For a long time I’ve hated myself.
For as long as I can remember.
I blamed myself for not being able to protect my siblings growing up. I blamed myself for the abuses they suffered. Not being able to stop the hidings, not protecting them at school from discriminatory teachers. I should have done more.
My relationship failures were all my own. No one else.
I was told as much by everyone… whose opinions don’t matter, but I have a pretty good memory, so I remembered each of them. And repeated each of them.
Banished myself to relationship purgatory. Which is actually good, coz how can you love someone else when you don’t even love yourself?
Every deficit in my life only had one person to blame; me. My house not being big enough: my kids’ upbringing not being stable enough; their ‘solo parent’ life; the fact they couldn’t go on school trips/birthdays/’all the things’ because I couldn’t afford it.
And maybe I could’ve if I had made it work with their mum? But I didn’t.
And it is way too late for that anyway coz she hates my guts and yeah, that hate is my fault too.
I tell my children that other than their own, no one else’s opinion in this world matters – except for what their dad thinks about them. If at the end of the day they can still look themselves – and their dad – in the eye, then they must be doing ok.
And while it’s true, it is difficult advice to give them when – every day – I don’t think that much of myself.
You wouldn’t guess it right?
I’m mostly smiling, hardly ever moaning, and that’s because I genuinely enjoy what I do. I’ve worked out what keeps me on this planet.
On the positive side: I crack jokes. I help people. I love working for my communities, I love raising my kids. The work satisfies me. Fatherhood fills me with indescribable joy; it gives me reasons. Helping others and raising my kids stops the self-loathing for a minute. In those moments, the smiling public persona is an honest representation of myself.
On the other side: I keep myself emotionally numb.
Ask anyone who has tried to start something romantic with me? I wordsmith around my feelings. I push them way down. Way the fuck down.
I’m not worth other people’s feelings anyway… so no big loss yeah?
The reason I hide this is because no one else needs to know that I hate myself.
Just one person needs to know that. Me.
In April of this year, I was at a leadership weekend which had an activity of giving feedback about how each of us could develop our leadership ability. A newly made friend of mine said something which cut right thru me. He told me, ‘There’s no leadership feedback I can give you. Your work is already amazing. But I do have something you need to work on. Forgiving yourself. You remind yourself too often about how terrible your parenting was. Look at your kids, they’re amazing. You’ve clearly done a good job. I want you to work on forgiving and loving yourself.’
I went home that night and fucking bawled my eyes out. Coz he was right. For the first time I took change seriously. But I was anxious. So anxious.
Will changing it lead to destroying all my work?
If pain has motivated me to do so much to quieten the inner monologue then should I really be messing with it?
It’s a model that’s worked so far right? But it’s a model that takes the lives of people far too early and far too often.
You know who they are.
You’ve already thought of the names of beloveds, of the famous, and of the anonymous who have committed suicide.
And every time we say the same things: ‘How could he have done that?’ ‘She had so much to live for…
And it crushes us as we say the words. It crushes us as we hear them.
Suicide leaves devastation and pain in its wake. Yet it still happens.
I don’t know why others do it, but I can completely empathise.
Personally, there’s only so much work I can do to keep those thoughts at bay.
My kids won’t be around forever. Neither will the work. Maybe I won’t be needed?
Kua hinga he tetekura…
I can see how, thru certain circumstances I could feel like I no longer add value to this world and figure, ‘What’s even the point in me staying?’ I can rationalise that. It makes sense, even though that should never make sense.
I made the decision to start caring for myself that night in April. And it has taken me to October to actually do something for myself.
I took myself to Melbourne for my birthday. Yaaaaassss gurlfrend. I did!
And while I was there, I almost got derailed. One of my beloveds in Melbourne, lost someone to suicide while I was there. When I found out, I was set to see all of them that night. I had started writing this blog the day before. My emotions were sooooooo raw. I had been ripping off self-hate leeches over the past 24hrs, and then I get this news.
I’d like to say I handled it like a boss, or at least say that I was like ‘fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.’ But I literally froze.
I had no idea what to do. My support networks weren’t around. I was in another country.
No access to any of my plethora of NZ based health, medical, and social service supports. My network of people in Melbourne is well-meaning, wonderful and full of love. But when you’re in crisis you need specific people and mine were in another country.
I can’t even begin to convey the feeling of loneliness and isolation I felt. I literally came to a stand-still. I retreated back into that familiar numb space. And I hated myself for it.
It took me six months. Was my first foray out. And I am still a massive failure.
I’d like to say I had an internal epiphany. But I didn’t.
I retreated back into what I knew; doing things for others and numbing myself emotionally.
I’m not proud of it.
I went and saw them that night. I smiled. I interacted. I was there. Trying to send good vibes and play my part well. I started telling people to not worry about me. I’m not worrying about me. So why should others?
Retreat. Retreat. Retreat.
The day I started heading back home to NZ was the day I started thinking straighter. It helped that I was going back to the arms of my children. They’re the only reason. They were all the reasons.
I told myself things like: “this journey is not always going to go perfectly.’‘You can be there for the kids, others and yourself all at the same time.’ And I believed myself this time. It didn’t feel like I was telling myself lies. This shit is so hard.
It’s harder than running a district, a health board and a tertiary organisation. It’s harder than raising children by myself.
But it’s something that I need to change. Coz I wanna live. And I want to love me.
But for the time being I’d be happy just not hating me.
I didn’t write this blog as a cry to the world for love and attention. I know there are many out there who love, care and are fond of me. And I love, care and am deeply fond of you. I wrote this blog because men need to stop being stoic islands in the middle of the ocean. We’re not.
We need to talk about this shit. Which is why I’m talking about it.
I’m putting skin in the game guys. This doesn’t have a happy ending yet.
I’m still on the journey.
Yeah, I still hate myself. But just a little less than I did yesterday. Which is better than nothing, I guess.
Holla at me if you need me. Serious offer.