And even though I can make an Excel graph of my self-esteem in two minutes, and play the flute like Wonder Woman (who is a secret flutist) after a month away, and draw good, and write good, and topple myself over with my jokes, and drill holes that don't suck, and work at being a good person every day, and get feedback that I am at least not a horrible person, and even though -- and you would think this would be a big one -- I have a handsome boyfriend with big muscles who apparently doesn't find me odious, I still can't stand being me.
Here is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:
Note Esteem at Level 4. First, a few observations about Levels 1-3 (made with a grain of salt as I realize there are many theories of needs):
- Illness is on Level 2 as "security of health." This is why pelvic pain can make your whole pyramid collapse even though it's not life-threatening.
- Sex can be unthinkable with pelvic pain, and it's on Level 1. This is why not being able to have sex due to pain can make you feel like you're hardly alive.
- I am underemployed and managing moneywise, but I still feel like if I even glance at a coffee shop I might cease to exist.
- My workplace suffers from chronic bitchfest. I'd love to write a whole blog post about it and how it is rotting my self-esteem, but that's for later.
According to Maslow, if Levels 1-3 are giving you trouble, Esteem, at Level 4, is going to be tough for you. So, as I'm sure many of us have experienced, if you have constant coochie pain, you might hate yourself. At least know that you're not alone in it.
I've designed my own hierarchy of Esteem needs:
I have had to quit many things because of mental illness, and I'm afraid I'll never be able to do anything but waitress. Lately I've been afraid it will dip even further and I will have to rely on someone else to maintain my existence. This is one form of having your face smashed into concrete.
Another form is when anxiety has more of a say in your daily decisions than you do.
Pelvic pain and vulvodynia can also smash your face into the concrete. I went through at least three years of that.
There is no way to experience this stuff and not feel weak. Well, if you were enlightened, you could experience it without feeling weak, but as the pyramid demonstrates, if your face is sidewalk, you're much less likely to accomplish enlightenment.
The other day, lying in bed, I realized that my body knows how to handle bipolar disorder. The problem is that what my body calls for and what the external world calls for are rarely congruent.
To make the body and the external world more congruent, we could reduce, reduce, reduce our lives until they hardly contain anything. But when we do that, we also reduce opportunities to feel confident and to accomplish things, which are part of self-esteem.
I can provide no closure here. All I can do right now is be patient with this self-esteem valley and make sure that any foothold I choose leads up.