Addicted to Loathing – #reverb13 – Day 16

When that habit is feeling bad, it's hard work to feel any differently.

Rose encased in ice original photo by E. HowardOn my “bad days,” the one thing I hear over and over again from people who love me is:

“You are too hard on yourself!”

This bad habit of self-loathing has been my ever-lurking shadow. It goes hand-in-hand with the long walk I have taken with depression, which seem to start sometime during puberty.

My “bad” habit of self-critique, of self-blame, of self-recrimination, probably has something to do with the way I see reality.

If I am sitting in a chair and facing outward at the world, I can make a list of the things that I see.

If the things that I see (ie. those which I can impact or interact with) are “bad” or negative, then I come to an immediate and “logical” conclusion:

It’s my fault.

This is logical to me because I am the only one whose actions I can control

The curious part of this is that a very loud and intelligent part of my brain walks about up there clanging a noisy gong, shouting: “Fault is useless! Blame is meaningless! Life is! Just accept reality and love all that you see. Go forward!” (I sort of always picture that part of my brain as Pema Chodron).

My loved ones’ voices shout other mantra, which boils down to: “The good! The good!! Can’t you see the good!! It’s the light illuminating everything!”

However, there is this habit. The addiction to feeling a certain way. It is very real.

Feeling “bad” is a long-standing habit in my life. I can’t remember a time in my life when I went through a few days and didn’t feel down, anxious, angry, frustrated or have the blues. I was not born with innate patience (though I am far more so than I used to be), so when I look outward at the “list” — that is, at life swirling around me — I tend to see the bad.

Unless, I’m having a good day, a sensible day, a peaceful one. Which happens.

Unless I am take care of myself and I am able to see the illuminating light. Which does happen at times, too.

Of course, since I became a parent, it’s gotten harder to take care of myself. “The list” is getting longer. Life doesn’t swirl anymore. It’s a sheer cacophony. Now I have to wake up in the middle of the night just to make sure I’ve seen, heard, catalogued and measured all of my failures.

Was I able to loosen the fetters this year? I don’t think so. I think the more out of control I feel, the harder I hold onto those fears, those “bads,” the laundry list of Cosm-magazine fix-em-ups I have to do to be my “best and better self.”

Eat better, exercise more. Be kinder, more compassionate, a better friend, more giving wife, more expansive writer, a better mother, a more loving human.

This is the truth of my addiction. Would I prefer it to be something more concrete, like alcohol or oxy or gambling?

No. I wouldn’t trade who I am for anything. Even though I seem to try to disprove that notion everyday.

P.S. A friend of mine gave me this book many years back. It still really helps me think about these ideas differently. If any of this rings true with you, you might like it too.

Today’s Prompt: Habits and addictions, some are silly, some serious; when we have issues without answers, they can hold us so tight that we stop moving forward with the life we intended.

Were you able to loosen those fetters this year, and if you were successful, how did you manage it? Did you accept outside help, or work alone?

If you still feel that grasp of addiction or hurtful habits, what will you do differently in the year to come?

This post is part of December’s reverb13. Click the button to read more.

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Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home. 

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  5 comments for “Addicted to Loathing – #reverb13 – Day 16

  1. Wizard
    December 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    I read you essay today and as always it flowed beautifully. The thought I came away with though was “I’m glad I’m not her”.

    • December 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Wizard, thanks for reading. It’s not easy to share this.

  2. December 16, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Self-loathing is one of the most crippling addictions there is. And one that can give rise to so many other “bad” habits, just to numb out the pain.
    The journey towards self-compassion is a fraught one. I know from experience, it can bring up some of the most excruciating stuff there is. But is there any journey more vital to our survival? Can we begin to flourish without it? Is this not what we want to model for our children i.e. “I know I’m not perfect, but I’m a good person doing my best. And I am satisfied that it is enough. And I want you see how kind I am to myself and do that for yourself. Because I happen to think you’re the most amazing kid on earth.”
    You got this, lovely gal. Go forth like a phoenix!

  3. Sandra
    December 18, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I struggle with this as well. My self loathing is a lifelong habit that I never realized the depths of until I looked really hard at it. And holy wow it permeates so much. I’m starting to loosen the habits of thought and behavior, but damn, when all you’ve known is how to feel awful then it is weird to feel anything but awful.
    Hats off to you for the realization. And parenting a newborn makes the self-loathing so much worse, at least it did for me. Here’s a meditation that I was given and I share with you any anybody else who might read:
    May I be safe; may I be sober; may I be happy; may I be healthy; may I be at peace; may I love myself sincerely with gentle patient kindness no matter what
    Some days it doesn’t do jack sh!t for me, some days it saves me.
    Best to you and your family
    S–*

    • January 2, 2014 at 6:11 am

      Thank you for this really kind reply Sandra. It definitely comes and goes. Self-talk is the only way around it as I know. Peace to you.

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