Forgive Yourself

Do you ever insult yourself for doing something good? Criticize yourself for helping someone out? Degrade yourself for trying to be happy or make someone else happy?

This is my daily reality. A constant barrage of self hate and degradation with the occasional word of encouragement that maybe this once I really did do something good.

I’m desperately trying to learn how to be kind to myself. It is difficult to change the way you see and talk to yourself after so many years of pain and hate, inflicting what I thought was justice on myself because I was unworthy of mercy.

Every time I think of it, I just want to hug myself and say, “It’s okay. You’re a good person. It’s not your fault they didn’t understand. It’s not your fault they yelled at you for trying to help. It’s not your fault. You did your best.

“Chewie… Please forgive yourself… They didn’t know how much it would hurt you or how guilty it would make you feel. They didn’t know that you would torture yourself for your mistakes. They didn’t know that by telling you not to do something, you understood that you were a bad person.

“Please forgive yourself. You do a lot of good. Forgive yourself for the times when you were trying to do good and were yelled at or told you were wrong or made to feel like you were a bad person. Forgive yourself for being good and then maybe you can forgive yourself for the times you are not so good.”

I wasn’t planning on posting especially about this kind of thing so close to the holidays, but tonight I just needed to feel like I’m not so alone. I don’t know if anyone else understands, but maybe this will at least give you a glimpse of why it is so hard for me to see the good in myself.

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Word Sanctuary

“You spend so much time putting yourself down that you don’t have time to build yourself up.”

Yesterday afternoon I made myself a word sanctuary. I took a dry erase marker and wrote words on my mirror that people have actually used to describe me. Each word had to be from someone else because I knew I would never believe it if I came up with them myself.  In the end, I had about 30 or so adjectives on two sides of the mirror.

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Even as I wrote, it was hard to believe what they said. I know I’m a good person to some degree, but seeing those words written out seemed unreal. I have a three part mirror. So I could step into the opening and just be surrounded by positive words. For a moment, I just dropped to my knees as I read the words over and over. Could this be me? Could people really see that much good in me?

I stepped out of my word sanctuary to get some work done for a while. It wasn’t long before I found myself insulting myself and wanting to die because of some imagined mistake or unintentional offense. I stepped back into my word sanctuary and repeated the adjectives to myself over and over. Then, I wrote on the third section of the mirror one of my favorite quotes, “in here we don’t take counsel from our fears.”

I can’t say that this is going to change the way I see myself, but I am grateful for my new place of hope. This sanctuary of words built by the love of my friends and family gives me hope- hope that I am not hopeless, worthless, inadequate.

No matter what I may think of myself, those words are proof that someone sees better in me. This sanctuary of words is proof that I am not alone. One day I may be able to tell myself these things, but in the meantime I am grateful to be able to read the words of my friends in this beautiful new sanctuary.

Disconnect

My mind goes a lot faster than the rest of me. It takes me a long time to translate what my mind is thinking into words. I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to say it. I first have to focus enough on forming the words in my head, then on keeping the words while I focus on finding the opportunity to say them.

When I am sitting in class, I often have many thoughts that come to me. Sometimes I can form those thoughts into words before the teacher moves on, and I have the opportunity to contribute. Usually though, the teacher moves on before I can form my thought and I have to wait for another opportunity where my thought might fit. Or I move on from that thought and start over again.

It can be frustrating sometimes- this disconnect between my thoughts and my ability to communicate or act on those thoughts. I sometimes wish it was easier. It would be less embarrassing. I would be able to contribute more often. I wouldn’t have to work so hard to pay attention and still focus on my thoughts.

But on the other hand, if it wasn’t so hard, I might say things before they should be said. I might offend more people. I might not give meaningful input because I would be more focused on the output. It’s hard to think so much and try so hard when it seems that other people put no work into their thoughts and fill the time with little long-term value.

But I am grateful that it’s so hard because it means that everything I say has been carefully contemplated. Everything I do has a specific purpose and meaning. It gets me in trouble sometimes and can make me look incapable or unintelligent, but I would rather look incompetent than say something that could hurt someone else. In the end, it is worth being slower because it gives my insights that much more thought and meaning.

Picturing People

The other day I was thinking about a friend of mine that I went to help with some cleaning. It was interesting though because this friend is in a wheelchair and has been for as long as I’ve known her, but when I pictured her I didn’t picture her in a wheelchair. In fact, I totally forgot she is in a wheelchair until I was trying to think of why I had helped her clean.

And I just thought… wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone could picture everyone like that all the time? What if we could all just see each other without our disabilities, without seeing what makes us different, and just see what makes us the same? How different would the world be if we could all see how we’re alike instead of how we’re different?

I know it sounds idealist, but if I can forget about someone’s wheelchair, I’m sure people could forget about my autism or depression or other faults. So maybe I don’t have to worry so much about all my differences. Because if I can picture other people without their disabilities, maybe they can picture me without mine.

Disability, Not Disabling

This past week I did a training presentation on autism. I had been debating for a long time on whether or not I wanted to reveal that I have autism during that training. My manager was supportive either way, but said that he felt it would be helpful for people to know I have autism in order for them to gain a different perspective on the disorder.

Anyway, long story short, I decided to go ahead and say that I have autism in order to present some pertinent examples during my presentation. And the presentation went really well. I didn’t want it to be about me, but I wanted my story to add to the overall message. And I feel like it did exactly that.

A lot of the managers and supervisors also made comments and told stories about their experiences with family members or employees and that really added to the overall message as well. In the end, the message I wanted everyone to understand was that autism isn’t a problem in and of itself.

We all have problems and things that we deal with, but it’s when we allow those problems to disable us that they become disabling. Autism is considered a disability, but it is only really a disability when the person feels disabled. Feeling disabled means that you’ve lost the hope to try because you don’t feel there is a point when your disability will always cause you to fail. We all live with problems and can overcome those problems to live productive lives, but if we see ourselves as disabled we become a self-fulfilling prophecy.