***Content & trigger warnings: self destruction, depression, self harm, anxiety***
I was in a toxic relationship. I wasn’t aware of it until we were fast approaching the inevitable end. There was a part of me that realized the situation I was in, but decided to hang on anyway because it would have been a short-span relationship; this person was graduating in just over a month, after all. If only I could just hang on a little longer. I had clung to the fact that this person was multi-faceted, multi-marginalized and that I needed a friend like them in my life. Another trans, queer, person of color. Someone who would understand, get it. I got caught up in how this person sounded on paper and invested all my sentiments in making sure this person liked me -platonically or romantically. It was my first non-white, non-cishet squish and it felt pivotal.
But when we hung out, all they did was talk about themselves, which I didn’t mind at first. I didn’t mind comforting them and ensuring they were okay, but I was constantly their shoulder to cry on and was never able to cry, myself. I was overly patient, giving them all the space they needed because I wanted to spend time with them, but didn’t want to be selfish. However, I was so concerned with the idea, concept of this person and being as selfless as possible, I ended up in a not so cool situation.
At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what my feelings were or what they meant: I was constantly grappling with being demisexual, quasisexual and demiromantic. And sure I cared for this person and sure they were cute, but they weren’t my everything.
After being tired and depressed for so long, day in and day out, the attention I received from this person inspired me enough to blurt the words, “I’m happy”. But soon after befriending this person and lending myself to their every beckon and call, I was emotionally drained and exhausted.
I admitted my feelings just to get them off my chest and they could not have responded more narcissistically. This person seemed to think it would take me forever to get over them. I shouldn’t have made them things and gifted them things, but I did. I shouldn’t have invited them over to paint in my dorm room, but I did.
I thought I could act like everything was fine, but I was upset. And less an than hour in, I was anxious. I accidentally cut myself with a pallette knife and ended up anxious playing with the tool and slicing up my entire palm. I was trying to hold back tears as this person kept talking, smiling, playing emotional slam poetry and paint simultaneously seeped into my palm.
The truth is, I wasn’t upset because they had rejected me no, because they were always talking about someone who wasn’t me and constantly toying with my emotions; I saw it coming. I was, however, uncomfortable with how this person could be so egotistical, immature and abusive. Yet after a tough night of artistic release, I still went over to their place on my last night in town. And on my final walk back to campus, listening to my fittingly queer punk playlist, I was Dada: I felt nothing.
The next day on my flight home, I watched Me Earl and the Dying Girl and as the credits rolled through -aside from the already maudlin film- all the emotions I had pent up the last two months of this semester hit me like a steam engine to the gut. I was in shambles, curled up a-la-fetal in the window seat.
Reeling from such a difficult semester, I didn’t think I’d survive. But I did. And I have taken away one of the most important lessons of all: self care over self destruction.
Please eat. Not just when you’re running late for class or are pressed for time in between work and rehearsal. Eat when you break your computer for the third time. Eat when you receive a mediocre grade on an assignment you poured your soul into. After bawling your eyes out from being misgendered all day, after being yelled at by your coworkers, after being brutally rejected: eat. Though it is tempting to give up your responsibilities and sleep the day away, wake up and eat. Text a friend and drag them to the dining hall with you. Order your usual crappy take out. Microwave that easy mac from your long begotten care package. Do not punish yourself and your love of food by starving yourself because your day sucked. Eat because you can’t remember the last thing you ate or when your last meal was. Eat because you cannot give them (the white man, society, your frenemies, your fatal squish) the satisfaction of your defeat.
Stay home. You’re not in the mood for triggering your social anxiety. You’re not interested in putting pants on. You’re not dying to be surrounded by inebriated college students who couldn’t recognize their own privilege if it “super liked” them on Tinder. So don’t go that party. When you’re still reeling from a stressful week of disappointment after disappointment, don’t go out there. Plug in your favorite Spotify playlist and have a dance party in your room. Or bring all your favorite treats into bed and finally binge watch all hundred seasons of The X-Files. You don’t have to face strangers you know you’ll loathe. You don’t have to get dressed to please their expectations. You won’t let anyone down by taking care of yourself and sitting this one out.
Ignore them. Don’t respond to that text. Don’t go out of your way to go over there. Do not offer your shoulder when you have tears of your own. When you get on that bus at 10pm, who are you doing it for? Why are you doing it? To listen to someone complain about their problems and burst into tears every time they open the door? To walk home three hours later completely numb and somber, pondering if the next encounter will finally leave you satisfied.
Cut loose ends. Break up with the friends you don’t like. The one’s that invalidate your identity and refuse to grow up. The one’s who never ask how you’re doing, but what you can do for them. Don’t be afraid of cutting the cord with long time pals. And no matter how excited you are to have befriended someone who also struggles under the cishet white patriarchy, your comfort and needs are just as important as theirs. When someone you’ve been squishing on, emotionally drains every fiber of your being for the entirety of your acquaintance -it’s not worth it.
Because self harm is more than just the razor that you’ve been eyeing from your art kit. More than the eraser on your desk. More than the palette knife controlled by your anxiety. Deprivation of self care is destructive. Get out of unhealthy relationships, drop those loose ends. Search for just enough energy to grab a bite to eat. Find solace in the word “no” and prioritize your comfort.
I know it’s hard. And sometimes you’ll cling on to bad habits and old habits become renewed because you just don’t know how to cope without feeling awful. But you have control of your life. You are powerful. You are sacred. And no matter how tempting that poisonous apple can be, you don’t have to take a bite.
Note to self: You deserve better.