Trigger warning

She’s walking behind me. Her shadow blends into mine. “Do it” she whispers “Pick up the blade.”

I say no. I say I’m better than this. I keep walking, I won’t stop.

She taps me on the shoulder. “Stop ignoring me. You want to do this. You’re not scared of me, you’re scared to admit how much you want to do it.”

And she’s right. The pain, the blood, the regret, the self-disgust; somehow I want all of it. I need it. To express the inner on the outer, for me to see a hundred times a day.

“It’s the right thing to do,” she tells me. I’m picturing it. The blade digging in. Trying not to get blood on anything. Mopping it up after. Hating myself for undoing so much good work.

“Do it,” she urges. She’s shouting now, drowning out the doubts, “DO IT”

 

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I feel like I’ve done it. In reality I haven’t. But maybe I wish I had done it.

Today has been a real monster of a ‘trigger’ day, and for once it’s not all my fault.

To kick it off I’ve been reading this series of fiction/fantasy novels that I loved as a teenager, and more have been published since I first read them, so I’ve been devouring the new books and today discovered that the last one features a girl who self-harms. Cuts. When I read the blurb I was kind of dismayed, but I love the series so I’m reading it anyway, and the effect is that I have to keep reminding myself that haven’t cut myself. It’s really strange; I almost feel sure that I have self-harmed, and I haven’t.

And now this afternoon Netflix suggested that I watch ‘Girl, Interrupted’, which so far I’m enjoying, but again I feel haunted by my trips to the psych hospital etc, which compounds the self-harm stuff. I would have paid big money to have Whoopi Goldberg as my CRN though.

Actresses aside, the reason I’m even writing this is because I’m increasingly aware of how miserable I feel. Maybe that’s selfish, maybe I have no right to be miserable, I won’t argue with you, but ultimately I just feel like crap, and it’s getting worse. I’m even slightly jealous of some of the characters in ‘Girl, Interrupted’, because they may be stuck on a ward but at least they can act out how they feel.

In motion

Yesterday I wrote that I was tumbling. Today I have to say that the slope I’m slipping down is getting steeper.

I’ve noticed that my concentration levels are returning to zero, which really dented my progress at work today. Despite the fact that I spent hours doing the same task over and over (with different data), I had to keep reminding myself what to do. Even writing this blog post, I find my brain flitting all over the place.

I’ve started sighing lots again (without realising), and my eating pattern is now just a mess of comfort eating/binging, and then some short-lived starvation.

If you put all that aside, and just look at the mental picture…it hurts. I wish I knew how to accurately describe what this pain is like. I can’t write it, I can’t draw it, I can’t sculpt it, I can’t speak it, and I end up daydreaming about blades because that pain, the resulting ache, and eventually the scar, are the only package I know that can express on the outside what’s happening on the inside. I tell myself I’ve moved on from those days, and try and shame myself by imagining having to confess a return to self-harming to Dr T, but those motivations are stretched thin when I don’t know how else I can really cope with this feeling.

Aaaah

Alternatives to short term self-harm (TW)

I have a history of DSH in response to feeling emotionally overwhelmed; when I cut/burn/overdose, I effectively shut myself down. A year ago, my (now) ex-CPN was the first to address this, and she introduced me to two techniques: 1) wearing a rubber band around my wrist to ping myself with if I felt the need to self harm, and 2) delaying: if I want to self harm, I have to wait five minutes and see if I still want to do it (and repeat until the urge goes away).

These are good ideas in theory, and I found they worked for a while, but eventually they weren’t enough. My CPN couldn’t understand why my DSH persisted, and apparently decided that since she ‘wasn’t helping’ (her interpretation, not mine) she might as well discharge me.

Since then I’ve been relatively un-supported regarding my DSH, until today at my weekly ‘Reasons Not to Kill Yourself’ session at the psych hospital. First off, Nurse L identified that my DSH methods are intense and short term, (as compared to alternatives like denying food/drink etc), so she wanted to give me alternatives that would have the same kind of immediate impact but without any lasting damage. She came up with the following, adapted from techniques used with adolescents:

1) Ice bowl: Fill a bowl with water and ice, and then dunk your face in it for 15 seconds. Come up to breathe, and then repeat until you’ve done this 5 times.

2) Cold shower: As it sounds, turn the shower to the coldest setting, and jump in WITH your clothes on. Stay there until you’ve counted to 60.

Nurse L explained the theory behind these suggestions; primarily that they are painful, and will cause an adrenaline rush, but they won’t actually harm you (in fact, the ice bowl is apparently really good for your skin). After the temperature shock from both of these, you’ll be freezing, and all those overwhelming emotions will be dampened for the time being – all you’ll want to do is wrap up warm and sleep. This is what they used to do before tranquillising patients in psychiatric hospitals: put them under a cold shower, and a minute later they’ll calmly go to bed.

I like that Nurse L explained to me how and why these techniques work. I like that they’re private, and relatively easy to do. The trick is turning to these methods before your brain goes for the old (and more damaging) ones; that’s why you have to get in the shower with your clothes on – in the time it would take to undress, you might change your mind and do something harmful to yourself.

People aren’t born with tendencies to self-harm; it’s a learned behaviour. I don’t remember where I learnt it, so I would guess I must have seen it on TV, or read it in a book. There’s something really sad in that, but there’s a positive to take away too – if self harm is a learned behaviour, it can be unlearned, or altered.

That’s what I need to remember now. It may be a long time before I lose the urges altogether, but I can learn better ways of acting on them.

Possessed again

Something’s wrong with me today, big time. All I want to do is hurt myself. That’s been the subject of the whole day. If I’m not physically doing it, I’m thinking about it. I want to destroy things, but I can’t – it’s not my house, and it’s not my furniture. I’m obsessed; when I took my keys out of my bag to let myself into the house, I couldn’t help but press the sharp edges into my skin. Every little opportunity for pain…

I can’t stay still. If I look at one thing or one place for any length of time, my eyes stop focusing. I can’t read, or even watch TV. I feel sick. 

And I got an email today telling me the chemical I ordered is on it’s way, and should be here Mon/Tues. I’m not going to give its name here, because it’s very dangerous and somehow, very accessible, at least here in the UK. I’m not going to be responsible for other people trying it. I bought it to knock myself out, but with this amount I’ll have enough to have ‘options’. 

I don’t know what to do with myself. I can barely communicate with the people in this house, and I’m currently hiding from them. I live with a family I know through the university – husband, wife and their child, and the wife’s parents are staying with us now, and today I’m horribly aware that I’m an outsider. Earlier this week I tried hard to integrate myself more, but the mood for that has gone.

I can’t stand this evil restlessness. I feel possessed again. And I find myself asking an old question: is this a form of mania? A year ago my psychiatrist wondered if I was bipolar, and that’s why I had to start doing mood charts. Dr T laughed at the idea, and it hasn’t been pursued, but could that psychiatrist have been right? Am I having some kind of manic episode????

I don’t know why I’m experiencing this, and it scares me.

I’m scared I’m going to open a blood vessel. And I’m scared of what will happen when that chemical arrives.

I should email Dr T and ask to see him on Monday. I should call my GP surgery and make an appointment. But I won’t. Now I have this chemical on the way, I’m worried I’ve crossed a line that has to be kept quiet. 

Blood. Bruises. Burns. Suffocation. No rational thought. Not even much emotion. 

I don’t understand any of this.

Suuuunshine

We had a hint of summer today, but whereas that would probably raise most peoples’ moods, it brought mine down a notch. It was hot, and suddenly everyone seemed to be stripping down to t-shirts and shorts…except I can’t do that. Not without revealing some rather obvious deep red marks on my arm.

There was a time when I would have been really angry at myself over ending up in this situation, but not anymore. I’m not proud of my scars, but I’ll stand by them (ha, like I have a choice). I just hope the scar-reduction cream I have starts to make a difference, except given the size and depth of a couple of the wounds I made I can’t say I’m overly optimistic.

Sadness aside, today hasn’t been too bad. My anxiety levels have gone way down after it occurred to me last night that I could ask for an extension on my dissertation deadline on medical grounds. I don’t know if it would be granted, and either way I’m not sure if it’s a great idea given that it would mean eating into my final exam revision time, but for now I’m just grateful that the idea at least makes me feel a bit better.

I also realised I needed to call the psych hospital to cancel my appointment for this Friday – it was supposed to be a six week review of the trazodone, but since I’ve been taken off it I don’t see the point in a review. To be honest I think my GP should have been the one to contact my psychiatrist on that front, but he’s busy and on leave now so I figured I’d make the call…I only spoke to the secretary, but she didn’t seem very impressed at the change of plan and told me to expect a call back. Hmmm.

Wound inspection

Today I had the appointment with the nurse that my GP insisted on, the appointment to have my self-harm wounds looked over. I was very nervous. With the exception of seeing my GP, I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with receiving medical attention for DSH. My past hospital visits didn’t involve any explicit nastiness, but it was always clear that the staff weren’t impressed. I didn’t really blame them; after all, my deliberate actions were taking up time that other patients might have benefitted from. But then again, I was only ever at hospital on the instruction of doctors, and I was already scared and ashamed. The roughly-performed treatments, the bad attitudes, the judging looks, they didn’t help me at all.

I was hopeful things would be a bit better with the nurse at my GP surgery though, because I’ve seen her a few times before for blood tests/travel vaccinations, and she’s always been nice (although she did once tell me off for not eating enough, but that was fair). Unfortunately her computer was running slowly, so when she called me in I had to tell her myself why I was there.

To my relief she didn’t ask me about the causes behind the DSH; she just commented sympathetically that I was having a bad time, and then took a look at my right arm. I have about 15 or so cuts scattered across my forearm, all scabbed over except for one that isn’t really cooperating with the butterfly stitches. But the nurse smiled and said I had done a really good job of taking care of myself with these injuries; all of them are clean, and the stitching has worked really well on most of them. Within a minute of entering I was allowed to leave, with some strong reassurances that if I ever have a wound that isn’t healing I should come right back, and she’d help me without judging.

I’m pleased that’s out of the way, and pleased that I was right about my GP overreacting a little. Maybe he’ll trust me more next time (although lets hope there isn’t a next time).