished that there was another option. I wished that there was a middle ground where you didn’t have to choose between boy and girl, but could just be you.

I classify as gender neutral or genderless. I don’t associate myself with either gender or consider myself to fit into the categories of either boy or girl. I also classify as asexual, which means I feel no sexual attraction to either men or women. In a world of men and women, heterosexual and homosexual, being a gender neutral asexual person feels like being a rock in someone’s shoe. You just don’t belong, and you feel like you have no purpose and just get in the way.

I don’t expect you to understand. How could anyone understand if they have never felt like this? But I want you to know that I’m here, that I see the arguments. I see both sides fighting for what they believe to be right. I see my friends, most of whom have no idea how I feel, post about how wrong it is to choose to be something other than what you are.

I promise that I didn’t choose this. In fact, I choose to conform to what I am not every day. I choose to go into the women’s restroom despite the stares I get. I choose to go on the right side of the room when the teacher decides to divide everyone up by gender. I choose to wear a skirt even though it makes me feel gross inside.

I am not a man, but I don’t feel like a woman either. And I’m not sure I ever will. But I try. I try to fit into your world. I try to play along. I try to squeeze into the boxes I am expected to fit into. But please, before you post how wrong this is, before you tell the world to stop making things difficult, please, please know that for some people this has always been difficult. Please know that for some people, we would rather wet our pants every day at school than have to go into a restroom where we don’t fit in. And please, just please try to understand how hard it is to go through every day hating everything you are because no one seems to want you if you can’t be what they expect you to be.

I’m Still Hurt

As a child, I was hurt a lot. Mostly emotionally, but sometimes physically. I remember being teased at school and church because I couldn’t say the letter R. I was also bullied by kids who would ask if I was a boy or a girl and then ignore what I said and label me whatever they wanted.

Home was better, but still not exactly a safe haven. I knew my parents and siblings loved me, but there was a lot of fighting growing up. There was a lot of conflict between my siblings, and my parents, and my siblings with my parents. I generally stayed out of a lot of the conflict, but that didn’t mean I was spared from it. I still witnessed it and participated in the aftermath of it.

Experiences with a certain person in my extended family probably was what affected me the most. The other things in my life just didn’t do much to combat the abuse I suffered.

It is still hard for me to use the word abuse. It feels like such a strong word- that you have to have suffered for so long and been treated so badly that you were hurt beyond repair. Unfortunately, that does describe my situation, but abuse can also be a one time event. It can be something small. It can be something seemingly insignificant to everyone else. Abuse is simply when you are not treated in a way that is consistent with respect for your wellbeing. In this sense of the word, I was abused by many people in a variety of ways over the years.

For a long time, I could not handle what I had been through. Now I am at a point in my life where I can process what I went through and the effects of it all. What I have learned is that I hate myself.

I have hated myself for a very long time because I didn’t feel like I could do anything right. I felt like a bad person. At this point in my life, I can honestly say and believe that these thoughts are incorrect. I can tell that they are lies my mind feeds me because of what I’ve been through. The problem is that I don’t yet know how to change these thoughts and their effects.

I’m still hurt. As much as I would like to say that I am fully healed because I realize the truth, it’s just not the case. You don’t just overcome years of hating yourself by realizing that the reasons you hate yourself are not true.

I am a good person. I realize this. But I have gotten angry at myself for doing good things over the years. I was upset that I could not stop the desires I had to help others. I was taught by my experiences that if you didn’t help the way someone wanted, you shouldn’t help at all. I was also taught that even if you helped perfectly and did everything asked of you, a mistake later erased every good thing you did previously. So I am constantly afraid of being hurt.

I am constantly afraid that when I do something good, I did it in the wrong way or I did too much or not enough. So it would be so much easier if I didn’t try to do good things. The problem is that it is in my nature to want to help others. I see needs or wants and I want to help, to do something to make things better. This dichotomy has caused such discord in my mind. I hate myself for wanting to do good things because I am a bad person that doesn’t do things right so wanting to do those things makes me even worse.

I realize that it doesn’t make sense. I realize that it is twisted logic. I realize that wanting to do good things is not a sin or a fault, and I should not hate myself for it. But I’m still hurt. I still have years of yelling at myself for trying. I still have deep, well worn pathways in my mind that tell me I’ll never be good enough and I am not worthy of love.

Last night, I had a mental breakdown. I wanted to erase everything that I ever did for anyone else because I was tired of living so long trying to make other people happy. The thing is… I love making people happy. It’s my favorite thing to do. I just have hated myself for it and I wanted to erase that hate. I wanted to erase reminders of that hate. I wanted to erase all the times I tried but didn’t feel like it was good enough.

I don’t really want to stop helping others. I don’t really want to forget the good things I did or try to do. I just want to forget the pain of hating myself for doing those things. I want to love myself. I want to live for myself. I want my reasons for living to be more than just not wanting to hurt people by dying. But most of all, I just want to be healed.

I want to be whole. I want to think, “hey, maybe that person could use some flowers” and not hate myself for the thought. I want to be able to say hi to someone or give someone a gift or do any of the other things I want to do and not be terrified of the consequences. And most of all, when I am healed, I don’t want to hurt myself again. I don’t want to hate myself again. I just want to be free.

Friends and Talking

I love the movie, Mozart and the Whale. The movie itself isn’t necessarily that great, but it is the most accurate depiction I have ever seen about how I feel. There is this part towards the beginning of the movie where the main character says, “I just never know what to say.” I feel like that a lot. I am not very good at talking. I don’t know what to say or how to say it, which makes conversations very difficult.

Sometimes I have a lot I want to say, but I don’t know how to bring it up. So I try to think about how I can shift the conversation to talk about what I need to work out, but by the time I’m done thinking about how I can bring it up, the other person is done with the conversation. A lot of times I think that’s why I don’t have much luck making friends. By the time I know how to talk to someone, they have already made a decision about who I am, and most people don’t change their first perceptions without a lot of work.

I hate it. I hate that I don’t know how to talk to people. Even with my best friend, I can’t bring up what I need to say. I feel like people get frustrated with me because I get quiet so often. It’s just that my mind is trying to figure out how to say something, while trying to process what is still going on, and by the time I’m ready to share what I have been thinking about, it is usually no longer a good time to say it.

There’s something else in the movie that really strikes a chord with me. The main character says, “People with Asperger’s want contact with other people very much; we’re just pathetically clueless at it, that’s all.” I am so clueless at talking to others. I want to talk to people, especially my friends, but I don’t know how.

I’m not really used to having friends. It’s only been in the last few years that I really felt like I had friends I could talk to on a regular basis. Growing up, the only friends I had were my sister’s friends and friends I had at activities I attended. Outside of those activities, I didn’t know how to interact with people.

So I always get anxious about talking to friends or doing things for friends or trying to make friends. It feels like unknown territory, which is scary because I can get hurt. I remember the first time I tried to make friends. I was 8 years old and in third grade. I was teased relentlessly. I didn’t quite know what I did wrong, but I knew I wasn’t wanted. That feeling has always stayed with me. Every time I try to make a new friend or talk to one of my current friends, that feeling comes back. I try to ignore it. I try not to let it stop me. Sometimes though, I just fall back into those feelings of being unwanted, of being hurt and vulnerable. I wonder if I’m a bad person, if there’s something wrong with me that makes me unlovable.

I have pretty amazing friends that make me feel wanted and loved, but the feelings haven’t gone away. I still need lots of reassurance that I’m doing alright and I haven’t messed things up yet. I hate that I need that much reassurance. I hate that I fall into thoughts of loneliness and anxiety and depression so easily. I hate that I have recurring feelings of abuse and teasing and the feeling of not being enough. I wish I could just trust my friends like I know I should. I wish I could tell my mind to stop thinking these thoughts. I wish I could just keep the feelings of being loved and wanted and feeling like a good person. I know that the things I have faced in my life have brought me to this point, and I’m in a good place in my life right now. Sometimes though, I wish I didn’t face quite so much because maybe then I could get these thoughts out of my head that cause so much heartache and anxiety.

Depression

I have been incredibly honest in my journey of life. Since my suicide attempt 7 years ago until now, I have told people how I feel and tried to find words to explain the darkness. But when I’m really suffering, there are no words to explain it. I just hurt.

Depression for me is very physical. In fact, it’s almost all physical. When I actually get in depth with someone about how I feel, I break down while explaining that my life is beautiful. My life is completely wonderful. I have amazing friends. I have a good job with friendly coworkers and an understanding boss. I love my church and what I am studying in school and my family. My life is incredibly good and I know it. But… I still feel this way.

I have never had depression like this. Every other time I had depression, there was something wrong with my thoughts. I would get in cycles of hating myself, thinking that I was flawed and broken, thinking that I wasn’t good enough. When I wasn’t insulting myself, I was scared and lonely and hurt.

This time is different. My thought patterns are positive. I see the good in me and in my life. I enjoy my life. I love what I do and who I do things with. But there is a pain that won’t go away. There is a darkness that surrounds me. The depression grips me so that I cannot breathe and I fall. I plead for the pain to go away, for the darkness to end, for relief.

Yes, depression is an illness. It is physical, mental, and emotional. It is not something that can go away with positive thinking. And it can be debilitating. It can mean lying in bed without the strength to move. It can mean wondering when the end will come. And yes, it is in my mind but that is the worst place for an illness to be because your mind makes the rest of you work. This illness of the mind permeates every other aspect of your body because the mind is everything and when your mind is not healthy, how can anything else be healthy?

My Story – Love

Trigger warning: This post contains methods of self harm, thoughts of suicide, and references to abuse.

I grew up believing that I was never good enough, that no matter how hard I tried or how much I did, I could never be loved. It took a long time to get over that. It took a long time for me to believe that anyone could ever love me simply for being a person, or simply for being myself. I didn’t think I was worthy of love, and I didn’t know why. Only recently have I started to come to terms with the abuse I faced and started believing that love isn’t earned, it’s a gift.

My parents loved me. I didn’t doubt that, but I was unclear on why they loved me. I always thought it was because of what I did. If I was good enough, if I was perfect enough, if I didn’t make mistakes, I felt like I could earn their love. That was all I ever hoped for. I didn’t know unconditional love could exist and even if it did, I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to have.

This is why I tortured myself. This is why I beat myself, and choked myself, and starved myself. This is why I whipped myself and carved derogatory words into my chest. This is why I wrapped cords around my stomach and chest until they left marks and bruises. This is why I banged my head against walls and tried to puncture my skin. This is why I abused myself sexually, and allowed myself to be abused. If I was not perfect, I didn’t deserve love. If I made a mistake or if someone was upset with me, I deserved to be punished.

I saw myself as a bad person, as unworthy to be alive, as a prisoner owing a debt to society for my very existence. But as much as I felt like I deserved to be punished, I wanted to be loved. So I curled up on the floor or bed and told myself I had suffered enough, and maybe now I could be loved. I thought that now that I was punished, that now that I got what I deserved, I might be worthy to be held, to be loved, to be healed.

It didn’t come though. I just kept thinking, “Maybe if I hurt myself enough, I’ll be worthy to love.” The problem was that though I tried to increase the frequency or intensity or length of time I was tortured, it could never be enough. I was unworthy. I was a bad person and that’s all there was to it.

That’s why I attempted suicide. I did not admit that to myself before now. I told myself it was because I was lonely or felt like a burden. Those were feelings I had, but the reason for those feelings was much deeper. I felt like I was alone because I was unlovable. I felt like a burden because I couldn’t do anything right. No matter how much good I did, I was still, and always would be, a bad person. Killing myself was the only punishment that seemed to be enough for someone as horrible as I felt I must be. No other torture seemed to be enough to atone for my faults.

It took a long time and a whole lot of love to start changing those thoughts. I still struggle to do good things out of fear that I will do it wrong and remember that I am a bad person. It has taken a lot of people telling me that I am kind or generous or thoughtful for me to believe that I have a good heart. It has taken love that I didn’t deserve and kindness I did not earn to help me feel that maybe I do have worth.

It’s still a process. I still struggle. But I am learning to give love more freely and accept it more easily. I have hope that one day I can completely forgive myself, that one day I won’t expect people to hurt me, that one day I’ll feel like I don’t have to earn love. Until then, I am grateful for the people that continue to love me despite my thoughts that I don’t deserve it.

Being My Own Monster

Over the last couple years, I have worked hard to change the philosophies and mental models I developed while growing up. I have acted against what my mind and feelings told me to do. I have done very scary things for me and been incredibly vulnerable because it was the right thing to do.

This week, I started thinking about those philosophies. I started thinking about what they are or were and how they developed. One of those philosophies was that it didn’t matter if you did something good, if you did it in the wrong way or at the wrong time, it was bad.

This is why it is so hard for me to do nice things for people. I like writing letters and dropping off flowers or treats for people and doing little acts of kindness. But I have been so terrified of doing it wrong. Every time I did any of those things, I would panic. I would hide in my room and cry because I was so afraid that I did it wrong. I was so afraid of being hurt. I was afraid that the person would dislike the kind thing that I had done and shame me for it.

I don’t know how this philosophy developed. I don’t know how my self worth became so fragile that I was afraid anything I did, good or bad, was wrong and that I was a bad person because I did not know how someone wanted to be served.

I have looked back and scoured my memories for examples of that philosophy being carried out. I remember a few examples of my grandmother perpetuating that philosophy, but over and over again, I just remember myself doing that to others. I did it to my best friend, to my father. I yelled at them or told them to stop helping because they were doing it wrong. I was the monster I so greatly feared.

It has taken me a long time to change that about myself. It has taken me a long time to realize that there is more than one way to do something. It has taken me a long time to learn to appreciate someone’s efforts more than their results.

And it has taken even longer to forgive myself for not doing things perfectly. It has taken me a long time to allow myself to do good without tormenting my mind with thoughts of worthlessness. I still get scared. I am still afraid of doing good or doing bad or doing anything at all. I am still afraid that I am not enough and will never be enough. But I am trying. I am trying to dispel the monster within me that I don’t know how it was created.

But I am so grateful for the friends in this journey. I am grateful for the people that haven’t degraded me for the kind things I tried to do. I am grateful for the people that have loved me and encouraged me, because it has been really hard. It has been really scary. And those few moments of encouragement, that text that said thank you or the hug or the smile, have made all the difference. I needed each of them, and I am incredibly grateful for them and for the people who showed me that compassion.