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When Depression Makes You Believe You're Always an Exception

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I’m going to explain what I refer to as “The Asterisk.”

I’m sure quite a lot of people deal with it, but I guess we don’t always realize the impact.

An asterisk is a symbol that’s used to show there is a condition or exception to a rule or fact. And it’s not just those things you find on food packages or in the terms and conditions of a phone plan. We subconsciously put asterisks on ourselves, every day.

The Asterisk occurs in everyday situations; when I’m happy to help people, but feel like a burden if I ask for help. So essentially it’s the idea that, “It’s OK for them, but for me it’s different.” Putting an asterisk at the end of the rule.

I believe this happens for most people to some degree, whether it be a safety mechanism to protect against feeling selfish, a manifestation of low self-esteem or something else altogether.

But it manifests a little differently in mental illness. It’s more intense and more intimidating.

In depression, I find it in situations of self-care. I feel like taking a break from day-to-day activities is lazy, that when I’m feeling bad it’s because I deserve it, and when I am taking part in self-care it’s actually just being selfish.

In my eating disorder, it makes me feel like a single meal will ruin all “progress,” or that I always have to compromise if I eat the wrong thing.

Essentially, The Asterisk causes me to feel as though I don’t have worth, simply because I’m me.

See, the issue with thinking like this is that it’s hypocritical. It’s believing I’m the asterisk of the situation, while I would meet anyone else in the same situation with compassion, patience and understanding.

I guess that for me it comes from low self-esteem and the idealization of selflessness. I always thought that the “perfect” person was completely selfless. But complete selflessness is somewhat toxic, because it doesn’t allow for self-care. And that’s where The Asterisk comes in; it encourages that sort of behavior.

I believe the only way to overcome The Asterisk is taking part in self-compassion. Because no one should feel as if they don’t deserve something or deserve punishment simply because, “I’m me, and it’s different.”

Getty image via seb_ra

Originally published: July 5, 2019
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