'I Paid.'

I'd gone to visit a friend and we'd been drinking. He had moved away and I rarely got to see him, so we were having a good catch-up and enjoying ourselves. We'd been to a few bars and had then gone back to his apartment to begin drinking the whiskey I'd brought. But within minutes the facade dropped, I couldn't stop crying and I had no energy left to keep up the pretense. My friend was confused. Earlier that night I'd asked him to be my best man. I was getting married that year but despite all the good things I'd built up in my life, it was myself that I hated, loathed, considered to be a monster.

Shortly after this admission I found myself a therapist. Again, I would explain my feelings of self-loathing and how I'd felt like this for a very long time. I was desperate to fathom it. It wasn't a little bit of self-hatred, it was total. The only thing I felt for myself, and I knew why. I just didn’t know what to do with it. An event in my adolescence, and the fear and pressure I subsequently felt, led me to let someone down very badly, somebody I cared about. Mistreatment. The relationship ended, then for several years I tried to pretend it was nothing.

I was afraid to face what I had done because of what it said about myself. I was scared to admit to being the person I was. This period of avoidance ended, however, when one night I ran into my ex-girlfriend. We talked briefly but I knew, I just knew, that I couldn't keep pretending. I decided then I would examine the person I was. I'd acknowledge my actions and take responsibility for what I had done. I didn't know what was ahead but I couldn't ignore this any longer - I'd confront the man I was.

I'd ask myself if jumping from a bridge would really do the job. When I hit the water wouldn't I just float to the top? I could hang myself from the banister. But the thought of causing pain to those who cared about me always stopped me short. Over time, examining my past behaviour had eroded any sense of self-regard. The suicidal fantasies were seductive, though. I’d devise ways in which I could bring my life to an end. It was comforting, perversely. I could indulge myself in thoughts of giving in to what I wanted, and I got good at noticing when I was approaching a time such as this. I could recognise it but not turn away - it was coming. Later, I'd become numb, and enter a cycle of trying to discern what it was I felt, why, and what it said about the person I was. Continuous self-accusation, coupled with any external type of stress, would result in drawn-out periods of depression. Having to force myself to get out of bed in the morning, going to work on auto-pilot: I needed to hold up a mask to convince people I was alright. But I knew it was all my fault - I was culpable. Even when I had a reason to feel good, I’d next feel I didn’t deserve it - because of something I had done. And depressed, I’d feel inadequate and useless: that I was letting others down. When this went on for long enough, the idea of destroying myself would reintroduce itself and the cycle would then repeat. I wanted to confront myself, and face up to what I had done, but I felt it wouldn't end. I was a monster. I was guilty and inadequate. Wasn't it right I should suffer?

No-one who knew my story, though, got quite why I felt so bad. Everyone thought that what I’d done was really something minor. I behaved in a particular way under pressure, it was understandable, one friend even told me he’d have done the exact same thing. Once, I asked my therapist how she would treat a murderer struggling to come to terms with what he had done. I got a look back that said, 'why are you being difficult?' In a sense it didn't matter no-one could fathom my anger towards, and hatred of myself. It was a fact that I had come to it. No rationale or argument could make that not be so.

I was getting married and had broken down in front of a friend. I wanted to get to the bottom of my perception of myself, somehow to fully acknowledge the absence of character that existed there. It had been years and I didn’t know what to do with it anymore. I hoped to find something good and build upon it but I couldn’t make believe that I hadn’t let someone down badly in the past. The therapy was useful in this regard, since I was forced to accept that I wasn't all bad. But it was a misstep. I was enrolled in a course of cognitive behavioural therapy which I came to see as an attempt to convince me I ought not to obsess about something in the past; that the event in question merely reinforced beliefs I already held about myself. I learned of beneficial tools but it wasn't what I needed. I simply was beating myself up because of something I had done. I felt bad, it was my conscience. I was paying for how I’d behaved.

And that realisation, in the end, I believe, is what brought this to a close. Years of self-hate. Conscious, too, vicious, where I'd become so angry at myself I'd want to jump off a building. I came to see I had paid. I saw who I was, I hated him. No illusions, I had removed absolutely everything there was to hide behind. When you come to see something in it’s totality, you can kind of set it aside and move away.

It's not been long comparatively since I have come to see it. I saw all there was to see, and my perspective changed, and I emerged anew. I don't know what's coming next but I anticipate it all with wonder. I have self-belief, which I’ve never had, or allowed myself to have. I’ve come around in a circle but have learned something I can draw on. Ultimately, I faced up to myself, took responsibility for who I was and paid in terms of accepting what is meant by my actions and behaviour. Because when you do come to see it, and the uglier motivations for the things that you do, you don’t want to do them anymore, and you make a change.

And because you pay. Ten times out of ten - you pay.

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