*That* Behaviour

Warning:  This will very likely trigger anyone who is sensitive to the topic of self injury.

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My depression has not improved, my suicidal thoughts have not lessened, and I find myself returning to the behaviour that has seen me through for over twenty years.  I find solace in the touch of a razor on my skin.  I find comfort in the blood.  It is a sick and twisted little dance I do with my mind, yet it keeps me from going through with the suicidal intentions when things get this bad.  Proof of my life saves me somehow.

If you are an adult who self injures, please know you are not alone.  Emphasis is always placed on teenagers, especially teen girls, but there are many people who continue with SI or even start it long after the teen years.  It’s not talked about, because most of us are so ashamed of what we do.  I couldn’t talk about it without the anonymity of this blog.  If you want to talk about the issue, please leave a comment or email me.  I will not discuss pro-self injury topics, and I’m not at all qualified to give mental health advice.  If what you need is someone to share your suffering, though, I can be there for that.

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Numb

I’m starting to feel the numbness creep in that I thought I would avoid this holiday season.  It’s Chanukah, and, even though I’m not Jewish, I keep that holiday.  The burning candles comfort me and bring peace in to my life.  That’s worth celebrating.  Tonight is  the last night.  The entire row will be lit.  I’m hoping the warmth of the candles will take away some of this numbness.  It’s a feeling that you can’t feel anything.  Does that even make sense?

This year, I have done festive things.  I have participated in a Chanukah Shabbat service, attended a gift swap, and even have two Christmas parties on my weekend agenda.  These are better efforts than I’ve made in years past.  But the numbness is taking over now.

I have to be very careful with this numbness, as it tends to lead toward self-injury.   There’s a need to see blood for proof that I’m alive.  The warmth of the blood against my cold skin awakens me.  It’s a sick process founded by a sick mind.  I have to be diligent and aware.

As the numbness creeps in, the happiness and feelings of family and love begin to fade.  I am in a fight against my mind, once again, and I don’t know which of us will win.

Fight!

That’s exactly what my therapist chanted at me as I left her office this afternoon.  The past few days have been terrible, with nightmares and gruesome flashbacks every day.  I’m exhausted, annoyed that it seems I have to choose between mental and physical health, and becoming paranoid.  It’s a lovely combination.

She told me that her goal for me this holiday season is to fight against my emotions.  That might seem odd, coming from a therapist, but I take her point.  My emotions aren’t always rational.  This sense of foreboding doom and paranoia comes out of a nightmare.  The thoughts of self harm that keep cropping up stem from the flashbacks.  None of these things are ‘normal’ events that spark ‘normal’ emotions.  These are the emotions I need to guard against.  My therapist says sometimes we have to lead our emotions rather than following them, and I know exactly what she means.

We’re coming upon the dates for my sister’s birth and death, trying to cope with the more recent loss of my best friend’s brother, and generally fighting to keep from spiralling out of control as the various emotions come up against each other.  But, I will fight.  I will fight to get through my sister’s death anniversary without shutting down.  I will fight to get through the holidays without bowing to grief.  And I will fight to be present.  To enjoy the holidays, even when what I want to do most is cover my head and forget to exist for a while.

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.