Saturday, August 27, 2016

Learning to Love Myself by Loving Someone Else


The fiance is out of the country for two weeks, so for the first time in several months, I truly have all of my time to myself. Instead of commuting to see each other and dedicating slices of time that used to be dedicated to writing and music instead to our growing relationship, our daily interactions consist of 30 minutes total text breaks.

It was glorious this morning: waking up when my body felt ready, lounging around in my pajamas for the first half of the day, leisurely completing charts from clinic while simultaneously documenting ideas for future writing projects. This instead of my usual Friday fare of hurriedly completing any charting left so that I'll be ready to hang out with him when he gets off of work.

He works half days on Friday, and I have Friday off for that specific reason. It makes up for Wednesdays where we have lunch together but I work until 9 or 10pm and otherwise wouldn't see him that day.

I got to spend nearly 30 minutes on the chart of a complicated neonate I'm caring for. I carefully documented the birth history, and my plan, and I was about to finalize the document, I remembered something essential I wanted to add to my plan. I went back to the assessment and plan tab and saw that I had already documented that very thing.

I instantly felt that warm glow in my heart space I get whenever I'm proud of myself. Good job, you're pretty sharp! Look at you, way ahead of the game...

...and that gave me pause. How long have I been feeling that way? For a while now, I haven't been counting. I feel particularly accomplished after complete, well-rounded patient visits where our plan for their health worked, or a treatment helped more than either of us expected, or the patient felt listened to like they had by no other provider. That heart space swell happens there, too.

It wasn't always like that, though. And that's what gave me pause this morning. There was a time where I had to imagine someone else being impressed by me before I could be impressed with myself.

Rewind to ten to twelve years ago, and that was exactly the case. I was in love with a man I imagined to be different from who he actually was. Whenever we interacted, he was impressed by me. And I mistook that for interest. And I fell in love with this man, who was so outside my realm, who could enter my world and like me.

He was not that courageous, but I wouldn't come to terms with that for a few years.

When I met him, I was knee deep in depression. I had to have friends talk me down from self-destructive behaviors and plead with me to start medication, which I never did. I prayed and God didn't seem to listen. I had convinced myself that the reason was because I was actually one destined for hell, one whose heart God had hardened. I felt doomed. I was a high functioning severely depressed college woman who earned a 4.0 GPA her freshman year.

And then I met him, and I had a reason for living.

Not only living, but thriving. I had a reason to get better. I wanted to be worthy of his love. I didn't want to be depressed, damaged. So like a whining child who struggles to wipe away signs of crying with a parent's reprimanding, I quickly tried to become normal. I tried to become the full person my depression was keeping me from becoming. And it had to be convincing, so he wouldn't become disconcerted and take his interest elsewhere.

It was often emotional whiplash and I wasn't ready. Depression became neurosis. I used to walk around his dorm late nights, hoping I'd chance to run into him, sometime taking those walks past midnight alone on campus, absently singing "Love's Train" to myself.

"Now if by chance, you'll let me come over. Down on the street, I wanna see you, baby."

I just wanted to see him, to have one of our 2 minute awkward interactions and be on my way, fill myself with the hope that would keep me going.

Long after the time I realized that we would never be and he met the woman that would be his wife, my brain was still stuck in this circuit. I met him in a science class. So, whenever I solved a difficult problem in my science problem sets, years later, I imagined him being impressed with my prowess over the tough material, and I'd get that glow in my heart space, and it would inspire me to keep going.

It took me a while to realize what I was doing, and a while longer to break it.

Sitting here, doing charts, congratulating myself on making a clever plan for my complicated baby patient, I realized that I had to learn to love myself by loving someone else. And isn't that backwards? Isn't that exactly what all of the smarmy advice articles tell you not to do.

Oh well.

My life was close to losing all meaning for myself. And since I was a child, I lost myself in love for others. So it would just make sense that I'd have to lose my self-destroying persona in the love for someone else in order to start over. It may not have been ideal, but it was an emergency!

And through prayer and time, I've come to fully love myself without needing the love of someone else. There are things about me that no one else appreciates that I love. My love for myself is far beyond my fiance's love for me, so I don't have to imagine his pride to be proud of myself. I don't need his love to fill my heart space with warmth.

Although, I must say, having people who love you, including a partner, does wonders to validate your own great love for yourself. It's not everything, though.

All this being said, I don't recommend this way of learning to love oneself. I'm just so grateful that, after years of despair and desolation, I finally do.

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