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Ever hate yourself?

I hate myself. What is your reaction to that sentence? Do you say, “No way,” or “I used to,” “Somedays,” or, “Every single day, with a bloody vengeance”? If the Beast is after you, I imagine your answer is at least“somedays.” If it’s “every single day with a vengeance,” well, Houston, we have a problem – a BIG problem because how you view yourself is a BIG deal.


How you feel about yourself is a bigger deal than you likely think. If you feel (at the very least) unhappy about who you are, the Beast that is suicidality loves to make an appearance, even if just a cameo. The Beast only rarely appears in the mentally healthy mind (though it can).


So, what, exactly, is a mentally healthy individual? A mentally healthy person, as far as the Beast goes, is an individual for whom suicide is, at most, a fleeting thought. Or a thought entertained at some point(s) in the individual’s life but without ANY intent or action toward a suicide attempt.


A mentally healthy person believes they are a good person, albeit one with faults, but overall a good person. It bears repeating: a good person. Everyone has intrinsic faults, but a mentally healthy individual rises above them and sees themselves positively. Now, take note: I’m not talking about narcissistic individuals who believe they are all that and a bag of chips – I’m talking about decidedly non-narcissistic people who recognize their shortcomings.


A mentally healthy individual will listen to the inner critic with a large helping of salt. This person can listen with an educated ear without buying into the “you’re bad and a failure” message. Instead, the healthy individual may decide to entertain some of what their inner critic says and may adjust their trajectory accordingly – but not entirely. Or blindly. 

The difference between a mentally healthy individual and someone with a distorted sense of self is that the former uses negative feedback to better themselves and is not swayed into buying into the “bad person” scenario – and certainly doesn’t hold court for the Beast and suicidality. 


Those who listen to the Beast almost always have (with the rare exception, for whom suicide is an impulsive act) a vicious inner critic. For those of us who deal with voices on top of a negative inner critic, it’s like striking a match at a gas station: potentially lethal. Having either can be a recipe for disaster.


My inner critic and my voices constantly reiterate what I call The Four Horsemen: worthless, useless, hopeless, failure. Over the years, my doctor, a social worker, and a nurse at The Menninger Clinic, where I have been for two extended stays (a two-year stint in my twenties and a six-month stay in my forties) have given me six words that they say they see me - smart, kind, funny, resilient, determined, and possessing integrity. (Incidentally, if you have your own version of the Four Horsemen, I suggest you follow the advice of a therapist of mine – rename them. I now call them the The Four Little Fuckers.)


Most days, I see myself as wounded, broken, and bad – I get through those days with grit and determination: I say NO to the Beast when it tries to lure me into its lair, a place I know all too well. Am I always swift at putting the Beast (or the inner critic) in its place? Sadly, no. The Beast is still alive and well inside me – even after LOTS of therapy. (Fortunately for me, I now have a perspective I didn’t used to have, which helps me keep the Beast at bay.)


I have learned how to manage the Beast and how to compartmentalize it. Note: compartmentalizing things tends to get a bad rap – one place where it can be incredibly useful is to keep the Beast in its place. Just don’t start compartmentalizing everything in your life!!  


So, am I wounded, broken, and bad? Everyone has days when they feel like this – the difference for me is that it’s constant and unrelenting. I feel those three things deeply. However, I know they aren’t entirely true – yes, I have been wounded, but I am not wounded. Am I broken? Only as much as the next person, and, as my psychiatrist and therapist reiterate constantly, I am not bad. 


Since they’re the two smartest people I’ve ever met, I tell myself they’re right. It behooves you to get someone whose intellect you respect and ask them for five words to describe you – if the words are not entirely positive, take note of them and worry about them later. For the time being, we are looking for, at minimum, five positive words. If you need to, ask more than one person for their input – those words can be a lifesaver when you commit them to memory – I would suggest you write your words on Post-it notes and put them up where you’ll see them, such as your fridge or your bathroom mirror (or both). Do whatever it takes to escape under the Beast – you deserve it. And, yes, you can do this. You can do hard things.

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Liz O'Brien
Liz O'Brien
24 ene

Laura, you are so helpful and insightful always, thank you! And I loved reading Todd‘s response (I’ll remember HALT!) and also Cmoon’s response, so smart and interesting !! I always learn so much from all of you, thank you! So my five words for **you, Laura**: Warm, beautiful, smart, cheerful, athletic (with your amazing equestrian skills!), very supportive, and helpful. Maybe that’s more than five? Love and hugs always, Liz.

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todd
todd
24 ene

Thank you for sharing this Laura. As a very good friend of yours (to say the least) I have seen you change through the years and yes, YOU --- Have been working very hard through the years to keep the beast at bay. I also don't want a world without you in it, but that's a personal issue. I don't believe that there is one of us that can't say they are not wounded in some form or another, nor can we say we are above it all either. I love your suggestion of the 5 words. When I was in another program we called the acronym HALT, am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired ?? If the answer was…

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cmoon6116
24 ene

I can so relate. For me I’m always being chased by the darkness, trying to use my energy to push me out of the way of calamity. Therefore, the diagnosis bipolar. It’s really heightened fear and defeated exhaustion. I’m not sure if I actually hate myself or do I hate living within myself. Thanks again for your thought provoking honesty

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