The Story We Tell Ourselves

If you’ve read my blog, you know that my life since the death of my son has had gigantic ups and downs starting with my guilt for not being a good mother (I should have called him once a week) to overusing medications; from seeking out and attending all fathoms of therapy (CBT, DBT, EMDR, IOP, etc.) to landing once again on my butt and starting all over; from depression, from anxiety and overdose to coping skills and Bible Studies. I could call this a story of sadness and defeat -Of never quite rising above the madness.

I tend to focus on my mistakes and discount the times I have succeeded. In my heart of hearts I ruminate over the “bad” things and in turn, berate myself for them. I see the problems and become frustrated when I can’t see the solution. I am weak, I am stupid, I am ugly…

A Chaplain once said to me that we all have good stories and bad stories. We can tell ourselves the story of our weakness or we can tell ourselves the story of our strength. Both stories are true, but we can choose which story we tell ourselves and others. So many of us focus on the bad story, it’s how we are wired. We search for the perfection and when we can’t measure up to that, our self-talk speaks only imperfections.

I’ve heard it said that the things we say to ourselves we would never say to a friend.

If you have 6 minutes, take a look at this commercial for the Dove Beauty Campaign. This illustrates through a sketch artist, how we describe ourselves and then, how others describe us.

Self-Esteem when broken down to “Self” meaning Me, My, I, Myself and “Esteem” meaning Love, Respect, Affection and Perception. That sounds pretty clear so we all should say “I love myself! I respect Me.” Not so easy.  That’s because Esteem also means “An estimation, a guess, a judgement or calculation.” When put that way, we could be caught in the trap of comparing ourselves to others, to judging ourselves, leaving the door open to revel in our weaknesses or the “bad” story.

The Chaplain told me to “Get rid of the ruler- the measurement of judgement.” Comparison is a learned belief and because it is a perception, it does not make it true. During this time of struggle, I would be woken by a panic attack.  Memories of almost dying. Then came the shame and complete self-loathing. This was self-inflicted. I nearly stole my life from God’s purpose.

Therapists have told me that there is value in remembering where we were; that looking back to a low point can remind us that we never want to be there ever again. But when we allow that low point to become our story, when we look at ourselves as bad people and we stand in judgement of ourselves condemning all that we are, then how can we go forward? How could we ever love ourselves or even live with ourselves?

 I am learning to control the narrative and choose the “good” story. I realized that I can see myself as a victim of addiction, great loss and grief- or I can see myself as a survivor for I, through the grace of God, have survived my own demise. When we stop to realize what is important and valuable, we begin to respect and value “self.”

Ernest Hemingway once said that “We all are broken. It’s what lets the light in.”  Wow! Think of that! The light of God breaking through all of those broken pieces, melding them back together and fusing a new person.

My mind returns to a low point, a hospitalization for an overdose of prescription anxiety medication, a story I tell myself of weakness and shame. But my husband stood by me and took a leave from work to care for me until I was completely through the horrendous withdrawals from a drug I should have never been prescribed. This is a story of support and pure love.

My thoughts become Anxiety and I linger on the bible verse that tells us not to be anxious, jump ahead to: If I really had Faith, I would not have anxiety. But a sincere and holistic dependence on God through my ups and downs, through my faltering in Faith and when I think that everything is my fault and if only I could fix it all- The story I choose to tell myself is that God will endure. 

So whenever I get into that Guilt and Shame fueled depression, that past driven anxiety, I tell myself the story of how God loved a girl like me so much that He literally snatched me away from death! The story I choose to tell myself is that I am God’s Beloved.

Mine is a story of self forgiveness and hope. That is the story I want to tell myself.

What is your story?