For a long time, I had this friend. We spoke frequently, she and I, two inseparable threads wound together so tightly it was difficult to discern where one stopped and the other began. I found comfort in her company, not because it was pleasant but because it was familiar; I clung to her toxicity because I knew what it looked and felt like. When I think about her now, specifically her cruel words and demeaning tone, I wonder how I ever came to think of her as a companion. Her ability to capitalize on vulnerability was venomous, but it was venom I’d tasted before and somehow it brought me comfort.
“The baby won’t stop crying,” I’d tell her, helplessly exhausted after several nights of no sleep. “What am I doing wrong?”
“Everything,” she’d reply viciously. “Absolutely everything. You’re not equipped to be her mother. You don’t deserve that baby.”
And then, because I thought she was my friend, I’d believe her.
It’s incredible, how effortlessly I trusted her. I let her opinion win and as a result I fell into the unforgiving hands of postpartum anxiety – because, of course, that destructive friend was me. Her voice was poison, her choruses fatal, but there was something that destroyed her – a powerful antidote called kindness.
I know how to love others. I know how to help them and encourage them and show them compassion during times of struggle. I know how to hold their hand when they’re lonely and wipe their tears when they’re sad. I know how to befriend them, how to trust them, how to value them. What I don’t know – what I’m discovering – is how to do the same for myself. Every day feels like a blind date – clumsy and awkward and full of exciting new potential.
I fought an unnecessary war for three long years, each battle taking me one step further from myself. By the end of it I was hardly recognizable, beaten and bloodied by a dark internal conflict. The scars of it will never disappear but now, empowered by self-kindness, I’m learning how to nurture them.