N is for Negative Self-Image

n xmas fancyYesterday a friend tried to get me to tell her why I refuse to allow myself to “get better” mental health-wise. I couldn’t really answer her. Not in a way she accepted anyway. She refused:

I’m a bad person.

I’m cr@#.

I don’t deserve to be better.

If you really knew what went on in my head, you’d understand.

I screwed up a perfectly good life.

I threw away everything God gave me.

The truth is, I didn’t want to admit why I have a negative self-image. I think it might be because I’m not perfect. Or at least, I’m not the person I think I should be: a sinless person.

I just can’t forgive, or like, my adult self for my imperfection. As far back as I can remember I’ve been told that I have a lot of “potential.” My friend said it moments before she asked me why I won’t let myself heal. Here’s what I did with my “potential”:

Potential: I could’ve gone to any college I wanted.

Throw away: Instead of the private school with the great arts program I wanted to go to, I got scared. I went to a state school close to home.

Potential: I could’ve graduated in four years with no debt and on the honor roll.

Throw away: I got no treatment for an episode of suicidal depression and went from the Dean’s List to Academic Probation in four years.

Potential: In my very first “real world” job that I hated, I could’ve gotten promoted to management after three months.

Throw away: I was consistently late or absent (due to the depression that I still wasn’t treating) and the company couldn’t promote me (union rules).

Potential: I found a job that I kinda enjoyed and was given a promotion within the first year. I was offered a management position, despite my ongoing lateness and attendance issues (still not getting that depression treated).

Throw away: I refused the management position and stayed in a lower one for six years longer than I could have before transferring to a different department.

Potential: I made decent money during a time of economic recession.

Throw away: Instead of saving that money, I spent it on food and entertainment.

Potential: I had a decent apartment with the cheapest rent in town.

Throw away: I lived in squalor. See this post for more information.

Potential: I had good insurance with full mental health parity before it was mandated by law.

Throw away: I didn’t take full advantage of it.

Potential: I had a job when the unemployment level was over 10%.

Idiot.

Idiot.

Throw away: I quit my job without having new employment lined up.

Potential: I went back to school.

Throw away: I chose to study something that I knew required that I go onto a Masters Program and that I may not have been healthy enough to go onto that program.

God has been very good to me. I’ve been blessed enough to be a white woman in a country that reveres white people. I’m allowed to practice whatever religion I want. I am not beaten for being raped or forced to marry my rapist. I live in a city that is relatively safe. The only thing I get harassed for is my weight (which is something I can do something about). I am unemployed in a country that has unemployment insurance. When I was homeless, my brother let me sleep in his spare room. My current landlord renewed my lease, despite the fact that I am still months behind in rent. When I broke my arm and had to have surgery, I was given that surgery despite my lack of insurance. When I was too depressed and suicidal to be safe with myself, I was taken to a hospital and treated, again without insurance. I live in a state where it’s illegal for the electric company to turn off my lights for non-payment during the winter because my heat is electric. I even get most of my prescription medications for free (a $200 value) so I don’t fall back into a suicidal depression.

I have been blessed with so much in my life but I have done nothing with my blessings.

My counselor has pointed out that many of the things I have thrown away have been because of my mental illnesses (both the Depression and the Eating Disorder), but I don’t buy it. I know better.

Even before I was diagnosed with Depression, I knew better. Before I studied psychology, I knew better. I was educated in the signs of depression and eating disorders at sixteen (it was part of a Girl Scout activity. Don’t judge. I was a Girl Scout long after I stopped being a girl. It was fun and there were cookies!)

I knew at seventeen when I got my first failing grade that my behavior indicated Major Depressive Disorder but I didn’t do anything about it. I knew at twenty-two when I dropped out of college on Academic Probation that I was suicidal and needed treatment. But I didn’t do anything about it. I knew throughout my twenties and thirties that just taking medication wasn’t gonna change my life. I knew I had to change my behaviors, but I didn’t. I knew at thirty-eight when I chose to study psychology that I’d have to go to Graduate School and that I’d have to do something in order to handle those academic rigors. Did I do anything about it? No.

For the last forty years, I’ve acted as if somehow all my problems would magically disappear without actually doing all the work I was supposed to do. I knew that God forgave me when I confessed my sins of arrogance and laziness in the confessional. Somehow I forgot that part of that forgiveness required that I work to change myself so as not to fall into those sins again.

And I haven’t been to Reconciliation (the preferred term for Confession) in almost a year because of this. I can’t like myself with these sins weighing on my heart.

How could I allow myself to heal with those kinds of sins? How could God?

What I don’t know is why I won’t make the changes that I need to make. Why I cling to my sins and my negative self-image.

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

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