Masochism?

My hormones have been going like clockwork for years. Once a month I menstruate for 5-6 days. And once a month, in the couple days before menstruating, I’m awash in a sea of despair, disgust and depression. Once a month the only emotion that I can conjure up is self-loathing, and all anyone who has a real conversation with me at that time will hear about is what a fucking idiot I am.

Okay, that was a bit melodramatic. But it’s true that my PMS does manifest myself as depression more than anger or irritableness, and it’s true that when I’m depressed my greatest tendency is to beat myself up ad nauseam.

I’ve been bleeding for two days now, so last Thursday I had a fabulous meltdown, aggravated by exhaustion, in which I cursed myself for being ugly, stupid and a variety of other things. My mother, noticing that I was crying, attempted to note reality, namely that I’m reasonably intelligent and that I’m not ugly, but I had to choose between being myself and being popular/conventionally attractive, and that, as always tends to be repeated on such occasions, “I can’t have it both ways.”

Yes. True. But when I’m sobbing, I won’t listen to reason. I just won’t. I hear myself repeating this litany of my failings and people tend to get quite frustrated with me.At some point in this “conversation” my mom said something like, “I give up. You enjoy this, don’t you? Well fine, beat yourself up. This is ridiculous.” Well, she was exasperated — but ideas like “enjoying beating yourself up” set off little alarm bells in my head, and I have been thinking: there may be some truth in my mother’s comment.If I’ve gotten myself down, I certainly do tend to wallow. There is a certain release in saying over and over again what a failure I am, how I will never have a sexual or romantic partner, how I will never be able to do the things I want because I’m so stupid, how I’m sure everyone hates me, because I certainly hate myself. I writhe in my chair when I write this in my journal or say it to a friend, because I can feel it consuming me, and pushing a more balanced form of reality out of my mind. And I don’t want to stop at all. I can’t quite explain how this is that self-hatred is a desirable emotion, but I think that when I act like this I am wanting it to consume me. And I think, in some way, I am enjoying it.

This, in turn, sets off alarm bells. It’s too much like all that stuff they spent years warning teenagers about in school, how fucked-up you were if you had low self-esteem, how that led to physical self-harm and how fucked-up that was; all these specters of my days in health class are screaming at me that if I act like this, I need professional help. But I see myself as being relatively in control; I know reality exists. When I’m in this sort of mood it just suits me not to acknowledge it.

Vanilla people use “masochist” to mean someone who does difficult or ridiculous or soul-destroying things for pleasure, like taking calculus or intensive Latin, or applying to university. And sometimes they use it to describe behaviours they find perverted and bizarre. Kinky people use “masochist” to mean someone who enjoys receiving pain or being otherwise degraded, humiliated or dominated, in a sexual context. Well, perhaps this is a bit of both meanings. My sexual fantasies do not involve being told what an ugly idiot I am (because at least in fantasy-land I am attractive, I mutter bitterly), and the perverse pleasure I may gain from putting myself down is not a sexual one. But I’m finding a lot of difficulty seeing something inherently wrong with it — because if I acknowledge this behaviour as masochism, to me I’m acknowledging that it is normal. When I use words like “masochism” now, I’m so used to discarding all the preconceptions the rest of my world has fed me1, and going with my gut instinct about what feels sane and appropriate to me. And I harm no one by my own detraction.

Then again, I could also be completely and utterly wrong.

[1. What’s telling about these preconceptions is that I’ve been having some form of BDSM-y fantasy more or less since I can remember — but the first time I learned about BDSM I thought of it as something gross that I would never want to take part in.]

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