What Is Self-Love?

I haven’t made a blog post in a while.
I haven’t updated my social media accounts either.
So, why is this? Here’s the full story.

If I don’t know you very well, the answer I’ve probably given you is, “My health isn’t very good right now,” or “I haven’t been feeling very well lately.” If I trust you, I might have elaborated a bit by explaining that it’s primarily my mental health that isn’t optimal. If we talk on occasion, you might have heard me say that I struggle with depression, anxiety, complex PTSD, and other things. Even if you don’t know me personally, you might have come across me talking about mental health related subjects on one platform or another.

Since 2016, I’ve been on & off various social media sites including, but not limited to Twitch, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. I’ve tried making connections in various online communities because virtual socialisation is easier for me than in person human exchanges. The thing is, if you’ve been following me since 2016, you’ll notice that I have a pretty consistent habit of “disappearing” abruptly, especially when things are going well.

When I started streaming video games on Twitch, I did it because my depression had caused me to isolate to the point where I was having trouble leaving the house & interacting with other people. I figured that streaming would be a good way to try to start socialising again since it would be on my terms, I wouldn’t have to see or hear other people, just read text lines in the chat box, people would come to my stream if they were interested in the game I was playing, so there’d be an immediate common interest/ice breaker to facilitate the dialogue, and I could choose when I went live & end the stream whenever I was done socialising. It was a really great experience, but then, I started gaining some traction.

I remember people donating money, games, gear, etc. to the stream, subscribing monthly, other streamers shouting me out on their streams & on their Twitter accounts without me even asking them to (years later, even though I haven’t streamed in ages, some of those streamers STILL tag me in #FF tweets!), and I started getting a humble crew of regular viewers/supporters. I branded, I networked, I created a Discord Server, I dedicated a lot of my life to trying to improve my channel & broadcasts. And then, I remember 50+ live viewers at once, chat moving too quickly for me to follow, other streamers wanting me to game with them, getting overwhelmed, shutting off the stream/quitting from the game, & pretending that my system had crashed when streaming with a few others. It became too stressful for me. I couldn’t handle even that much attention. I took a break for a while and decided to focus on other things.

After streaming helped me to regain some ability to venture forth from my house, I found a local comic shop & allowed myself to get super into comics in a way I’d never been able to before, similar to what happened with games when I started streaming (& tried working at GameStop for a month, but hated it). I ended up worked at that comic shop for over a year & a half, which is the longest I’ve ever managed to work anywhere & it was one of the best experiences of my life thus far. In addition to working at the comic shop, I also started dabbling in cosplay & modelling, but just like what happened with streaming, when I started getting some recognition in these other communities, I ended up having anxiety attacks, overloading myself, then crashing & burning. I almost contracted with a talent agency for modelling, I landed a paid cosplay gig & got to attend PAX East, I started networking & gave a couple of interviews on a cosplay podcast, people started reaching out to collaborate with me on various creative & artistic projects. It was all amazing & wonderful, but it also straight up terrified me. I freaked out, and just like I did with streaming, I ended up quitting cosplay, modelling, and putting my life on hold again.

I just turned 30 in March, so 4 years ago, at the age of 26, I was recovering from a bad depressive spell, had a crazy few years of doing all kinds of fun & awesome things, but wasn’t ever able to really attend to the root of the problems that cause me to consistently spiral out of control when things seem to be going well. On one hand, we can say, okay, examining my early childhood, it’s obvious that I’m still struggling with self-worth issues due to never having felt fully safe or comfortable being who I am because I perceived all of the negative events that occurred as my fault somehow. That’s the crazy kind of stuff a child’s brain makes up when they don’t feel like they’re loved or accepted for who they are. That’s how inferiority (and superiority) complexes develop as well as the need to always be in control somehow. When you’re a child that doesn’t get what you need to learn how to be healthy, is it any wonder you grow up to be an unhealthy adult?

On the other hand, whatever traumatic experiences I underwent only account for part of what’s going on today. Receiving my autism diagnosis in 2018 helped to confirm what I had believed my whole life, but never could explain why I knew it to be true: there was something a little bit different about me. I had suspected I was on the spectrum since 2012, but due to a lot of widespread misunderstanding & misconceptions about what it means to be autistic in the medical & behavioural health professions, it took 6 years, a few misdiagnoses including bipolar depression & borderline personality disorder, and manyyyyy different psychopharmaceutical cocktails for me to finally find an expert in autism who was able to confirm what I already knew to be true in the first conversation we had.

Learning more about autism helped me to understand why I wasn’t responding to all of these different forms of therapy, psych meds, treatments, etc. that I’d tried over the years (since I was a child) as well as helped me to understand that I wasn’t actually broken or defective like I’d always believed. It helped me to understand that my brain was just wired differently. There are more neural pathways connected, especially in my prefrontal cortex & frontal lobe, which is why I struggle with executive functioning, like many autistics do. What this means is that because of the way my brain is structured on a neurological level, I’m prone to doing things like “burning the candle at both ends,” overdoing it, burning out, and then falling into a depressive state because I wasn’t able to self-monitor & regulate myself the way someone with a neurotypical brain structure might be able to. It means that things overwhelm, drain, & exhaust me that don’t for “most” people. It means that I have different a capacity for work output, consistency, and quality than the majority of human beings, which is neither a good nor bad thing. It just means I’m a bit unusual in how I operate on a very basic mechanical level. I’m still learning what it means to be me and what works & what doesn’t work for me. It’s a super tiring process to be 30 & still not even know how to function on a daily basis. I’m doing my best to learn & grow, but I won’t lie. It’s pretty slow going.

Now all of this brings me back to the original question that I asked: Why haven’t I updated in a while? The answers I gave above are all partially true, but the full answer is that I did it again. At the start of 2019, shortly after receiving my autism diagnosis, the psych meds I was on stopped working, I plunged into a super bad depression again, and I had to move back home with my parents. This past year I’ve been working on recovering by doing multiple types of therapy, trying different medications, and focusing on all aspects of my health. At the start of 2020, I finally got off all meds, was doing pretty well adjusting, and the past few months, things actually got pretty awesome in ways that were like a dream come true. Sure enough, however, I ended up pushing myself too hard again like I always do right as things were getting good, & I landed myself back into a depressive burn out episode.

Now what does all of this have to do with the title of this post, though? What does my journey of neuropsychological self-exploration, my trauma, my executive dysfunction, my autism, my ups & downs, my burn out, my depression, etc. have to do with self-love? It’s simple. Every day, I still struggle to make better choices, more effective choices that will facilitate my recovery & healing process. Each & every day, I continue to choose to do perpetuate unhealthy behaviours like neglecting my physical health needs by not going to bed early enough, not eating well, not exercising, etc. I make the choice to lay in bed wasting time on the internet instead of working on self-development by improving the skill sets I currently have, learning new things, organising my projects, cleaning my living spaces, etc. If I’m so aware of all of these behaviours, why do I keep doing them? Well, my friends, this is where I think the term self-love needs to be explored further.

In North American cultures, we often think of self-love as body positivity, “treating ourselves”, telling ourselves that the trauma we experienced is not our fault, etc., and while those all are valid & have a place, they’re actually not the backbone of what I believe self-love really is. If we think about how we treat others that we love, we would say that a lot of what it comes down to is simply validation, understanding, compassion, kindness, empathy, support, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and respect. If someone we love is having a hard time getting out of bed, we wouldn’t stand over them and yell at them, making them feel even worse than they already are. We would try to help them remember that it’s okay that they’re having a hard time, that we all struggle in life sometimes, and we would simply offer to do whatever we can to try to ease some of their pain & suffering. So here’s the real question that we all need to ask: why can’t we do this for ourselves? If you’re having a hard day, what kinds of statements are you telling yourself? Are you chastising or berating yourself? Are you feeling guilty because you think you “should” just be able to suck it up & carry on? Are you feeling discouraged & hopeless because you feel weak & alone? I know that I do.

If we love someone & they need us to take care of them, we won’t even hesitate to be there for them, so why aren’t we doing that for ourselves? If a human body & mind need certain bare necessities to be healthy, why wouldn’t we provide that for our own if we love ourselves? On some deep level, I’ve come to realise that I can have empathy & compassion for anyone but myself. I’m willing to be as patient & understanding for any other living being, but I can’t seem to do it when I need it myself. For some reason, from a really young age, I came to believe that I was unworthy of love, so I started closing myself off to it. I started to hate myself, started to self-harm, and became obsessed with death & couldn’t stop contemplating suicide. Thankfully I managed to stop self-harming in high school & while I still struggle with intrusive thoughts about self-harm & suicidal ideation, I don’t hate myself like I used to. I realised that it’s not so much that I want to die, but rather want to escape the hardships I face. The biggest hardship of all is this belief that I’m unworthy of love, however, and that’s something I learned & thus can UNLEARN.

I try to think about what it would look like if I loved myself. I have to continue to be realistic in my expectations because of my neurological differences, so I can’t hold myself to the same standards as everyone else, but I believe that if I allowed myself to feel love, I’d be able to create routines & follow them. I’d be able to prioritise good sleep hygiene, healthy diet, exercise, etc. as well as making a to do list (even if it’s just 1-3 things each day) and actually be able to accomplish it. If I loved myself, I’d take the time to find ways to work with my own biological & psychological needs to be able to become a person who is working toward accomplishing their goals instead of just languishing in bed. There’s more to be said on all of this, and while the core sentiment behind it all is that I am actively trying to work on these things, I also need to acknowledge where I’m at right now so I can make realistic, honest progress. Right now, I feel like I am lacking in self-love, and I believe I really need to meditate on what exactly it means to be someone who makes the time for self-care. While I feel like I’ve wasted so much of my life already, it’s still possible for me to accomplish many of my dreams, so what would be the benefit of giving up just cos I’m not moving as quickly towards my goals as I’d like to be? That seems irrational & impatient.

This is an incredibly long post that could even go longer, but I’ll end it here because this is all I want to say for now. If you stayed with me until the end, I thank you from the bottom of my heart because that’s what this post was: me revealing my heart to you. If you got something from this post, that’s great. If not, that’s okay, too. I don’t really blog for other people. I blog because it helps me to process what I’m going through when I write it out, and I share my thoughts publicly just in case there are some people out there who might derive some benefit reading them. I have nothing but love & appreciation for all of the living souls out there doing their best to work on themselves because it’s probably the most difficult task in the existence, but it’s also the most worthwhile pursuit, in my opinion. I send you all so much affection & my well wishes in your endeavours.

You are all in my heart, in my thoughts, & in my prayers. Hare Krishna ❤

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