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.

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.

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.

Release *graphic*

Again– *graphic*  If you’re triggered by discussions of self-injury or are in a vulnerable state this might not be the post for you.

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To say that things haven’t been going well lately is to understate more than I’ve done in quite some time.  The present is becoming alarmingly like the past.  I’m stuck in a bad situation with the knowledge of that but no ability to leave it.  Making the best is typically well enough to get through.  These days, however, the best hasn’t been enough to keep me going.  I’m not suicidal– I couldn’t do that to those I love– but I wouldn’t mind if I died not of my own accord.

Things got to be too much today, and I *needed* to see blood.  I needed to feel that release as the blood turned from warm to cold on my skin.  I needed to feel *something* other than chaos and nervousness and sadness.  After a particularly nasty argument with a housemate this morning that had already turned physical, I didn’t think I’d be able to wait the two or so hours until I could sneak away in to my room and find that release.

As someone who’s had this problem for quite some time, I’ve learnt to do things as safely as possible.  This time, however, it went a bit too far.  Blood ran down my arm, but I kept cutting that same spot until one plaster couldn’t stop the blood.  Or two.  Or three.  Or four.  I was terrified at the thought that someone might catch me.  I had broken in to a sweat, and my arm was on fire.  That hand was much whiter than the other.  It wasn’t meant to go this far.  It was *not* a suicide attempt.  Not thinking about being silent or doing things methodically, I kept opening and piling on plasters until the blood stop running through.

So how do I feel now?  Like doing the whole bit all over again.  I feel like the ugliness isn’t out yet and the darkness is still too visible.  Blood can be cleaned.  All of my SI scars can be covered by t-shirts, as I’m careful to keep it on my upper arms.  That stuff doesn’t show.  The ugliness of the current situation and the shame of the past is what seems to show through.

Finding the Lighter Side

Healing doesn’t always have to be about digging deeply in to the recesses of your mind and bringing to light those things which you have repressed.  It can also be hysterical.  Take, for instance, laundry.  This morning, I switched out jumpers for lighter shirts and was bemoaning the very short sleeves known as ‘women’s styles.’  Not enough coverage for someone whose arms are above average size, house self-injury scars, and are marked with an identifying satanic symbol.  Then a thought occurred to me about a new advert for tees.  I could almost hear the far-too-eager announcer’s voice:

It’s Spring again, ladies and gents, and what do we all need?  Long sleeved tees! In breathable fabric, bright Spring colours, and flirty Summer styles.  Perfect for those freshly cut arms!

Yes.  Healing can be funny sometimes.  In fact, it just has to be.  🙂

Alive

As I transition from the manic part of this episode to the depression part, cutting has become a problem again.  It’s not a way to self-soothe or express intense feelings.  It’s a way to *feel.*  Full stop.  Thursday afternoon, I felt like I’d stepped outside my life and was merely in the audience of a play.  One might think this is a good reaction to what had been the chaos of mania, but it’s too much of a change.  To go from feeling everything to feeling completely numb in a few hours’ time produces an odd sort of panic, at least in my experience.

I tried everything I could think of, but the numbness just got worse.  I went outside and concentrated on the feel of the wind and the sun.  When that didn’t help, I turned to the more physical activities.  I worked with clay, forcing myself to notice the temperature, texture, and even the scent of it.  I coloured intricate geometric-patterned pictures.  I even tried holding ice just to feel the sting of that.  Nothing.

When I finally did give in and cut my arm, it took a minute before I even trusted the cascade of blood as proof of my existence.    The razor was sharp and cut immediately, but I didn’t feel it.  I just cut deeper and deeper until my arm looked angry and the blood flowed steadily.  This has become daily, and both of my arms now look angry.  No one will ever see these cuts, and no one is meant to.  They are simply reminders to me.  I feel my shirt scratch them or feel them burn slightly, and I know that I am capable of feeling something, at least.  As those sensations lessen, though, more are needed.  More cuts, more blood, more proof that I am alive.