WARNING: Discussion of self-harm, specifically head-banging. Mentions of binge drinking, drug abuse, eating disorders, also trichotillomania.
It would be disingenuous, or a lie by omission, to not post about my recent fall.
I didn’t wind up in the hospital this time, so YAY! but it was a bad one. If i’m gonna help myself, and have any hope at all of truly helping anyone else, it’s gotta be real, and it’s gotta be all of it. No convenient skip overs. There’s no need for TMIs most of the time; i can be tactful, and i’m respectful of others’ privacy. I know probably some of you will be saying, “Wait, your entire blog is TMI.” I would respond Yes, on a certain level, but trust me, there’s deeper and more awful. I don’t see the need for most details. I’m reconciled and almost comfortable, with being identified as a seriously mentally ill person. What i don’t want is for people to think of all the things that happened to me as a child every time they see me. What i don’t want is to plant specific images from my childhood in anyone else’s head. They are a terrible burden. And while i do need to blog/journal about it to a certain extent, there’s a line that doesn’t need to be crossed for me or any reader here.
I go to my therapist for the details, and even there, it’s rarely necessary. I went through disclosure many years ago, and it swallowed me whole for a very long time. I clawed my way out of the tiger’s mouth, and have no desire to ever be in its jaws again.
My therapy sessions have been a massive trigger for switching of late. Unfortunately, the way my system copes with triggers is to drink me into a coma (figuratively). I don’t even remember the end of the call, and they were off to the races. I was gone less than a week, but the damage was extensive:
– 2 broken fans,
– cracked mirror,
– holes kicked in bottom of bedroom door,
– broken 50″ television,
– concussion plus massive body bruising.
The shame and guilt are hard to bear, but i’m doing my best, so far. I understand that shame tells me i’m bad, versus guilt telling me i did something bad. The latter is true, but the former is not. It’s a lie that was programmed into my child-brain, by those who would control me to achieve their own selfish ends. I turn my attention then, to shame.
I’ve returned again and again to this in my blog since i learned it, and here i am once more. I suspect i’ll be working on this one for many years to come, but it’s all right, because now i know what to do.
My therapist told me some months ago, that shame is the body’s need for human connection. It may not make sense to anyone else, but it absolutely changed my life for the better. When shame comes upon me, i need another human to tell me i’m not bad. I’ve lived my life shame-based, and it’s such a powerful motivator, such a reflexive, driving force, that i simply can’t get out from under it without help. I require meaningful connection with another person. It’s like wearing a costume with the zipper in the back; someone else needs to unzip me before i can pull it down and step out of it. And i may even need help taking it off before i can walk away and leave it on the floor.
I’ve connected with my husband and son, and through them i’ve been able to let go of all but the self-harm. I hadn’t harmed myself in many years, and a return to this behaviour has me drowning in shame. Plus, the anxiety it brings me when i’m practically at maximum saturation levels already, has that elephant sitting on my chest again.
These last 2yrs of trying to mend the broken connections between my brain and body have been difficult, to put it mildly. The hardest part of it is not to dissociate through the work. To feel what i feel while knowing what i know. I spent years listening to my system, listening to my thoughts as i disclosed what had happened to me growing up. Now i listen to my body, because in an intangible and dare i say, rather esoteric way, my body holds my memories as much as my brain.
And as i say nearly every post, it is the hardest, most exhausting, most painful work of my life.
Therefore, i try not to fret overly about a return of some behaviours i’d thought long over and done with:
– the programmed imperative to GO HOME! when my system is in overwhelm, which involves immediately leaving wherever i’m at and whomever i’m with, and walking at a rapid pace towards the city where my abuse was most severe,
– the loss of days instead of mere hours,
– the involvement of law enforcement,
– hospital stays,
– head-banging and hitting of self.
The self-harm is a tough one to take on, though. It frightens me more than any.
The first time i considered self-harm i was 4yrs old. The first time i can remember banging my head i was also 4. It’s complicated. I consulted the internets to help me define what it’s about, because i knew, but it was so tangled up in my brain i needed help to identify the separate threads so i might unravel them. I know it was partially to punish myself for “being a bad girl”, but it was for more than that. I couldn’t bear the emotional pain i was in most of the time, but i could the physical. So it was a substitution of sorts. Finally, i think i used it to feel something, when i was in a dissociated state.
I learned quickly to make sure i was alone, and also not leave any visible bruises, or bang too hard, lest i leave a bump. My mother knew every bump and bruise on me, as she inspected me on the regular. She knew which ones she’d done, and which weren’t and by whom. The only time i wouldn’t be interrogated over a lump or mark she wasn’t familiar with, was when they were on my knees or elbows. For those, she simply admonished me for being such a klutz.
The head-banging only lasted until we moved away from the city i spent my first 9yrs in. Once she’d traded in her sick, twisted married man for a controllable underage boy, i dealt more with anxiety issues. That was when my trichotillomania began, which is not classified as self-harm, per se. I didn’t have to deal with the banging again until my late 30s, although i did still engage in self-harm prior, through highly disordered eating, binge drinking, and drug abuse. Once i began therapy around 12yrs ago, the head-banging stopped. I may have done so a couple of times after that, but i can’t remember.
To see its return worries me.
I was switched at the time of course, so i didn’t know once i was back in the face. I was doing my regular after-switch body check, and my heart plummeted when i saw the sheer number and severity of the bruises all over me. And the huge ones across my forehead made me want to throw up. My husband told me i’d locked the door to our bedroom and was screaming and bashing around in there while he was at work. Which means he learned through my son. I won’t stray off into that territory, because we’d wander far from what this post was intended to be and do. Suffice to say it made me feel sick, too. Which is when i realised i was probably concussed. I didn’t go to the hospital for a proper diagnosis, but i’ve given them to myself before, i know the symptoms, such as they are (vague and very like coming back from a switch), and i simply tended to myself as if i had one.
I’ve decided to take a short break from therapy. I don’t know for how long – i’m thinking 2wks – 1mth, but i’m going to leave things open to change. Nothing’s firm. This last fall/episode/switch/binge/whatever has scared me. My system, my precious Bits N’ Pieces, are all merely children, regardless of the age they feign. And this was a full-on tantrum. I haven’t destroyed property or attempted to destroy myself like that, in a very long time. I think they’re beyond tired and cranky. And they are mine and my responsibility. >>I<< am mine and my responsibility. I’m still going to be writing, still doing the work, but easing back on the gas pedal a bit. Turning down the intensity. This work will not be stopped, but it can be slowed.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
~ William Ernest Henley
Image: Austin Neill