When I Realized My Adult Struggle With Self-Hatred Started in Childhood
I, Khristy Knudtson, hate myself.
In the spirit of candor, I cannot accurately convey the sheer exhilaration I felt by typing that.
Prior to my self-loathing side hustle, I assumed all of the negativity was a reactionary side effect of my borderline personality disorder because of my inability to keep up with the perfectionist tendencies (mandates) my OCPD tries to hold me to. My disorders work together in tandem — best described as what happens when you put a fork in the microwave. Work was (and still is) the impetus for this.
Here’s how my day usually happens:
Teacher arrives at work feeling ready to conquer the day! (OK, let’s just get real, teacher arrives at work feeling caffeinated to an acceptable level where heinousness has subsided for the moment). Looking at her lesson plans, teacher remembers that students will be turning in a paper today. Teacher makes the decision that, since she will receive about 100 papers give or take, she’ll grade 50 of them tonight and 50 of them tomorrow night in return the work back to students in a timely (superhuman) manner. Teacher feels incredibly happy and is looking forward to being productive and giving her students quality feedback.
In the meantime, teacher may endure many of the following scenarios:
- A weather-related drill
- Unfocused students
- A smashed muffin on the side of her wall (‘15-’16 was the school year it happened)
- Crying (her own tears, students, co-workers, etc.)
- Forgetting to pee
- Interruptions on her lunch and/or prep period
- Having to cover for a co-worker
- Parent and student emails
By the time teacher arrives at home a bit bedraggled and world-weary, she trudges to her office still hell-bent on grading the papers. She must grade the papers.
A half-hour later, the teacher has not started the papers because she’s distracted and tired. Perhaps her cat did something cute. Perhaps she wanted to spend time with her husband. Perhaps she’s crying because she was scared by a walrus (I really don’t know).
The point is this, the papers don’t get graded. Hell, they don’t even get read. As a result, the teacher feels like a piece of shit for the rest of the evening, eats her guilt for breakfast, and starts the next workday with a deficit of still needing to grade those papers (except this time, it’s 100). Did I mention the teacher is in grad school? Did I mention that teacher is me?
So, in the midst of this mental calamity, my husband and therapist were constantly telling me to give myself a break. My go-to response would be, “Yeah, but that’s not going to get anything on my to-do list done.” As a side note, you should probably also know that I do not “arrive” at ideas willingly unless they are my own. My husband calls me stubborn, my therapist calls me obstinate and I call myself a “lazy, worthless bitch who’s incapable of being a decent human being.”
Yep. You read that correctly.
It was only after one of my BPD meltdowns that my husband made me aware of how awful I am to myself. Thinking about my behavior, it was pretty easy to see that the self-deprecating humor, inability to make a decision, insecurity and lack of identity was not just because I am mentally ill. It was because somewhere in my childhood, I learned to punish myself anytime I didn’t do, say, think or feel the way I was “supposed to.”
I tried to articulate how I felt to my husband many times, but the things I said were done out of exasperation. I remember yelling, “I just can’t stand myself!” Because I couldn’t.
After being on both sides of what can best be described as a mentally ill “civil war,” I felt so relieved in knowing that self-hatred was the problem. Sure, all of this self-loathing is crappy to deal with, but it’s a lot less scary. I know I’m not a failure of a human being, lazy, or any of the other ridiculous, untrue adjectives I come up with in a moment of self-hate.
In reality, I’m a 31-year-old woman who hates herself.
But I’m also a 31-year-old woman who knows she hates herself, who knows she isn’t all of the things she says she is and who is learning to know that she deserves better.
So, I, Khristy Knudtson, may hate myself. But I am learning to like myself a little bit at a time.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Getty Images photo via Archv