Warning: Potential self-harm triggers behind the cut
I remember thinking as a kid that everyone was like me. I always thought that the popular people were the same as me, except better looking and more confident. I thought they would appreciate me and everything I’m about if they got to know me. I thought that for a long time. I remember being at a party when I was 19 or so where these too-cool hardcore punk kids – I don’t know why “kids” is the first thing I think of to call them – were talking about Sarah Silverman. In that moment I thought, oh god, I have the entire Jesus Is Magic special memorized.. I could quote something from it right now and they would realize that I’m awesome. But I know now that, not only would they not think I’m awesome, they probably wouldn’t even know what I was talking about. And I wouldn’t like them either. But I never thought of things that way. It was the same way with every guy I ever liked. I just liked them and worried that they wouldn’t like me back. I would think, ugh, he smokes a ton of pot, he used the word “illiterate” to describe my fumbling with the door handle, he eats meat and doesn’t care about animals, but.. what if he doesn’t like me? I would always feel devastated when a guy didn’t like me or when he stopped liking me and I think a lot of it had to do with my thinking that everyone is at least like me enough that they would find me interesting. And some of it was just a need for approval from men (16 year old boys).
When I dated a guy at 19, I broke-up with him mostly on a “He’s Just Not That Into You”-induced moment of realization that he didn’t appreciate me as much as he should have. I didn’t like that he didn’t call me, but that was only a sign of a bigger problem: He didn’t respect me enough to call me when he knew it would mean something to me. I asked him to call on Valentine’s Day. I told him to make me a card or do anything to make me feel special and he didn’t. He said he was sick, so he couldn’t, but that just tells me he didn’t like me enough to toss around some glitter and glue while in a fevered delirium. Even more than that, he didn’t laugh hard enough at my jokes, he didn’t smile big enough when I said something insightful, and he didn’t listen closely enough when I talked. I’ve never had much self-esteem or self-confidence, but I’ve always liked my personality – even though reading my old journals makes me question why I did. I think that bit of admiration for myself made me unwilling to put up with any bullshit from guys and I’m so grateful for that.
I haven’t ever been willing to give in to anything too destructive. I never did cocaine when I was offered it, I didn’t throw-up my food even when I felt like it would make me feel better about my body, and I have never attempted suicide because I always maintained a sliver of hope that things would get better. But I did turn to self-mutilation for a few years because I think I figured it wouldn’t cause any permanent damage beyond scars. It made it difficult to feel or to cry for years after quitting, but in the moment it was a way that I could feel better about something without dealing with it in any real way. I couldn’t always cut, so sometimes I would punch myself or just scream as loudly as possible. I would also sometimes put a pencil in my fist and punch my arm so that the tip of the pencil would stab into my skin enough to make it hurt a bit more than my fist on it’s own would. I did go to therapy – group and individual – 2 or 3 times a week, and I took antidepressants, and ultimately I feel like it was the coping skills I learned in therapy that helped me to finally overcome my cutting. I remember once having some friends over to my house to drink and it got out of hand. Two of my close friends told me that my best friend talked badly about me all of the time and called me boring and whiny. She cried and assured me that they were lying. I knew they were telling the truth and I wanted nothing more than to cut, but I decided that she wasn’t worth it. I knew I would forgive her, but I still thought that someone who could say such terrible things about me when she knew how depressed I was, just wasn’t worth it. It suddenly felt silly to cut just because someone hurt my feelings.
At 21 I developed anxiety. I have to assume that it came from dating my boyfriend because we had such a great relationship and I believed that it had to come to a tragic end. In the 4 or so years before we met, my Uncle, Grandma, two Great Aunts, a Great Uncle, and a cousin died. I was screwed over by every friend I ever had and I just wasn’t used to having good things happen to me and it was difficult for me to trust people. I started thinking our relationship was just some elaborate prank he was playing on me, like when a frat guy takes an ugly girl to a “troll party”. That belief lasted for around 2 years. During that time I also believed he would suddenly die or just arbitrarily choose to never see me anymore. He doesn’t drive, so I was driving him to and from work at Starbucks before he quit when he got more serious about school. Some days I would go to pick him up and he would be late coming out. First I would get worried, then angry, then very angry and very worried. On one of the worst days, he was at a meeting at another location and it was taking a long time. It was probably 30 or 40 minutes that I had to wait. By the time he arrived I was hysterical. I screamed at him and cried because I was sure he was either dead or abandoning me. I have severe abandonment issues and one day I asked myself why. I wondered what a therapist would say and I immediately figured they would ask, “Did your dad abandon you when you were a child?” To which I would say.. oh shit, yes. He used to very dramatically leave for days for no reason at all. He would say things like that he just couldn’t deal with my mom because she forgot to buy saltine crackers for his salad. He would leave with all of his clothes to sleep in his car. My brother always cried but I never did. When he eventually had a trailer to stay in during his hissy fit, he didn’t come home for 2 years. I was relieved.
I’m still afraid my boyfriend will die, but I’ve decided to let him do things that he wants to do. I deal with it in a strange way, I tell myself that if he dies I will just have to deal with it.
Now I have this dumb anxiety that causes me to feel like my deja vu moments are premonitions. I don’t know what that actually comes from, but they definitely aren’t premonitions. I’ve tested it. They mean nothing, except that I’m really tired or have had too much caffeine. I try to do my own exposure therapy by going out of my way to do things that scare me, which really has helped a lot. Just the other day I let my friend, Jeff, drive me to the movies a few cities over. I’m a big girl now.
I guess I should go back to what I started with, which is the idea that everyone isn’t like me after all. I still have a hard time grasping that. I still make weird jokes and assume that every person who hears me say it in line at the grocery store is silently thinking about how funny I am. Maybe that’s what makes living amidst all of these people bearable for me. And as long as I maintain my love of my own personality, who really cares what other think about who I am?