I wouldn’t call what I’m going through right now an episode. It hardly captures what happens on a day to day — sometimes hour to hour — basis. The difficulties I’ve been facing is a part of the reason I haven’t posted in a while. It’s hard for me to share what I’m going through while it runs its course. Oftentimes, those close to me have no idea the depth of my internal pain. But it’s not their fault.
I’ve been living with this for such a long time, a part of me feels like I just have to wait until it passes, no matter how excruciating the pain can be. Other times I’d rather not have my loved ones worry, or make them feel uncomfortable trying to figure out what to say. Sometimes I believe talking makes it worse and that nothing people say will make the pain go away. So I keep it to myself.
My therapist and other people who are familiar with dialectical behavior therapy call it apparent competence. On the one hand, apparent competance helps me get through the day — acting as if I was doing well — and lets me lead an outwardly drama-free life. I can work, hold a conversation, do daily tasks and get along with others quite well. But what happens when all the drama plays out in the confines of your own head? What happens when no one can help you because everyone thinks you’re doing fine? The reality you present and the reality going on inside your head grow further and further apart. And you start to ask yourself, who am I, really? That’s when the problem starts.
Not knowing who you are creates a huge vulnerability to the already emotionally sensitive, so I’ve been trying hard to let people in bit by bit. I’ll tell them that I’ve had better days. I’ve been having bad thoughts. I’m not doing too well, but I’m trying to stay positive. I’m vague on purpose and always reassure them the worst is over, even though more often than not it’s not true.
One of the obstacles I have to face by becoming more transparent is showing my vulnerability. It’s scary to be vulnerable, especially in front of those you love. The stakes are higher. I’m afraid of breaking down, of losing control. I’m afraid of scaring them away, of rejection. I have to keep my armor up because it hurts both you and the people you love when they don’t know what to do. Again, it’s not their fault. Mental illness is not easy for even the best professionals, let alone those that love you.
What I do know is that I am lucky; fears aside, they have always expressed their love. They do want to make the pain go away. They do want me to know how much I matter. And oddly enough, that’s the hardest thing to accept. It’s so hard for me to believe I have a space here and that other people value that space. It is the real reason I don’t express how difficult it is for me. Because then I’ll have to listen to them.
If someone else can love me, then I’m worthy of existing.
This is perhaps the hardest thing I had to write, the hardest thing I must admit. This has always been the problem, this very core belief that I should not exist. All my suffering hinges upon this myth. And as much as I try and work it through, I can’t seem to shake it. Today I teared up during therapy. I told her how sad I was, how difficult it was for me to have all these terrible thoughts, how I didn’t want to die, but that I didn’t feel strong enough to handle all of it. I told her as much as I knew I was an integral part of other peoples’ lives, there was one thing I was so deficient in, so lacking, that all the wise mind and rational thoughts and love couldn’t help me.
I don’t know how to love myself.
For all the times I have found myself at my wit’s end, love has saved me. For all the times I could not believe in myself, another person’s faith has carried me on. They gave me faith, they gave me hope, they gave me love. But I suffer. And I’ll continue to suffer so as long as I cannot do what others have done for me. Loving yourself will perhaps turn extraordinary suffering into ordinary pain.
To be honest, I don’t know how to do it. But I’m not giving up on myself. I’m feeling my way through the dark, hoping I can get by with the help of my friends.
Help me understand how to live, how to love. I’m listening.