“Be kind to yourself”. As soon as any therapist I’ve ever seen has uttered those four words (sometimes substituting “kind to” for “gentle with”), I’ve known that our relationship will not work out.
I understand the sentiment. I know I am a harsh self-critic, I know I linger on the negatives and on the failures but I also know that I am more often than not, undeserving of the self-empathy I am urged to adopt.
Firstly, it is inarguable how pathetic depression has rendered me. Panic attacks caused by nothing or things so small that even here, anonymously, I cannot bring myself to admit to them. It is ridiculous to suggest that I should be anything but angry and irritated with myself when I can spend days in bed. I am filled with thoughts of making a difference, of philanthropy, and yet I can’t even crawl out from under the covers and make myself a proper meal so it is not beyond the realms of understanding that I should feel worthless. How to be a good citizen when watching entire TV series in one day?
And while the paranoia is undeniable, without doubt I have driven people away with my misery and attention-seeking need for help, with my self-imposed isolation and lack of reliability. The tension of never knowing whether the person you’ve met for a drink or a meal is suddenly going to start crying exhausts even the best people eventually and then, for their own sanity they quietly back away. It’s difficult to “be kind” to myself when I’ve caused people pain and inconvenience and pressure and boredom, when I’ve caused the loneliness that affects and hinders me so much.
I am too pathetic to make and follow up on doctor’s appointments, job interviews, days out with friends. I have become defined by an invisible illness. It has beaten me. It has wound its way around me and pulls me down, constricting me, refusing to allow me to move upwards or forwards and I have become a timid ghost, attempting transparency as I float quietly by hoping not to be noticed, longing for it all to end.
So, I don’t want to be on the receiving end of empty therapy phrases. “Be kind to yourself” doesn’t help me any more than “pull yourself together” does. Unfortunately, as yet, I haven’t figured out what does help.