“There is nothing wrong with you. There are things wrong with your life but it’s not because something is wrong with you. I know this because you have let me see that there is nothing wrong with you.” (M.S.)

When I feel overwhelmed by life, I often go into the familiar place of believing there is something wrong with me. It is a place where I have the illusion of control but where this illusion keeps me from living. Here I can avoid the reality of not just my life, but of life itself. Instead of looking at how pandemic is adding a layer of loneliness to life, I turn it into something about me. I can’t control the fact that I can’t be touched right now so I push away the love that is there and then berate myself for it (now my inability to be touched is because I’m bad!). I make myself feel alone in order to have a sense of agency over my own hell (thereby creating a bigger hell). The “power” comes from believing that if I could only be better, things would improve. But the price I pay is immense. It is an ironic and twisted (non-)solution.

“Look at the paintings behind you. When you look at the lonely people in those paintings do you think ‘there must be something wrong with them?’ His paintings are not about individual pathology. You are drawn to art about loneliness but not to books about pathology. See how this is relevant in your own life. The situation with Autumn is a tragedy but it is not because there is something wrong with you. The fact that you have to work long hours to survive is a painful reality for many of us but it does not reflect anything wrong with you.” (M.S.)

I cried for twenty minutes. It may sound funny to say that, but it’s true. It forces me to face the idea that I may never have a partner. I can try. But it may never work out. It makes me look at the reality that I may have to work long hours for the rest of my life in order to survive and that it’s not my fault. But it’s also a relief. It means that I can feel the tragedy of life without believing my brokenness creates it.

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