After my interaction with the homophobe last night, everything seemed upsetting. I woke up late after horrible dreams, with a splitting headache. I saw a former friend/ semi-ex in the street and didn’t say hello. I got ID’d for cigarettes and had none. I tried to rearrange a hospital appointment and went through endless switchboards to, finally, an answerphone. I saw my dissertation supervisor and ended up crying. It was one of those days where every small thing becomes a big drama. Thankfully, my supervisor was very kind and gave me a packet of tissues and some good advice (“don’t let idiots like that upset you, they’re a waste of time and at the end of the day it’s him that’s losing out on many things, not you.”) I went to the library to, I confess, sleep my headache off for half an hour and with that having failed, took some Solpadeine and a coffee. I went for soft-drinks and window-shopping with two people from meetings and cheered up a bit by the time the meeting came around.
The topic of the meeting was self-pity. Needless to say, I had much to share.
I’ve been thinking about self-pity a lot recently, and how it applies to me. In general, I don’t think I’m a self-pitying person. I have my moments, but I don’t spend much time wallowing in it. I get on with things and when I’m well enough I try to see the positives. Take the crutches as an example.
But I know that in the past (and probably still now) I have been self-pitying. Self-hatred is only another form of self-absorption, and I have spent enough time in the throes of self-hatred to realise now that I was self-absorbed. Many times, my self-hatred has been genuine. In depression I can be pitiless towards myself, scouring my mind and body for every flaw. I absolutely detest it when people say that depression is self-pity. It is certainly an illness with a certain amount of self-absorption, even selfishness, because it takes away the perspective needed to be outward-looking. But that isn’t self-pity- it’s the inability to see past yourself, and that isn’t necessarily the same thing.
I know that in the past I have taken my self-hatred to mean that I had no self-pity and that isn’t the case. In drinking, there is something of revelry in the experience of self-hatred. It feeds into itself and leaves you utterly self-absorbed. It isn’t that you don’t dislike yourself but rather that you use it as an excuse to perpetuate the things that you don’t like about yourself, and therefore like yourself even less. And so it goes on. That process is one of total self-absorption. I remember in Edinburgh, drinking myself into secret daily stupors, thinking I hate this. I hate myself. The deceit, this feeling, this life. But then doing it all again the next day. It isn’t a productive sort of self-admonishment that leaves you repeating the same punishments over and over. The pain is a lie that disguises self-pity.
I have just been thinking about this because I’ve had such a self-pitying day (and those are necessary sometimes!) and it’s good to get it written down in my daily splurge of probably-boring honesty. So there we go.