My favourite song is by Sarah McLachlan and is called Full of Grace. It is a beautiful and heart-wrenching song, about the break down of a relationship. But I’ve always believed that the words work equally well in describing how it can feel to be depressed. And one line in that song has always stood out to me. A line that conveys my feelings of self-loathing.
“It’s just that we stayed too long
In the same old sickly skin.”
In the past, I often felt like this. I’d stayed too long in my own skin and I hated it. I longed to look in the mirror and see someone else looking back at me. Not only did I want to look different. I also wished to be a different person. I yearned to be somebody else. Someone thinner, prettier, kinder, cleverer, more eloquent and a better person.
But this never happened. I remained me. I stayed in the same old sickly skin. Each day I woke up and I was still Lucy.
Self-hatred can be a, rarely spoken about, symptom of depression. It’s something that most of us shy away from mentioning. Maybe because we are ashamed. The irony that are own self-hatred is another reason to hate ourselves.
Children and young adults are often told to learn to love themselves before they can be loved by someone else. Is this really true? Are we really unloveable if we don’t love ourselves?
Then as an adult, we are taught that self-confidence and self-belief are important. That they are qualities that can be acquired and that come with age. They are skills that need to be worked on and developed. And there are thousands of self-help books that you can read about those subjects.
In the summer months, we’re told that we need to embrace our bodies and put on a bikini. We need to forget our flaws and love ourselves just as we are.
But how is that possible when you fundamentally dislike yourself? How can I look at myself and see beauty, when all I see staring back at me is ugliness?
I don’t write this for pity or to fish for compliments. Although I know that when someone is self-deprecating it can seem that they are just looking to hear nice things about themselves.
I write this because I know that there are so many women and men out there who feel the same. They hate themselves. And when depressed and anxious they’re consumed by self-loathing. Yet, they are still told to learn to love themselves. But is this possible?
When I say negative things about myself it is because I genuinely mean them. And I want to speak the truth. My sense of humour is born out of self-deprecation.
Of course. there are occasions when I think I’m okay. But I never feel more strongly than I’m just okay. And these feelings are often quickly replaced by moments of guilt. How could I think that way about myself?
I know I’m not an evil person. I’m not a sadist. I don’t deliberately set out to cause people pain. Deep down I know that I’m not a bad person. But I find it so hard to feel it. My default setting is just to dislike myself.
And in my darkest moments, self-loathing overwhelms me. This hatred of myself has fuelled my past overdoses and self-harming. The feeling that the world would be a happier place without me. The belief that I’m a burden to my loved ones.
Yet, I find now I’m older I do look at myself differently. I wouldn’t say I like myself. Instead, I know what to do to make myself more likeable. I wear my make-up as a form of armour. But it also makes me feel better about myself. Bright lipstick makes me smile and for a moment I can convince myself that I’m pretty.
At the age of 40, I finally care less about what other people think of me. I get my sense of self-worth from people who love me. My husband, my children, family and close friends. I don’t get it from every person I meet or every mum on the school run.
I’m learning to accept that some people don’t like me and that is okay. It’s not a reflection on me as a person; it’s just life. And it’s also okay not to be best friends with everyone. I would prefer to have a few really close friends that I can trust and love dearly. I can’t expect everyone to want to be my bosom buddy.
Of course, this all goes out of the window when I’m depressed. Once again, the feelings of self-loathing envelope me. I can’t ever truly shake off the feeling that I’ve stayed too long in this sickly skin.
But, on my good days, I’m not as skilled at the art of self-loathing as I used to be. And maybe, that’s another reason why I should like myself that little bit more.