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This Meme Showed Me I Was Wrong About Why Depression Makes Me Put Up Walls

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Recently, as I was surfing the web, I came across a meme that spoke to me — though not in the way I imagine it was intended. It said:

“You don’t build a wall because you hate the people on the outside.
You build a wall because you love the people on the inside.”

I found that to be profound because I am admittedly the queen of building walls. I don’t even have to think about putting up walls because it happens naturally for me. I have been hurt so many times, had my heart torn out and my soul beaten to a bloody pulp, that I put up walls to protect myself. I am scared of being hurt again.

Even more so, I’m terrified of letting others see how damaged and broken I feel, petrified that if they saw all of me, they’d abandon me and I’d be alone again. I put up walls to keep out family, friends and romantic partners. I build layers upon layers of walls, sometimes letting some people in a little, but rarely ever farther than the courtyard.

I build walls and I paint on a facade — that smiling, happy, “everything is absolutely peachy” veneer to convince others I’m OK. I’ve been wearing masks my entire life, being the person others wanted me to be even if it meant losing myself in the process.

I’ve always been OK not only with hiding a good portion of myself, but with losing parts of myself as well. I’ve never really held myself in high regard. I sometimes half-jokingly talk about learning to like myself again. I never even say “love,” only “like.” I usually turn it into a tongue-in-cheek statement, because laughter is a great cover for pain. But there is a lot of truth to that statement.

I’ve never been able to say I love myself, because I’ve never believed I do. I’ve been bombarded my whole life with the cruelty of others, telling me how awful, horrible and unlovable I am in every way. When it is all I’ve heard for years and the voices keep multiplying and hitting me from all directions, I find it near impossible not to believe them. If I am that “horribly broken and damaged” individual who should “never have existed” and is a “waste of space,” why should I expect love from anyone else, or even myself?

Yet now, this random meme — two simple sentences read while waking up early on a weekend morning — has flipped my entire world upside down. Perhaps, somewhere deep inside, part of me has never bought into the cruelty of others. Perhaps, despite the depression chattering in my ear trying to convince me otherwise, I am worthy of love. Somewhere deep down, I love myself.

I must love myself, because I am forever building walls, trying to protect myself. I know how fragile I’ve become after being shattered again and again. Some part of me believes not only that I need protecting, but that I deserve it. I deserve miles upon miles of walls, layer after layer, to try and keep me safe from harm.

I find myself lying here, still in bed with my laptop, completely floored by all the love I’ve shown myself over the years. I’ve taken that love for granted. I’ve allowed myself to buy into the notion that everyone who hurt and abused me was right. I’ve believed I was so completely unlovable I didn’t even deserve loving myself.

Yet all along, somewhere deep inside, I’ve carried a love so strong and deep that it has silently been building walls for decades — not because I truly wanted to keep others out, but rather because I loved myself so deeply, I knew I had to keep building to keep myself safe.

Image via Thinkstock.

A version of this post originally appeared on Unlovable.

Originally published: October 6, 2016
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