The Chicken or the Egg?

Dear Therapist,

Someone at church gave me a book, which is stressful. As much as I like to read, I really hate when people give me books because there’s this perceived deadline of reading it quickly and returning the book and thanking them so much for giving you this opportunity to read an amazing book I never would have had the chance to read otherwise. The truth is, maybe I don’t like the book. Maybe I need this book five years from now to really appreciate it. Maybe I don’t have time to read this month. Maybe I’m in a reading slump and you giving me a book just drags sandpaper across an already festering wound.

This book extra stressful, though. She gave it to me so that I can talk better about myself. I am at my core self-deprecating. I fully acknowledge that when I talk about myself to others, I drag myself through the mud. I know. I know that people don’t understand it or like. She’s the first to actively try to prevent me. Part of me really and truly appreciates her for that. It must be the same part that looks at the book and thinks maybe it will solve my problems. Maybe if I learned how to think nicely about myself, all of my problems really would go away. I’ll be able to cure my own depression and anxiety.

Sometimes the mean thoughts do weigh me down. They do. It feels like they sit on my chest for days while I slowly suffocate. Only, I have to ask what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Giving me this book and saying it will help assumes that I have bad thoughts about myself and that’s what causes the abyss of depression and terror and wildness of anxiety. It seems logical. If you pour negativity into your mind then it’s going to make you feel icky. I don’t think that’s my problem.

I don’t feel like my ticker tape of thought is as negative as my speech is. A lot of me talking to other people is thfear-fueledled attempt to make people love me and think I’m funny without coming across as too arrogant and annoying. I often say a lot of shit I don’t actually mean. I model my speech and behavior to match the person I’m with. I intrinsically put myself on their level so they’ll like me more because we like people who are like us.

The speech doesn’t explain away the real issues I have. It doesn’t explain the gnawing questions of “What am I doing?” “Why am I alive?” “What’s my purpose?” that genuinely haunt me. Those questions don’t make me think mean thoughts against myself. It’s not like my immediate answer is “You’re stupid. You’re untalented. You’re worthless.” Instead, I feel like I contain this foreign currency of intelligence, talent, and worth that isn’t spendable in the world. I don’t know how to convert it into usable currency in life. And, then, there are moments where I simply can’t answer why I’m alive. It’s not that I’m good or bad, I just can’t see why I’m here or why I’m putting in so much work to stay around. Why I’m I not just giving up, you know?

Any articulated thought about my depression and anxiety are not my biggest problems. It’s actually a bit of a relief to put words to the feelings. At least a fraction of the mess inside my head is definable. I’m comforted by that small fact. What scares me is the pure emotion. Today, I’m stressed. I have so much to do. It feels like I don’t have enough time in the day to finish everything. (It is, of course, unhelpful that I chose this exact moment to write a blogpost, but I thought I’d have a break down if I didn’t.) I wish I could define or explain what I’m feeling to you or anyone. The feeling is crescendo-ing though, and I really feel like I might hurt myself.

It’s an energy build up and my brain is screaming that something has to happen or change. I have to jump onto a new track or I’m going to crash and explode. I’m riffling between music stations, playlists, Korean dramas, Netflix shows, all in the attempt to find something that levels me out or feels like enough of a change to direct this energy away from pain or destruction. I’m also fighting the surprisingly large voice inside me that says “Cut yourself.” Somewhere along the way I’ve trained myself to think that cutting releases that energy build up. It forces a climax and causes me to crash, but in that crash I’m able to level out or deaden myself enough to continue moving forward.

I’m ashamed of it. I hate that my brain works that way. There is some rational part of me that knows I’m not solving anything. I’m just hurting myself. It’s rational enough that I haven’t actually cut myself for the past year. April marks a year since the last time I cut myself. I’m going to treat myself. I think I’m going to buy myself a pair of real Converse shoes. But also, cutting is shockingly close to what I hear people in AA say. When they talk about always being an alcoholic, or that they’ll be an alcoholic for life. I get it. I get that realization that I will be battling this for the rest of my life. I’ll always have the urge. Now it’s just whether I succumb to it or not.

Writing you has made me feel better. I’m also snapping a rubber band against my wrist. Is that low-level harming myself? I feel like I see it on too many sitcoms for it to really feel like self-harm to me. The writing has been most helpful. I can take a deep breath again. But also, I should get back to work so I don’t crumble under my task list.

Thanks for listening.




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