The Love You Give Is Enough

Yesterday I ran a lot into something that’s physically painful for me to see: clappy hand emojis between words. It’s an internet trend to make what are considered important points this way, instead of the old-fashioned placing of a period between each word. (What. was. wrong. with. that?)

You’re probably wondering why/how it makes me sick. The best explanation I can come up with is that my visual processor is over-developed and hyper-competent after a lifetime of having to make up for my auditory disabilities — my hearing is fine, my brain has problems processing and parsing sounds — and so when I read things, I experience them more vividly than people without that disability do.

My lack of ability to properly parse things I hear means my visual processor makes up for it by making me hear things mentally really well when I read them. This is why shitty punctuation in a book drives me insane. I can’t just skim over it when reading; it’s integrally a part of what I’m experiencing. It tells me how to “hear” things in my mind, and if it’s wrong, it will fuck up my entire experience.

(This is also why I loathe the practice of 2 spaces after a period. It makes my brain grind to a halt when I’m reading something, because one space is a normal pause between sentences for me. Two spaces is the emergency brake.)

My experience seeing the clappy hand emojis between words is to feel as if I’m being slapped or punched in the face after every word. Reading a sentence written that way gives me a headache and makes me nauseated.

And to be honest, even if it didn’t cause me physical pain, I would find it the most annoying fucking thing on the planet. So either way, I’d be stoked if people could fucking stop doing it.

Anyway. Yesterday I saw like, 3 or 4 tweets using this method so I spent most of the day feeling headachey and sick to my stomach. One of them, however, is what inspired this post.

This was from an account I used to enjoy following, and from someone I thought was pretty cool. Not only did they use the clappy hands emoji thing that makes me sick, but they used it to repeat a really damaging belief: “you can’t love somebody until you love yourself.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what the tweet said exactly; I just went and double-checked as fast as I could before getting too sick. Am super nauseated right now anyway.)

This is a bullshit idea and I am so sick of hearing it repeated.

An image of two people kissing is overlaid with text that says "You can't love someone unless you love yourself; You can't be happy with someone else if you aren't happy with yourself." Over top this text is a big red X, and the words FUCK OFF in bold black Impact font on a pink rectangle background.

I have strong feelings about this.

Working on self-love is, of course, important, and something I encourage EVERYONE to do. But the phrasing of this idea, the way it’s always put forth, makes it a zero-sum game: you cannot love someone until you love yourself. Unsaid in that sentence: your whole self. You cannot love someone until you love yourself 100%.

This idea leads to a horrible self-repeating spiral of self-hate. That sentence also says that if you DO love someone when you don’t love yourself, it’s not enough. It’s not GOOD enough. Your love for your spouse or sister or daughter or son or best friend — it’s not enough, because you don’t love yourself first.

And because your love isn’t enough — because you don’t love yourself — you are obviously not worthy of that person. And if you’re not worthy of that person, then you are, of course, not worthy of THEIR love and thus unlovable.

How the fuck are you supposed to work on self-love if you keep getting told that the love you give isn’t good enough?

I’m a broken person. I’m damaged goods. I always will be; doesn’t mean I want to be treated like I am. You can glue something back together, but those cracks will always be visible.

Most days I absolutely hate myself. But you know who I love? Mr. Katje, my husband. I love him so much I can sometimes forget what an awful person I am. I love him so much I can forget that I hate myself.

And Mr. Katje loves me, and because he loves me, he helps me work on these things. He reminds me to eat, because I can’t love myself enough to do that. He reminds me to take my pills, because sometimes I cannot take that care of myself. His reminders build up, and become my reminders: I eat because Mr. Katje loves me, so I am worth loving, so I need to love myself. I take my pills because Mr. Katje loves me, so I am not an unlovable monster, so I need to take care of myself.

Through his love of me, I am slowly, very slowly discovering self-love. It is self-love based in the love of another person.

I suppose people who believe that self-love must be entirely self-generated, a virgin birth in your heart, would see that as unhealthy.

I believe humans are pack animals and we cannot exist alone. I believe relying on oneself to the exclusion of all else is unhealthy. I believe we need each other in the same way we need food, water, shelter.

So I do not see my building up my self-love based on the love others give me as unhealthy. I see it as human.

I know Mr. Katje struggles with self-love, too. I know he has doubts; I know he has that voice inside that tells him he’s not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough for me. I know he feels he’s not a good enough husband for me, because he can’t support me like he wants to, because he’s been damaged by a lifetime of society shoving it down his throat that if he’s not earning big bucks, he’s not good enough.

(Kyriarchy damages men too.)

He is enough. He will always be enough, regardless our money situation, regardless what lies society screams at him. And if the love he gives is enough for me, then the love I give has to be enough for him.

It’s not fair to ask damaged people to put everything on hold while they try to figure out how to love themselves, and then to tell them that if they can’t figure that out, they don’t deserve to love anyone else.

It’s not fair to ask that of anyone.

Spend time cultivating self-love, as much as you can. But if you cannot get that to 100% — that’s okay. If all you can manage is 5% on a good day — that’s okay. The love you give is still worthy. The love you give is enough. The love you give is not subtracted from by the hate you feel for yourself. This is not algebra.

We may be brokenhearted, but we are enough, and whatever love we can pump out of those damaged organs is enough. It has to be, or humanity doesn’t stand a chance.

Auditory Processing Deficit: It’s not a hearing problem, but…sorry, what did you say?

I have Auditory Processing Deficit. I’ve had it for most of my life — the test that shows the age level one’s auditory processing is at starts at age 5 and goes to age 18, but we are fairly certain my deficit started when I was 2 years old. Trauma can often be the cause of these sorts of deficits, and there was a doozy of one directly associated with hearing and listening when I was two. (I’m not getting into the story right now. I might at some point in the future.)

Before I took the test, mom thought I was just being a teenager with selective hearing. She’d have to repeat herself several times before I would remember what she said. I explained that I wasn’t forgetting or mishearing things on purpose; it was just that I literally had no memory of her saying certain things.

When I took the test she realized it was an actual problem, so we took steps to fix it. The test, called the Gibson Cognitive Test Battery, is part of a program called PACE — Processing And Cognitive Enhancement. It tests several areas of processing and function in the brain — the framework upon which you put content learning. Auditory processing, memory, visual processing, and other areas are tested. Often people who bottom out in one area will max out in another, because it’s their brain’s way of coping. I had maxed out on visual processor and a few other areas.

It’s a program my mom does, and she’s damn good at it. I did the program with her, though I didn’t get the full benefit. Ideally PACE is done quickly — the 36 hours within a few weeks — because this ensures the most advancement for the brain. Because mom had other students and I was in theatre we were both so busy we rarely had time for PACE sessions. We did the program over 2 years, often sitting for several hours in a session, determined to get as much done in one sitting as possible. For the longest time I held the record for levels passed in a session — not hard when your sessions are 7 hours long.

Still, even though it took us 2 years to do the program, I came up several ages in the areas I was lacking. When we were done I was age 16 in auditory processing — that was an advancement of 11 years (14 if we accept that the deficit was lower than 5 and likely at 2 years of age).

We tested me again recently and I have somehow made it up to age 18. However, I still struggle with remembering things that are said, and when I’m stressed or tired my processing goes down the tubes. (It also does not help that Mr. Katje is an avowed mumbler.)

It’s important to note that auditory processing is not a hearing problem. It is not a physical problem with the mechanisms for hearing things — my ears work fine (with the exception of the constant tinnitus). It is a problem with my brain — specifically the area used to process sounds.

However, so few people are even aware of auditory processing deficit as an actual thing that when explaining why I don’t listen to podcasts or why someone has to repeat something to me a few times to make sure I remember I often default to saying “I have a hearing problem,” even though I don’t. I can hear you just fine. Unfortunately, my ears don’t always give my brain the memo — especially when I’m stressed, or when the words are said in certain tones (because said tones stress me out). And these days I’m pretty much always stressed.

It’s honestly pretty shitty having this. School has been a struggle since high school, and last time I asked a teacher to slow down because he was speaking a mile a minute and I needed extra time to process, he said “Why don’t you try just listening?” (As if I wasn’t.) I explained the processing deficit and he and the entire class laughed in my face. That was in University, by the way, but this wasn’t the first time I was treated like that for having learning disabilities. (I was in Special Ed throughout high school and I swear, the fact that my mom kept fighting for me to get certain help in school was the only reason I graduated. If it weren’t for my mom I would have dropped out.)

Because the test that shows the deficit isn’t considered an official source by most schools I often can’t get any concessions for classes. This, combined with my other learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, and more recently physical disability, ensured that it took me 10 years to get my Bachelors instead of 4.

There are tons of podcasts I’d really like to listen to regularly, but I can’t because podcast listening for me entails sitting stock still and concentrating very hard on everything being said. It’s exhausting, and soon my mind starts to wander and then I need to rewind and find my place again.

Also it contributes to lack of communication with people I love, which creates fights. Just the other day I thought Mr. Katje said something that he didn’t, and we fought for over an hour over it. I misheard a sentence because I was really tired and my processing skills weren’t up to par, and he was mumbling more than usual that day. We made up, and talked it out, and all is forgiven — but I hate fighting with him and for that hour we were both miserable.

But, like with all things I have to live with, I learn to cope. I’ve done what I can to bring up my auditory processing to a manageable level, and I’m planning on doing PACE again with mom — maybe it’ll improve some more. In the meantime, I accept that I might always have problems processing what people say, and I work harder to keep it from adversely affecting my life too much.

In return, I only ask for a little patience from my loved ones.

So next time I need to ask you to repeat yourself, or I don’t remember what you say, please don’t take it personally. It’s just my super fucked up brain making my life a little more difficult. (So original, brain. I applaud your creativity. /sarcasm)

-Katje