Monday, June 2, 2014

Can You Learn to Love Yourself?

I've been off the radar for a few days trying to figure out some things. It was a good experience, and I learned a lot about myself and how to go on to live the happiest life possible.

The answer to my problem is quite easy--simply put, I need to love myself, to value myself, to see the good in myself.

The problem is, I don't.

I did get it down to that one issue, however, which is actually quite good progress for me.  It turns out that virtually all of my problems cycle back to that one problem.

All I can hear is Whitney Houston singing "The Greatest Love of All", but...well, it's just not that simple.

I am raising three amazing children (well, Emily is pretty much on her own, but she does sometimes text me in the middle of the night to ask random philosophical questions), I am loved deeply by my husband, my mother, my siblings and their spouses, and my nephews. It only follows logically that I am a pretty good mother/wife/daughter/sister/auntie, yet I can't for the life of me see why.  Or maybe it's how.

And I'm not writing this for people to throw compliments at me.  I know I am a good mother.  I know I have some talent at writing and teaching, but I know that both of these have ceased to be easy for me. I know I'm a nice and caring person.

But I don't know it, if that makes any sense.

I guess it's no secret to most people that know me in person or who reads this blog regularly or is a friend on Facebook that I have been struggling with some debilitating Postpartum Depression that ended up waking up a sleeping nightmare of a crime I thought was buried forever (a sexual assault I wrote about here and focused on the repercussions of here), so I've also been diagnosed with PTSD.

I did make a lot of progress over the past few days, though, and I'd like to share some of it in the hope that it can help any of you out there, anyone that has Postpartum Depression, PTSD, or anything else.  

There is still a stigma attached to mental illness, so I am feeling some shame as I write this.  I'm actually going to say that Postpartum Depression is hormonal and affects a large percentage of women and that, you know, I certainly didn't ask to be raped and have it all come back through PTSD. It's not like, I'm really messed up on my own.  I also have some pretty interesting purely medical stuff going on as well.

And I hate myself for writing the above paragraph because, while true, it dishonors those that suffer from bipolar disorder or depression or OCD or borderline personality disorder or whatever.  People that suffer from those are no different than those that are living with cancer or diabetes.  

Yet the stigma remains.

Anyway, I'll get off my (fairly hypocritical) soapbox now and get back to the point.

I was given a list of positive affirmations and encouraged to identify which of those were true for me.  At first, I scoffed.  I mean, we're talking "I pursue my life's purpose" and "I feel fulfilled and joyful", and my personal favorite, "I balance my self-confidence with modesty perfectly".  

Eventually, I found a couple that did resonate with me, so I read a little further and found a few more, and then I decided to make an effort to take it seriously.

I made a list of the positive affirmations that I felt were true about myself.  There were twenty-four of them, but I felt that it wasn't as cut and dried as that; in other words, many of the twenty-four had a disclaimer.  I then decided to write them in my own handwriting along with some freewriting on the topic.

I care for people.  I do, but often to my detriment.  I am extremely sensitive with minimal self-esteem, so I take things very personally.  I know I need to develop a thicker skin.  Either that or stop caring, and I think that's impossible for me.  My parents bought me a beautiful red jacket when I was a little girl of six or seven.  I gave it away to another little girl who lived in a bad part of town and who didn't have a jacket at all.  If my mother's wrath at that event didn't put a dent in the "care dial" on  my heart, I don't think anything will.  It is so hard to care about others, though, when they clearly don't care about you.

Here's another:

I deserve to succeed.  I have done so many awful things that sometimes I really don't feel this, but the truth is that everyone with pure and positive intentions deserves to succeed, and I definitely fall into that category.  This is one I need to focus more on ...

The next step was going through my freewrites and generating questions for each.  I came up with a ton of questions (I needed to get a second notepad at about this point), and then I went through those questions and came up with what I called "Katie's Essential Questions", which means areas that recurred as common themes that ran through my positive self-affirmations.

Virtually every question came back to the fact that I have very low self-esteem, minimal self-confidence, and this pervasive feeling that I am unworthy of love.

I am still wrangling with this issue as I type this (and, boy, does it feel good to use a computer...I had to write in long hand because it was how I could make it be me, but this is so much easier).  I didn't come up with an answer, although I went through my "essential questions" with my mother this afternoon and she helped me see the connection between all of my questions.

It's funny, because I am your typical ADHD person ... even my brain is disorganized.  It was very hard for me to systematically take on this task, because it seemed both stupid and overwhelming and, most of all, a supreme waste of time.  I used a notebook and a half to realize something that I already know ... that I am not the world's biggest fan of myself.

What I lost sight of, at least for a moment, was that there are twenty-four statements I now own, in my own bastardized print/cursive hybrid, that are at least in some ways true.

The one that speaks the most to me is "I am a kind, caring, and decent person". I put it on my list and know it to be true, yet the question remains ...

Can you learn to love yourself?  And, if so, how?

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