“Do you know what your problem is?” Asks the stranger at the party. He has that smug look on his face I’ve come to associate with questions where no answer can ever be right.
‘Yes,’ I reply, more bluntly than I meant. I laugh quickly to dispel the sudden tension. ‘Would you like a list?’
Would it surprise you to know that he didn’t?
I excused myself soon after. The topic was a sour one, and his unmitigated gall in trying to tell a woman he barely knew just what was wrong with her left a bad taste in my mouth that lingers still.
I know what my problem is. All of them. I see them every single day. I hear them. No one knows what’s wrong with me more than I do.
I’m too hard on myself. If I can’t do something perfectly I will punish myself until I can. I forgive mistakes in others with ease, but never in myself. I never feel worthy of anything good.
I’m in no way moderate. My whole life is all or nothing. I burn myself out until I can’t move, I laugh until I cry. I get annoyed when I have to stop, because going and going and going is all I want to do.
I’m self-destructive. I don’t get nearly enough sleep. I don’t eat well; I live on coffee and toast. I tell people I’m fine when I’m clearly not. I hold everything in until I can’t hold it in any longer, and then I snap like a brittle twig.
I’m a living contradiction. When I’m upset, I can’t look anyone in the eye. We all know I’m hiding, but I do it anyway. Suddenly making eye contact becomes the hardest thing in the world, because I don’t want people to see. But I want people to see, too.
I’m socially inept. I talk before I think and I make people uncomfortable. I say things that aren’t acceptable. I can’t lie. My face always betrays me. My mouth does, too.
I’m too loud. I laugh at inappropriate times and things. I laugh at everything, and where my laugh used to be a comfort to me, now it’s just another insecurity. I sing off-key. When I get excited I talk too quickly and my voice pitches too high.
I’m emotionally volatile. I get hurt easily. I worry too much. I worry about things I can’t change and people who barely give me a second thought. I would do anything for anyone, even when they absolutely don’t deserve it.
I dislike myself. I won’t let myself be angry, even when I need to. Even when it’s justified. I always find a way to make everything all my fault, so my anger becomes internalised and aimed straight back at me.
I apologise too much. I run myself down. I can’t stand the sight of myself or the sound of my own voice.
I am a wreck of a human being.
But you know what else? I’m determined to do better. I’m stronger than I look. I get up every single day and face the world, even when it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I still believe in love. I believe the best of people. I am full of hope.
So yes, I do know what my problem is, but knowing a problem is the first step to solving it.