In This Body: How to Hate Yourself Less

Editor Fiona George, Editor's Choice, September 13th, 2017

"Being around the people I care about makes me feel lonelier."

Fiona George Essay Nailed Magazine
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Our monthly column “In This Body” is comprised of true stories about sex, gender, the body, and love, written by Fiona George, for NAILED.

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I can feel it setting in. Slowly. The end of summer, when it should be fall. I promised myself I could just make it to September, I’d get some rain, some cozy sweaters, all the warmth in the fall leaves—the sunny days crisp cold and bright. I’d be able to retreat back into my shell—the literal one made up of wool and heavy layers, the figurative one where social gatherings are small and quiet. But it’s the beginning of September, and the forecast is still saying ninety degrees, one hundred degrees.

I drink hot tea, I wear a sweater to bed and sweat. I can feel it setting in. I seek for the comfort of fall but only make myself more uncomfortable in the summer heat. I wish I was sick, had the chills, could stay in bed under blankets and binge watch Disney Channel Movies that premiered when I was in grade school.

Even with the sense of loneliness at the edges of me, I want to be alone. Being around the people I care about makes me feel lonelier. They must all have some secret resentment of me just under the surface, maybe they don’t even know about it.

When I go isolate myself, which of course I will do, it only proves my point.

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What exactly I can feel setting in: a self hatred that lives in my bones, makes my feet heavy, makes it difficult to make eye contact. A lethargy that tells me I’m worthless, then proves it. An anxiety that prefers loneliness because companionship feels like constant rejection.

How I know it’s coming: I drink more, blackout—in the mornings I hate myself too much to move. I go quiet, when I’m sober—sometimes my thoughts are going a mile a minute in fear-talk, sometimes my head just feels empty. I’m always careless with money but I get more careless with money, the rush of immediate gratification staves off whatever’s lurking in the back of my ribcage.

What it feels like: a lump at the top of my throat, swollen lymph nodes. In my belly, the raw fire that leads to cigarette after cigarette as I try to match it. Irritability like a tingling on my scalp.

At first, I’ll try to blame it on the planets. Mercury must be in retrograde. Maybe Pluto is in Capricorn, dominating my chart, causing destruction.

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I clean. I spend a week doing almost nothing but cleaning, when I’m home. I try to be home a lot. In the next several weeks, I see myself getting deeper. Feeling darker and more alone.

It’s in the top of my throat, a pressure, an ache. A warning. I clean because I know I won’t have it in me to clean, I clean to get ahead of myself.

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I’ve chosen not to drink in September. When I’m hurt and lonely, I will not drink my way out of it (I know this will only make it worse). It will be my free pass out of social situations that will only make me feel like a third wheel, a tag-along, a burden.

This is good, I continue to tell myself. It is, after all, why all my friends hate me. The drinking. Of course, my friends don’t hate me. I know that. But the drinking makes me hateable, makes me hate myself more.

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My partner has been picking up graveyard shifts, leaving our bed hot and empty at night. He loves me even when I can’t see him, on a practical level I know this. In the ending days of August, I stay up late watching Mermaids, drinking beers and pretending he’ll come home before the sun comes up.

The companionship of my cat is a godsend. As much as we like to say it isn’t, I know the love of an animal isn’t unconditional. Only, it doesn’t hinge on our human social rules. She won’t care if I get drunk and make an ass of myself, and I won’t even have to worry that she would care. She won’t talk shit and won’t listen to anyone else who might; how she feels about me is totally separate from the opinions of anyone else.

I win her love when I fill her food bowl, when I play with her, when we snuggle up together in a bed that is otherwise empty.

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In the first mornings of September, I wake up with a hangover feeling in my gut. Not a headache or an upset stomach, but the emotional toll that can come with or without drinking. I hate myself, I don’t want to get out of bed and face who I am: a person who I’m sure is awful, but I can’t place my finger on why.

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Header image courtesy of Jean-François Lepage. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

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Fiona George

Fiona George was born and raised in Portland, OR, where she's been lucky to have the chance to work with authors like Tom Spanbauer and Lidia Yuknavitch. She writes a monthly column "In This Body" for NAILED Magazine, and has also been published on The Manifest-Station, and in Witchcraft Magazine.