Here’s the thing: I hate myself. I have hated myself since second grade. I’m pretty sure I hated myself before that but having destroyed so many brain cells from years of excessive drinking and high-school experimentation with drugs, I cannot say this for certain. I can’t blame my parents for this self-loathing; they did their best to encourage me to be me, always telling me they loved me and that I was smart and beautiful and unique. Yet somehow, as early as age seven, I hated myself. I compared myself to other girls, I was shy and embarrassed around boys and the popular crowd, I thought I was ugly. At seven fucking years old. Unfortunately, almost two decades later, those feelings have not changed.
I feel that there are two very strong forces fighting against my chance at happiness in life. The first, which I believe actually stems from the second, is my complete lack of sober socialization. As I matured, I thought I knew how to flirt with boys and have relationships with them. I’m realizing now that they flirted with, liked and had relationships with Drunk-me. Drunk-me is talkative; Drunk-me is funny and has opinions about things; Drunk-me actually has a sex-drive. While Drunk-me has my fair share of problems, the problem itself lies in Sober-me having virtually no experience with relationships with men, platonic or otherwise. I have always, always struggled to open up and relax around others, especially with people who I find attractive, who are older than me, or who I perceive to be “cooler” than myself. Once it’s up to Sober-me to interact with these people, I fall short and they lose interest. I’m afraid that the social skills of Sober-me never progressed past the age of 15, when I began drinking to socialize. It is a horrifying thought but it explains a lot about my interactions with people today. I am a 26 year old with the socialization level of a teenager. Christ.
The other force that is working against me is my low (see: non-existent) self-esteem. I have a hard time talking about it because I want to throw the word “depressed” in there but not having been diagnosed as such, I hesitate to say anything even similar. What I can say for certain is that I am sad most of the time and when I am not sad, I feel nothing. Occasionally I’ll say or do things, but it’s never said or done with any passion. If I leave any impression on other’s lives, it never has a lasting effect and fades instantaneously. I am a ghost.
As an example, today I spent the majority of my day with a group of friends planning our upcoming road trip to New Orleans. Sounds like fun, right? We went to brunch, mapped out a route, browsed the various roadside attractions we’ll be passing by and booked our hotel in the destination city. I spent a total of six hours in great company making plans for a huge life experience, and yet that the exact same day could have happened with or without my presence. Conversations were had but I was not a part of them. I listened to people I’m supposed to be friends with have a good time with each other, teasing, laughing, casually hanging out; I chuckled here and there but I was an outcast. I was boring. I was dull. I was stupid. I was ugly. I was lame. I was fat and weird and awkward and I wish they were taking someone else on the trip so I wouldn’t feel so bad for being such lousy company.
This is how I think of myself every single day and it only worsens with time. Where I used to have interests and hobbies and favorite subjects, I now have feelings of inadequacy. I find myself saying things like: “I’m not familiar with that subject” or “I watched that show once, it was okay,” or “I recognize the band name but I don’t really remember how they sound” or “I don’t have any strong feelings about that one way or the other.” At this point, I don’t have any strong feelings at all. I am not strong. I am poisoning myself from the inside out. I don’t feel worthy of claiming ideas or interests or passions as my own because, compared to others, I don’t like them enough.
It always comes back to comparing myself to others. When I’m with people, I am silent because I feel that I am less everything compared to them. When I’m not with people, social media has given me the opportunity to compare myself to others on an even broader spectrum than I could before. Not only can I compare myself to people I actually know, I can compare myself to people I don’t know and probably never will. Against them I can scrutinize my looks, thoughts, intelligence, cliques, accomplishments, wealth, ambition, passions and interests, my overall happiness. Yet I know that social media allows us to create masks of ourselves for the world to see. I look at my own social media pages and see only posts of the fun things I’m doing and the people I know and the good moments I have and what a hypocrite! I sit here alone contemplating my own misery and contempt; comparing my true level of happiness to false and unattainable goals.
I’ve never been tested for or diagnosed with depression or any other mental illness but I cannot imagine that what I’m experiencing is healthy. I’m afraid that with the combination of a social media centered world and my damaged self-esteem, I have completely forgotten how to have a personality, how to relate to people and how to live. A few weeks ago I was describing this to a close friend from my hometown, trying to put to words what it feels like to watch my own self-destruction. I told her that what I see is the image of a woman with a head filled with black smoke, you can’t see her face because it’s just a dark and empty void. This is how I feel when I look at myself each day, when I lie in bed alone, when I interact with friends and acquaintances. Unrelenting, toxic thoughts, slowly destroying me and everything around me and with each passing day the cloud of smoke grows.