Self-love doesn’t come easily to those of us with depression, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. In fact, you can use your depression to help you see everything differently. Including how much you love yourself. Here is the story of how I came to appreciate myself for exactly who I am… depression and all.
Depression and Self-Hatred
I don’t know how it is for those who’ve never had depression. Or what it was like for them to grow up. Did you like who you were? Did you have hope that you would achieve something one day? Did you feel important or worthy of the admiration of others?
Or did you struggle with your self-image as I did? Did you ever find it hard to wake up in the morning because you couldn’t stand the thought of spending another day with that worthless, stupid, no-good person that you could never escape?
I don’t know if those who’ve never experienced depression like themselves. I don’t know if you have any idea of what it is like to be the one person you hate more than anything in the world. Hate is a strong word, but it isn’t strong enough to adequately describe how growing up with depression can make you feel about yourself.
What I do know is my own experience. And I know that I am not alone. Depression eats at the soul and takes everything away from you until you have nothing left. For so many of us with depression, it leaves us blaming ourselves and hating ourselves for it.
For as long as I can remember – I hated me. I hated everything about myself. From my personality to that image staring back at me in the mirror. From the shape of my fingers when I looked at my hands. To the dreadful sound of that voice constantly chattering away in my head.
Was it the depression that made me hate myself, or was it hating myself that made me depressed? All I know is that I rarely felt anything except a deep, intense, passionate hatred for everything about me and who I was. I wanted to die. Not because I wanted to escape from the pain of life but because I wanted to escape from the pain of being me.
Living with Depression
These feelings that fueled a desperate desire to escape myself, to be someone else, or to just “get it all over with” and not exist stayed with me throughout much of my adult life. And it was more than miserable.
I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression as a teenager and was put on medication after medication that never really helped. I attended therapy after therapy session for years with therapists that never really seemed to understand how I felt. It always led to the same road. “Maybe you need to go to the hospital for a while.” “No, no. It’s alright. I promise not to hurt myself.”
For many years, I tried to push the depression away, to ignore it. I tried to pretend I was okay. I begrudgingly hoped that maybe this illness would go away and I wouldn’t eventually end up in a hospital or so drugged up that I could no longer function.
But it didn’t matter. No matter how much thought-stopping and replacement I did. Or how many cognitive distortions I could identify. No matter how much of my past I talked about or uncovered helped with much of anything. Because when times got tough, I could not cope. And those overwhelming thoughts and feelings would come flooding back in a Tsunami of self-loathing.
Sure enough, eventually, it got bad enough that I found myself lying in a hospital, desperate to escape all the pain and all the hate. I was in a hospital where I had been many times. But instead of being in a room with a bed, a t.v. and the busy nursing staff shuffling around outside my door, I was locked within a small, empty, concrete cell, kept far and hidden from all the normal sick patients. Because I was worse than sick, I was mentally ill.
Growth From the Pain
I got out of that hospital by doing my usual routine. “No. I don’t want to hurt myself. I’m feeling much better now.” But I also left with one of the greatest gifts I could have ever received. The anger and frustration of a system that treats those of us with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses as some sort of prisoner. As sick people who can’t be trusted and need to be fixed. And if they can’t be fixed, they need to be locked away. They are a danger to themselves and to society.
Through my anger and frustration with the system, and the authorities, and the therapists, and the psychologists, I thought maybe, just maybe, I and my depression aren’t the problems here. Perhaps instead of looking at myself and the world through the lens of someone with a mental illness – it was time to embrace who I was – depression and all.
I found love and acceptance through the angels. I learned about universal energy, feng shui, the law of attraction, and chakras. And I decided through it all that I was no longer going to run and hide from my depression. I was going to accept it. Not as an illness. Not as a sickness or a problem. I was going to accept it as part of who I am. Depression was mine. It was my constant companion, and it never let me down, so why do I keep pushing it away? Clearly, it wasn’t going anywhere.
Depression and Self-Love
So when the depression came on strong, I didn’t push it away. I turned into it. I would sit with it and tell myself it is okay to feel it. I would embrace what my physical and emotional body were telling me to do. Take a step back, get out of the race, and rest. I even began to ask my depression what it was trying to tell me. And the crazy part of it all… I usually got an answer. And once I got an answer, I started coming up with ideas and solutions to problems. I really learned to start trusting myself and listening to my intuition.
Instead of listening to and trying to live up to everyone else’s standards, I began listening to my gut. I learned to trust my instincts and do what I felt in my heart and soul was right for me. And when I did, things started to go right for the first time in my life. That bad luck I always seemed to have, went away. The overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, and feeling completely out of control of my life – went away. And the soul-crushing hatred that had consumed me for so long began to dissipate with each and every decision that went right.
A few times, I fell back into that trap of trying to do what someone else was telling me because it is what I “should” do, and sure enough, I ended up wishing I hadn’t. But those times were invaluable as they just reinforced that I need to listen to myself and not what everyone else is telling me.
I began intentionally and deeply evaluating everything I did and made sure I was doing it for a reason that came from my heart and soul. Not because I was being influenced by someone or some idea of what I “should” do.
It took some work, but eventually, I also learned to stop judging myself and my actions so harshly. For example, I used to have panic attacks if I spent more than $100 at one time. So when I went to the grocery store, and it cost over $200 to buy groceries for my family of four, I would tell myself, “Isn’t it awesome, though, that I had that money to spend!” Instead of trying to figure out where I went wrong and how I could spend less next time, I would drive home imagining how good it was going to feel to have a full refrigerator and plenty of food for my kids to eat.
A New Reality
This new way of seeing the world and my life in it changed how I saw and felt about myself. It changed my reality.
It all started with changing the way I thought about depression. However, to embrace my new perspective on depression, I had to learn how to not care about the opinions of others. And once I learned to stop caring so much about everyone else, I learned how to care about myself.
And that is how I used my depression to learn to love myself. It took a bit of practice and time, but eventually, my entire outlook changed. And I began to appreciate what I had to offer to the world.
If you want to learn how to change your reality by using these same techniques, be sure to check out The Depression Warrior Books. It includes all the steps and techniques I learned to take my Warrior’s Journey and end the negativity and self-hatred of depression. You can do it too.
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