I know right now that the last thing you need is stupid flowery nonsense.. I know, because when I’ve been here.. alone, alone, alone and flirting with suicide— and people go and post on Instagram on National Suicide Awareness day or whatever the fuck its called— ’I love you’— ‘You’re so strong and brave and you have your whole life ahead of you’—’You’re not alone!’– in a transparent move to ‘prove’ they care because having some degree of a social conscience is like, #trendy these days?—Yeah. I want to kill myself and dump my body on the doorstep of those people just to spite them. #petty.
So, if anything, rest assured that I won’t do that to you. I’m not going to undermine what you’re going through by offering up nothing but vague inspirational quotes and general ‘up-lifting’ rhetoric and tell you that going outside to smell the flowers will definitely restore your will to live.
The simple truth about humans is that we are not designed to be alone. We evolved to be in groups. For hundreds of thousands of years we were pack animals. In antiquity we lived in groups. In the deserts we lived in groups, in jungles we lived in groups. In the tundra, across the great plains, on islands, in forests— we lived in groups. We lived in groups throughout most of history– and it’s only in the post-industrial age, on certain patches of this tiny, little planet of ours, that the tribal, familial, communal unit has begun to splinter. Historically, biologically, when human beings are alone we fall apart, wither, and die.
I recognize that now. I’ve been alone for a significant portion of my youth—often I was rejected, bullied, and mocked whenever I tried to be brave and reach out for any kind of genuine human connection. Those experiences have morphed me, they’ve effected hugely the person I am today, for better and for worse. Those experiences distorted my perception of the access to potential relationships that I did have. I stuck up my nose and tightened my jaw instead of lean in towards such possibilities–with family members, peers, or anybody—I steeled myself and held myself back because I already knew what happened to me when I tried to be a part of something.
I believed that I was fated to be alone— as every attempt I made I was cast out from the group. It’s excruciatingly painful — and it made me seriously fucking bitter. It made me hateful. It made me judgmental. And it made me suicidal.
I am unbelievably lucky now in that things have changed. It was a lot, a lot of effort on my end, to begin to crawl out of my shell and open myself up to the vulnerability of trying to connect with people. And despite the people I have found, I still battle those beliefs I mentioned above almost constantly. They’re a part of me now, I imagine, and I will always have to act in spite of them. Yet I am one of the lucky ones in that I have a support system now. And I do understand that I am writing this now from a place of privilege in that regard.
Loneliness—extreme, gut-wrenching, unrelenting loneliness, I think is more lethal than the raging torrents of mental illness itself, based on my own experience and the observations I’ve made in others. In the grand scheme of everything you are dealing with—I implore you try and find someone you can spill yourself to, or at least sit with and talk about anime to. As it was in my loneliness, and then in my denial of my loneliness— that was what escalated my situation from being merely tragic to becoming pure hell.
Just to reiterate, these insights are my own, based on a decade + of battling serious depression and suicidal ideation and through these experiences, this is what I have learned to be true. I write all this knowing that we all come from an array of experiences so vast and so broad I could never do justice to all of them even if I were to write nonstop for the next 30 years. So use these suggestions as food for fodder, whether you disagree with them or not—it is my sincere hope that they help steer you in a productive direction.
Just talk — to someone — to anyone — about anything. Do not GO DAYS UPON DAYS UPON DAYS on end where you literally do not open your mouth to speak to anybody. Because. You. Will. Go. Crazy.
When I lived alone in the city I was constantly doing this. I’m an introvert by nature and days would go by where I wouldn’t speak to anybody and then that would occur to me and I would just be like, ‘Oh. huh.’ I didn’t think much of it, it didn’t strike me as a problem because regardless of my mental state I don’t mind being alone for long stretches of time. But then it would eventually happen, where I’d brush past the office manager of my building and she would greet me and ask how this magnificent summer weather was treating me. In those surprise moments my throat always felt as dry as sandpaper. And when I finally sputtered my reply, my voice was froggy and horse, as though it were caught on something in my throat.
Regardless of whether you are naturally introverted by temperament— if you do this long enough the walls will close in on you—-everything around you starts to fold in like you’re in a goddamn fun house. The walls of your mind start to close in on you too. I think this may have something to do with there being no external input from another person for your mind to process. All that you have, swirling around in your mind, are your own feedback loops, often repetitive, often obsessive, going round and round and round and round. It begins to feel like a tumble-dryer that’s slowly being squeezed to death.
I’ve also noticed that my capacity to think originally in anyway becomes seriously compromised in this state. It becomes harder and harder for me to think through the standard, everyday problems that need attending to in my life. I become more anxious, more on edge, and more desperate, because I know that if something goes sideways I will be too overwhelmed to handle my shit.
When your mind becomes this insular it starts to choke on itself. If you don’t talk to people, or engage in any kind of way, you are effectively in a padded cell–even if you are—for all intents and purposes—still ‘functional.’
Do whatever is the easiest and most practical way for you to get yourself in the company of other human beings, for at least a little bit, at least once a day. Obviously, city folks are at an advantage here. Walk down the block and pick up a coffee, or a pack of gum, and just say, ‘hey, how are you doing today?’ to the cashier. And mean it! If you see them regularly—make a point to remember and say their name!! People eat that shit up. Say, ‘Wow, I really like your glasses, they look so nice on you,’ to the person in line behind you. You guys don’t have to discuss the principles of Aristotle here. Just. Make contact. Short and simple. Even a little is enough to lure you out of your head. A sweet moment can last us all day.
If you live in the middle of nowhere or aren’t able to move around, explore digital options. People like to dismiss this as ‘no substitute for in person interaction.’ That may be true—I have no clue—but you know what? It’s better than fucking nothing. It’s better than complete self-imposed silent isolation. I’m going to get into this further in the next point, but, do what you can with the resources you have available to you. Make use of hotlines that are specific to whatever you are going through. If there is anyone in your life who you think may be receptive—even though you haven’t spoken to them in 8 years?— go ahead and call them and just.. say whatever comes to mind. Don’t go in with an agenda. Foster a genuine interest in the other person. (If you’re feeling brave, try chat roulette!!)
If you’re like me and you have serious social anxiety and your conversation skills suck… you are not doomed to the life of a tragic recluse for the length of your days—talking and conversing is just another skill, that like any other can be worked on. I know we’ve all heard others say how ‘charm’ and ‘charisma’ are innate and a person either has it or doesn’t… these kind of assumptions lead to so many people shrugging and admitting defeat if they weren’t born with those innate traits. Real talk! You’re not completely fucked if you’re not as charming as Leonardo DiCaprio. If you’re not a natural conversationalist you can become a better conversationalist by practicing—and you’ll get better by trial and error—you will learn by making mistakes and by awkward trip-ups—the only prerequisite at the end of the day is a willingness to make mistakes and risk looking a little foolish at times. So don’t take yourself too seriously. If you are not naturally good at talking and you habitually slink away from interactions—all you are doing is making the thought of conversing appear all the more terrifying and dangerous in your mind.
People, at the end of the day, are not that complicated. And getting people to respond fairly well to you.. I’ve begun to learn… isn’t neuroscience. We’re all constantly worrying and ruminating about ourselves. So, the first general principle I’ve learned about facilitating conversation—even if it is only a light exchange— is to focus on the other person, be genuinely interested in what they say and offer sincere compliments. Even when I’m being pathetically awkward and am struggling to make eye contact—to my surprise this strategy works more often than it doesn’t.
And you know, there are often usually obvious, simple things that we can do in order to start having better exchanges with people, if we just dare to look at ourselves honestly. I have spent over half my life wondering why people don’t like me but then I remembered the one time that guy said hi to me at a hookah bar and I hissed at him before rushing off and crouching behind a table. We did not end up as friends. And he was hot too! I really fucked that up. Anyway. Try not hiss at people.
Yes, you are alone. But. You’re not the only person who has gone through this. That means that there are people out there who are like you and can understand you and empathize with what you are going through— I ask you to make it one of your top priorities to find them.
As I mentioned before people often dismiss this— like reaching out to communities for people who struggle with depression and suicide. They mock the communities by dismissing the kinds of conversations that occur between members, caricaturing them as “I’m so depressed I want to die,” “Me too I’ve been suicidal for years,” “Yeah me too!”
These communities offer much, much more than this.
I recommend, in particular, the subreddit r/Suicidewatch. I checked it out on a whim a few weeks ago, with the intent of basically surveying a bunch of the content to see if what I was writing was at all in the ballpark of what some people were experiencing.
I ended up forgetting why I had gone there in the first place. I got wrapped up in everyones writings instead, and focused on sending thoughtful, understanding words of encouragement to people in the depths of total despair. And, pretty much since then have been visiting the subreddit several times a day everyday. The subreddit is a safe space that offers suicidal individuals a forum to freely express themselves, discuss their struggles without judgement, and to reach out for support. It blew me away how supportive and understanding the vast majority of commenters are.
If you do visit this subreddit, I highly, highly encourage sorting by ‘new’ postings instead of ‘hot’. Organizing your thread by the former—someones post risks being buried almost instantly if it doesn’t immediately attract engagement, which sucks. In this way many peoples attempts to reach out and connect get lost simply because they posted at the wrong time of day.
In just the short time that I have been following this subreddit I’ve seen numerous posts from grateful members thanking the mods and the anonymous strangers commenting on their posts. Some of them thank the members for saving their lives. Others are just deeply grateful to have a community of understanding individuals willing to listen and offer support when they desperately needed to talk. The mods are on their shit here—any patronizing nonsense, religious proselytizing, trolling, etc is efficiently dealt with. Other great subreddits I’ve found are r/mentalhealth, r/depression, r/selfharm, and r/majordepressive. And there are many, many others of course, that you can find to that is more specific to your situation. And many message boards and forums out there that I don’t know about.
If you are all alone, and you have no one to talk to, I urge you to try and give these online communities a shot.
Just because these connections are made over the internet, and may not necessarily evolve into long-term, real-life friendships (though some of course do) does not negate the positive impact they can and often have on individuals who are truly suffering. Just because the people you are talking to are strangers doesn’t mean they can’t help you. Personally, I’ve found random acts of kindness and support from strangers can be more powerful and life-altering than those from non-strangers. Simply because it is so random and out-of-the-blue.
The support for your mental illnesses I think is crucial— but also I think it wise to scope out communities of like-minded people when it comes to your other interests. Maybe your favorite underground band has a forum attached to their site? Poke around for an online community that caters to your favorite subculture—Vampirefreaks, anyone?—or geek obsession, or artistic persuasion. Whatever your thing is! If it’s Dungeons and Dragons or experimental german sand animations from the 90s or Tidying up with Marie Kondo or shit.. I don’t know. The Luciferian philosophy of One Punch Man? If you’re into it I can promise you there are other people out there who are also into it an are dying to talk about it too. And of course it will be easier for you, if you’re conversationally challenged, to start talking about something you’re actually into and not boring shit like the weather or how lame your science teachers lectures are.
And don’t be like me!!!! Who until honestly like 3 months ago was just as awkward, tepid, terrified to interact with people online as I was in real life. I was a certified lurker. And as a result, got absolutely nothing out of these places, when I know, I just know that if I had given it the old college try probably could have meet some really cool people.
If you have no one, and no one in your life gives a damn about you—find yourself a community online where you are free to scream and vent and cry and bitch and be fully yourself. It may not seem like it, if you look around and take in only your immediate surroundings–but there are people out there who do give a damn. And who will absolutely give a damn about you if you give them the chance to.
The weight of the all the bridges burned, relationships torched and friendships withdrawn from
I am the first to point out that the drama of a suicide attempt is often an action that is years upon years in the making. Well-meaning individuals often make the unfortunate error of treating suicidal ideation and the subsequent attempts the same way one would discuss bad, patchy weather. They encourage us to wait out the storm. They ensure us that this will pass. They beg us to hang in there because everything ends.
It’s easy to understand a suicidal persons frustration when they’ve been told this over and over again, for years on end—who eventually cracks and belts out in exacerbated anger—HOW LONG??
The reality is that for many of us—suicidal ideation and extreme depressive spells are not strange, out-of-character weather anomalies. They’re not snow in July or rain in January—they are part of our normal weather forecast that we have been forced to acclimate to.
Often the encouragement and support that people offer to suicidal individuals is unfortunately based on the wrong assumption that our experience has been as strange, disturbing, and out-of-character for us as it has been for those who watched us fall apart.
For instance, the oft-heard suggestion for people after a suicide attempt is to focus on reconnecting to our lives—our friends and family, and our purpose in life. As if all of that is just out there waiting for the individual to plug themselves back into the moment they finally decide to just choose happiness!
The reality is that many of us have been in the process of withdrawing from our friends for years thanks to our depression and thus have nobody to really turn to. Many people, not knowing what to do in the face of their worsening depression and anxiety—become irritable and volatile. This is a little more common for men, though of course isn’t exclusive to them—who tend to feel the added pressure of thinking they have to muscle through their mental problems silently and be white-knuckle determined not to ask for help or even talk about it. They become combustible. They lash out, there’s a higher chance they will turn to substances like alcohol to cope, which in turn leads to more and more instances of them transforming into the Tasmanian devil and tearing the shit out of everything good in their lives.
And that’s often one of the reasons we can’t stand ourselves so much! It’s hard to look back on the good things we did have once upon a time before we poured gasoline all over everything and struck a match as our mental health crumbled.
It is not uncommon that we may find ourselves after a suicide attempt, when standing up cautiously to take a brave look around us–to feel like we’re looking at left-over wreckage of a warzone.
There is nothing straight-forward about ‘rebuilding’ in this kind of an aftermath. And for many—the decision to take it upon oneself and do what must be done to try and rekindle, rebuild, and repair is a direct 180 from the one of the prime motivating forces that led to us committing suicide. Most of us commit suicide as an antidote to suffering when no other options appear available to us.
Moving forward and trying to bring with us relationships that are of value that we did serious damage to—requires stepping not only into difficulty, but into more suffering.
I do recommend that we in this position take a deep breath and accept the risk of trying to reconnect to the individuals we miss most. Acknowledge any bullshit that we pulled and approach that person sincerely and honestly. Don’t grovel, or beg, or cry in an attempt to guilt them into returning to you. Don’t try to manipulate the other by being pathetic. Own up to whatever you did, tell them that you are deeply sorry, tell them that you are committed to getting better, and tell them that you miss them dearly
Understand, however, that there is no clever way to arrange your words that will guarantee you a certain response. They may be mad. They may be confused. They may have moved on and react to you with complete indifference.
And that can be really painful. But it is better, I think, than agonizing over the ‘what ifs’ of a particular relationship without doing anything about it for a century. At best your person will be grateful that you reached out to them. At worst—you have closure. And that closure may not be what you would have it be and that can hurt like hell. But at least now you know and now you can focus on moving on instead of ruminating pointlessly over the other person.
Making peace with friendships and relationships that are simply over
In my early 20s I bounced around a lot. I transferred colleges 3 times. And in each new environment—I made a concrete effort to take advantage of my anonymity and work on my social skills. And over time I’ve managed to cover a considerable distance. At each school I attended I was able to make a handful of friends. Friends who at the time I deeply, deeply valued and adored. Friends who I was sometimes so grateful for it reduced me to tears. Friends who, at the time, I intended to walk alongside with for the rest of our days.
At the time of my writing this—I am no longer in contact with any of the friends I had made at any of these colleges.
It burns, it really burns, at times when I think of it. When I start daydreaming and lay back in my chair and wax nostalgic over the heart-melting exchanges we had once had, the wild times we shared, the secrets we spilled, the palpable love we had for one another…
I often wonder what my life would be like now if I were still close to these individuals. We were once, so, so, so close it seemed that nothing could ever peel us apart. But none of these relationships stood up to the test of distance and time.
In each place I lived—Terra Haute, Indiana—New Orleans, Louisiana—Savannah, Georgia—I learned how to function, sort of, in social spaces. I often had a circus of people around me, who I learned how to establish some degree of friendliness with and connection to. But there are three individuals I am thinking of in particular. In each city I lived in I met a person who became like, my best, bestestest best friend…
When I take a deep breath and contemplate how close we once were, when I think of how much I loved them—while knowing that in all likelihood I will never see or hear from these people ever again–to say it hurts is an understatement. That pain feels that it is enough to eclipse the beauty of those relationship while I was living them.
We have this idea in our culture that the power and beauty of relationships are only valid when they are long-term, rock-solid relationships that endure all the way to our deaths. There is a profound romanticism to this kind of standard—and I fall prey to it too. But that romanticism will betray us more often than not, it simply isn’t realistic to hold every relationship we make to the assumption of a lifelong commitment. But does that invalidate and undermine the value of these relationships during the stretch of time they were lived?
Often we nod ‘yes,’ particularly when the relationship ended on ugly terms. In two of these friendships—I still harbor a twinge of resentment in the way things ended.
In those two relationships—I made every effort I could think of to continue breathing life in the friendship despite the two of us now being far away from one another. Within time, their responses spaced out. It would be days before they replied, then weeks, then if at all. I began to feel I was a needy, pesty person. Eventually I stopped exerting so much effort, hoping they would begin to reach out. They never did.
That shit hurts. It made me question the underlying foundation of the relationship as a whole. Was I delusional about the assumptions I held of our friendship when I was living it? Was I being naive and stupid in how close I thought we were? Did I imagine it in my head how much fun we had, how much support we gave one another, how deeply we trusted one another? Was it actually just me who cared? Was I annoying?
No, I wasn’t. And even if I was, how much did I learn about myself in the space of these relationships? A lot. How much fun did I have? A shit ton. How much did I give? Everything. How much did they give? What they could.
Recently I’ve become determined to not let the sourness of the end of these relationships taint the beauty and enjoyment of what they were in their prime. As it is hard enough for me sometimes to exhume happy memories. I want to keep those pure—true to what they were in the moment they were lived. This sounds naive and dumb, I’m sure, in the context of the revelation of who betrayed you. Allow yourself to enjoy these memories for your own sake. Take the other out of the picture—and resist the urge to tumble down the rabbit hole of questioning their intent and motives. If it was a friend or lover who shattered your heart—don’t delude yourself the reality of who they are. But remember what it felt like to be so adored, to have your phone blown up all the time, to feel so appreciated. Remember and hold on to how sweet that felt. How life-affirming it felt.
Ask yourself what did you gain from that relationship? Did it strengthen your character? Did it instill in you an appreciation for the absolute loveliness of deep, human connection? A connection you can now aim to establish with someone more kind and more deserving? Did it enable you to weather a rough time? Did it teach you about yourself?
Don’t let one, or three, or ten imperfect people shred that for you. Just because something didn’t last forever—does not mean that it’s ‘not to be’ for you. Just because a handful of sovereign individuals betrayed you—doesn’t have to tank your faith in all humanity. Or that there can be nothing of value found from the relationship. Don’t give it that much power over you.
When I was in art school—the friend I had there… he and I were attached at the fucking hip. For 3 years. H was honestly my everything. We worked together every day in the animation labs. We drank absinthe and watched disney movies together. We danced and partied together. We had long-winded musing conversations about the meaning of life while stumbling around on the beach. When it came to our artistic ambitions—we pushed each other so fucking hard.
What’s true is that I wouldn’t have gotten through school without him. I wouldn’t have made what I managed to make without him. I was paralyzed with self doubt. And my medical issues with my eyes were going haywire. One catastrophe after another crashed down upon me, making it hard to breathe in the face of them. Making me question constantly whether I could even go on. I was so terrified that I going to be blind before I turned 30—in which case, what the hell was I even doing here? Trying to be an animator? Trying to be a comic book artist? Why—what a goddamn waste of effort and energy.
And how many nights, wherein the two of us were working together, did 3am roll around and my eyes were literally burning because I was squinting so hard to try and see what I was doing—did I throw back in total exacerbation and say that I was fucking done..
H wouldn’t put up with that in me. His temperament wasn’t forceful, or aggressive or anything like that. He wouldn’t grab me by the shirt collar the way a personal trainer would and throw me in front of my work and bark at me to keep going. He would just stare at me and wouldn’t leave me alone. He would do everything he could to distract me and pull me out of the whirlwind of my catastrophizing mind. He would drive us around in his red pickup and we’d go to the late-night sandwich deli and we’d chat about stupid shit until I calmed down a little.
And it made every difference in the world. The fact that we’re no longer friends and he has probably replaced me with a much prettier girl doesn’t change that.
It never will.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you probably hate yourself. Or you hate humanity. Or both.
I mean— it’s really unbelievably difficult to NOT internalize such extreme experiences of alone-ness.
When I was young and impressionable and I observed the reality of my situation— how no matter what I did no one ever wanted me anywhere near them?— I could only come to one of two conclusions right? Either there’s something horrifically, fundamentally wrong with me…. or there’s something wrong with all of them.
I hated both myself and humanity. Some depressives learn how to ‘wear the mask’ and completely fake their identity in order to fit in and make friends. Then they eventually have to face the reckoning of catastrophic proportions when their depression and identity crisis eventually blows up in their faces. I never had the social skills to pull of such a feat. But I remember one year I tried, desperately, to make it work— it was probably my top priority.
I studied the cool kids and the kids with friends and the kids who everyone wanted to be around and took great pains to mimic them in every way I could. I shopped at the same stores as them, tried to do my hair like them, tried to talk and use slang like them, listened to the same music as them, tried to get a boy to want to kiss me.. (I wanted half the girls to kiss me too—but shh! shhH! You don’t see any of those girls mackin on each other)
And well… lmao.. I have to laugh about it now because I just failed so, so hard. It made me go from socially invisible status to socially reviled status. And thus commenced a rough rough couple of years…
None of it made any sense at all and I couldn’t pinpoint specifically just what it was in me that people seemed to dislike so much??—was there something that I could uproot and rip out of me and things would change?—an answer never revealed itself to me. And so the self-loathing became all-encompassing.
I absolutely despised what I looked like. The ‘friends’ that I’d had were frank in how they evaluated me. My hair was limp, my acne was gross, my laugh was weird, my body was ehh, and my nose was ridiculous.
My nose I developed a particularly hateful relationship with. I have an unapologetically, erm, aggressive polish nose. I was picked on about it so relentlessly for so long that I began to apologize for it whenever I found myself in an exchange with someone new—I had this attitude of like—I had to beat them to it—so I leapt to acknowledge that I was well aware of just how offensive my appearance was.
Daily I would stare at myself profile in the mirror and all this disgust and shame would clump up in my throat. I got to a point where some nights I would take a knife to the bridge of my nose, determined to shave it down to socially acceptable status myself, until I could no longer tolerate the pain.
And all that hatred I harbored for myself just spilled over and would never stop. I hated the softness of my jawline, the pouch of my gut, how my thighs touched, how stupid my grin looked. And I hated everything inside too— I hated how I just could not figure out how to be a person like them. I hated how stupid I was. How awkward I was. How clueless I was. How everything I was.
And I hated them for doing this to me!!! I hated them with every fiber of my being. I hated their group-think, I hated how superficial they were, I hated how unabashedly cruel they could be, I hated their unfailing loyalty to status and conformity. And I wanted to BE ONE OF THEM so fucking bad!! More than anything in the whole world.
These kinds of experiences, in our youth in particular, do a mighty number on us. Whether or not the injuries came from family, or bullies, or friends, or church members or whatever. They vastly influence the way we interpret the world and our personal reality. And that self-loathing and that resentment of others becomes destructive, becomes a massive road block when we are really, really suffering and need to find support. And yes—if we are suicidal or just survived a suicide attempt, we need support. It is a must.
We have to try to develop the ability to look beyond ourselves and what our experiences have done to us—in order to find that inner strength and courage and hope to reach out, or to just say hi to someone. Self-hatred results in us self-sabotaging our efforts and attempts to make contact with people. The haunting trauma of what others have done to us linger in the periphery of our vision—causing us to be excessively suspicious and critical of others.
And yet, it is imperative to push back against our hatred—for it can make it impossible for us to actively seek out help as well as accept it when it is offered.
We can’t just rip it out of ourselves—if only, right?—but with determination and patience we can train ourselves to act productively and change in spite of hatreds sprawling influence. For what its worth, I’m happy to report that my nose has now become one of my favorite features, and someone could throw down a stack of hundreds in front of me and I still would never alter it.
I have found that it has helped me to locate precisely where that hate lives—never consider it in general terms. For if I am able to learn the specific dimensions of that hatred, I am able to make the beastliness of its nature more visible and comprehendible.
We say that we are horrible and we loathe ourselves. Well, what exactly, specifically, do we hate? Our acne? Our fat? Our eyebrows? Our anxiety that makes it just impossible to carry on a conversation? Our numerous failures? Our low marks? Our single-ness? Our failure to make it onto the soccer team? Ask yourself—If you were to put all those factors together—does that equal you? Is that the totality of what needs to be said to fully encompass and identify you? There is more to us than the things we hate about ourselves—or the glaring flaws that have been pointed out by others—and that’s critical to recognize. We are more than the sum of those parts, whether we acknowledge that or not.
You don’t have to jump straight to forcing yourself to like certain things about yourself—as I know how that can be a stretch. Start with identifying just a few things that you don’t absolutely despise about yourself—certain qualities that you consistently dismiss or overlook, both external and internal. Do you have wide, round, curious eyes? Is your hair vibrant and shiny? Do you have a have a great rack, and/or an awesome ass? Do you nurture an intellectual curiosity and find wonder in things other people don’t even bother to see? Does your heart burn in the face of injustice and cruelty and does that burning have the power to motivate and drive you if you would only let it?
I am no member of the ‘you’re perfect just the way you are’ club. I don’t even want to waste my time picking apart such a juvenile statement. Of course we’re imperfect, of course we’re fuckups in desperate need of fixing. Our imperfections offer us an ideal to strive for. A goal, a mission, a purpose. And that’s good for us–it gives us something to move towards. However—does that imperfection justify self hatred in the face of how we fail to measure up to our shining ideals? Does that mean we are despicable if we fail to consistently move towards that ideal or get sidetracked along the way? I try to remind myself that our ‘ideal’ only carries its weight when understood in the context of what it took to achieve it. If you look exclusively at someone’s ‘after’ photo.. it’s just another photo, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s the understanding of the transformation–of considering the ‘before’ and ‘after’ side by side that makes that persons achievement amazing. Therefore–there is value in us, even when we’re floundering, pathetic disasters. Our ‘before’ identities–the person who has hit rock bottom–is not a person deserving of disgust and hatred. It is a person, even at her lowest point, who is still a person who has a capacity for potential, self-determination, inner strength, who has it within her to one day be a source of inspiration and strength.
It seems to me that we are more inclined to believe that we are wretched because we are flawed and imperfect when we’ve never been given the gift of true, sincere appreciation from anyone in our lives. That really fucking sucks for all who that applies to—but whose fault is that? Is that your fault? That all your family does is criticize and judge you and all your peers do is mock? It is simply a reality of the circumstances—it is not a statement on our inherent worth as individuals. It says nothing about you.
We must try to see that. And if we are among the unlucky ones who have never been given any kind of meaningful appreciation, guess what? We have to start giving it to ourselves. Because no one person could ever determine another persons worth. And then it’s on us to go out there and find people who aren’t going to be total cunts to us. I know that sounds really daunting but remember our spheres of what constitute our reality are quite small in the grand scheme of things—there are billions of people out there on this planet—we know there are kind people out there.. we just have to somehow find them.
“No one cares about me,” “No one will even notice when I am gone,” “People will only care after I’m dead,” These are some of the top justifications for suicide that I see out there. It is, therefore, a matter of life or death that we make the effort—yes, serious effort—to prove ourselves wrong. Our human instinctual yearning for connection to other human beings is such that its absence constitutes an objective argument for death.
Consider how often we are wrong. How often do we make wildly inaccurate assumptions about people and situations? Does it not stand to reason that we could be wrong in our evaluation of our own?
Consider the individuals who are responsible for your seething misanthropy and count them on your fingers—a parent, a sibling, an uncle, a clique of wicked kids—8 of them, a shitty, patronizing counselor, that asshole who works the Dairy Queen drive-thru. How many people is that? Even if the individuals responsible for your trauma clocks in in the hundreds—is that not but merely a blip in the overall pool in the total of all humanity? Are we going to allow ourselves to equate this sample of people to stand in as representative of the entire character of mankind?
Do yourself a favor and resist the urge to generalize vast swaths of the population or people as a whole. Try to recognize the individuals you cross as sovereign. However they may act or carry themselves. However sincere your desire for recovery may be—if you hate people, you’re going to have a hell of a time getting there—or anywhere, for that matter. Obsessing over the bone you have to pick with humanity and all existence will turn you into a nihilist, and as a nihilist—with depressive tendencies no less—you will fall, again and again, into a philosophical black pit where the most egregious acts and attitudes can easily be justified. A place where there is no such thing as values, or virtue, or honor. A conviction that nothing means anything. You risk questioning whether or not humanity has a right to exist—and you will begin to fancy total annihilation. You will fashion yourself into an eternal judge, ruthlessly condemning mankind, you will drown in your own self-righteousnss. You will contort into a social Darwinist, flirting with ideas like Judgement and Extinction. You will grow cruel and resentful. If you build a house here, you will never recover, you will never find meaning or experience happiness. Best case scenario you will eventually leap off a building. Worst case scenario you will morph into Eric Harris.
Hate and loneliness are a dangerous combo—they snowball together, often quickly, into terrifying, grandiose proportions. Hate can result in us taking up the mantel of our isolation as though it were some kind of cosmic duty. It can make us believe that we are superior to those who reject us. It can result in us weaponizing our loneliness, as our fear of people morphs into a hatred of people, to whom we come to see ourselves as agents of retribution. We can build it up into some kind of self-righteous pride the fact that we are loners—and that our loner status enables us to see and judge humans for what they truly are.
There is no statement about mankind that is true without exception. So why fixate on uncovering the Universal Truths of Mankind? It is True that people are often wicked. It is True that people are often good. It is True that many people are followers. And it is True that many people are not. We cannot be cleanly summed up in your lame manifesto. So ditch the effort.
And as far as cooling it with all the self-loathing goes, this too, can be done with applied, persistent effort. I will say that I am a huge skeptic of affirmations and the effect of trying to drown out your self loathing by screaming the opposite of what you actually believe at the mirror. I tend to look more towards the enduring effects of actually taking action. What are some of your habits as a result of self-loathing?
As a consequence of your self-hatred do you slack when it comes to your hygiene? Do you fail to see the point in taking care of yourself physically? Do you overcompensate when you are around others with relentless self-bashing humor? Do you look longingly at certain fashions, certain beauty trends, certain hair styles and immediately say to yourself, ‘Oh, I would look ridiculous in that,’ ‘Oh, I could never pull that off,’?
Maybe try, for once, treating yourself like the living work of art that you are. We are all creatures in transition. We are all in motion, we are all capable of change. And that capacity for change is one of the many things that makes people remarkable.
Do something that will enable you to look at yourself in the mirror with some degree of self-respect. Don’t lock onto some distant ideal that you can only be likable until you look a certain way—that you will cease to be a reprehensible creature when your acne clears up, when you lose a shit ton of weight, when you make it to a certain income bracket. Self-hatred doesn’t morph into self-love overnight—frankly, I’m still a far cry away from that. But I can look at myself now without wanting to barf, and that’s a start. Do something now that’s communicates to yourself that you are worth some acknowledgment and respect. That you are a working piece of art that is currently in production. Break up with that asshole who takes you for granted. Treat yourself to those Nike 350s. Put on that pair of pants that you thought could only be worn by models. Commit to going on morning jogs around the block. Start eating vegetables. Dye your hair blue. Whatever!! At some point we really all have to throw our hands up and say ‘Fuck it!!’ This is your life! Yours!! Not anyone elses! And fuck anyone who looks at you sideways when you allow yourself even just a shred of that self regard.
The most sure-fire method that I have found in productively moving away from self-loathing is to make a small, easy commitment to changing a habit and then going through with it. It should be small, and it should be short-term. If the habit you choose has something to do with making a commitment to working out—the focus should be kept on the promise of the daily ritual, and not on a fixed result you hope to achieve. I’m not at all suggesting that you shouldn’t act towards or hope for a certain result—I’m suggesting that the source of the self respect that you are going to develop is going to be a result of your ability to keep a promise to yourself over a length of time, and not necessarily the result you achieve. Think of it this way—if you really want to lose 5 pounds, you can do that by doing an hour long hot yoga session and lose 5 pounds immediately in water weight. Whooohoo—there you go!!! Irregardless of the fact that that weight will not stay off—what does the fact that you got yourself to do hot yoga one time one day say about you? If you say to yourself that you are going to do hot yoga everyday for a month and you actually do it—that my friend, will become the source of your pride.
Additionally, I do think that it is important to treat ourselves sometimes to material things that we believe belong only in the realm of persons of a higher status. This can have an inspiring effect, but doing this alone isn’t enough if it is your only approach. Because the rush you feel when you buy those shoes or you get that dope haircut can make you soar for a little bit, but they are ultimately transactional acts and do not last. For that reason I believe these kinds of things should be done only alongside the effort of changing a habit.
Why is this so important? Well. Many reasons. But in keeping with the subject at hand—if you hate yourself you are going to come up with every reason in the book to try not to connect to other people. You will come up with every justification thats ever been uttered to not cry out for help. I have found that people can truck along for quite a long time through life quietly hating themselves, and when the mood disorders come crashing in with their terrible vengeance—this becomes a death sentence. And yes, self-hatred and depression often get tangled up in a ‘what came first’ conundrum. Often, self hatred can be seen as a side-effect or symptom of depression. Depression can certainly exacerbate or bring such hatred to another level. However, self-loathing, or simply, low self-esteem, low self-confidence—these can also be experienced in people without depression. As such, I have found it most effective to deal with self-hatred as its own, independent phenomenon.
It can be done. It can be done. I am myself still in the weeds with all you guys. But I have seen a little change, and that has given me courage and motivation to push forward, and I want, with every fiber of my being, to show you all that that is possible for you as well. Cuz I am just another random person. Regardless of what you have been through or where you are at right now.
You can change. And kind people are out there. Make it a point to treat yourself well and go out and find them.
The secret benefit of years of isolation and rejection is it gives you the opportunity to become an unabashedly, unapologetically, unbelievably UNIQUE, GENUINE, POWERFULLY AUTHENTIC PERSON. INDEPENDENT. INDIVIDUAL. UNCOMPROMISING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT.
We do, of course, run the risk particularly—especially—when we’re young, of crafting our identity to be in direct opposition of the masses we project ourselves against. You know how, we’re so full of angst—everybody around me is into sports and Katy Perry–I will make a point to detest sports and Katy Perry. In the face of my loud, ditzy, happy-go-lucky peers– I will be so deliberate in my cold, vaguely hostile persona.
We’re all familiar with this temperament of snottiness and defiance that characterizes some teenagers, we smirk indulgently when engaged with them. But it is amazing to me how we don’t seem to recognize just how many people fail to grow out of this. And it’s really kind of sad when they wax angrily about ‘sheeple’ and their plight of being a self-aware nonconformist while slurping on the latest douchy hipster beer.
In any event, I don’t actually think this is a crisis, some honest self-reflection can go a long way here. I simply wanted to acknowledge this phenomena as I know it happens—I’m a testament to that.
There are so many people out there who believe themselves to be sovereign individuals that cannot be swayed by the tides of the masses. Who are always true to what they want, what they value, and always stand up for what is right! They entertain self-indulgent fantasies that had they been there during WWII, they would have been the heroic, non-compliant bystander who rescued all the Jews and shouted down Hitler in a public square. But then, in moments of truth—they fail to uphold their values. They are too hesitant to risk being different. When their friends make racist, awful jokes–they say nothing. When they see some self-righteous asshole verbally abuse that homeless person for no apparent reason–they look away. They overwhelmingly yield to the truisms and ideologies of whatever groups with whom they identify or uphold favorably. Knowing the difference between their own opinions and the positions of whatever hive-mind they belong to presents a formidable challenge.
Individuals who have never been forced to endure the powerful sting of isolation and loneliness for extended periods of time—often never develop the interior strength and stamina to risk standing apart with only the convictions of their own virtues and understanding behind them.
But we already know what mobs are capable of.
Being alone and unaffected—we are offered a chance to observe ourselves and the world around us with a discerning eye. We are not struggling to establish our identities and our foundational beliefs whilst being pulled by our group identity over here, pushed by our political heritage over there, yanked in one direction by our religious backgrounds, torn in the other by our contemporary aesthetic leanings, seduced to this corner by those who share our personality type, lured to that corner by those who share our intellectual proclivities.
We have this space that so many others aren’t afforded—to hover over the mishmash of all these competing influences, trying to suck us into their gravitational orbit. Even if our isolation has only been enforced in one small aspect of our lives—such experience, even if only minimal, offers a degree of perspective we can learn to apply to the whole of our life.
We can invest in building and developing ourselves. We can devote time and care in strengthening our character. We can, in time, carry with pride and appreciation the knowledge that the person we are was someone we built with care and precision.
You know how many people are anxious to share aspects of themselves to their cliques? Lets talk about something silly like musical tastes. How many of y’all judge people who listen to country music? How many of y’all judge people who listen exclusively flavor of the week pop songs? How many of y’all scoff when you see a scrawny white kid listening to hip hop? Or stare stupidly in astonishment at a black kid listening to classical?
When I’m sitting on a rooftop bar in Chicago with a bunch of hip, fashionably savvy millenials, its fun to watch their faces merge into their necks and create a triple chin when I say that I still love Marilyn Manson and Johnny Cash. I like to savor the shock on the faces of some of my aunts well-to-do intellectual contemporaries when I blurt out how much I love Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian.
I know I’m only elaborating a superficial example—and I know I’m being petty when I tout such silly differences. Fair enough. It is just the tip of the ice berg. How often has someone resisted voicing their moderate viewpoint of some political issue amongst their liberal friends? How often do kids go to college and major in something they can’t stand simply because their family wants them to and they are too chicken-shit to admit what they actually want to themselves?? How often do people enter the workforce and climb up the corporate ladders in careers they can’t stand—but it literally has never occurred to them to consider another path? How often do people marry people they don’t love? Start families simply because it’s time and it’s the thing to do without ever asking themselves if that’s actually what they want? How many people, when it comes down to it, have no fucking clue what they want?? Who’ve just been floating along doing the things everyone else seems to be doing? How often do people adopt a set of unwavering, severe moral stances simply because that’s what their church tells them to believe? How often do people accept an ideology without question because they’re belong to a certain group identity and this is what that identity is, believes, and stands for? How many of us have dared to ask ourselves if we’re liberal because that’s what we actually believe or if it’s just because we happened to be born to liberal parents in a liberal city in an overwhelmingly blue state? Or vice versa? How often do we allow ourselves to just slide in formation because it’s just less. fucking. work?
You may argue that all our different relationships activate or are compatible with only a certain aspect of our identities—that in a way we are something of a disco ball, reflecting only certain aspects of ourselves around certain people. We are intellectual and ambitious when we’re around our college friends. The carefree life of the party around our bowling pals. Sensual and giving with our partners—we don’t share every inch of us with everyone we share relationships with. That is true, of course. But do you actively hide or throttle down aspects of yourself in the space of these relationships? Are you only one aspect of your personality around some person out of circumstance or out of fear? If fear is the answer, then the person you are presenting in that moment is a lie by omission.
I know I’m talking a lot about ‘identity’ right now and what constitutes a persons identity remains, in many peoples eyes, a subject of contention. For our purposes here—I’m considering it the combined effect of one’s core values, beliefs, interests, desires, ambitions, together with our personality, attitude, social roles, and reaction to past experiences—and with that also the whole gestalt-ian mystery of it all—that nebulous secret something—whatever we may call it—our white hot centers—which is unique to us and makes us greater than the sum of our parts.
People who are too afraid to self-analyze everything from their taste in music to their wants in life to their worldview often fail to analyze what constitutes their identity. Where did all the influencing factors come from? And which among them was just accepted and absorbed without critical thought?
Total self-awareness is of course, complete tom-foolery and anyone claiming they can give that to you is an imbecile. There is our subconscious to account for as well as the primal, instinctive nature of our old brains. We will never achieve absolute ‘freedom’ from the influences of our circumstances and certain biological factors we must contend with. Of course they influence who we are. But we can peek behind the curtain. We can pull the string of our visible behaviors and tendencies and ask some really profound questions of ourselves. Why do we do the things we do? What beliefs are dictating my actions? How am I responsible for what is right now?
We often flinch away from asking these questions of ourselves because we are afraid of what they might say, and what they might demand of us. The advantage to individuals who have spent great portions of their lives alone, I have found, are a little less afraid of what Truths we may find. Possibly because we have less to lose.
There are people out there who have never had an original thought on their own. I’m not saying this to be shady or imply that I have any right to judge those people or anything like that. But, originality, knowing what you believe in and why you believe in it, knowing what you want out of life and what you find truly interesting and that you came to those realizations on your own accord, knowing your values and that you came to those on your own—is powerfully, powerfully validating. It’s a wonderful feeling, in fact.
With mental illnesses we can fall into a rut, we lose interest in everything, everything seems bland, food tastes like dust. It fucking sucks.
When this happens to me—it sucks the color out of absolutely everything in my life. But what it doesn’t drain away are my beliefs for what I stand for in a macro-sense. My feeling of personal responsibility as another person, in a world full of people, full of problems, full of lots and lots of problems—it may get buried but it does not get ripped out of me. I may have lost all regard for myself, lost all ability to muster up any enthusiasm for anything in my life—but I still hate bigotry, I still hate oppression, I still hate systematic disenfranchisement of entire populations. I still stand for freedom. I still stand for equality of opportunity. I stand for environmental activism and prison reform and for a livable minimum wage and all kinds of other things.
And yes, when I become seriously depressed I can’t get myself to draw, or read, or do origami, or do or move towards much of anything. My thoughts may become disordered and muddy. But I still have my beliefs. I still have my values. And I have those values and those beliefs and they are mine and I came to them on my own and that is a source of pride for me.
At the end of the day, I am what I am. I am a profoundly flawed person. I do what I can with what I have and I try and try and I often disappoint myself. But I know as well that I am my own person. I know who I am. I own the decisions I make. I own the consequences of those decisions. I own all that I’ve done. I own what I stand for. I own that my actions, however insignificant they may seem, can ripple and reverberate through entire communities, and as such, I own that I am responsible for what I put out in the world. Regardless of however I may come to see and regard myself, I am another body, and so I try, I do my best, to stand up for those who are being beat down.
When the lights go dark, this gives me something to hold on to.
Write a letter to your future lover or confidant
Alright, alright. I know this sounds hokey as hell to all y’all. You’re right! It is pretty hokey. But still.. allowing yourself to get really into an exercise like this can really help spark a little hope for the future. For both the future you dare desire for yourself, and for a future someone you want to be a part of it. And remember it’s just an idea!
If writing a letter to a future lover is just too damn corny for you, write you nobel peace prize acceptance speech—or whatever recognition that you can admit to secretly wanting for yourself. In my experience, writing to a person is just a little more visceral. Consider writing a letter to your favorite writer or musician, just telling them how much their work means to you and how it has helped you. Here is also another possibility of connecting to another person.
It’s a very vulnerable thing to do, it’s embarrassing and uncomfortable, and those I think are good things. I had to push past my inherent distrust of the idea that someone out there could ever love me.. that idea still often feels far-fetched and fantastical. Or even just the idea that someone could appreciate what I have to say. To acknowledge all that and then just write it all down anyway.
I tell that person that, right now, I don’t think I actually want to die but no matter what I do or where I go I just run into this fucking brick wall. I’m surrounded on all sides and death seems to be the only way out. I want desperately to believe that things will one day change but I can’t fathom how they possibly can. I’m at my wits end. Everything I do just gets me back to the same exact place. There’s no one I can talk to who will just listen and not judge me or patronize me or undermine me or call me selfish or tell me that I’m not trying hard enough!
I tell that person that there is nothing in my present that makes me want to stay alive right now. And I told that person that I’m scarred to allow myself to hope for the future—because I’ve been let down so many times. And this whole cycle is just wearing me down to my flimsy core.
I tell that person that I’m going to force myself to hang in there, even though I don’t want to, because I want to meet them one day. And that even if it turns out that we only spend a few years of our lives together—I look forward to them and our outrageous adventures that we will have together. And that I’m going to trust them with my secrets—the other things that I hope for for my life that I haven’t shared to a single soul.
I tell that person, that our union will be like the life-renewing relief of water, after spending 40 long years alone in the desert. That my alone-ness, my loneliness right now is what’s going to make it so great, so ecstatic. That gift of our great love I will never take for granted, for unlike so many, I know all too well the scorching anguish of loneliness.
It is through these kinds of exercises that I try and really articulate for myself what the benefit of my suffering may be for me one day in the future. I try and project myself into the vague, undefined future and approach my present from the lens of that perspective. How might this crucible be forging me into a stronger, more capable person? How might all this fear and all this doubt be forcing me to find courage and persistence and faith somewhere within me? How might all this be teaching me how to love one day? How not to take myself so damn seriously? How might all this garbage be making me a better person?
Just because you don’t see the silver lining— doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. All it means is you can’t see it.
As I had promised in the beginning of this piece, at its end I will not insult you by downplaying the injury of your isolation. This has been the hardest piece that I have written by a long shot—there just really isn’t a way to dick around and have fun with this topic. It’s all heavy.. and climbing back to revisit these memories for me has been excruciatingly difficult to the point of even making me feel sick. When I write about these things, these experiences, they roll in overhead like a terrible storm. I am dragging myself through all this in the off chance that maybe there’s something I can glean from all that crap that can potentially inspire a small spark of hope in someone—but at the end of the day, I don’t know if what I’ve written truly encapsulates how I managed to get through it.
And I don’t know how you will get through it. But what I do know is that people can get through things. And you may be convinced that you are not one of those people who can get through things, but I ask you to consider again, how often have you been wrong? Have you ever thought to yourself that you were at your breaking point and no-way-in-absolute-hell could you do that one more push-up but that person behind you didn’t let up and somehow—by some extraordinary miracle, you squeezed it out of yourself? Those experiences are not insignificant—they illuminate a powerful truth about yourself.
No one ever comes into all of this already knowing what they are capable of. We assume our limits and our breaking points based on our faulty perception and our over-reliance on past experiences. We prove ourselves marvelously wrong when we tread but an inch beyond those perceived limits. You can give yourself just one, single reason to respect yourself and that respect might lead you to begin resisting allowing others to treat you cruelly and unfairly. If you give yourself two reasons to respect yourself it may lead to you actually accepting that there just might actually be people out there who would love to get to know you. If you give yourself three reasons to respect yourself, you may find within you the boldness to venture out further. Alone, yet bold, and into the wild unknown.
And that is where things get interesting.
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