[Content Note: Frank and graphic discussion of self harm]
Funny how some things never quite leave you.
Its an old addiction but I’ve got it under control… more or less
Its maybe 20 years since I first hurt myself to ease the pain on the inside and the earliest self-imposed scar is over 15 years old
I’d love to tell you that it had been years since I last deliberately hurt myself.
I mean, yes, its been a while since I last actually picked up the razor – maybe even years – but I couldn’t tell you exactly how long that was, maybe its less, a lot less. And perhaps it is at best a couple of months since i punched a wall just to feel the pain and no more since i dragged a kitchen knife over my skin just to feel the sting but its not regular.
Sometimes it really is 6 months or more between the slips. Sometimes I even think its gone away.
At best, if I never hurt myself again I will always have these scars – the scars I may one day describe to my child as the marks of a struggle I fought with myself. Or perhaps as a symptom of an illness they know I fight every day.
But what i want is to open the skin and feel the pain. The sharp tear and long ache. The hot sticky mess and the sweet sweet release.
I dream about it, I think about it on the bus. I visualise it in the quiet moments and lust after it in the anguished aeons of despair and I even revel in its soft embrace in moments of happiness.
If you have never felt the pull of addiction I don’t think you can really know how it consumes you – and though this is no heroin it perhaps gives me an inkling of that want and need
It doesn’t rule or ruin my life. I am not a slave to my addiction, choosing it over more important things, battering myself and other people for an ever greater hit.
Most people will never notice my cravings.
But every now and then I give in. Still.
Still I want.
Still it feels like a need.
Have you ever walked the line between the DOOM in your head and the absolutely resolutely sensible getting-by day person who is busy not making a fuss?
I am currently very quietly running around screaming. Absolutely completely panicking about my thesis and its state of unfinished ridiculosity. Dreaming about it, waking up in cold sweats about it, crying at inopportune moments because of it, giving up sex and forgetting to eat because of it and pretending its no big deal.
The world still requires my presence – I have to get up and go to work, buy food, walk the dog, talk to people and plan my future as though I am not having a crisis with every breath and I think I might be losing it.
Though the desire to sleep incessantly is pretty strong mostly the fight is to keep away from my razor blades. Although I have slipped into my bad habits once or twice since the last time I really crashed you can’t tell – the scars on my arms are nearly a year old and finally fading to silver to match the rest. It has really been 3 months since i touched the blades at all.
I fantasise about it everyday – and its getting worse.
I don’t think there is any way to explain to someone who has never felt it the pull addiction has. I have other coping mechanisms: people to call, things to do – but that quick sharp sting and the soft flow of blood is still the first and last image in my mind when I can’t quite cope. I guess alcohol and heroin in their way offer that same stupid siren song. The ease with which I could make a mistake isn’t a worry its a comfort just like the knowledge a little more is a little better.
For now I have it locked down, a treat I must deny myself, like chocolate and sleep. I keep on saying that maybe tomorrow I will relent, I just have to wait til tomorrow, keep holding on.
But soon .. soon I will be too tired to care about tomorrow and consequences; soon just making it through today is all I can hope for.
Its March in the UK and the sun has been shining so enthusiastically I have colour on my cheeks and..decolletage.
I have mixed feelings about this burning ball of gas making such an unfiltered appearance. In general, though I like to see some brightness, it makes me homesick for the sea. On the other hand there is a delight in seeing the mood of others lift with the light (especially while it is still not too hot).
The fact that I spent the day in the company of a member of my extended family made it quite hard for me because despite the heat I was too uncomfortable with my scars and body shape to wear less clothing. I want the good weather to get me outside exercising, perking my vitamin D and otherwise improving my life but I am still ashamed of how I look and why and that makes it difficult. – Just as well I’ve got a garden to muck around in these days! [on that note have I mentioned we have baby chilli plants and little tomato seedlings whoop!] Why does improving self-confidence require faking it so much of the time?
In other news: dry weather is good for pub painting – so the refurb and name change are tootling on as best they can, but its bad for my thesis and conference paper writing productivity..
Next few weeks are going to be special.
Firstly I need to do 2 things: send drugs back to the pharmacy (I have a collection of psych drugs I haven’t taken and gave up taking for various reasons and quite frankly they represent a ridiculous temptation of idiocy) and donate the bras that don’t fit to bravissimo (apparently this uk store take used and unloved undergarments as charitable gifts and since I got fat and misshapen I have plenty of ill fitting brassieres to donate)
Secondly I really need a kick up the back side. My self esteem is pretty low right now and I really hate myself for feeling like crap and bursting into tears at regular but unexpected intervals. I feel shit for demanding attention and reassurance and as a consequence I am unresponsive and cranky. Its a vicious circle and I want to break out of it but every time I try at the moment I fall back into apologies, self-recriminations and other silliness.
So right now I am just on the right side of the razor blades and desparately avoiding the painkillers every joint in my body is screaming for in fear of overdosing.. Thank fuck forpain relief gels because this weather is absolute agony.
Stupid head. stupid body
So, finally.. plans include exercises, painkillers, cleaning and thesis-writing, oh and stopping crying.
is a challenge.
Busy hearing the nagging whine that tells me I’m not good enough and all that stuff: You didn’t help Sleepy. He doesn’t want you interfering in his life. You are a hypocrite. You are a liar. Your supervisor is fed up with you & doesn’t want to see you til she has to. Your thesis is bollocks. You don’t look after the people you love. You are selfish. You let them down. You don’t keep in touch with people who have moved away. You aren’t there when they need you. You ruined your sister’s life, you didn’t protect her. Everyone is disappointed in you. You shouldn’t act like you know it all at work. You are ridiculously grumpy at people. you are stupid. you are a fraud. you are a waste of time and space and money…..
Its a familiar litany. Playing a little loudly today – I blame PMT which as a woman it is my right to do for another 25 years or so – but its hard to keep on doing the right thing when your mind won’t be quiet.
However, made it to the Dr.,talked a little about how i’m doing and meds. The guy i saw today isn’t really happy to see me taking my pain meds and wants to fiddle with the head drugs too. [It’d be nice not to have the naproxen but last time I stopped taking it I could barely move, even taking it I am still in pain most of the time, otoh I hate having it in the house cos I don’t trust myself not to od] Anyhow gonna wean myself off the fluoxetine for good I hope (though taking it every other day for a week is going to be a challenge to remember!) and up my dose of mirtazapine which will hopefully sort my sleeping pattern. I was used to taking an hour or so to fall asleep and sleeping a few hours at a time, waking regularly etc until the mirtazapine zapped me into 8hr rest – it was fantastic and now those effects are wearing off I really miss it.
Anyhow actually managing to talk about this to the Dr is me trying to take care of myself. Didn’t manage thesis today but did do a bit of reading [ex-supervisor’s thesis].
Also went to the wake and chatted with various (not sure I’m old enough to only be catching up with people at funerals already), went up to the psych ward but Sleepy didn’t want to see me, so I had a bit of a cry and a nap and then fessed up to B about my arms. I never stop feeling guilty about it – if only it wasn’t so damn good at easing the tension. I don’t heal as well as I used to. Need to be more careful.
So mostly just working on taking care of myself and screw the rest of it cos this is hard enough.
Having mentioned the other day that I was involved in having a friend sectioned I thought I might talk a little more about why we made that decision and the process we went through. I will also tell you about the impact it has had.
My friend, who for the purposes of this blog I shall call Sleepy, has a history of mental health problems over the last 5 years. He had a breakdown and with some help improved and then followed his job abroad where he had another breakdown and was sectioned. He was flown home but then after a short break returned to his job and subsequently had another breakdown and was again sectioned in that country. After being flown home a second time he took redundancy and was unemployed while he recovered. In the last 6 months under medical supervision he stopped taking his medication, lost weight and started a new job. He was doing well.
But it seems like he pushed himself too hard – on Weds morning after working the night shift he ‘phoned his best friend G to tell him he was hearing voices and didn’t feel safe to drive. Sleepy caught the train home and G went to visit him, but Sleepy then denied there was a problem and said he didn’t want to see the Dr and just needed to get some sleep.
The following day G went round to check on him and he was still dressed and seemed quite vague, so G took him round to his house and went to ring the Dr at which point Sleepy left the house and went and sat on a wall down the road at which point G rang B and he and I went up to talk to Sleepy.
He was still hearing voices and virtually catatonic. It took quite a lot of coaxing to get him to walk back to G’s and then more to get him to eat and then even more to get him into the car for a journey to A & E.
We went to the hospital but he wouldn’t get out of the car. The admissions clerk said they couldn’t send anyone to help us get him and if we needed help we would have to call the police. Its hard to tell just how much it can count as coming in of his own voition given the amount of support B & I gave him walking up to the doors.I am glad that we didn’t have to get the police though.
Eventually we moved from reception to a nurse’s room for assessment – it would be fair to say he was uncooperative (the nurse needed some help drawing blood) and from there we were moved to a room with a bed (but no chairs – which was exhausting after 5 hours) and waited for the duty Psych. A little later she turned up with a sidekick (I have no idea whether he was a Dr, a Nurse or an orderly though I am sure we were told) and began to question Sleepy. His responses were minimal to non-existent so she questioned us before deciding to call a team down from the local mental hospital.
Cue more waiting. That team consisted of two doctors (at least one of whom was a psychiatrist) and a social worker who was to act as Sleepy’s advocate. This is required under law. They agreed that he wasn’t capable of making a voluntary application for treatment and detained him under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act.
And we waited some more. This time for the duty psych Dr to escort us to the secure hospital. Then another round of questioning from the admitting nurses and night Dr there. By then it was 3am.
On friday G went and delivered clothes but didn’t see him, on saturday B & I went to visit but he wouldn’t come out of the room. Today we got to talk to him.
Its been a rough few days and I still feel guilty, knowing that he just wants to go home and also knowing he needs more looking after. Our friends have been dealing with it in different ways, mainly by trying to ways to be practical. I shouldn’t let it get to me but I have to admit I lapsed back to old coping habits. Sigh 4 months down the drain… Step-by-step.
Everybody has topics of conversation or images that they find upsetting or difficult to deal with. For some people there are things that they find so hard that they avoid them in order to stop themselves becoming panicked or miserable. For example an addict might avoid talking about the substance they have been addicted to because doing so causes cravings or an adult abused as a child might find that every mention of child abuse on the news brings back such traumatic memories or such feelings of anger that they feel they have to change the channel to stay safe. This is more than simply not talking about food in case you get hungry or a normal horror of abuse that makes us shy away from difficult reports – this is a visceral reaction that feels difficult to control.
I have two.
The first is fairly common and currently reasonably well under control – I am less than good at dealing with graphic descriptions or representations of people cutting themselves or being cut. I have self-harmed for more than 10 years now and though now I often go months without an episode it is rare that I manage a week without thinking about it. Related to this I find that descriptions and images are very real for me; sometimes this means I get something like a flashback where the images and sensations of my own self-harm are re-played vividly in my mind and sometimes I find that it rekindles a desire in me that I otherwise ignore. The intensity of my difficulty with these things depends on the type of image (TV depictions of self-harm & suicide are definitely the worst – where a description of someone being stabbed in a novel has less effect) and also on my mood at the time. Some days I am just better at coping with it without flinching/crying than others.
The second is a little more unusual and in some ways something I am more interested in/concerned about. I have discovered particularly in the last couple of years that I struggle to listen to discussions about other people’s mental illness diagnoses and treatment. Its not usually a problem to talk to someone about their personal struggles and support them but the involvement of health professionals and families makes me extremely panicky. I am not entirely sure why this is but I can offer some hypotheses. – firstly, I feel like a fraud. I am not particularly ill or struggling that hard therefore I am not worthy of the sort of support that others so clearly do need. – secondly, I am ashamed. Ashamed of being ill, frightened and embarrassed to admit to it, ashamed of being weak, of being a fraud, ashamed of being ashamed. – thirdly, I am jealous. No matter how actually difficult it actually is for any individual to ask for help, to me it seems so easy for others and so freely given in return. I know that I am most amazingly supported but sometimes I feel so afraid to ask. I wouldn’t begin to know how to return to the bosom of my family to be looked after or to ask my boss just to give me a little more space.
These things between them are an unwelcome rush of emotion and I struggle to keep myself calm. I find this reaction particularly distressing because my logical mind wants to offer support and the benefits of my own experiences and to help people feel less alone and instead I feel overwhelmed and in desperate need of attention and support myself. ugh.
I hope that by acknowledging and considering my feelings I can begin to move past them. One day I will not be ashamed.