I try not to use the word ‘hate’.
I think it’s a word that, although overused, can still do so much damage, especially when it is used in the heat of the moment to try and wound someone deeply. I still remember being a very small child and my Mum telling that to say you hated someone was the worst thing you could say to them, something which has stayed with me as I’ve grown up and had a child of my own.
It’s something I intend to teach Squidge; that hate is not a word that you should use in anger or to try and hurt someone but should be reserved for only the things that truly deserve it.
In fact, the only time that I use the word hate is when I’m talking about me.
There are other things that I hate; poverty, racism, murder, prejudice to name but a few but if I really think about it the only person I honestly hate is myself.
On the surface it may look like self-depreciation; fishing for compliments by putting myself down and it’s something I’ve been accused of in the past. But the truth is I don’t really know how to acknowledge praise or accept compliments because I honestly don’t understand why anyone would think such positive things about about me. In reality praise makes me feel confused, uncertain and more than a little embarrassed as I grapple with the realisation that someone truly thinks that I something I’ve done deserves to be acknowledged. Every time someone says something positive my internal monologue immediately counters with a reason why it isn’t true or dredges up something that automatically cancels out anything good that I could possibly have done.
It’s exhausting and bewildering but at the same time it seems completely appropriate and comes to me as easily as breathing.
I don’t know when or how or why these intense, self-destructive feelings came about. There was no defining moment or flash of realisation, instead just a trickle, small but continuous until hating myself just became part of me. The fact that I hate myself is now as inescapable and is integral to me as the knowledge that I have brown hair and green eyes or that I can’t see more than a few centimeters without glasses.
I am not a passionate person by nature, although that’s not to say that I lack emotions or feelings; if anything I feel too much, so that even the smallest upsets and embarrassments can be difficult to deal with and moments of joy can become so intense that I feel as though I might be swept away with happiness.
When I love, I love strongly and deeply but the feelings form slowly and rarely do I experience hot flashes of emotion; sudden flares of anger or sudden rushes of love. When Squidge was born it took several weeks before I could honestly say that I loved him and I think it would have been the same even if my pregnancy had been planned and my mental health hadn’t been so drastically affected.
Even though I had had such a negative self image for years it was during my pregnancy that I really discovered what it was to hate myself.
I was torn between desperately not wanting to be pregnant but also knowing how lucky I was to have fallen pregnant so easily when so many other women battled with fertility issues or who had lost their babies and children. I would think about women I knew who had suffered miscarriages or about the parents I’d met through work who had been through so much and then the little voice inside my head would start talking and I would be completely unable to escape.
From the second I woke up until I eventually feel asleep, every waking moment was filled with loathing and malice and no matter what I tried, nothing else was loud enough to drown it out. The Northern One, my counselor, friends and family; all of them tried to to be louder and more convincing than that tenacious, persistent voice of hate but no one even came close. For months I listened to the seemingly endless flood of bile that had me so convinced that it spoke the truth I honestly thought that everyone I’d ever met would be happier if I died.
Since Squidge arrived the voice has grown quieter, mostly due to the fact that Squidge is far to little to even begin to understand the concept of lying and so cannot possibly be pretending to love me and need me. But the voice is still there, constantly whispering and it doesn’t take much for the whisper to turn into a shout and then a scream. The smallest, most inconsequential things, such as not feeling able to cook meals for Squidge from scratch causes the voice to start shouting so loudly that I can barely hear myself think and it starts to eat away and the fragile belief that the world would not be a better place if I wasn’t in it.
It’s the reason that I struggle to make friends because it tells me that I’m a bad person and that everyone else thinks so to.
The reason that I slash my arms with razor blades because it tells me that I deserve pain and punishment.
The reason that I think I’m an awful mother because it tells me over and over again about the things that I’ve done wrong and how anyone could do a better job of caring do Squidge.
Despite attending counselling, taking medication and listening to others tell me how I don’t deserve to be treated like this (even by my own thoughts) I keep on believing the hateful things the little voice tells me these things and I believe it implicitly; its arguments so completely convincing despite stacks of evidence to the contrary which it sweeps away with barely a second glance.
Hard as I try I’ve never been able to completely silence the internal voice that hates me so much. But then again, I never try that hard because I am so used to the voice and so accepting of it that on on some semi-conscious level I don’t see the point in fighting something that I inherently believe to be true just because everyone else tells me that it’s wrong.
I know that my thoughts are damaging and I dread the day when Squidge asks me about love and hate and how I feel about myself. I don’t want to lie to him but I also don’t want to introduce him to the concept of self-hate in case it somehow causes him believe that he is worthless and pointless and undeserving of love because nothing could be further from the truth.
There are so many things that I want my little boy to learn and for me to teach him. I want him to know the wonder and joy of the world that can be found in the smallest things and how there are things so vast and far-reaching that we cannot truly understand them. There are other, less happy things that I want him to learn about so that he will also know tolerance and acceptance and that I will always love him with every fibre of my being, even when he thinks that I shouldn’t.
But I don’t want him to learn to hate himself.
Louise is a full time mum, a part time neonatal nurse and award nominated blogger who has battled depression for many years but was particularly ill during her pregnancy. She lives with her husband (the Northern One) their little boy (Squidge) and their three guinea pigs who live in the kitchen.
Louise blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss. She’s also involved in #MatExp (https://www.facebook.com/groups/MatExp/); an online maternity experience campaign that was formed to help improve maternity services in the UK. As part of this she hosts the #MatExpHour Twitter chat every Friday and would love to see you there.