Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dear Readers

Dear Abby Readers,

I was a cutter.

Twenty years ago, I thought I was the only one in the world. I was certainly the only one at my high school walking around with arms slashed to ribbons.

As an adult, I’ve learned that it’s a classic sign of an adolescent working her way through sexual trauma, and I’ve learned to control the behavior. What I’ve never learned, though, is how to control the feelings of disgust with myself that sometimes swallow me from the inside out.

One of my ugliest character flaws is my inability to let criticism roll off my back. I internalize it and let it rot inside of me like cancer.

Of the thousands of comments people have left on my blog, less than a dozen were vicious, but guess which ones I remember?

A cruel word from a loved one stings for ages.

If a boss questions my ability, I fall to pieces.

How does one develop thicker skin? I’m not a fool; I realize that insecurity is a terribly unattractive quality. Nobody wants to spend their time coddling someone and trying to convince them of their worth.

So I'm asking you all for advice.

How do you keep hurt feelings from eating you alive? What gives you inner strength? How do you maintain belief in your worth when you come up against people or situations that tear it down?

I'm curious to hear what you have to say.



  1. I don't know, honey. I know that critical words are also easier for me to remember than kind words. But kind words MEAN more. If that makes sense! I think one thing that helps is remembering that whenever someone says something mean, it's more about them than it is you or me. They're being mean to make themselves feel a certain way, and just because someone says something doesn't mean it's true. You're a good person, Tricia. You're honest and strong and funny and smart. You grab life by the balls and that's a VERY admirable trait. Try not to let anyone bring you down. If you can believe the naysayers, then you can decide to believe the people who love you for who you are.

  2. Tricia, let me be the first to say you're way too awesome to be depressed about anything you are.

    That being typed, my secret is just to sack up...sure, we all get down from time to time about things people say and feel, but the important thing to realize is that nobody can judge you unless you give them the jurisdiction.

    I was kind of an awkward teen too, went through some rough patches...eventually realized people were gonna say and think whatever the fuck they wanted no matter what I did, and if their intent was to hurt me I was just helping them out by allowing it to happen. Once I stopped responding to the "bullying" (with things besides wit and fists) nobody bothered me too much after that...or maybe they did, I was just indifferent to it.

    In short, I just stopped giving a fuck about people who didn't give one about's served me pretty well.

  3. Tricia I have to second what AJ said. It was the same for me growing up & now there are those who still hate but I've learned through practice that I am only what I tell myself I am! We can't please everyone so it self preservation first.

    Along with changing my mentality I drew upon my faith. You are awsome & for those small minded people practice ignoring them.

  4. Detachment. I realize it's not the other person or their words that are hurting me, but my reaction to them. So I study myself, I look into myself, I SEE how I'm doing this to myself. And then I say "Fuck it!" and laugh at myself for taking myself and my thoughts so seriously.

  5. Self-doubt is a hard bitch to get rid of, she can make you rethink your decisions and question your worth but at the end of the day the people who are closest to you are the ones that prop you up and kick you in the ass and tell you, 'you matter'.

    Listen to them.

    Even though you'd swear they only speak in a whisper that's because the mean bitch is yelling over them. Don't let her.

  6. After years of trying everything this could think of to learn how to just let shit slide I was put on Cymbalta for unrelated reasons. After just a couple months I realized that my life has completely changed for the better. I felt like myself all of the time and that monster inside that bet me up was gone. I don't walk around with my eyes glazed over and my personality missing like you sometimes see with people on anti-depressants. My friends and family like me more and I like myself most of the time now.

    I know that chemical assistance was the right choice for me but sure isn't for everyone. I hope you find a way to let shit slide too.

  7. Nice post, Tricia! Mine I would have to say compassion and kindness towards others and sounds simple enough, but I believe it has a profound effect on overall quality of life : )

  8. It's a good question. The tool I use most, I think, is to figure out the motivation of the words that feel negative...if they're meant to put me down, then I discount them completely. If they're meant to give criticism, I try to evaluate them honestly. When they hurt too much, I lean on Wifefish and she shows me the me that she sees, which is a far better me than I see at the time.
    Also, a quick strike to the kneecaps of the offender, or a rabid mongoose stuffed in their mailbox. Works wonders. ;)

  9. It's difficult to, at the end of the day, let those things go to rest. I was/am a cutter myself, and the sad part is that I'm working to help people who are in the position I was, for I was once in a darker place. We all have our demons that from time to time come back to haunt us, some never go away.

    I know that at the first negative comment my mind goes into self-destruct mode, but I can help others in person come up with healthy habits to avoid that (it's a bit more difficult online, in a blog comment...ok, a lot more difficult, and I don't have a degree yet, and I don't know everything nor do I claim to). If you get one, you can go back and flood yourself with all the supportive comments you get (because face it- people love you!), and try to get your mind more focused on that; there's meditation and different types of therapy that can help you redirect your thought (just a few ideas)....

    You could also unleash your other loving commenters on the one offending commenter and I'm sure we'd see a catfight....that would be fun, right? I'm not into the catfight thing, but I'm sure that a ton of people would have your back, just from looking at this blog alone.

    I just hope you can get yourself throuigh the self-doubt and to the self-confidence because you have a lot going for you! I love you and your blog!

  10. Be your own cheerleader and your biggest fan. Sometimes I call my phone to leave myself a message. EVERY time I do that, I always end with a compliment to myself. When you believe in yourself, it will show. There is not one single person on this earth that is perfect. My mom always would tell me "Nobody can make you feel (fill in the blank, sad, mad, whatever). You choose to feel that way. I hated that saying, but she was right. I am now older and truly realize the power of that saying. In fact, I tell my two children that!

  11. Honestly, meditation. I was right there with you- childhood trauma runs deep, and it's hard to dig it out from the skin-side. I started a meditation class over a year ago, and in that short time my brain has rewired a little. Social anxiety is under control, and I have a much better handle on leveling the bad and the good. The problem for me as always been of letting go- and it sounds like you have the same. I also had trouble committing to anything (exercise, diets, etc) for more than a week. I've been able to stick with this and I've learned tools to get my emotions under control so I lose some of the crazy. Meditation is also not what most people think it is. You learn to occupy your mind- it's about focusing, being aware of the here and now, and letting go of the then and when. Good luck.

  12. People who go out of their way to make others feel bad about themselves are trying to do so to make themselves feel better in comparison. As long as you realize that you can start to take the focus off of yourself and put it onto the person making the mean/rude comment. Weed those people out of your mind or just feel sorry for them instead.
    The criticism that is meant to be constructive, you decide if it's something you think is worth changing and use it to grow. Growth is always good.

  13. I am my own worst critic. I spend hours each day telling myself how useless and inconsequential I am and how I have squandered every opportunity by being lazy, slow, and fearful. Then every criticism I get from outside my own dark recesses begins to sound like faint praise. So far I have managed to keep depression from becoming life threatening without resorting to medication...unless you count martinis. I know this is probably not helpful. I really do do this shit, but I have learned not to take myself very seriously. Humor is my out. I am so funny to myself that I can't imagine living without me.

  14. To all of you: thank you for your feedback. These comments have been very interesting for me to read. Sometimes it just helps knowing that others are equally hard on themselves.

    I appreciate you all taking the time to share your stories.

  15. Here I come at 11th hour, but I hope this will help.
    You were a cutter, which means you're sensitive and looking inside yourself for reason to other people's behavior.
    Use it to your advantage.
    I started employing my inside compassion, thinking not what the person says about me, but what dark &ugly place they must be in, emotionally, to lash out like that.
    Then their words lose the meaning, and become colors of the emotional pain of whoever throws them my way.
    My friend forced me to stand naked in front of a mirror, and tell my reflection I love her, just the way she is. For the sensitivity, compassion, strength to have endured and not given up, power to push through that horrid time, find something to draw on to overcome... Think objectively about what you've been through and where you are now. YOU had to be the one to do this, so you have the strength somewhere inside to push away hurtful comments.

    Or if all else fails, ignore the stupid idiot who criticises you, after all, what does an idiot know about you. Head up high, and keep it moving.

    Hope this helps.
    The key is to keep trying to find what works for you. My triggers aren't yours, but perhaps the solution is the same?
    PS. You're fabulous!!

    Polish Spring

  16. Honestly, when I was younger I dealt with that by rocking the ganja, which was NOT dealing with it. For years after that I actively ignored those feelings, which led to an angry, stupid Doug making a mess of things. And this may seem silly, but ever since I started my bloggy nonsense I can more easily deal with dismissal and other life frustrations. Having a creative outlet, however lame it is, helps me out considerably. At least it is better than throwing chairs through walls and verbally lashing out at people in my life.

  17. Try to ask yourself why they are being like this, it is probably insecurity on their part. Everyone puts up a front when talking to other people. Don't be so hard on yourself.

  18. Dear Tricia:
    I'm 21 and still young, but I was/am in the same boat you are/were. I myself used to be a cutter, stress and feeling betrayed got the best of me. After a few years and meeting new friends that became my best friends, I realized I had more to live for. They helped me figure out that things can get worse than what I was dealing with.
    Now that I'm out of high school I am not close to any of those friends anymore and I feel like I'm back in that hole again. I try my best not to allow the depression/despair to seep back into my life, but there are my days when I don't even what to get out of bed because I don't feel like I deserve to live life.
    Now to your questions::
    I block off emotions, cut off ties to everyone. Thats on my worst days, I may turn off my phone, shut down my computer for a few hours, take my dog for a walk, read, blog, cry for a bit, watch a movie that has nothing to do with reality. I try to ignore the situation that I'm in, I try and forget about the people who have hurt me(most of the time that doesnt work, because they still are in the back of my mind). Knowing that my family supports me and that I have my dog Ginger to live for help out a lot and give me inner strength.
    Just remember that you have a man who loves you and wants to be with you for the rest of your lives (If he didn't he wouldn't have proposed-Congrats btw). PLUS you have supporters in the digital world (us your readers) who get hope/strength(or even a giggle) from your blog.
    I must say thank you for writing such a great blog. Can't wait to see(read) what the future has in store for ya'll :)
    Katie Leigh

  19. When I was feeling at my lowest I read an article about what happy people do. It made the point that happiness is a conscious effort. I hadn’t really thought of it that way before but being the extremely pragmatic person, I treated myself objectively for a lucid moment and realized that while I too find balance with chemical help (cymbalta), I needed to do something for me. So further investigation found in the form of an airplane magazine suggested a few things that I found extremely helpful. First, I started writing 3 things each day that were positive thoughts. I at first used anything from my cats didn’t barf on the rug and instead barfed on the tile which is easier to clean up. But then it got easier to find the good things and it got more specific and geared to my well being.

    The other thing the Delta magazine recommended was performing one act of kindness a day. So I started that. It was for a while giving a compliment to someone I like. But then I would make dinner for a friend or open a door for a stranger. Small little acts of service worked best for me, but anything that doesn’t feel awkward helps. It’s putting goodness out there and then you start to notice the other goodness that others put out.

    The last thing I did was journal about one positive event from the day. Each day I picked one thing each day that was positive and wrote about it a bit. Sometimes it was as simple as remembering a compliment someone paid me or that traffic went smoothly. The trick I found was that I had to write about it positively and ignor the cynicism. I wrote that traffic was good and someone let me over when needed to change lanes. I did not write that traffic didn’t suck and instead used positive language. Once on a very low day, my grandma called out of the blue just to check in and we had a really great talk. It was nice to know that even though she wasn’t in the best of health at the time, she took a moment to tell me she cared.

    Sometimes I fake it till I make it but it’s definitely getting better.

    What I really like about your post is that it can teach/remind the rest of us of the power of our words or actions on others. I totally have a cynical and sometimes mean side (everyone does) but I want to be a person who goes out of their way not to hurt others.


  20. i find that my best chance of beating the beast of self hatred is to go at it from a totally logical place. first, when someone criticizes me, i look at it honestly to determine if it was true & if there's truth in it, i seek to change it if it's a real problem. if i can't change it (like body type, etc) or if it's unfounded, instead of thinking about it, i force myeslf to focus on the many ways that i succeed. on the things in my life that are happy and positive and interesting. there are far more positives than negatives once you start intentionally looking for them.

    also, my kid is 8 & already showing signs of an inclination toward self-harm. do you have any words of wisdom for a mom who doesn't get it for how i can deal with it?

  21. I try to focus on what I've accomplished. I'm not good at facing things that bother me. I push them to the back, out of focus so I can't concentrate on them, like my divorce for example. It hurts too much to think about so I avoid the thought of it. I was told once, you can't dwell on things you can't change. And also, how bad is it really?

  22. Excuse me whilst I bloweth the sunshine up thine ass... You're awesome. Really. And I'm sure the real peeps outside of this digital bath think you're super awesome. Now please, stop crying.

    I gotta tell you that the "hurt feelings" question has really been fucking with me. There are things in my life that I've never gotten over, regardless of whether they're beyond my control or not. I doubt I ever will. All I can say to you is while I am too damn positive to let anything eat me alive, it still may take a bite outta me from time to time. That's how life is sometimes, but just because there's water coming over the bow it doesn't mean your ship is sinking.

  23. If you find a way, let me know. I've got the thinnest skin of any human around.

  24. On a lighter note, my resident anonymous troll just called me an asstwinkle.


    I think from now on when someone makes me feel like you described I will just say, "oh, it doesn't matter. He's just an asstwinkle."

  25. There so much I want to say but don't know how, except maybe, I think your an amazing young women and very brave to share your deepest thoughts and emotions with us.

    The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire and you sure have that.

  26. Wow. You've got a lot of great advice here. When I was young at someone said something hurtful, it shattered me to bits. Then, like a couple of people who have already commented, I looked toward their motivations. For those who botched a try at well-intentioned advice, I forgave them. I have often put my foot in my own mouth and later kicked myself in the tonsils for it. For those who were, indeed, trying to hurt me, it was tougher. It took a while for me to learn that they were in a worse emotional/mental state than I was. They were lashing out at the world and I somehow got in the way. You just have to forgive them, too.

  27. Tricia! Gosh, I don't know what else to say as everyone left you such lovely comments/stories.

    Well, a bit of rambling never hurt anyone...yet ;)

    I don't see the point in humiliating someone else or passing on harsh critics. Why would you? For me, if someone does that it shows the e.g. insecurity of the person. Perhaps they think that it's better to hurt others than to think about their own hurt? I don't know. I do know that letting others get to you & negative words is far more easy, because it's easier to think lesser of yourself. Believe me, I can doubt myself a lot. I've learned to start growing a thicker skin over time. Not that it's easy, but it's progress right! I'm trying to do things in my own way as much as I can with a positive attitude. It's a learning process. Remember you are who you are and there are people out there who accept you for who you are.

    To me you are one AWESOME lady. You know where to find me if you want some insight from the Crystal Disco ball...hehehe :D

    Love ya & hugs to you Xxxx

  28. sweety ... i think you know how much i understand about insecurity.


    they cut deeper than a razor.

    i'm always here if you want to have google chats :) i care enough to be a forgotten 'nice' post of love xo

  29. I think some people are just born with a thick skin. I know I don't have one. When something bad or nasty does come my way I try to focus on two things.

    1 - They're probably having a bad day, or a bad life, or some other such thing, and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and got it.

    2 - I focus on all the good things in my life. My kids. My husband. My wonderful parents. My friends.

    And then I go fro a run and try to shake it off. A beer helps sometimes too.

    Lots of hugs and kisses!

  30. Someone up up up there above me said to write three positive things a day. It sounds silly but it can really help... it's not about writing them down as such, but just thinking them, knowing they were/are there.

    The fake it til you make it is not just about image either... you don't fake it just to make people think you are happy... if you step out and smile, even if you don't feel like it, if you laugh and say something funny when actually you just want to cry, sometimes the laughter takes over...
    I actually have a girlfriend who thinks I am just the funniest, happiest person she has ever met, when I'm down I hang with her, because I am forced to laugh and be funny. By the end of the hour or so I spend with her I realise that my smile is REAL - and she didn't do anything but just laugh with me.

    I know where you are coming from with internalising everything... I analyse everything, even things that people intend to be positive and I find a negative spin on them, if someone is having a bad day and they growl at me, I immediately blame myself, if someone has no time for me, I assume it's because they dont' want to make time for me...

    Reading this makes me feel better...

  31. jeeeees, i know there's alot of responses here, but why not another?
    okay- having dealt with depression, abuse, and loathing- of thy self and others, i get it.
    what i can say is arm yourself with a bunch of tricks to deal with the shitty days. what works for you today may not help tomorrow.
    you must be wise and patient with yourself and admit- "i am not perfect." if you judge you, it's carte blanche to be judged by anyone. anyfuckingone.
    so- pressure's on for you to be good to yourself:
    including letting the past be over, old past or recent.
    including pampering yourself even if nobody else encourages you to.
    including doing the hard work it takes to accept and move forward.

    i have affirmation cards. many journals. a few loving friends. and i make art- for the process, not the outcome.
    have you tried drawing or painting, or sculpting?

    sometimes words are so literal, journaling gets in the way of the letting go. writing can conjure up too much sometimes. exercise the demons. literally. sweat. go walking.
    we are not the things that happened to us.
    TO US.

    we are lovely beautiful creatures... who are examples of what healthy can be in spite of the things that fuckup assholes who have no souls did or said.
    we have the strength to keep away from people like that.
    & the kindness to understand that when others hurt, we are not responsible to be their rescuers.

    you don't really need a thicker skin, just patience and compassion- for you.

    much love,

  32. I'm here visiting from Aunt Becky's. I thought you put your link quite eloquently, so I followed. Link dropping is such a sensitive issue, and you did it well. So ... Hi.

    Way back when I was doing lots of talk therapy for my issues, my psychologists and (acting and singing) coaches talked about how hard I was on myself. I couldn't see it, I really couldn't. I could have been so much harder that what I was doing seemed like ... nothing. Until one day my therapist, a very funny woman, said, "Gosh, why don't you kick yourself in the butt harder?" and for some reason, at that moment, I knew she was right. So ... 20 years on I am still really working on the skill of kindness.

    Of course, with a husband and three small kids, this is even harder to keep up with. Good thing I had 12 solid years of practice first, or I would be the devil of a mother that mine was, I can tell you.

    So ... how do I fight the sensitivity thing? When the tapes play, of someone calling me out or down or whatever, I breathe. And I tell myself, "Myself, you hear what is said in a whisper like it was said through a megaphone held up to your ear. Let it go." And if there is a nugget of truth in the criticism, I like to put it somewhere where I can think of it constructively at some later, less sensitive date. And the tape plays and my blood runs cold several times before I can convince myself to let it go.

    Practicing the kindness and forgiveness for the dumb things I do (and worse) -- and we all do dumb things -- is essential in being able to let go.

    But I'm finding that the most important element is to stop being critical of others, whether it is a random driver who's behaviour I don't like, one of the dysfunctional (before I might say mean girl) moms on the school yard, or a member of my family, if I think (or speak) negatively of them, I try to turn it around as soon as I can and let it go. And believe me, this is a theory and a work in progress, but the days that I work this program are some of the best days of my life.

    Good luck with bringing the mean "voice(s)" down.

  33. I hear ya. I wish I had a bright blossomy thing to say, but in my experience, we just continue being sensitive until we get so accustomed to it that while in the grips of one emotional catastrophe or another we can comfort ourselves knowing it'll pass. One good thing is we can be empathetic to those we care about and truly understanding because we ARE sensitive, and occasionally that is rewarding...

  34. I try to repeat the positive things over and over in my head like a mantra til I drown out the negative thoughts. The waves just keep coming sometimes though and you just have to hang tough.

  35. A way to deal with being hypersensitive is hiding behind a big wall of logic. But it can’t be done unless your personality is shaped in such way. I can't really say bad things don't hurt me, but I definitely cope with them better after I filter it all through logic. I guess it's made me become more of a perfectionist than I already was to lower the chances of being criticized. I has definitely made it easier for me to absolutely ignore certain things and I do believe being able to truly ignore something potentially harmful, is a good thing.

    I’m not sure if this is of any help for you, but all in all, for me it's the only thing that works.

  36. Sometimes I have to admit that I make mistakes...major mistakes. I make the wrong choices, say the wrong things, hurt somebody's feelings, offend somebody, etc. In those circumstances, you have to apologize (sometimes to yourself)...AND THEN MOVE ON. If it's your fault, admit it, and move forward. But if people are just angry or ignorant and lash out, or dislike you for no reason--well, you're still gonna get your feelings hurt (maybe). But then you have to turn to your friends and loved ones and your own best self...turning *away* from the bad guys. That's what I try to do. :-) Thanks for the post...good one!


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