The Day I Stopped Hating Myself

I started realizing a little over two years ago just how much I hated myself. Prior to that I thought that I liked myself for the most part but just had some self esteem issues. After suggestions from some friends to make my new year’s goal to love and take care of myself, I realized just how hard this was for me. It was not long before I realized that I had a deep and persistent hatred of myself. I considered myself to be the worst, most worthless person on the earth.

I wasn’t sure what to do with this new knowledge. How do you learn how to love yourself? Where do you start? I decided to start with the people who loved me. If they saw something of worth in me, there had to be something I could love about myself. I wrote on my mirror every single kind thing I could find that someone had said about me. I started out with about 30 adjectives, but got to about 50 after showing friends what I was doing. It was hard to believe all these things about myself, but there was the proof in front of me, written proof that I knew someone thought about me at one point. That was the beginning of a turning point in my life, but there was still a lot of work to do.

A year later, I had grown so much. I was kinder to myself. I was more forgiving of myself. I was not so afraid of myself. But I still hated myself. I messaged a friend one night to ask her what she thought about me selling everything I owned and starting over. This friend is spontaneous and honest and I knew that she would be willing to entertain the thought of me getting rid of everything, but would also tell me if I was being ridiculous or overreacting. We got talking about why I wanted to do this and realized that at the heart of my struggles was an ingrained belief that I was a bad person. But the most interesting thing was that I believed I was a bad person because I could not stop myself from being a good person. I felt unworthy to do good things, but I could not destroy my innate desire to help others.

After realizing all that I believed about myself and working to discover what made me believe these thoughts, I made a breakthrough. I still remember the first time I did something kind for another person and didn’t hate myself for it. I came home happy. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t cry myself to sleep that night. I dropped off the little box full of stuff for a friend and felt proud of myself. It was the most amazing feeling ever to not feel like a failure for doing something good. That was the first night I didn’t feel like I still hated myself.

I still have days where I question my worth. I have days where I wonder why my friends stay friends with me. I still have times where I don’t like myself for something I have done. But I no longer have those nights where I just curl up on the floor and want to die because I tried to be myself. And every day of waking up not hating myself is a beautiful day.

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The other day, I did something that was impossible for me a year ago- I said hello to a friend in the grocery store. I know that probably sounds pretty trivial to most people, but I have never been able to greet someone if they were not looking directly at me. I have a hard time controlling my voice volume so I was always worried that I would be too loud and scare the person or that I would be too quiet and they wouldn’t hear me.

I also had a major fear of touching someone, like on the back or shoulder to let them know I was there, which is another thing that has changed recently. I have gotten “pins and needles” before when a friend rubbed my back. I was not used to being touched and my body reacted in negative ways to it. But the other day, a friend rubbed my back and there was such an incredible warmth that went through me. It felt like love radiated through me from the touch of their hand. It was such a beautiful and calming feeling.

Anyway, I said hello to this person in the store, and we had a conversation like we would at church or any other place I might see them. It was simple, natural, completely normal to any onlookers and something that person probably didn’t think twice about, but I was ecstatic. I texted another friend to celebrate my accomplishment. I had wanted to do this my entire life. I even asked for help on this blog at one point to get ideas about how I could learn to say hello to someone. It seemed like a daunting task at the time, but has become less terrifying as I have learned how to communicate and express myself better. In this moment, I celebrated how far I have come in the last few years.

I have come so far and made such amazing progress that I just want to encourage everyone to keep going, keep trying, keep working on getting better. Looking at all of my progress is almost unbelievable. Things that were impossible are now normal. Things that used to make me feel uncomfortable can now help me feel the incredible love others have for me. These changes have truly been a miracle. One of the biggest miracles is that most people don’t know how hard these things used to be for me. They see who I am now and think nothing of these major milestones because it fits me now. I have become the type of person that talks to people and loves and feels love, and that is probably my biggest miracle of all.

My Biggest Fear

My biggest fear has always been hurting people. I used to think that my biggest fear was that I would lose my battle with depression, that I would finally succeed in ending my life. I was afraid of anything that could hurt me because I thought about dying so much and so often that I feared I might not be able to stop myself if I had the means to end my life. But I realized that I ultimately feared killing myself because I knew it would hurt people.

My fear has decreased in the last few years, but I used to be terrified of hurting another human being. l was so scared that at one point, I tried to avoid people all together. Memories still haunt me occasionally of times that I unintentionally hurt someone.

On the other side of fear, though, is a burning desire to help others and make their lives a little better or easier or happier. My entire life has been dedicated to making others happy. It is my favorite thing to do. I cannot stop myself from wanting to do things for others.

Due to experiences growing up, I used to hate myself for my desires to do kind things for others. I believed that I was a flawed person that did not know how to help anyone and that the people I did things for might be offended or inconvenienced by my kind gesture. These thoughts sent me into a spiral of depression and self-destruction every time I did something for someone.

I remember the first time I did something for someone and wasn’t flooded with a wave of guilt afterward. I took a box of little gifts with a note on it to one of my friends and dropped it off on her porch after she had a rough couple of days. I treasure that memory because it was the first time I gave a gift to a friend without hating myself for it.

I absolutely adore Christmas because I get to give to others without feeling out of place or different from the rest of the world. I am grateful for the opportunities to serve and to give that Christmas offers. I am grateful for this time of year that makes my deepest desires seem normal. I wish we all treated each other as though every day was part of the Christmas season, maybe then I would not feel so out of place when I do something kind for another human being.

Beth’s Story

I have no idea how Beth and I became best friends. We are complete opposites in almost everything. She is a country girl who grew up mostly in trailer homes. I am a city girl who grew up 15 minutes from 3 major malls, 2 giant amusement parks, countless beaches, and pretty much anything you would want to do in southern California. She enjoys cuddling, saying I love you, and watching romance movies. I don’t usually hug people, much less cuddle with them, have a hard time saying I love you, and would rather watch an action film than a romance. She struggles in school and doesn’t generally enjoy learning about random stuff. I love learning and hardly ever study because it comes so naturally to me.

Almost every time we talk, one of us will say, how did we ever become friends? But the fact remains that we are best friends and plan on remaining so until we’re old and senial and forget each other’s names.  Then, we’ll be new best friends.

I could say more about our friendship, but this story is about Beth. How did she get here and why is she struggling?

Beth grew up in an abusive household. Her mother was an addict when she was pregnant and it didn’t change after Beth was born. Beth’s older siblings took advantage of her, experimenting their perceptions of life on Beth and taking out their frustrations on her. Living in abuse led to not knowing how to prevent it in other places. So school wasn’t much better than home.

I won’t go into details, but by the time I met Beth, she had been through a lot. She was a freshman in high school and I was a sophomore in college.  We’re only 3 years apart in age, but miles apart in life circumstances. After 2 years of friendship, I made the decision that would change both of our lives forever by bringing Beth to California.

It has been 3 years since then and we’re still best friends, but changing Beth’s circumstances didn’t change her past. She still has PTSD from everything that happened to her as well as health problems and depression. It did change everything for me though. Being friends with Beth gave me freedom from depression for the first time in my life and changed how I view the world and myself.

I know it’s not as easy to change effects of abuse as it is to change effects of loneliness, but I want the same thing for my best friend as she has given me. That can’t happen until she gets the help she needs. I contribute all I can to help her, even signing as a cosigner so she could get an apartment after being homeless for 9 months. But if anyone else can help too, it would mean she may be able to get the help she needs to become whole like she has helped me become.

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