Every time I looked in the mirror I hated what I saw. Self-loathing had been a big part of my identity.
Why did I hate myself so much? Why did I look at my reflection with contempt and disgust?
I am not sure how or when it started, but many of my earliest memories were of simply not wanting to be me.
Since that was not possible every time I looked in the mirror I hated what I saw, hated who I was. As the years passed by stories accumulated that supported those thoughts.
I was bullied at school. It was my fault for being chubby and annoying.
I had to see psychiatrists and therapists. It was my fault I was causing my family’s dysfunction.
My team lost a relay or lost a game. It was my fault I should have done more.
I never had a girlfriend. It was my fault I was unattractive and simply wasn’t worth someone’s time.
Eventually it was no longer my fault it was who I was.
You’re a screw up. You’re unlovable. You’re ugly. You’re annoying. You’re a terrible son. You’re a bad friend.
Even during my hypomanic episodes there was an underlying need for self-sabotage.
I may have been charming, full of confidence and ignited with positive energy but deep down I knew I was a fraud.
Eventually I would set myself up for a fall.
I came to accept it.
My therapist and I discussed this time and again. It didn’t matter what she said or the evidence she presented, nothing could convince me I was worthy of love or compassion.
My message to her was, “This is just something I am going to have to live with, it will never change.”
I am unsure when and why my self-loathing began, but I do know when and why I made the decision to attempt a change.
After suffering injuries in a car accident the pain had brought me to a point where I needed spinal surgery.
It also affected my mood stability to a point where it was decided that a medical leave from work would be the best course of action.
I came to the realization that if I didn’t attempt to redefine myself I may not be around much longer.
My resolve was breaking down. I was beginning to accept that I might not be equipped for this world.
No matter how far fetched this self-love thing sounded I decided to give it a go.
Self-Love Action Plan Implementation
The first step was making a decision to do something I had always wanted to do, something that was worth living for. Travel to a place that would allow me the time and space to explore who I was in a different way.
With the help of friends and my medical team, I made the decision to go to Costa Rica for five weeks, eventually becoming a yoga teacher.
That first decision was monumental.
I accepted the love others showed me and for the first time that I can remember I truly tried to model that action, showing myself the same love and compassion.
The next move was to study. Study strategies and techniques from every book I could find Mind Over Mood, The Bipolar Survival Guide, Self Esteem, Bipolar II and several more.
I was always reluctant to try any of these tools, but using them seemed like something someone who loves themselves would do.
I then started to spend more time outdoors. Being in the forest has always been something that has made me happy.
On the trails I watched my dog show me unconditional love and thought to myself, “That might not be a bad thing to try.”
I decided to be more assertive when it came to dating. After years of assuming that I would hear the word no it was hard not to notice the word yes was used more often than not.
I began to eat healthier, sleep more, do all the things that people who love themselves did.
It began to rub off on me.
In a way it made me angry because I like being right and I was proving myself wrong.
I learned I didn’t have to go through life hating who I was.
This process has not ended and most likely never will.
I still have days when my self-loathing returns.
Many times it is a struggle.
I don’t always treat myself with love nor do I believe I deserve it, but I can honestly say that learning to show myself love and compassion has saved my life.