What’s wrong with me? I thought as I lay in bed, looking at the stars out of the window. I’m on a hen do with 21 women who are, if not lovely, at least normal human beings, who are managing to laugh and drink and hold conversations without resorting to panic and mild self-hate.
Why can’t I do that? Why am I spending this lovely, beautiful, perfectly planned weekend feeling miserable? Especially when not a single thing has happened to make me feel bad. Everyone was being lovely to me. The worst I’d had to endure since I got to Paddington was a slightly awkward silence, and at this point, awkward silences are a big part of my personal brand.
So, why do I feel like this? Why am I like this? And, most importantly, why can’t I fix it? I’ve been through therapy, I’ve read the self-help books and the mental health memoirs, watched the TED Talks, read and retweeted all the brutally honest blog posts and articles about how it feels to be an introverted, modern woman. Nothing has changed. What else can I do? I’m trapped here, trapped in this life and these feelings and this stupid self. Christ, I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself.
The booze that had made me so warm and sleepy a few hours ago was making me maudlin and brooding now. I shivered, although I wasn’t cold – it was more the chill in my feelings than the one in the air. The problem with thinking like this – apart from the obvious – is that these thoughts are gateway drugs to harder feelings. To get wanky about it, they’re like draughts in the ramshackle hut that is my brain: stiff, cold breezes which sneak into every corner, rattle the windows and blow the doors open to let even more cold air in. And when those doors open? All bets are off.
The next morning, eating another huge breakfast around the table, I looked at every other woman there and thought about out how fat/ugly/badly dressed and/or badly put together I was compared to them. When we went for a brisk walk in the countryside around the barn, chatting about what we had coming up at work in the week ahead, I thought about how they were all earning enough to buy their homes and go on holiday and think nothing of buying themselves a new dress or an £11 cocktail. I felt an acidic stab of loathing for my pathetic, miserable job and how little money, respect and success I had. And then my thoughts came faster, harder, sharper, uglier. Every time I spoke to someone, I was comparing myself to them.
Why wasn’t I as beautiful as Penny? Why wasn’t I as fit as Frankie? Why wasn’t I as talented as Janae, or as clever as Emily? Why wasn’t I pregnant like Hannah? Why wasn’t I buying a flat like Tobi and Nikki? Why wasn’t I as stylish as Imogen? Why wasn’t my hair as good as Val’s? Why was I failing in every single way I could? Why weren’t my lists enough any more? What’s wrong with me? And every time, every time, every single time, the answer was the same: because you’re bad. I am bad. I’m bad, I’m bad, I’m so crap, I’m sososososososo fucking bad. Why was I just so fucking bad at things? Bad at work, bad at relationships, bad at being a woman, just so fucking bad at being alive.
It was like a wheel, or a spinning top, or a child going downhill on a bike with no brakes. My thoughts came faster and faster, tears kept lurching behind my eyes, my throat burned. I was talking normally on the outside, posing for selfies, smiling, laughing at jokes, but inside I was a tornado, a volcano, a whirlpool, a black hole where a worthwhile person should be. My thoughts and emotions raged inside me until I felt like I was going to burst: as soon as I got a free second, I left the barn, walked until I was down the road and no one could see me, and then I ran.
Extract taken from The To Do List And Other Debacles by Amy Jones