It all starts when I fail to love myself. This takes countless forms and is so subconscious that I don’t even realize it’s happened. But sure enough, I turn on myself. I resume an abusive relationship with myself. I tell myself bad things, and myself believes me. They’re pretty nasty things, the things I tell myself. Things I would never say to anyone else. And they add up. The “you’re not good enough”s and “you should be ashamed of yourself”s and “you’re such a failure”s and “you just make the same mistakes over and over and never learn”s and “who you are is unlovable and you have to change”s, they add up.
They reach a tipping point, and I’m no longer able to contain the nastiness inside of me. I have to spread it around. I have to share it with others. I make snarky comments. I self-aggrandize. I tear people down. I make fun. I hurt feelings. I gossip. I criticize. I revel in schadenfreude. Then I tell myself more bad things. “See? You’re horrible to other people. No one likes you. And who can blame them?”
I try to say nice things, to contain the bad, but it doesn’t help. “That nice thing you said was obviously fake. Everyone knows you’re not nice. Now everyone thinks you’re fake too.”
I remember the time in high school I said that a friend’s college boyfriend was only dating her because he’s such a loser, he couldn’t find a girl in college. “That was horrible. You’ve always been horrible. You lost so many friends over that, and now they’re happier than you are and more successful at maintaining their friendships, and apologizing ten years late won’t fix it, so don’t even think about it.”
I obsess over the people who have unfriended me, on Facebook and in real life. “You can’t maintain a relationship. You push people away. Maybe people have begun to suspect that you have a borderline personality disorder, but no one’s found the courage to tell you yet. Maybe you do. Maybe you’re one of those horrible people whom healthy, happy people have to cut out of their lives in order to keep being healthy and happy.”
A friend writes on her blog about people who say mean things. “She’s writing about you. You say mean things.” Another friend writes on her blog about people who are hard to love. “She’s writing about you. You’re hard to love.” And just on the heels of that, “You’re being narcissistic. You think people are writing blog posts about you, and that is ridiculous and narcissistic, even though you do say mean things and are hard to love; those things are still true.”
I want to write about it. Writing helps me process what’s going on inside of me, but I won’t let myself. “No one cares about what you have to say. It’s how you reveal your ignorance. It’s how you offend people. You need to work on saying less, not more.”
And the vicious cycle continues, on and on and on, until I’m some lurchy Hyde version of myself I don’t even recognize. Hyde Spring lashes out at others and herself alternately and causes Jekyll Spring, her unwitting creator, to be miserably unhappy.
The real problem, though, is how much Jekyll Spring wants people to like her. She looks to how much others love her as a sort of measuring stick for how much to love herself, how much love she deserves to have. And this is exactly what gives Hyde Spring her power. This is why Hyde Spring comes around in the first place. She sees an opening, an opportunity, and she slips right in.
The truth is that Jekyll Spring has a deeply held belief that she’s not innately worthy of unconditional love and must instead earn it. It’s pretty deep in there, this belief, like a splinter that’s no bigger than an eighth of an inch but because it found its way under so many layers of skin, it causes a kind of constant, itchy low-grade pain.
I know it’s there, and I think I know how it got there in the first place, but going at it with tweezers somehow just manages to push it deeper. I think I’m just going to have to let it find its own way to the top, through layer after layer, year after year. Maybe one day it’ll be so close to the top that all I have to do is scrape at the thinnest outer layer of skin with a fingernail. I’ll blow it off the tip of my finger like an eyelash. I’ll close my eyes. I’ll make a wish.
It’s been very irritated lately. I can see it more and more clearly. I hope that means it’s getting closer to the top.