Self-Harm

WARNING: SOME OF THIS MATERIAL MAY BE TRIGGERING.  PLEASE DON’T READ ON IF YOU THINK THAT MAY APPLY TO YOU: I DON’T WANT TO CAUSE ANYONE ANY HARM OR PAIN.

I’ve written about my self-harm before but I engaged in an especially…er…interesting version of it this week.  I’ll come back to that shortly.  One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is that there was a gap of something like eight or nine years between my most prolific cutting phase and my more recent return forays into cutting, head-banging etc.

I didn’t harm myself at all in these intervening years.  Or did I?

I’ve been doing tiny little things to myself for so long I would never ever have regarded them as self-harm, but some material I’ve read recently led me to believe that, unconsciously, maybe they have been.

I compulsively pick scabs.  I pick the cuticles and skin around my nails.  I am obsessive about squeezing spots and go out of my way to find new ones to burst.  I pull hairs out of my head or my eyebrows.  Picking the eczema induced dead skin out of my ears is an uncontrollable compulsion.  Indeed, I peel dead skin off other parts of my body.  I scratch at myself when I am not itchy, pinch myself for no reason and gawk in delight at blood when I accidentally cut myself.  Indeed, I am notoriously clumsy and careless.  Even drinking is considered a form of deliberate self-injury.  I rarely drink during the week, but I suppose I would be a heavy drinker at weekends or on holidays (my hilarious bruises from this weekend show how dangerous that can be!  This one, one of many incurred over the last few days, is on my right thigh).  I’m sure I could think of more of these ‘little things’ if I bothered to probe my mind in detail.

None of this shit seems like a big deal in and of itself, and as I say, I would never for a second have considered it anything approaching self-harm.  But apparently it can be; that’s what some of the so-called experts think at times, anyway.

Of late, all of these behaviours have continued, but additional ones have surfaced (and the hair-pulling has become more severe; it’s not just a hair or two here and there, but entire tufts at times)  Some of them, such as cutting, are simply a renewal of old behaviours, but others are new – the head-banging for instance.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, now that I think about it.  I have been known to head-bang when extremely agitated or, particularly, whilst in great physical pain (eg. migraines, which is kind of stupidly ironic) for basically as long as I can remember, but it would have been very intermittent, whereas in the last few months it’s almost become the norm when the madness comes (though less so for physical ailments).

One thing I did quite a bit as a teenager than I no longer do is burn myself.  The main reason I’m not doing that now is because I no longer smoke.  If I did, however, I’m sure I’d be sticking fag ends into myself as well as the rest.  On one mental health related website I’ve read, they actually advise you to smoke as a distraction from self-harm.  I found this amusing when I read it, as it would only encourage it in me.

People wonder why my more serious self-harming behaviour have been anewed in the recent past.  It would be easy to blame C, which I have been doing and which I think A does.  After all, it all started again since meeting him and certainly, I think an already dodgy situation has been exacerbated by therapy, because it forces me to confront shit I really do not want to confront.

But I am fairly sure I have no recollection of C asking had I considered self-harming recently, because it was such a fabulous solution to all life’s problems.  This bullshit was all bubbling under the surface, and if therapy has brought it out, then it has – but it was merely uncovering it, not creating it.  Indeed, C’s attempt at employment of DBT was deliberately to give me another focus when I feel these urges.

And that’s what they are: urges.  People who don’t do it don’t seem to understand that – why should they I suppose?  But it’s compulsive.  It’s like an instinct that becomes progressively overwhelming if you don’t act upon it.  It’s all-consuming, visceral, a caveman-esque reaction.  For me, unlike some others, it’s selective in when it comes.  It don’t feel the urge every time I am mental, depressed or otherwise not in what most people would describe as a normal mood.  But when it does come, it is profoundly intense and driven.  It feels as natural to act upon it as it does to breathe.

I had been having some self-harm ideation prior to actually going mental this night, but hadn’t actually done it.  However, as I stated later in this post, seeing a knife that night was like an epiphany.  Using it to slash my body seemed like the perfect solution to the mentalism I was experiencing.  The thing is, for the most part, it worked.

My memory is slightly skewed, but I do remember that the frenzy of racing thoughts largely desisted.  Instead a calm thoughtfulness and, dare I say, fascination, descended upon me.  The pain of the cuts refocused me and the slow oozing and flow of the blood captivated my psyche.  I’m sorry if this upsets anyone, but it was beautiful.

I didn’t entirely agree with that assessment the next day, but it’s funny how it grasps you again at a later stage.

The truth is I’ve been making small cuts more often than I’ve detailed here since the above incident, and there’s been quite a lot of head-banging too.  I think I only talked about them again here, but it’s been happening more often than that.  Not with tremendous frequency, though, and essentially most of the self-inflicted injuries have been superficial.

On Monday I decided to be more elaborate.  I mentioned on the last link that I’d been toying for some time with the idea of carving the word ‘hate’ into my abdomen.

On Monday, I did it.

Monday was a public holiday in Northern Ireland, thanks to the annual 12th July celebrations (held on Monday 13th, because it would apparently be a sin to have it on Sunday).  I’m indifferent to the politics of the situation, but since A and I live almost exactly on a marching route I usually go and watch the parades.  My mother and A’s family were all about too.

The morning was great fun as it happens.  Everyone was in good form and there was no political or sectarian bullshit, just a kind of carnival atmosphere, something both the Orange Order and the various Northern Irish councils had been hoping to create.  So I was in a pretty good mood, but – mainly but not entirely at the will of the in-laws – we went to the pub afterwards.  My mood just changed.  I was exhausted and just felt really depressed and not at all part of the group-belonging feeling that seemed to permeate the pub.  My mother and I decided to go home after only one drink, and A joined us.

I can’t have been just exhausted and depressed, and I don’t know why my mood took a nosedive.  Sometimes it just does; that’s the nature of some of the illnesses with which I am afflicted, I suppose, and it happens to everyone from time to time anyway.

When we got back to the house, we discovered that one of the PCs was mostly fucked, and I became convinced that it was my fault, and my already-poor mood became worse.  I wouldn’t say I was overly agitated, but I was upset and full of self-disgust.

When my mother went upstairs to the toilet, and A was focused on working at the computer, I went into the kitchen and quite deliberately picked up a knife.  I successfully carved the ‘H’ into my stomach, facing upwards so I could read it, and felt an instant release.  However, it was not enough.  I had to do more.  I had to complete the word.  As I said above, it was visceral, a complete compulsion.  But I heard my mother coming down the stairs at that point so I hid the knife and to cut a long story short smuggled it to the bathroom, under the pretence that I was going to the toilet.  I carved the rest of the word, then sat on the toilet and looked at it.

I must have been in some sort of trance.  I kept muttering to myself, “it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful,” as I watched the gorgeous blood flow from the wounds.  The words just sort of ‘came out’ of me.

Two things are worthy of note.  Firstly, I didn’t really feel particular pain in slicing my stomach.  According to I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me – an outdated but by far the best-selling book on borderline – endorphins rush to the cut site to act as one’s body’s natural painkillers.  In fact, the book argues, one can become hooked on the endorphin rush.  It also says that for many of those afflicted by BPD self-harm becomes a ritual.  Now I’m no expert, but I would imagine that carving ‘HATE’ into your abdomen then staring at it in a child-like wonder could, just perhaps, be classified as ritualistic.  It certainly wasn’t just random slashing.

A is terrified that I will enter the ritualistic stage of self-harm as a more permanent state.  I did the above whilst 100% sober, in a relatively stable state of mind (very, very down – but not going totally mental), and it was more elaborate than recent cuts have tended to be (though it still doesn’t rival some of my teenage creations).  Perhaps I have already reached the stage.

The second issue is that it almost instantly improved my mood.  I met A on the stairs afterwards and he asked me if was OK, because it had been evident earlier to him that I was not.  I said, truthfully and cheerfully, that I was, and he was convinced – indeed, suspicious – enough to actually ask had I taken Valium (which I hadn’t).  The point is, for me, cutting works.  It improves my mood.  I can’t say I always feel happy or contented afterwards like I did on Monday, but there is always some mood improvement.

So, I was in fairly good form for the rest of the day.  We went back out, saw the return leg of the parade, went for a lovely dinner and for a few quiet drinks, came home and went to bed.  Apart from my mother unwittingly causing a delusion in me (which she then ever-so-helpfully pronounced ‘silly’ on my part), I was in good humour up until and including going to bed on Monday night.

I know I shouldn’t do it, and part of me regretted it on Tuesday (when I was essentially depressed all day, though this was mainly due to sheer exhaustion and the bullshit with GA).  It was what I was referring to in yesterday’s post when I said I wasn’t at liberty to discuss something.  The reason for that is that I had successfully managed to hide it from A, and he reads this blog.

Mostly I am happy for him, and indeed for a few select others that I know in ‘real life’, to do so, as I articulate myself, in general, better here than I do in person.  If I want them to know what my madness is like or how I am feeling, the best way to do so is to direct them here.  Words will never entirely grasp it, I don’t think, but a written analysis over which I can take my time and plan is always likely to be more descriptive and accurate than any shite I can ever tell people verbally.  Witnessing the mentalism, as poor A often does, can certainly show someone how mad one can be; however, almost by definition, I am unable in that state to articulate how it feels for me, or what goes through my mind.  Hence allowing him and others access to this, which is otherwise anonymous.

But I didn’t want A to know about this incident as he is disturbed enough by my madness and especially issues of self-harm as it is.  It is one thing for him to learn of random slashing, but to actually plan then execute the act in this rational, calculated manner is probably quite another.

He did work out after reading yesterday’s post that the missing information must have been related to cutting.  He is going to see the wounds sooner or later I suppose – I mean, we do live together – so I thought I would just go ahead and write about it.  But I do fear for his poor sanity too.  I am causing everyone in my life so much pain, and I (quite appropriately) hate myself for it.

I am also scared to tell C in the morning.  Between this and the hanging incident, I am convinced he is going to do something I don’t want him to do.  I guess I’ll just play it by ear.  The funny thing is, at present I actually trust Dr C more than C, even though I feel much closer to and understood by the latter, in general.  Perhaps that is because I feel betrayed by his fucking about last week, but perhaps it is because I have some sort of perception that C does actually care about me and will section me if he feels it is in my best interests.  Dr C is so much more formal – which is good in its own way I think – that I kind of feel she sees me as just another patient.  This is probably irrational thinking; I am probably that to C too, but he (generally) doesn’t make me feel that way.

A thinks there is no point in going to psychotherapy if I am not entirely honest with C.  He is obviously right, objectively speaking.  But it’s just so fucking hard.  Part of me is actually seriously considering just telling C that we should stick it.  Our most recent contracted sessions are due to end either tomorrow or the next week I see him.  I am finding talking to him hard and at times futile.

But then, aside from the logistical issue of having to wait for months to get therapy again if I later decided it would be in my best interests to have it, I would miss him and grieve for my loss of him.  I do rely on him and am horribly attached, regardless of whether my transference becomes negative at times or whether therapy seems pointless.  In short, I’m not sure I want to continue, but at this stage I really think I need to.  In some way, part of me does want to continue as well.  I don’t know.  It’s hard to explain.  I’ll talk to him about the future; we have to tomorrow anyway as, as I say, the contracted sessions are due to finish shortly (which is actually frightening to think about, thus apparently proving I do not want to be parted from C).

Anyway, for those interested, a link to a picture of the body-art can be viewed at the end of this post.  Please don’t click it if you think it would disturb or trigger you.

-> Click Here <-


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6 Responses to “Self-Harm”

  1. Love. Because that’s the only response I can think of that even begins to make any sort of sense. Completely inadequate, I know. But from me to you: love.

  2. Though it will be very difficult, I think you mist tell C about this latest cutting and about the hanging incident. The consequences of doing so ate outside your hands, but C will act in your rational best interests. If you don’t, it seems to me that you are stirring up and confronting all the hateful stuff with C but not allowing it to go further and try to help you. All so easy and glib coming from me, as I can only guess the strength required to do this, but I fo think you have that core strength of character.

    • Thanks W. It turns out you’re right, because I told him everything. I will blog about it later. As you can tell, I haven’t yet been sectioned 🙂 He made me promise that if I am suicidal I have to call my GP or take myself to A&E, which I suppose is fair enough.

  3. I think W’s right. If you are going to do this ‘properly’ you have to do it properly. Which fucking sucks. I rationalise it to myself as if it’s lying going to A+E and saying ‘it hurts’ but refusing to say what hurts then getting pissed off when they can’t treat me. But then I’m quite often shit when it comes to doing it myself but I do try.

    Is it really bad that my first reaction when I saw the photo of your cutting was to think, ‘wow that looks excellent, I must try hate’ 😉 I’m completely with you on the strength of the strange word to use but satisfaction that I get from self harm. And it is beautiful because it reflects the beauty of the pain inside which is beautiful sometimes. I tried to write about that years ago here http://conversationswithmyhead.blogspot.com/2009/07/reposting-this.html because it;s a difficult thing to explain to normals.

    Is self harm even bad? Sometimes I wonder. Anyway good luck and lots of hugs xxxx

    • Is it really bad that my first reaction when I saw the photo of your cutting was to think, ‘wow that looks excellent, I must try hate’ 😉

      Well, it probably is bad, but I know the feeling exactly – I remember seeing some image BPD in OKC had created featuring a bleeding word across someone’s arm, and I thought, “fuck, that’s so cool.” I actually was really pleased with my ‘HATE’ if I’m honest. I kept going back and looking at it and am still doing it to some extent. The picture doesn’t even really do it justice.

      Is self-harm bad? You see, my perception at the minute is that there’s nothing wrong with it especially. It’s the reactions of others to it that tells me the normals don’t agree. But if it helps you to cope, surely that is not such a bad thing? The only thing I really have issue with is having scars that are clearly self-inflicted somewhere obvious. But since I’m not planning on wearing a bikini any time soon, I think I can get away with the ‘HATE’ 😉

      Anyway, hun, thanks. I hope you have/had a great day with R and N. Take good care of yourself. Hugs xxx

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