Tuesday, January 8, 2013

step one: stop hating yourself.

Step two: ????

Step three: Profit.

Well, maybe not exactly. But I'm thinking it's a start.

Self-loathing, that fabulously fun, widely sought-after character trait is never one I quite attributed to myself. Consciously, anyways. Sure, I'm a dumb dummy who messes everything up and isn't worth anything and doesn't work hard enough, but that's not self-loath--- oh.

That's what I'm starting to realize now. By not taking care of your health, the message you send yourself--implicitly or explicitly--is that you are not worth being taken care of. That your health is of little consequence in the face of other more demanding tasks, like pleasing others. And crying.

Or so the last three-and-a-half years of my life went.

I'd gotten myself into such a murky, toxic headspace that the only glimmer of sunlight I could see was the vague possibility of praise or acknowledgement.  It came all too rarely. So, over time, I deteriorated into something of a swamp thing, sluggishly wading through life with long weeds snaked through my hair, raking me backward for every inch of movement forward.

For myriad reasons that I will address at some point, I ended up equating my existence with my career. There truly was nothing else. And I worked in a career in which I was exposed to a handful of crocodile-like folks wading just below the surface, their jaws poised to chomp the hell out of you the second you messed up. Or the second you didn't. Or that one time when you breathed, HOW DARE YOU.

Print of Watching Trees by Clare Elsaesser. Can you tell I've been into her work recently?

And so, I'd stand, paralyzed with fear, never moving ahead, constantly on the lookout. I didn't feel safe being myself. Obviously being myself wasn't good enough. I used every drop of energy I had during the work day to smile and get through. It broke me.

My job afforded me a few times a year when I'd have long stretches of time away from it-- and during these breaks I almost always made progress. I'd start exercising again, eating well, remembering that I was a human being who had actual needs that needed tending to and friends that wanted to make sure I was still alive. That self-care is a necessity, not a luxury.  And then when work started back up, whatever shaky foundation I'd built inevitably crumbled under the weight of my fear and stress.

It took me almost FOUR YEARS to decide that living like that wasn't okay. And that I deserved some sunlight, and it was okay for me to want that. That it didn't make me a failure, or a jerk, or a terrible person (though I am still debating this-- but I'm working on it). 

Okay. On to step two?

Note: The past few years and my job itself, like all things in life, were not entirely awful. There was joy in there, too--just not enough of it. I'm learning the world doesn't come in only shades of black and white.