I once searched what I felt on web and came across this and realized, I’m not the only one feeling like this.
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As I write this, there’s a tiny voice inside my head going, “You’re doing it for attention. You’re playing the victim. You’re an attention whore.” Then I have to talk back to myself, “Yeah, validation feels good and this is much more than that. I’m seeing a lot of people having similar thoughts. When I heard someone describe exactly what I was feeling, I felt hope after a long time. Let me just write the things that helped me. Maybe it will help someone else…”
Some time during last year, I found myself repeatedly thinking — I don’t deserve to live.
And, I just couldn’t shake that thought off.
The thought goes off in a chain something like this —
I am an upper caste Hindu male born to two educated earning parents in a city. I have all the privileges yet I have squandered my life away. There’s nothing of substance I have done till now. There are people all over world who had lot less privilege than I had and who have done things more substantial than I have. Take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for instance. She’s just 28 years old, two years younger than me, she took on an extremely well-funded experienced politician and won. She had every odd stacked against her. Yet, look at her efforts, she went door-to-door. Mobilized enough people to bring a real change. What have I done? Even if I haven’t achieved anything, have I ever worked hard like that? I can’t even focus on a task long enough to finish it. I won’t be able to take even a good task without screwing it up. What’s the point of my existence?
This is just one chain of thought. Here’s another:
I don’t get why this particular artist XYZ is extremely popular. I get it if I don’t agree with an artist’s methods and yet he’s popular. At least, I understand it. But I don’t even have a clue why this person’s work is appealing to millions of people. Am I unable to empathize with people here? What kind of human am I if I’m even unable to empathize here?
Almost every other chain of thought leads to one conclusion that I am a horrible sub-human creature. I have no value. I am worthless.
(As I was writing that, the inner voice goes again — Awww… that’s cute. What right do you have to feel sub-human. You weren’t culturally subjugated for centuries. You weren’t discriminated. You’ve had all kinds of privilege. Yet you have squandered your life off… so on so forth.)
That thought just plays in loop, continuously, day in and day out.
The damage the self-esteem takes due to these thoughts shows up in weird ways. I can’t take compliments. If someone compliments me, there’s a niggling thought in my head that they’re just being polite. Or worse, they’re being ironic in a way that I can’t see and spurring me to make a bigger fool of myself, like Bheja Fry. I hide myself in the anticipation of future disappointment.
If I do some thing good, I feel it’s by mistake. It just happened by co-incidence. It is not who I truly am coz I’m not really good at anything.
You know the concept of self-love? I just couldn’t imagine that about myself.
A friend convinced me to visit a counselor. Although, they gave me the medicines and what not, the more interesting thing for me was the discussions we had. I told the counselor that I don’t deserve to live. And she asked — Then, who deserves to live?
I was stumped for a bit. That’s a big responsibility to decide who’ll live and who’ll die. I don’t think I am qualified to do that. So, the low-esteem which drove me towards death, also brought me back.
I came to terms that getting better would involve revising a large number of notions I’ve held before and I wouldn’t like what’s there. It’s not easy, the inner thoughts that say ‘I don’t deserve to live’ show up time and again, as if by habit. I have to talk them down again.
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There are other unhealthy notions too. It’s not easy, they all have a semblance of truth in them and I am trying to figure out healthier substitutes for them. I don’t have answers for all of them, yet. All I know is I want to live.