**Warning: this story contains frank discussions of mental health, anxiety, self-hatred, and suicidal ideation. If you or someone you know is struggling, know there is help, and click here for assistance. Don’t listen to your Jeremy.**

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There’s a worm inside my head. At least that’s how I’m thinking about it lately. A real friggin’ jerk of a thing it is, too. I’m calling the worm Jeremy, because anthropomorphizing things is cute and we all need a bit more bemused joy in our lives. Plus I don’t think I know anyone named Jeremy so it feels like neutral ground. But I could also be wrong.

In my mind, this is what Jeremy looks like:

this is Jeremy. i drew him. he’s a cunt.

You see, Jeremy fucking hates me. Jeremy thinks I’m the worst piece of trash that ever is or ever was. Jeremy is hyperbolic. Jeremy thinks I’m More Problematic Hitler. That I’m a subconsciously manipulative piece of shit who doesn’t realize her real, nefarious nature is ruining everything for everyone. I’m lying to myself and everyone else around me, trying to con them into loving me when all I should be is hated. Jeremy thinks I am the worst sort of person. Jeremy wants to kick me to feel perpetually kicked in the proverbial nuts.

Jeremy is my every worst thought, amplified. Jeremy has become so entrenched in my matter, so ingrained in my brain, that I cannot have a single fucking thought without Jeremy butting in INSTANTANEOUSLY with an aggressive counter-argument, one that usually revolves around how bad I am or might be pretending not to be. I try to ignore Jeremy by doing the things I’m told you’re supposed to do: exercise, meditate, go to therapy, talk to people you love, do the things that you’re afraid to, write. Sometimes, I swear, Jeremy is laughing at me while I do this: chuckling at these futile, naïve attempts at trying to feel something other than grief and guilt. Like, lol bitch you think this is gonna fix this? You’re too far gone for saving.

Jeremy has sucked the life out of me.

Jeremy wants me to give up. So badly. On what, exactly, I don’t know. Or maybe I do. (maybe you do, too.) Because to feel this much hurts all the time. Because every single waking second is a confirmation that I’m in denial—about my abilities about my purpose about the world needing me in it, alive. I feel crushed under the weight of my failings and inability. I feel locked in place, rendered inert and immobile due to just ~how bad~ of a self-pitying, selfish, isolating idiot I am, and how publicly I flaunt it. (Clearly, I am an open wound crying for help.) And it hurts—not just metaphorically, literally. Feeling. Seeing. Trying. Failing. Everything hurts all over my body, and it never seems to stop. The echo of Jeremy’s words constantly bounces off the raw spots.

It probably doesn’t help that I cannot seem to do any single thing right. At least, that’s how it seems when Jeremy’s around. With him in my head, I cannot even humble myself to the process of being alive—everything is a work in progress! nothing is perfect every time!—and only see generously and graciously afforded opportunities squandered by the metaphorical crimes of being too erratic or emotional or spazzy or lazy or, to put it more simply, not being perfect each and every single time.

I haven’t stopped physically hurting myself over the past year, either. So there’s also that.

At first it was my back forcing me down for the count for two or so weeks. There’s been a lot of pain in my feet and knees and wrists and mouth. (I assume the mouth pain is metaphorical, because I talk too much.) An accident—a torn MCL—led to weeks of hobbling around waiting for peace. And since then, it seems every little piece of me has fallen to disrepair: a muscle tear from attempting exercise (they say it helps the brain!!!!), searing foot pain after doing who-knows-what in your sleep, a sprained arch, a spasming back. Tightness in the chest. So much tightness in the chest, neck, and upper back. I also have arthritis. Every day, a new pain adventure I can only hope to ignore.

Sometimes I’ll try to reframe it: pain is just weakness leaving the body after all, no? Well, I feel like I’m the weakest, so bring on the pain. Make it hurt, force me to feel it deeply, without stop. Make me stronger. Rip the skin right off my body, layer by microscopic layer—make it hurt, and maybe I will find some relief, stripped naked of all my ugly, my petulance and artifice. Sometimes I imagine my pain receptors as incubators of protective future-knowledge. Of hurt and experience passed down as lesson, a way to prep and plan like they’re Emotional Doomsday preppers: know this feeling and do everything in your power to never feel it again. Do better. Be better.

Is this, too, Jeremy? I don’t know. He always seems involved and never seems to stop, so I’m over-analyzing all of it.

It feels involuntary at this point: the self-sabotage. I know that’s so much of what Jeremy is, the guise of protection gussied up in the practice of consistent fear and loathing, thanks to countless years of rejection and failure. Usually, a girl can handle this sort of thing with compassion. After all, nobody’s perfect! We’re all human! There are good spots and moments!

Not when Jeremy’s thriving.

I feel trapped in my own body and in my own inability to just -be-; to be able to internalize words and have them not feel so hollow. And maybe, eventually, I will feel a little bit better. I need to learn to cultivate kindness. For myself especially. Because over the course of his nasty ear-whispering, Jeremy has dug into my brain’s logic center and rewired fucking everything. Whatever he needs to do in order to create his preferred environment: frantic, erratic, anxious. Always unsure. Slightly warm, a little sweaty. Hateful and full of suppressed rage (at myself and society), Jeremy purrs in my ear and capitalizes every time I have a thought or positive feeling, reminding me of how foolish, illogical, and downright egomaniacal I am for even existing. He loves making me mad about the state of the world and my potential, unintended enabling of it. He is especially rude when I sit down to create.

And when I say he is there in every single moment with an egregiously bad thought, I am not exaggerating.

Why am I even doing this?

I know everyone has a Jeremy. Everyone struggles with these thoughts. But knowing that makes me feel worse, in a lot of ways. I know others deal with the ever-present bullshit of Jeremys and still get on with their lives. They can ignore him and his wicked words and the venomous way in which he tries to hold us all back. Why can I not? I think I need help, but even typing those words opens up a floodgate of obstacles (and tears) and a sense of failure straight to my heart. I don’t have insurance, but even if I did, maybe I’d be too weak to do what needs to be done. Maybe my body is addicted to feeling this way; maybe subconsciously it is I, and not Jeremy, that only wants to feel bad. Maybe all I want is to be pitied. This only makes me madder. I should be able to beat fuckin’ Jeremy. HE’S A GODDAMN WORM! Plus, I’ve done it before! In harder circumstances. And yet, it feels like Jeremy’s stronger than ever. Like he’s become antibiotic resistant; all he does is laugh.

So I sit, and do nothing. Or watch or read or listen to something. It’s the only time he feels drowned out.

And the problem with that is that there’s something intoxicating about not doing. The freedom that comes with knowing you’ll never be hurt, not by your own inadequacies, and not by anyone else, because you just exist and have no attachment or feeling or thoughts about anything, or anyone, else. Maybe if I sit still enough, I will just become this couch, and nothing will hurt or matter anymore.

I am hurting, publicly. And I don’t know if that’s right for me. But I got myself into this mess because the only connection I felt was to those who told me they were glad for my compulsive honesty, my openness and vulnerability, so I bled even further down the page. Here, do you see this? Do you understand these feelings? How does one get them to stop? Will you hug me? Will you see the pain underneath these jokes? Will you be my friend, and come save me from myself? It has hurt me more than I’ll probably ever know, even when it felt like it was right.

Only you can save yourself. And when Jeremy tells you that you’re simply beyond saving, or too ugly (metaphorically and literally!) a thing to survive, it’s hard to believe a single reason. You have to grasp at the glimpses.

Sometimes, late at night when no one else is awake, I allow myself to sit and think the idiotic thought that anything is possible. I try to breathe, unencumbered by expectations perceived or self-inflicted, and sometimes it even comes easily. I feel dizzy, high at the concept, drunk on the fumes of what could be. Sometimes I even think I can do it. But the second even a glimmer of action befalls me, I am thrust right back into Jeremy’s worst thoughts.

What, exactly, is the point?

The point is that I don’t fucking know, Jeremy. So why won’t you let me try?