I’ve noticed with either A) aging or B) interpersonal growth, I’m at a point in my life where self-hatred is becoming more and more a thing of the past.
Self-hatred was a constant thread in my life for decades, but I’m especially focusing on what I call the post-Donnie years because before that there were a lot flaws born in a type of young-adult sociopathy that I was shaken out of shortly before I met Donnie.
My body-image issues started when I first gained weight after quitting smoking. I hated myself at 115lbs and was disgusted when I looked in the mirror. The reproductive nightmare years created a lot of shame and hatred because it was like my body wouldn’t do the simple task I was asking it to do. Then I was a stay-at-home-mom for a stretch after each of my kids were born, and I felt like I was not adequate because I was not providing for my family. When I worked outside the home I felt like I was a terrible mom/wife because I was not caring for my family. When I was training for races I didn’t feel like I deserved success because I wasn’t working as hard as others. When I looked in the mirror I had insults and hatred spewing out of my brain so often I avoided them all together. I felt like I didn’t deserve good friendships so I often didn’t give them the attention they needed, or worse, I would unintentionally sabotage them.
For a couple of decades I was like the Basking Robbins of self-hatred…31 different flavors of it to choose from.
But something has happened in this new phase of my life. I’m not sure where this phase started. Sometimes I think it was with the 6 months traveling so much taking care of my Mom last year. Sometimes I think it started with my fast mental health decline after Trump was elected. Maybe it just started when I stopped caring about my weight and having to retrain the way I talk to myself, or about myself without the default analysis of my weight gain. But sometimes I think it actually started when I found myself an accidental stay-at-home-mom to teenagers.
It was probably all of the above.
Either way…I find myself way more at peace with who am in in this place and this time than I ever have been before.
We sat down and watched 2+ hours of Batwoman last night and I didn’t feel one bit of guilt about it. There were dirty dishes in the sink that I got to eventually, but I wasn’t sitting there beating myself up about it. I wasn’t thinking about how I was a bad Mom or wife. I wasn’t thinking about how so-in-so never watches TV. I wasn’t thinking about how that other so-in-so never leaves dirty dishes. I was just watching a stupid amount of TV in my pajamas which I put on at 5pm and I was simply chill about it.
As I meditated on that change, I started thinking about all of this as a chemical shift in my brain. Anxiety has a very physiological outline because of the chemicals it releases in your brain that sometimes throw you into a fight or flight response or – at the very least – elevate your heartrate and cause you to sweat and your mind to scatter. Depression has a similar chemical effect in that maybe some of the receptors in your brain absorb the “happy” chemicals before they can cycle through and do their work, sometimes your brain simply does not produce enough to begin with.
So before…the dishes in the sink would cause me anxiety and whether or not I did them (the depression sometimes causes apathy against the anxiety which creates a bad cycle) my heart would race and my brain would spin and my compulsions would settled into cyclical thoughts about inadequacy.
But now? All of the chemicals seem to stabilize. Nothing really changes. I acknowledge the dishes are there, decided to worry about them in the commercial or something, but it didn’t create a spiral of worry or depression.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I could pinpoint exactly what changed that? Unfortunately, mental health is complicated.
I’m not currently taking daily medication anymore but there’s a good chance that for the year or so that I did, some routes were changed in my neural pathways. Therapy (which I did for years)can also do that as well. It’s like your brain has this path that has been cut through the brush as it’s “normal” responses. The pathways are worn and easy to find but not necessarily ideal, so you have to build new ones which is difficult and your brain still wants to use the easy ones of the years before. Before my brain had an easy path to “Anxiety” and “Self-Doubt” when chores were left undone. Maybe medicine and therapy and interpersonal growth finally formed a new path that I have now used enough that the old one is now overgrown and hard to find.
But again, it could also be aging. At one point in 2016 my doctor thought the pre-menopausal hormones were messing me up a lot. She definitely blamed that for my weird surges of rage that I was feeling for the first time ever. Maybe my hormones have stabilized in that sense in a lot of different ways. It’s hard to track my menopausal track because I haven’t had a period since 2012 but I know my hormones will still fluctuate as they would if I did, it’s just harder to know for sure.
And then there’s just that wonderful peace that comes with aging where you just kind stop giving a shit about things you used to care about.
Whatever it is…years of therapy, previous medication usage, menopause, aging, or VERY INTENSE SELF-GUIDED INTERPERSONAL DEVELOPMENT…I have entered into a phase where I don’t criticize myself for stupid shit (as much) anymore. I don’t compare myself to others (as much) anymore. I don’t undervalue myself (as much) any more.
None of these things happened over night, which is why it’s hard to figure out what “worked” in the end. It’s just something I’ve been noticing lately. And I’m happy with it. I feel like it’s deepening my affection for myself which also deepens my love for my friends and for my family, which is also a wonderful side effect.
I mean…I still get lost in worry for our world and for my loved ones as I see big and small struggles all around me. But I seem to be able to focus on all of those things better now that I’m not also dealing with my own self-hatred in the mix.
Because…let’s be honest. When you look in the mirror and hate your body? When you get mad at yourself for losing your job? Or for not being a good cook or a good wife? When you are as hard on yourself as I was before…that is self-hatred. And now that I’m on the other side of it I see how much it darkened so many parts of my life.
The most silly example of this change? I can’t click the “A Better Me” category on this blog anymore when I’m selecting a category for a post. I used to use that category to funnel all of my posts about improving myself but you know what? I no longer like the position that one version of me is “better” or “worse” than the other. That’s why I’m using phrases more like “interpersonal growth” then “self-improvement.” I mean, there are 350 posts in that category! And that’s not even including the old parenting posts that I put in draft mode. THAT’S A LOT OF “self-improvement” talk! And now? Now I just choose “About Me” which seems much more benign.
In the end…I’m just glad to be able to enjoy my CW superhero shows free of self-hatred now. Which, I mean, is the ultimate goal for any 44-year old woman.