23 Things I Wish I'd Known: #12: The Hate Radio in Your Head Has an Off-Switch

At age 22, I started stripping. For the next fifteen years I worked off and on as a dominatrix, porn actress, and escort.

Now I’m 49. 

Here are 23 things I know now that I wished I’d known then:

#12: The Hate Radio in your head has an off-switch. (Or at the very least, a volume control.)

One of my favorite authors is Lynda Barry, a cartoonist and graphic novelist. In her book One! Hundred! Demons!, she drew a picture of herself as a little kid, lying in bed saying over and over to herself: “I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead.” When I first saw that about a decade ago, a little bomb went off inside my head: that was my exact experience. I don’t know when it started for me, going to sleep every night to a steady chorus of self-hatred, waking up every morning to the same. (I also used to repeat “I hate my body” and “I hate my life.”) But once I noticed it, I couldn’t remember a time when that wasn’t the case.

Those steady, low-level voices of self loathing are what I call “hate radio.” Looking back on it now, I can see how it filled me with a constant low-grade sadness. And while I know I experienced those voices long before I ever became a sex worker, there were times that I used that fact as an excuse to whip myself even harder.

I’d like to say there was an easy fix, but there wasn’t. It was a long, slow process to come out from under that fog of depression. I credit three different therapies, which I undertook more or less simultaneously. First, I countered the hate voices with love-- cognitive therapy, plain and simple. Whenever I’d hear the steady drumbeat of “I hate myself” starting up, I would consciously say, either in my head or out loud: “I love myself. I love my body. I love my life,” drowning the ugly voices out. Second, I invested in talk therapy. It took years, but I finally got to the point where I could face my deepest demons and talk them through.

Finally, I did some things in the world. I took some risks, failed a few times, but scored some big wins, as well. I went back to school and got two Masters degrees, which felt important since I’d been a grad school dropout from years before. I went back to work as a prostitute to dig myself out of six-figure debt, then put away six figures for my retirement. I became a grant writer and got pretty good at it, then tried my hand at writing plays and got pretty good at that, too. I found a partner who really gets me, and friends who do as well. I can’t say that any one success boosted my deep-seated low self-esteem for long, but the cumulative affect over years of effort was powerful.

Now when I think about the phrase: “I hate myself,” the first thing that springs to my mind is: I’m the chick that gets shit done. I do good things, love great people, and great people love me. There’s no place in my head for that message -- I can say the words, but they just don’t stick.

Promise me if you beat yourself up on a regular basis that you look into actively countering those hateful voices. You can learn more about the basics here. An excellent, more advanced book on the subject is Jon Kabat-Zinn’s classic book: Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness.  I’ve lived with and without hate radio, and let me just tell you – life without it is way better.

I write extensively about managing anger, stress, and other inevitable negative emotions in sex work in Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industrynow available in paperback and as an ebook.

Until next time, be sweet to yourself.


Want occasional notifications of juicy Lola News? Sign up here.