Rebuilding self-esteem. It’s like running up hill, underwater, drunk, and if you’re unlucky, naked and with a target painted on your back. Once someone tears you down, it’s ever so hard to get back on the same playing field.. or anywhere even remotely near it. It’s like trying to quit smoking by snapping a rubber band on your wrist.
Before you realize what happened, you’re hiding bits and pieces of yourself that you’ve been taught are damaged, or annoying even. You’ll apologize for things that don’t need apologizing for. You’ll keep thoughts to yourself, because you’re so scared, almost terrified in fact, that if you let those thoughts out, you’ll scare people away.
All that’s left is this shell of a person, feeling frustrated, down, depressed, and hurt. It’s just this shell that dislikes so, so many things about itself, that it desperately wishes it could change. It wishes it could change it’s hair, it’s weight, it’s health, it’s mannerisms. It wishes it were different. Just a shell.
Over the last handful of years, I’ve had a hard time with myself. I “learned” that things that people once loved, were actually obnoxious, annoying and embarrassing. I had been told that I was too loud, that I should stop debating, stop arguing, and “not get so riled up about political issues”. I had it forced in my brain, that taking a down day (during a flare, or even an every day cold) was selfish. That laying on the couch was lazy, even as my insides spilled onto the floor. After a while, my brain believed it.
I embarrassed my friends and family when I became passionate about something. I picked on people too much, it was okay for people to pick on me, but fighting back was wrong. No one likes a girl who stands up for herself. That when I was sick, I inconvenienced others. That I shouldn’t complain, I should just deal with it, because it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be. I learned that I made people miserable, especially on days when I couldn’t drag myself off of the couch. That I ruined my friends and family’s weekends when I didn’t want to something my body wouldn’t tolerate.
Time went on. I started to keep quiet. I stopped debating, I stopped arguing, I stopped discussing world events. I kept my opinions about my books, and the world around me inside my head, more and more. I withdrew. Things that I was once known for, quirks, even character flaws if you will, I started to apologize for. If I got sick, I was sorry. I was sorry for everyone who had to deal with me. If I got loud about something I cared about, I apologized and immediately felt embarrassment flush across my cheeks. I stopped teasing the people I cared about, I stopped showing my personality at home and out with friends. Oddly enough, the only people who really saw the real me, was my co-workers. I hid from everyone else. I even started hiding from myself, picking myself apart. Disliking who I had always been. I looked in the mirror and felt ashamed at not only my changed body from all of the medicines and years of disease, but I didn’t like myself anymore.
Complete honesty here folks, which I’ll admit I haven’t let on my blog for a long time. Just remembering how I used to feel.. I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face.
I felt like a shell of a human being.
Then all of a sudden, I was alone. It was just me and my beautiful daughter. My daughter who looked up to me, my daughter who has the same mannerisms, and one hell of a similar personality. If I disliked myself, did I dislike her? What was I teaching her.
One day I was out with my friends, and I made some horrible joke and someone I didn’t even know laughed. I opened up a little bit more. I started to meet people for coffee and drinks, people I’ve known for years and years, and new people. People who liked my quirks, as well as my friends in the chronic illness community. I started to realize that maybe, just maybe, the old me is in there somewhere. Maybe, she’s not that bad?
Over the last handful of months, through the holidays and then through my heart-scare, I started focusing on myself. I started to try and re-learn to be.. well.. me. I’m not perfect, in fact, I have enough flaws to cover my entire county. However, what I’m slowly learning is that the most beautiful things are flawed. Eternally so, and that family and friends will love you despite those flaws. I’ve been working on my self-esteem, and my self-worth a lot, and in the process have been learning a lot about myself.
I’m not there yet. I’m not back, I’m still a few blocks away from the old me. I realized this, again, last night when I started apologizing for crap that had no need for a “I’m sorry”, much less an explanation. I’m still guilty of shutting my opinions up in my head. Most importantly, I’m still working on being open about being ill. I get scared that my friends will leave when I get sick again (although in reality, no one left who was worth spit in the first place). I get scared that new friends, will not understand, that they’ll bail when I come clean. For months now, I’ve been forcing myself to be open with everyone I meet, that I potentially could see a friendship with, about being sick. I’m learning to tell my family when I need help, or when I’m having a hard time. It’s a learning curve, all of it, but I’ll get there because it’s worth it. No one should have to feel like a shell of themselves, no one should doubt themselves that much, and no one should have to feel the kind of emptiness. Cheesy as it may be, but everyone is different, we all have different battles we’re fighting, and we all have different quirks and personalities. What I wished I had learned a long time ago is..
.. if someone doesn’t like who you are, if a person doesn’t support you, from family to friends and everything else.. kick their asses out on the curb.
‘Cause nobody got time for that shit.