Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Self-Harm: What I Believe.
I wasn’t going to put this here.
I haphazardly typed out my story of self harm and threw it at Plucky. I thought I’d let her anonymously divulge my disease. Because I am acutely aware of the risks of being considered crazy.
I have always been aware of the risk involved in living out loud. These risks have wrapped themselves around my heart for as long as I can remember. No matter how much easier it makes things, Jeanna can’t fake it to make it. I am always 100% passionately myself. Even if it makes me look bad.
Well, sometimes I photoshop my under-eye circles.
But my story of self-harm? The whole story? I didn’t want it here in black and white, where one day my children could read it. Where my ex husband could read it and think “SHE IS RAISING OUR KIDS!” Where my husband’s ex-wife could read it and think, “SHE IS CO-PARENTING MY KIDS?” Where my mother could read it and think, “I didn’t give her enough or treat her enough or do enough.”
See, I don’t want to hurt anyone else and I don’t want to hurt myself.
I don’t want to hurt myself.
Those words are why I must share. HOPE. 17% of young women self-harm. SEVENTEEN percent. How many days did I feel to be the loneliest freak alive? Our stories build awareness and awareness brings action. By not hiding we allow ourselves to be seen, to reach out, to get help.
And help is possible.
The day after I checked myself into the psych ward I called my mom. Disappointing her has always been the scariest thing to me. But I called her to tell her what I did and I expected her to be mad. After all, no responsible mother goes and has a nervous breakdown! What she said to me was this: “Are your kids OK? Were they away for the weekend? IT IS THE PERFECT TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. No judge would EVER take away children whose mother is looking to get better, who admits defeat and is battle weary and exhausted. There is nothing saner than admitting you need help. You are proving you are responsible.” Now, I know some judges would. Some judges, like some people, are just dicks. Because 90% of the time I AM awesome. But those words, "nothing is saner than admitting you need help," they chimed through my collapsed mind.
So I will hold those words, hope for the best and share my story.
I remember being a child, laying in my closet, wanting to die. I had a big white and green toy box. It was covered in fantasy pictures, unicorns and Technicolor rainbows, I remember being huddled next to it and sobbing. I begged God to let me die. I wasn’t old enough to know I could have a say in Life and Death.
I don’t remember a time where I didn’t think about suicide. Still, when I am angry, frustrated or sad, it’s the first place my mind goes. Habitual imagery it seems. I look at ceilings and see places that I could hang myself. I picture my body lying in a bloody bathtub. I imagine cold on cold and apologize to the person who will find me. I cannot help where my mind goes; it’s always the first response. I will be suddenly overwhelmed and it’s what I see. It’s the bad habit. It’s my dirty secret.
I was 14 when I began to self harm. Barely, older than my daughter now. I watch her skin and follow her injuries with strategic inquiries. I wonder if she thinks like me and hurts like me. She is my clone in so many ways, will she inherit this? God, I worry. When I was 14, I swallowed a bottle of Tylenol and then threw them up. I lit matches and burned designs in my skin. I found razor blades and acquired scars. I practiced bulimia not because I wanted to be skinny, but because I liked to cause myself pain. I enjoyed making myself binge and then purge. It was about power and discipline. I smoked, I drank bottles of cough syrup, I did acid, not to try and fit in, or have fun, but because I knew it was hurting myself. And I wanted that.
I wanted to control my pain and numb my pain at the same time.
I was able to be the catalyst (controller) for my external pain, while releasing endorphins to calm my internal pain.
Cutting saved me from suicide. Cutting calmed my mind. When I was in the hysterics of anxiety, cutting was Xanax. It was an addiction and soon, when I was upset, I wasn’t thinking, “I want to die,” I was looking for a blade. I wanted to cut. As soon as that familiar sting hit my brain, the rest of the world melted away. The rest of the pain melted away. I had something I controlled.
And I had a secret.
I have heard people say that cutters are just out for attention, but nothing is further from the truth. I hid my wounds and guarded my secret as if sworn by magic. NOBODY saw them. As I grew up, I cut less. Adulthood gave me external responsibilities and no longer could I internalize the world. Parenthood made me fear judgment. Fearing judgment made me fear madness.
Adulthood brought on 2 main points of relapse. In fact, I almost thought I had grown out of the behavior. The thoughts were still there, the cravings still present, but I didn’t give in. Until my world (my marriage) fell apart. At that point I began to harm myself in all the ways I could, except drugs.
The last time I cut myself was July 29th, 2011. (If you’ve read Unsinkable, you know the story). I admitted myself to the mental ward that night. I admitted my addiction to self harm, on a physical, mental and emotional level. Whether it was physical injuries, self-shaming, alcohol, sex, suffering, guilt driven over achievement or co-dependent behaviors, I needed to stop. I was addicted to pain.
I decided to no longer remain silent. And that keeps me honest.
Like any addiction, it doesn’t go away. My first urge when I’m upset (still) is to self-harm. I have not let myself go there. And I have been successful, so far.
Reasons I feel successful:
1. I am doing this for me. I do not WANT to be a self-harmer.
2. I admit to my sickness. I acknowledge I suffer anxiety disorders. I admit to an addiction to self harm. I hold myself accountable to my promise of honesty.
3. I recognize the addictive properties of my illness. I recognize cues that drive me to crave self harm.
4. I can speak to others about self harm without being embarrassed.
5. I am dedicated to July 29,2011 being the last quit date I ever have.
What does any of this have to do with National Suicide Prevention Day and why do I tell this story?
Because I am just like you. I mean besides living in a treehouse and wearing aprons and stuff. But I am just a regular mom and wife and professional woman. I am actually pretty frickin "together". I am college educated and own a home. These people are all around us. And they might be overwhelmed and need help. Or they could be scared to seek help. But they are helpable! Life can be beautiful, even for those who don’t think so. And self-harm wears SO many hats, this isn't just about razors and matches.
I said above that self-harm saved me from suicide. Indeed, I feel it was a coping mechanism for stress. It was habit forming and addictive. It allowed me to deal. But I wanted to live. I never truly (other than some VERY bad moments) wanted to DIE. Strangely enough, those moments, are stories I’ve never told and because of the hysteria in my mind, barely remember. I wanted to live, but for many self-harm is still one of the strongest indicators of suicidal tendencies.
I believe by removing the stigma, and looking to have a better understanding of the self-harmer’s struggle, we can save lives.
I believe by recognizing the addiction component of self-harm, we can treat and save lives.
I believe by sharing our stories we can unite.
I believe in wellness.
I believe in hope.
And I know they are all possible.