“Before you pass judgment on one who is self-destructing, it’s important to remember they usually aren’t trying to destroy themselves. They’re trying to destroy something inside that doesn’t belong.” ~ J.M. Storm
Some days, I think I am going to burst wide open.
Just burst open with gratitude for the life I have. For the husband who has loved me through the best and worst of what life has thrown at us. For the four children who have, at times, been the only reason I have made it out of bed each day, who have taught me more about unconditional love than I even knew was possible. For enormous skies and teal oceans and grass covered paddocks that turn to gold in the wake of temperate summer days, all within easy reach of my wild, warrior heart.
But it hasn’t always been this way. Sometimes I glance back, just for a transient moment, to the time I nearly walked away from it all. But then my breath catches in my throat and my eyes clench tight and I have to return my gaze to the here and now, to the world I live and love, to the place my heart finds rest.
I wonder now what I was thinking, back then, when I nearly walked away. But then I remember. I wasn’t thinking. I was self-destructing. And within that place of self-destruction, there are no rational thoughts, no logical explanations, nothing that makes sense. There is only the dizziness, the blur, as you spin like a hurricane, out of control, propelled by the breath of your fury.
The path to self-destruction is complex, twisted, convoluted, tangled. It is never about destruction, but always about escape. For the person who self-destructs is fighting to escape their inner demons, their unbearable feelings, their pain, their shame, their fears, their scars, their nightmares, their realities. Self-destruction isn’t about destroying ourselves, but destroying these things that live within us.
Desperate not to feel them, we flee from them. We turn to inappropriate amounts of alcohol, drugs, sex, food, work, self-harm, gambling, the internet, relationships—anything we possibly can to make ourselves feel better. Or better yet, not feel at all.
To those looking in from the outside, self-destruction looks like rebellion. People are so quick to judge, to see the symptom of a problem and think they are qualified to diagnose. To blame. To criticise. To label. To shame.
But their shame isn’t necessary. Because at the core of our self-destruction already lies an abundance of shame. Self-destruction is synonymous with self-loathing. Nobody can be harder on ourselves than we already are. Nobody can hate ourselves more than we already do.
At heart of the person who self-destructs is the inherent belief that we are not worthy.
And so we sabotage. We sabotage our careers, our relationships, our friendships, our lives. We believe we aren’t worthy of them. We believe we are unlovable. We hurt others before they can hurt us. We leave others before they can leave us.
At the core of my self-destruction I was desperate to escape the pain of my past that kept rising within me. I didn’t want to deal with the shame of it. And so I did all I could to numb it, to make it go away. But this merely created more shame, and the belief my family would be better off without me. Me, who was so lost and broken and falling apart and self-destructive. Me, who was supposed to be a responsible woman, quietly raising her family. Not an irresponsible woman who drank too much and partied too hard and pushed away everyone who loved me and hurt everyone who tried to.
I’m sure my self-destruction looked like rebellion to the untrained eye. But the thing about self-destruction is that it’s not rebellion. It’s the breaking point. It’s the sign of someone who has been strong for too long who can no longer find the energy to push down the volatile, repugnant emotion that has festered within for far too long. Nor do they have the energy to deal with it. And so the only alternative is to escape from it. To self-destruct.
But the thing with self-destruction is that it most often leads to rock bottom. And as J.K. Rowling said, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” Rock bottom, though brutal, is necessary. For it is only when all has been taken from us, when all is gone, when we have nothing left to rely upon—only then can we see what we truly have. Rock bottom is part of the process, the point at which we must choose to give up or fight. To self-destruct until there is nothing left of us, or to fight for our healing, our wholeness.
I’m thankful my time of self-destruction was short-lived. I’m thankful I chose to fight against that which was destroying me, rather than continue to destroy myself. I’m thankful I chose to heal. I’m thankful I didn’t lose the things that mattered most to me. I’m thankful for those who loved me, who didn’t give up on me. I’m thankful I’m here today.
People don’t self-destruct to hurt, they self-destruct because they hurt. Be less quick to judge. Your judgment will only push them further down the spiral. Instead, be available to offer understanding, support and grace.
For how you choose to love another at their worst will be what makes them able to love again at their best.
Author: Kathy Parker
Image: boram kim/Unsplash
Editor: Emily Bartran