“In 2016 I became painfully aware of this thing I do. It’s irrational. It’s self-defeating. I hate it, but it’s real. And I have to stare it straight in the eyes before I can do anything about it. I see a picture (or person. Hell, sometimes a text post on any given form of social media) and think “They are [beautiful/amazing/flawless/killing it/any combo of these and plus more]”! Go them and other supportive and positive things. Then my brain segues into “I am three-day-old gutter trash. No, I am the slug that lives in the three-day-old gutter trash, who does nothing, will do nothing, and has nothing to offer. except for burden and annoyance.” Being aware of it doesn’t make it any easier to stop. It’s mental torture watching myself do this.
I don’t know what to call it exactly. Habit or tendency sounds too benign. Intrusive thought? Obsession? Those are closer to true. These are the things that make me feel weak. I don’t do it on purpose. It’s like a knee jerk thing. Tap me with a hammer and I’ll hate myself real good. I know my self-esteem over all is something I am going to have to buckle down on and do some serious work. Soon. I feel this sensation like I’m running out of time. But I guess that’s the first step to change, or rather I’m hoping it is. This is something I’ve written recently. Self-awareness is something I am constantly working towards achieving. It usually comes with a fair amount of emotional pain. It’s a necessary evil to be able to take the next step.
A little secret between you and me? I’m not very good at taking those steps. And by not very good I mean absolute rubbish. Any that I have managed to take have taken years and a lot of baggage that could have been avoided, you know, if only. Anyways, I’ve decided to take part in the annual cliché and declare that I will be making myself some new year’s resolutions this 2017. I don’t have any particulars figured out yet, but I have ideas. I know, I know, the general consensus that New Year’s resolutions are things we say in January to feel guilty about in February. I’ve never been one to make them. “Why even try?” has always been my attitude about it. But zoom out a couple of clicks and I see its part of a larger problem. I don’t do goals. I don’t set goals and I don’t take steps, which, to come back around to the words in the beginning, stems from my knee jerk self-loathing. I ultimately don’t believe I am capable or worthy.
The variety of mental illnesses can be dizzying, with a myriad of symptoms across spectrum upon spectrum, but I feel confident in stating my completely unresearched and unsubstantiated opinion that low self-esteem, in varying degrees, plagues a majority of people living with mental illness. It’s an obstacle against treatment, self-care, and stability. Thinking about starting to make a concentrated effort towards not believing badly of myself, much less loving myself, scares me. It’s uncharted territory. I’ll be working out muscles that have all but atrophied, but it’s not impossible, and my recovery depends on it. It can be done. It might feel like salt water on a 3rd degree burn at times, but I just have to keep pushing. Many more before me have done it, and many more still will.
So I’ve decided this is it. Why? Because why not. I realize I will never feel 100% ready to start working on my self-esteem. So now it’s time. It’s time I set a goal and accomplished it. It’s time I make myself proud of me. Start small. Be forgiving. Love myself. I owe it to myself.
I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
River grew up in the suburbs of Chicago where she was very active in the powwows as a fancy shawl dancer until her family moved to Alabama in 1999. She works as a radio personality to pay the bills but her real passion is reducing the stigma that surrounds mental illness. In her free time she writes and talks about it whenever possible to normalize the conversation and provide a safe space for others to talk about their experiences. She is officially diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.