That’s the summary of how I feel right now. But let me back up a little.
Therapy has been going on apace, as I like to tell people. There’s a ton of progress.
My therapy is aimed at helping me move on and cope with my condition. The problem is that if I *know* that the real problem is being swept aside, I’ll not be able to let it go. That’s the challenge my therapist and I have been facing, and so ever since she’s been back from maternity leave, we’ve been digging. And to solve all other problems, we agree that I need to start accepting myself.
So we did more work. We dug. And we found this tiny little portion of me that, well, is primarily the reason I hate myself so much.
This little portion is really tiny. Let’s call it my inner child. It’s the part that keeps wanting me to do things which are fun, which are risky. Which gives me the chance to get out of control.
This part is also the part that is innocent, and wants the world to be right. It believes in justice, fairness, hope, joy, and all things wonderful. It laughs at the innocent wonder of children, even as it seeks to believe that there is hope in this world. It sings along wholeheartedly to the salvation hope of the gospel even as it marvels at the softness of textures, and soft toys, and little guinea pigs that beg for food.
It’s unfortunately the part that I thought I’d killed long ago, done away with, and buried forever. It never was. It’s not a case of Pet Semetary as much as it’s a case of Home Alone. That’s not accurate either. I didn’t leave it alone at home, forgotten. I chose to neglect it, abuse it, and then throw it into a dark corner because it wasn’t worth my attention.
No wonder it’s wreaking havoc now.
Let me make clear that this has no link to child abuse or anything like that. But from young, I was instilled with certain ideas and values, but from young, I questioned them. I didn’t have a good compass to operate from, and no one to ask the weighty questions of a 9 to 10 year old trying to make sense of the world. Already I knew that money couldn’t be everything, and that certain paths plotted for me weren’t the paths I wanted, or I’d be happy in. But no one taught me how cruel teenagers and growing children could be to those who don’t fit in, and I never felt comfortable turning to anyone.
Not even when the basketball bounced off the back of my head in school. Not through exploring the intricacies of relationships and the burgeoning interest I had in girls. I had to figure things out on my own, and as I did, I figured out that people don’t like childish behaviour, or childlike behaviour. It’s not ok to be yourself. It wasn’t about individual habits, but no matter what you do, you mustn’t stand out.
But I couldn’t help standing out. I was awkward, untutored in the graces of being a gentleman, except for the little bits my second sister taught me. I didn’t know how to moderate my voice or my laugh, until people started laughing at me for being so loud. And so on.
I told myself it was ok. So many people find their own way in life. I should be able to, too, and do well doing that. So I started to look down on that childish side that liked to skip as I walked. The side that loved soft toys. Fun was wrong, and being serious was more important. Being creative meant nothing, unless something was produced. Trying must lead to success, and failure meant I wasn’t trying hard enough. And so on.
And so on.
As time went by, the differences became acute. I developed an inner core, the inner critic, that kept me up to standards, did the frowning at me, disapproved when I failed, kicked me in the arse when I needed kicking, which was a lot. It held up my failures, and kept telling me that I couldn’t succeed, against the words of those older and wiser than me. Or those with more experience.
Thing is, the inner child, hidden as it was, leaked. It wanted approval. It wanted guidance. It wanted to be told that we were doing a good job, heading in the right direction at the very least. Not only was I not getting such approval from people older and wiser than me, my inner critic was busy holding up all my past failures. Through deep nights where I couldn’t sleep. My successes were obscured, my failures played up, and harped on. And when I got scolded for standing up to do what was right, or when my attempts were misread as me wanting power or attention, my critic played on that, and then swept the pain towards my inner child, who was now my inner darkness.
It leaked. Oh how much it leaked. As the time bomb ticked on towards explosion, I started being a monster to those around me. I raged. I couldn’t control my frustration and anger. I withdrew because I was starting to throw tantrums, and I started to see things too much in black and white, and I was easily agitated and I felt helpless to do anything about anything.
Till it all tipped over, when things were finally “going well” in my new job. Because it was well, I was starting to pick up the pieces. I let my guard down. And the critic started to yell because the inner child was coming out, and the inner child screamed because it was tired of being neglected, as I was also so tired of only hearing my own criticisms in my own head, failing to be positive even as I tried to be positive, guilty for every damn thing I did, whatever the outcome.
Because nothing I did could ever be right.
It hurts to even talk about all this. Whatever I’ve done, I’ve tried to do with a clear conscience and heart. I’ve been accused unfairly and wrongly of trying to weave politics into religion, for being naive about office politics, for expecting too much from work, or even having problems with insubordination. I’ve been accused of being immature, abusing my kids, seeking vainglory and publicity even in my condition. Yet in all this, I know I’ve only tried my best just to be honest to myself and do what I think is right at the moment, seeking the benefit of others more than my own where I can. And what I’ve learnt is “being myself” in this way, hurts like hell. And all that hurt was swallowed because it’s not right to hurt and feel hurt, because that’s immature and we must learn not to react to others.
I wanted the approval of those better than me. A couple of lone voices have suggested I publish my comic, but I don’t dare to because I can only do so if someone in the publishing field thinks it’s worth doing so. I neglect and forget the voices of those who don’t have the authority, such as my friends and my beloved wife.
I’m learning. I’m learning that the critic is insatiable and that I can never reach its standards. I’m learning it’s ok to have the child, and to react to it positively, to have fun, to enjoy what God has blessed me with like a child, so long as my adult self which has matured keeps in sufficient control to keep things within limit. I’m learning that God is keeping watch over me, and I’m starting to understand that the Holy Spirit is also helping me along, much as sometimes when the tears are pouring and the snot is clogging, I feel so alone. I’m learning to value the opinions of those close to me who love me and care for me, though that is so tough to accept especially when it’s positive.
I’m thankful for my therapist. With her help, that’s how I even came to be in touch with these parts of myself, but yet I wish it wasn’t so damn painful. My energy levels are lowered because I struggle not to scratch myself, on my arms and palms. Sharp lacerating pain distracts me from the inner pain, the inner turmoil, and the soreness of my heart. But I know I mustn’t.
But it’s so tiring. Every session, that word slips out, and my therapist nods commiseratingly. She gives me hope for recovery, but she cautions me that it’ll continue to be slow. I struggle to pray, because some days the critic wins and I feel God won’t listen to me. I know the parts of the Bible that says otherwise, but it doesn’t help during those moments. And then there’re times where I’m at the arcade and my hands itch and I struggle so much because the inner child won’t leave until I get a prize or two.
My wife wanted me to consider increasing my meds, and that made me upset for a bit. After discussing it with the doctor though, he agrees that increased meds won’t help with the fight in that sense. I’m tired because of all the thoughts, and the fight to stay safe and dismiss thoughts that are harmful, and even choosing to ignore some of the thoughts that I know aren’t true is so difficult! But anyway, no med increases. Just continued therapy and trying to learn to accept that I’m who I am, with impulses that can be controlled.
Do I make it sound simple?
I’m also very thankful to have found an online community that live streams games, art and various other activities. On my own part, when I can, I stream some games, or read stories aloud. Not many people join in, but I’m trying to be myself – in that I value blessing one person as much as I value blessing many. I’m not entertaining and I don’t think I ever will be.
The online community also has chat groups that are like the old-style BBSes. It’s amazing how many people are broken just like me. It’s also amazing that I’m among one of the oldest people in these groups – so far I’ve only heard of one person of my age. And yet they take me as one of their own, much more readily than some I know who think less of me because of my condition and my lack of achievement. I hope to bring more comfort to people who need comfort in these groups, even as I seek comfort in the company of people who only expect me to just be me.
Whoever said spending too much time online is a bad thing hasn’t met people like these. They’re wonderful, and many would be pushed aside by society simply because they don’t fit in, or have already been pushed aside. And yet in our little communities, we guide, support, are guided, are supported.
Of course that can still be abused and get too much. But I can understand how some people end up getting into online communities because their own families and friends in real life expect so much of them, and criticise them so much. In these communities, people don’t hesitate to tell me when my inner critic is too harsh. And they listen. And treat me the same anyway after listening.
And it’s international so there’s always someone at some time.
The next few weeks don’t promise to be easy. Indeed, I expect the fight to continue to be just as hard, and I pray for help as much as I can. I know God is still helping me, and I know I’m loved, way more than I deserve, by many people. But I beg to be allowed to fight the fight the way my mind needs me to fight. I know some of you reading will think that I’m missing some piece of the puzzle, and be puzzled why I don’t see it.
If that’s what you’re thinking, I beg of you.
Please don’t judge me. Just listen to what I’ve said, and if you believe in God, just pray for me.