What Might Have Been

My thoughts have been going down that road all weekend, and it’s dangerous.  I look back on certain situations in my past and wonder how they might have turned out if x had or hadn’t happened.  This is futile at best and dangerous at worst.  A decade ago, something happened in my life that lost me quite a few friends.  It’s been an entire bloody decade, and the thought of it still floors me.  I felt I had everything going for me.  Then, one person and one event tore it all down.  The logical part of me realises that means it simply wasn’t meant to be.  The emotional part of me wants to stamp my feet and demand the chances back again.

This has left me quite depressed.  I’m not suicidal, but I keep having these fleeting thoughts like ‘what would happen if I just slit my wrists.’  Maybe I just want a visible indication of how I feel whilst the smile sits on my face.  I wish I could somehow communicate to someone exactly how miserable I feel, but trauma dictates that I keep smiling and avoid bothering people.  Therapy this week.  Hopefully, I’ll drop the facade there and actually process this stuff.  In the meantime, I shall sit here typing away and trying to stay in the present.  The past is just so hard to resist.

Relapses

The self-injury sparked by yesterday’s flashbacks has me thinking.  I feel ashamed of the behaviour, in part because I feel I should have grown out of it by now.  I buy in to the stereotype of the teenaged girl with a razor.  But that isn’t an accurate picture of self-injury.  It comes in many forms, both genders, and a wide range of ages.  I’ve heard as young as 10 and as old as 62.

One significant problem here is that adults who self injure have very little support.  Entire treatment programmes exist for children and teens.  Adults are expected to outgrow that and magically become able to cope with stressors upon reaching adulthood.  It doesn’t quite work that way, though.  Even with a great therapist and a new bag of coping skills, I fall back on self-injury sometimes.  Maybe I always will.  I *hope* that isn’t true and that one day I’ll stop forever.  From where I sit now, though, that doesn’t seem realistic.

If you are an adult who self injures, please know you aren’t alone.  There are many of us who understand and who are riding along this struggle with you.  I wish for you peace and for the ability to learn new coping mechanisms that will ease your pain without creating more.  It’s never too late to ask for help.

Flashbacks

WARNING:  This post contains graphic descriptions of ritualistic abuse.  Read with care.

 

 

 

I *hate* when flashbacks ruin progress.  Due to some events from last night, a flashback triggered in my mind.  I found myself caged, a collar around my neck and unable to stand in the confines of what amounted to a large pet carrier.  I was a child, maybe eight or ten at the time, and completely terrified of what was happening around me.  There were other caged children in the room.  Some were completely silent, staring with empty eyes.  Others were scared and crying.  Thinking about it now, well past the flashback, it makes my stomach hurt.  I’ll never understand how people can do those things to others.

The goal, if I remember correctly, was punishment for disobedience.  The children had to prove that they were sorry through acts of self-harm.  We had to *prove* that we were sorry.  Hence the fact that my feet and arms are now covered with SI wounds.  It had been many months.  Yet here I am again, all bandaged up and feeling like an emo teen with a razor and a book of Sylvia Plath.

This flashback has left me shaken, no doubt, and it’s definitely something I’ll take to therapy.  The hard work now is to toss away the feelings and go back to life proper.  It is 2016, and I am, at least for the present moment, safe.

Crashing Down

I’ve been in a bipolar depressive episode for five weeks with about two days’ reprieve.  Things are black.  The sun doesn’t even look bright.  I’m so tired of feeling like this.  My doctor is trying me on an anti-depressant with the thought that the potential for a manic episode is not worth letting the depressive episode carry on like this.  In the meantime, *everything* is falling apart.  I got in trouble at work, gained weight I’d lost, and just generally stopped caring enough to take care of myself.

This lands me where I am today.  I feel disgusting inside and out.  My disordered eating patterns are back.  The self-injurious behaviour is back.  I just generally don’t care what happens to my body right now.  My mind is too far from settled to give it thought.

I stay around for those I love and those who love me back.  I stay for my cats who are my little furry children.  I stay for my family-of-choice who I couldn’t hurt the way being a survivor of suicide does.  I’m just tired of staying right now.

A Different Sort of Addiction

**TRIGGER WARNING FOR SELF INJURY**

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My arms are becoming road maps again.  Little red lines that decorate the tops and my right forearm.  The scars aren’t enough in number these days.  For the first time in my 17 years of dealing with SI, I’ve found myself in the category of wanting the outside to match the inside.  For the first time, the scars are visible unless I wear long sleeves.

In my defence, the latest cut was a direct response to a threat of violence.  I attempted to wound myself to keep someone else from wounding me.  It worked only momentarily, and, in the end, has led to more harm that I probably would have initially received.  In that moment, I was terrified and desperate to save myself from a difficult situation.  The stress was so high, and the emotions were so extreme.  Later, I realised that cutting had numbed it all.

This year has been a struggle in terms of cutting.  It hasn’t been this bad in a while.  Now, though, it’s like the addiction is back.  Mine started when I tried to cover a scar that was put on me through cult activities.  It was a means of control.  If they were going to scar my body, I was going to do it worse.  Logical, right?  Now, I’m feeling that same sense of control again.  Like cutting is the only thing I *can* control, and like it proves to everyone that my body is truly mine.

Yesterday, I almost had a panic attack when I realised the box of plasters was empty.  No plasters means nothing to cover the blood, which means not being able to cut.  The panic only subsided when I found the box I keep for ’emergencies.’  Like the sewing needle I keep in my purse, supplies are hidden everywhere.  Now, I’m back to wearing sleeves that hide my arms, flinching when people touch me, and praying no one will feel cuts or bandages under my shirt.  I’m back to feeling exhilarated,ashamed, in control, and completely helpless over the same action. Cutting is a regular part of my life again, and I need to decide to let that go.  I’m horrified at the activity and terrified at the thought of losing it as my only means of coping and control.

Obstacles

Since my mood episode has passed, we’re back working on grief issues.  Specifically, we’re working with my sister’s death.  I asked the therapist if she found this repetitive, as we do keep returning time and again to this one loss, but she said we deal with another aspect of it every time we discuss it.  This time, we’re dealing with the extremes.

I have a tendency to bottle emotions (gasp from crowd).  As it turns out, merely intellectualising my feelings or stating them as fact does not count as actually expressing them and processing.  My therapist told me that I’m merely doing circles about them and will have to open them up in order to heal them.  Then, we discussed obstacles to that.

Obstacle one is easy to understand:  culture.  The stereotypical English stiff upper lip isn’t as stereotypical as some might think.  I’m not accustomed to overly emotional displays.  I’m more accustomed to the quick acknowledgement and subsequent containing of strong feelings.  This is separate from abuse issues or any kind of disorder.  This is simply culture.  Overcoming it is probably a question of pride and modesty.

Obstacle two *is* the trauma issues.  I grew up in a cult where people were literally killed for showing emotion sometimes.  Funnily enough, I have trouble with that now.  Then, Dr Freud, there’s the abuse my mother handed down.  On the day of my sister’s funeral, she was kind enough to remind me that, since it wasn’t my daughter, I had no right to be upset.  When I was a child, she taunted or hit my sister and me for showing emotion.  Again, small reason I have trouble with that.  Overcoming this is my biggest challenge.  No idea where to start.

Obstacle three is something I’d never considered: bipolar disorder.  My therapist pointed out that, given bipolar disorder is a condition of extremes, we spend some time attempting to keep me from giving in to strong emotions.  My emotions can’t always be trusted; some result from psychosis or other bipolar symptoms.  To overcome this, I guess we’ll just have to be overly cautious about the pace at which we attack the pesky little emotions.

There’s a danger in opening this box.  Sometimes, I follow down the path of wanting to be with my sister and follow her lead.  I don’t think that is a problem now, though, as I seem to have got a decent amount of control over the suicidal feelings.  Self-injury is the more likely problem, but I’ll deal with that when/if it happens.  It’s time, regardless of how much my mind fights against it, to at least begin the raw work of true mourning.

Visible Loathing

For most of my late teens to mid twenties, I had a *major* problem with cutting.  It seemed I couldn’t go through a day without making at least a tiny scratch somewhere on my body.  When I wasn’t cutting, I was thinking about it.  As time passed, though, it got better.  I cut less and less until I found that an entire year had gone by with no issues.  Now, however, the problems have started again.

Now, I’m either cutting or thinking about it again.  I wrote about this in a previous post and about the response in this post.  I am truly trying to overcome this, but it’s a bugger of an issue and seems to be all-consuming again.  It causes me both deep shame and deep relief.  In going a bit further, I made the first ever cuts that are easily seen.  It’s like all this talk of trauma in therapy makes me want to seem as ugly on the outside as I do on the inside.  Like I’m afraid that, if I don’t have visible scars, people will keep hurting me until they put them there against my control.

This started well over a decade ago in an effort to cover a scar.  Now, it seems to have come full circle.  Now, I am creating external scars to show the gaping internal wounds and get the disgusting-ness out.  It’s not a pretty habit and not something I’m proud of.  Right now, though, it’s in control.

Maladaptive Progress

Yesterday was supposed to be my first therapy session talking about sexual trauma.  We did discuss it in very academic tones, but a great deal of the session was devoted to preparing for this.  We had to discuss a safety plan of sorts for the self injury.  The therapist suggested that I write out affirmations about how my body deserves to be nurtured because of what it has been through and that I read those when the urge to cut gets strong.  At the time, it seemed very helpful.  Now it just seems like a lie I’ll be forced to tell myself.  Perhaps that was the point– to keep reading it until I believe it.

The problem is the urges are getting stronger and are actually ‘progressing’ to suicidal feelings.  All day today I’ve concentrated on how I could go through with it.  I’ve thought about the knife slipping a little deeply down my forearm, about the pills in the drawer that could help me slip away.  I’m fighting the thoughts, but it’s difficult when they are so present.  I’ve emailed and texted friends, not mentioning suicidal feelings.  Just making connections and distracting myself all at the same time.  This is not a healthy or safe place to be.

As I told the therapist yesterday, I feel like an adolescent girl with a razor and a Sylvia Plath book.  A request for you, my dear readers– if you are in your mid-twenties or older and have a problem with self-injury, email me at ec1_englishrain@yahoo.com  Only if you feel like sharing, of course.  I feel very alone in terms of struggling with this issue as an adult, and I’d like to hear from others who are dealing with it.  Many thanks in advance.  Also, remember that your emails will be as confidential as you want.  I don’t even need your actual age if you’d prefer not to give it.

Peace to us all.

A Maddening Response

Saturday night was odd.  At one point, I noticed the cut on my arm was burning.  Not just the typical ‘I cut myself and the clothes burn’ feeling.  Actually painful.  Upon pulling up my shirt sleeve, I got a lovely sight- interstitial fluid had leaked from the cut, built up around the plaster and begun pooling under the bandage.  A closer examination revealed that, although several days had passed, the cut continued to bleed just a bit after I removed the bandage.

From there, I went searching for bandages that would put pressure on the wound and hold in the fluid.  Almost $9.00 later, I was wrapping it in gauze and tape, hoping that would stop any draining.  A few hours after that, I was picking bits of gauze out of the sticky spots and attempting to stop the blood seeping again.  Another two plasters and it was calm.

So, part of an otherwise nice Saturday night, money I didn’t have, and physical problems that are still worrying me a bit.  And my response to all of this?  I’ll just have to be more careful next time.

This is not something I like.  In fact, it’s something that is disturbing me greatly.  I spend time and money trying to at least prevent a terrible infection setting up in the cut, and all my mind gravitates toward is the knowledge that I’ll do this again.  One would think this would be an example of lesson learnt, but being painfully honest with myself, I doubt the thought that I’ll never cut again.  I feel incredibly idiotic, selfish, and like a child throwing a fit, but it’s still a mechanism I lean on to release the ugliness.

My response should be never again.  At the moment, though, it’s just focused on next time.