I try to take Rufus on daily walks. He gets pretty stir crazy from being inside all day while I’m at work, and my ass is usually sore from sitting at a computer all day, so a 2-mile walk in the evening after dinner tends to make both of us pretty happy.
Lately, because it’s been so hot, I’ve been taking us by a large fountain in the super fancy neighborhood that bumps up to mine. At first, even though it was well over 100 degrees even at 8 in the evening, Rufus wasn’t interested in getting in the fountain, which is about the size of a swimming pool. So I began just pushing him in, and eventually he took to it. Now he happily jumps into the fountain and trots around in it and refuses to get out when I tell him to. The other day I had to remove my running shoes and go into the fountain to retrieve him.
Yesterday we arrived at the fountain to find a chocolate lab and his owner already there. We’d seen this lab at the fountain once before, and Rufus was happy to have a water companion. She taught him how to plow forward through the water in order to reach a toy, and now he does it like a pro, albeit rather awkwardly because his legs are so freakishly long.
The lab’s owner is a nice guy about my age. His parents live in the fancy neighborhood, and he’s staying with them while he works on this particular leg of med school, since it’s taking place in Fort Worth, and they’re closer to it than he is (he lives in a suburb east of Dallas). We chatted about various things, just friendly talk, and then he asked me about my weekend plans. I told him I’m going to Austin and asked about him. He said he doesn’t know yet.
By now it was getting dark, so I got Rufus out of the water with some help, and as I was wrangling a very wet dog, trying to get his collar back on him, Lab Owner asked me if I’d like to hang out sometime next week. I’m not sure if I hesitated, but I said, “Sure. What do you have in mind?” I guess I was hoping it could be friendly. I don’t know. I don’t like to say no to men, even when I want to. He said dinner, maybe, or drinks. That’s a date. But because I’d already said yes, I gave him my number.
The thing is, I love Boyfriend. We’re in love. I’m very happy in the relationship. I don’t want to date Lab Owner or anyone else. But I still said yes to him. So on the walk in the dark back home, I thought about why in the world I would accept a date I have no intention of going on.
That’s when it hit me. I have spectacularly low self-esteem.
I know. This probably isn’t surprising to anyone but me. Even the readers of my blog whom I’ve never met in real life already know this. Everyone knows it. Even I know it. A couple days ago a friend of mine who’s recently become quite skinny asked me why I was going on and on about how my body is hideous. She said she thinks I have a body perception problem. “I think that’s called low self-esteem,” I joked. I knew it. But I didn’t know it. Knowing it means knowing what it meant and means. Knowing how destructive it’s been and will continue to be if I don’t do something about it.
Over a year ago, my therapist told me that I find my esteem in the love of men. I took this in when she said it, and it kind of blew my mind, but my frame of reference at the time was focused completely on one man in particular. I thought, yeah, I do find my esteem in the love of A MAN. I never considered that this has been going on for a long time. And that it’s still going on.
I’ve always dated any man who expressed interest in me regardless of if I had interest in him, which I usually didn’t. On antidepressants, though, things were different. When I met Boyfriend, I’d been on antidepressants for several months. I felt pretty and confident and capable and strong. I very much was interested in him, so I went and got him. And I haven’t had the impulse to go outside the relationship for my esteem because I had it inside of me.
In short, I’ve been happy. With myself and with Boyfriend. We’ve been happy.
But since quitting antidepressants, my perception of myself has been awful. I feel lurchy and unattractive and overweight and incapable. I’m back to never feeling good enough, regardless of what I’m wearing or saying or doing or writing. So when a stranger expressed interest in me, I leapt at it. Because that stranger did make me feel good enough. Good enough to hit on, anyway.
For some reason I never put self-esteem and depression together. I remember reading about the symptoms of depression when I was beginning to realize that I probably was depressed. I read about feelings of poor self-worth. But since I couldn’t remember actually saying to myself “I am worthless,” I thought that one didn’t apply to me. It never occurred to me that saying to myself “I am never good enough” is, yeah, pretty much the same thing.
The antidepressants treated the symptoms. But they certainly didn’t solve the problem. It was waiting there for me this whole time. And now it’s trying to ruin yet another relationship and the happiness I found when I was feeling healthy.
But the difference between before antidepressants and after antidepressants is my self-awareness. Before, I never asked myself why I did these things. I just did them. Last night I asked myself, and when I learned the answer, I cried. Then I told Boyfriend. He asked me what we can do.
I’m not sure how deep these negative beliefs about myself go. Deep enough that I accept them as the indisputable truth, so true that when anyone says anything to me that contradicts them, I think that person is either lying or is wrong. Boyfriend says to me all the time, “You are beautiful,” and I usually either say “no” or look down and shake my head.
This weekend when he says it, I’m going to challenge myself to raise my head, look into his eyes, try to accept that he’s not lying, that he’s speaking the truth, and say, “Thank you.”