Some days I cannot look at myself in the mirror. I brush my teeth, scrub my face, slick my hair back in the simplest possible style- all with my eyes carefully averted. Even catching the slightest glimpse can start an avalanche of hate. “Ugly, fat, gross.” I feel like I should apologize for anyone forced to look at me. I consider converting to Islam and taking up the burqa, it seems less complicated.
I never tell anyone this. Saying that you feel ugly has become such a passive aggressive game that it can never be a mere expression of feeling. You must be fishing for compliments, you obviously want to hear the opposite. And if you have good friends, an attentive lover, a comforting spouse, of course their only reaction will be one of reassurance. “No, no, no. You’re so pretty!” Scooping up the puddle of your ego and patting it back into shape.
This is why I do not speak aloud of my inner spite. Being comforted does not make me feel better. It makes me want to slice off all of my skin until my entire body is one bright, throbbing wound, staining the ground around me with the color of my insides.
And the ugly, fat, gross litany is far from the only one that haunts my head. There is “Stupid, worthless, lazy.” “Slut, bitch, liar, useless whore.” When all else fails, there is simply “I hate myself and I want to die.” Thanks Kurt Cobain, genius of distillation. That phrase is more of a soothingly frayed stuffed animal at this point. I run my hands along the seams again and again, my fingerprints and DNA embedded in every inch. I catch myself repeating it out loud, under my breath, when no one else is around.
Some days that’s all that keeps me going, the one thing this world cannot take away from me: that I have a choice. That I could end this, that I could leave, I could make it stop. I’m sure that sounds strange to anyone who has never experienced depression or self-hatred, but it’s comforting to know that in a universe designed to drown us all I have this tiny sliver of control.
This is how I survive. I take that shard and build my crooked kingdom upon it. I could shoot myself today but one of the girls has a test tomorrow and who else will explain quadratic equations to her. I could slit my wrists but my mom really has no one else to talk to and if she doesn’t have her daily gossip session with me she’s going to get nervous and panicky. I could take this bottle of pills but my dog needs his walkies and his treats and his brushy time and squeaky-toy-wrestle-mania-palooza.
Usually it’s the dog that gets me. It takes so little to make him over-the-moon joyful. I’m not cruel enough to shatter his happiness.
Sometimes that’s the only way to keep going forward, delicately feeling your way around the hole inside of you. You reach out to the places where someone needs you, even if only in the smallest ways. Slowly the picture shifts until you instead see the hole you would leave in the world with your absence.
I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. It’s a war and it’s a war every. single. time. But you are worth the battle. I am worth the fight.
And on the days when you can’t remember why you matter, make do with remembering that you are needed. Someone’s world will be emptier without you. There is an old man on a bench that only you smile and say good morning to. There is a friend who will miss your hugs, a girl who is waiting for your kisses. There is a little dog resting with his chin on the stairs and he will wait all day long and every day after.