For the second time this year I have burned through my disability cheque before the second week of the month, so for the next sixteen days I’ll be eating 0.19 cent packages of monosodium glutamate and wondering where the food bank is in this town.
I knew it was happening while I was doing it, I even told myself out loud that it was happening again. But I refused to look at my bank account until Saturday night when I withdrew $40 and it left me with $18.46 until October. And just like the last time, and all the times before that, I’ve made my life infinitely harder than it should be and did it mostly on purpose.
This type of self-destructive behaviour has been with me for a long time. But while I was on welfare and living off student loans during the 90’s the lack of money hid the behaviour. I couldn’t help but be broke before the next cheque, because on welfare the cheques only gave me $120 ($4/day) to buy a months worth of food and toilet paper.
Then, when I was reporting in Ottawa and Toronto — but especially while I was working in public relations, the self-destructive behaviours would sometimes have me spending $2000 in eight days… but at that pay-level people are more capable of loaning money to their broke friends then if both of you are almost homeless. So the self-destructive behaviours were covered.
There are two causes for my need to self-destruct and fail. The most obvious one comes from leaving the manic depression unmedicated and untreated for more than a dozen years. It’d be very hard to find someone who, for over a decade, is randomly and frequently struck with the desire to kill themselves yet can still think to be setting up a retirement plan, or getting apartment insurance… or washing the dishes.
Even after finding treatment and getting into recovery there’s still a long, long way to go before those behaviours can begin to change. I don’t want to kill myself anymore, but that’s still a long way from understanding the processes of everyday life and knowing how to participate in them.
Some other self-destructive patterns include isolating myself from friends and family; not flossing for long periods of time; occasionally going three or four days without showering; not taking my diabetes pill for days, or tracking my blood sugar levels… even knowing the less time I spend keeping track of my blood sugar the more likely I am to die from heart disease.
Then there’s exercise, it’s been a year since I’ve really walked anywhere and I’ve only used the bike I fought so hard for a few times. And of course it extends into work. I’ve always waited until deadlines have come and gone before starting my column, or the articles I was working on. I’ve even missed the deadline for a story I haven’t started for the local historical society newsletter.
…I’ll even wait, for example, until I’m exhausted before starting a post for Salted. Generally I start writing these things after 1am, when the ‘Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson’ is over, and finish between 5am and 8am.
The second cause is self-worth… the years of behavioural — or non-behavioural — conditioning and my almost total lack of self-esteem are sewn together like Frankenstein’s monster.
Recently I wrote about how how I see compliments, or positive acknowledgement, almost as threats. To clarify… not as a threat to my safety, but a threat in terms of how quickly I will stop respecting the person because, obviously, if they’re able to see value in what I’ve done they have no idea what they’re talking about. Mostly my lack of self-worth is projected outwards for just a second, but a few times it has lasted years.
And there is a physical component as well. I have an actual physical reaction to people writing about, or telling me something positive about myself or something I’ve done. It’s almost an electric, empty pinch which starts just above my left hip, shoots up my side, through my shoulder, up my neck and finishes in my head.
The most obvious example of my lack of self-worth, and how it turns into self-destructive behaviour, would be in how I deal with meeting people. Specifically people I might be interested in dating. This combines most of my self-destructive behaviours into one horrid package as one behaviour bleeds into the next.
It’s easy… I screw up my finances so I can’t ask her out to begin with, or we start dating and I destroy my finances by paying for stuff, then we stop doing stuff and she’s gone…
I spend three days a year cleaning my apartment, so how can I invite someone over on a whim when all of my dishes have been in the sink for two weeks? Or when there’s a knee high pile of recycling next to the stove because I’ve missed three pickups in a row? How do I invite someone into my bedroom when every piece of clothing I own is piled around the room, and there are no sheets on my twenty-year old mattress?
The answers are all the same… I don’t. Because I don’t believe there’s any chance whatsoever she’ll stay with me and because I believe doing nothing makes sense because I’m programed to die, so I end up spending all of my time not doing stuff so later on I won’t have the option of doing anything.
I don’t want to commit suicide, and I haven’t even thought about it seriously in pretty much a year. But the expectation, and the “why bother” which comes with it, is still inside me. It’s like how we all know the sun is coming up tomorrow, it really is that ubiquitous. Then tie that to a firm and equally ubiquitous belief that I’m not worth saving… there’s just no reason for me to be doing more than the absolute bare minimum.
Sure, I’ll get the prescription for the diabetes pills filled out, and I’ll take them if I remember. Sure, I can budget $940 over a month… at least over 25 days anyway. Sure, I’ll floss before every dentist appointment, and I’ll listen intently to every stern lecture she gives me about doing it more often. But I won’t do it more because, really, I’m not worth it and her respect for me is just something that does not feel good.
In fact her, or anyone’s, compliment towards me or positive acknowledgement of something I’ve done just makes my lack of confidence and self-esteem even more apparent to me, because you’re telling me I’ve failed until this point.
The self-worth issues come from a lot of places. And over the next few appointments my doctor and I will be exploring them. But the abandonment issues with my father, and growing up with very little positive feedback from my family would have to be right up there on the list.
The difference between surviving with no money this time and the others is I won’t be asking my family for help. I’m going to be eating a lot of pasta, and drinking a lot of water mixed with lime or lemon juice, but I’m not burdening my family with this crap this time.