Survival strategies

CW Eugenics, self harm, suicide.

I can’t imagine considering another human being undeserving of life on the basis of how useful or productive they are. And yet, here I am with this incredibly fascist piece of thinking lodged in my head, but only applicable to me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt like I had to justify my right to exist. Certain things – failure, uselessness, feedback that I am worthless or unloveable – inclines me to think that I’m not entitled to exist. Too much of that pushes me into self harm and suicidal thoughts.

I don’t know where it came from originally, but it is old and deeply rooted. My sense of my own right to live is dependent on other people finding me useful enough. This is a painfully subjective measure and leaves me ridiculously vulnerable to any kind of negative feedback. It’s taken a long time to unpick what is going on for me when I crash into the worst and most dangerous levels of depression. I experience a terrible rage, inward facing, over the things I cannot fix or make good enough. I know there is no one else I would judge on such terms as these, and no one else I would have any wish to hurt in the ways I hurt myself.

I’m trying a new approach to deal with it. I’ve found with internet trolls that if they call me ugly or stupid or worthless, the best move is to agree with them, because it stops them in their tracks. So, whatever this voice in my head is, I’m trying the curious process of agreeing with it when it launches into telling me that I am useless and unloveable and deserve to die. I say yes to it.

And then I visualise Boris Johnson.

The UK’s current Prime Minster is useless to the point of being a danger to people. He is arrogant, uninformed, reluctant to make decisions, and as a consequence of his poor choices there have been a lot of needless deaths in the UK, and will likely be many more. And yet there he is, still running the country. And while I think we’d all be better off without him, there’s no desire for violence in that thought. 

So I visualise Boris Johnson, and remind myself that however awful I think I am, I haven’t killed thousands of people with my incompetence. 

I’ve learned over the years that positive affirmations don’t work for the stuff in my head. Trying to be nice to me can actually make things worse in here, increasing both the rage and the panic. Being nice to myself doesn’t reliably feel safe. What I need most at the moment is to build the confidence that it might be ok to be useless. That being unloveable should not be a death sentence. That a mistake is not a reason to punish someone. I’m slowly building the thought that I can be crap and still be allowed to live.

In the past I spent a lot of time and energy trying and failing to be good enough. Because there’s always going to be someone for whom I’m not good enough, no matter how good I am. I’m flawed and faliable, I don’t know everything, I can’t see the future – I am bound to get things wrong, we all get things wrong. The idea that if I’m not perfect then I don’t deserve to live sets an impossible, tortuous standard. There is no winning at this. The only way out is to stop playing this toxic game.

I am frequently crap. It is ok to be crap. 

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Survival strategies

  • druidcat

    You care. You have empathy and compassion. You are not selfish or wilfully ignorant.

    I hear this, all of it. The world seems especially crazy-difficult today.

  • James Nichol

    Brave approach Nimue. I hope it works for you. We each need to find our own way with this stuff.

  • potiapitchford

    Perfect people are boring. Perfect stuff is boring. I much prefer interesting stuff, things that tell a story and people that have made mistakes and learned from them.

  • M.A.

    Oh man, I know that voice. I even know where mine came from, but that doesn’t help. I get relief from old beloved books — The Wind in the Willows, Lud-In-the-Mist, something I can curl up with, with tea and the cat, which seems to derail the negative onslaught; it doesn’t go away but it quits yammering at me for awhile. Your technique sounds interesting, I may try it too. Can’t have too many options.

  • Annie

    All of this is very relatable. I’ve found some distance from that negative voice by practicing the technique in “Feeding Your Demons” by Tsultrim Allione. Same basic concept of not trying to argue/fight with that voice. I hope you find some peace.

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