ONE ROUGH WEEK

It’s been a while since I’ve written. So much has happened. We almost lost my mom after her cancer surgery. She had two blood clots, one on each lung. And no one wants to tell me anything. I talked to my mom in the morning, and she was coming home the next day. An hour later I talk to my aunt and find out mom’s staying for a few more days. When my dad and my sister come home, I talk to her. Find out what’s going on. Also that my dad has a leaky liver, that’s why he quit drinking. My sister tells me that no one wants to tell me anything because they’re afraid of setting me off. Which means setting my anxiety and depression off. Like I have no coping mechanisms. It’s so frustrating. Mom could have died, and no one wants me to know. Sigh. It’s better to know where I stand, I guess, so I know to ask more direct questions.

Moms surgery was also the anniversary of my most recent sexual assault. The struggle not to self harm was so very very real. And then I found some sharps. Tucked into the staple box in my art kit. My world reeled. Fortunately, I have some very good friends who were able to talk me down from it. Three different text conversations with three very different foci, but all with the same outcome: I stayed safe. Something even my safety contract couldn’t guarantee.

It is so hard to articulate exactly what goes through my mind when the urge strikes. Relentless begging for release. But release from what exactly? Too many feelings? Not enough feelings? Release from memory, from thought? From the too too much. It all gets to be too much. Existing. Being. Living. Breathing. Feeling trapped in a mind that is malfunctioning. Emotions hi-jacked all the time. Never being 100% present in my own life. That’s the hardest part, I’m coming to realize. The fact that I zone out all the time. I don’t know if I’m zoning out more, or if I’m just more aware of how often I do. Vera, my therapist, says it’s fine tuned to happen so often, and that I’m just starting to notice. So I take her word for it. She’s the expert on all things dissociative and traumatic. And, more importantly, I trust her and what she says. It’s been a long time since I could trust someone so implicitly to always do what they honestly believe is in my best interest.

HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND

I don’t know if things are settling down, or if I’m just getting used to it. It’s like that Simon and Garfunkel song, “Hello Darkness my old friend”. Or Gordon Lightfoot, “Sometimes I think it’s a shame/ When I get feeling better when I’m feeling no pain.” Or maybe I’m just numb to the pain. Either way, I still am fighting the urge to self harm. I had a cigarillo Friday, and another one Monday. As my friend comforted me, “Whatever it takes to get through this.” Three more weeks, if past experience tells me anything. I don’t think I can survive three more weeks. I saw my therapist on Thursday. Got into a disagreement about self harm. Of course, I lost, and have a fresh copy of my safety contract in my bag. My work this week is to update it, since it still has my ex girlfriend as an emergency contact, and we broke up in April.

How to update my safety contract when four out of five of us don’t want to be on it anymore. I remember when she first mentioned it. I ignored her the first time. The second time I said I’d consider it. The third time, I said to her that since she’s mentioned it three times, she must feel it’s important, so we signed one. Did I mention this was all on my first or second visit? She knows it’s a valuable, strong tool. And I’ve proven to her again and again that it works. Many times it’s the only thing that has kept me from self harming. This week, if I had the means in my room to do it, the contract wouldn’t have mattered. But the only thing I have in my room is an art x-acto knife, and they aren’t really very good at deep, clean lines. I have disposable razors in the bathroom, but the act of pulling it apart gives me too many opportunities to really think through what I’m doing and stop it. Or deliberately chose to go through with it at each step of the way. It’s different when you’re desperately searching for something and you find something you missed in your last sweep. But no such luck. I purged very carefully last time.

So I sit in my bed, my safe zone, and try to keep my hands loose, so the nails don’t dig into my palms, which seems to be the thing I do these days. Ugh. My mind and body conspire against my brain.

ON MY KNEES

This time of year is so hard. I feel ready to throw in the towel, crawl into bed, and never come out. The siren song of the razor blades is strong and sweet, necessitating bringing my thoughts back to my safety contract over and over. My eyes are permanently on the verge of tears, watery and weepy. That one man can bring me to my knees in despair. That the memory of one man can bring me down, leave me curled on the floor, shattered and broken.

The memories come fast and thick. Leave me whirling in confusion as to where I am in time and place. The nausea and the disorientation. Rock is huge, always, these days. My mom is going for cancer surgery next week, so I have to hide how bad I’m feeling so she doesn’t worry. I’m not doing a very good job of it, but she isn’t getting the depth of my shadow self.

Shadow self. My being crawling to The Pit. The body tremors as I fight it. As I fight the flashbacks, the memories of violence done to my body; to my being. Knowing that I can’t let him win. But the body, the mind, wants to cave; to collapse in a puddle of blood and tears.

The days long, the nights longer. Soaked sheets as the body remembers the torment; wakes in a frozen panic. “Just move one finger, just a little bit,” encourages my therapist. So hard. So hard. But I do it. Then the next one. Defiance that he hasn’t completely broken me. My body comes back to me, sore and achy, but mine.

THE DANCE OF DISSOCATION

It’s a tricky thing, dissociating.  Especially when you don’t recognize that it’s happening.  One minute you’re listening to the conversation around you, and then you’re not.  Someone says something to you, and you realize you have no idea what the conversation is anymore.  Sure, this happens to everyone, once in a while.  Everyone zones out.  It’s the constancy that’s different.  The constant hijacking of the brain, where you no longer know where you are, or, even, who you are.  The black spaces where there is nothing.  Not knowing how you got to where you’re going.  Or why you’ve even gone there.

Then there are the triggers:  a touch, a frangrance, some random piece of conversation and you’re transported back to a not so safe place.  Staring off into space, in your own personal hell.  This happened to me at therapy this week.  We weren’t even talking about anything overtly triggery, and yet, there I was.  Gone.  And when I came back, my ability to talk was gone.  I couldn’t even really grunt.  My poor therapist.  I couldn’t even write down what I was suffering.  I could sort of draw stick figures, like a four year old.  Trying to communicate how lost I felt was impossible.  Fortunately, I had my art book with me, and could point out on my drawing of “The Pit”  who I was (which she had already figured out), and where I was in relation to everyone else.  Now comes the difficult part:  how to tell her one of my emotional parts (EP) self-harmed.  Not me, my skin is still intact.  But my EP did.  It’s a weird thing, to close your eyes to have a pep talk with yourself, and to see yourself with bleeding arms.  Obviously, this was very distressing to me.  But I had already gone over my session by forty minutes.  I wasn’t about to bring that up.  But I will this week.  Young One self-harming and Angry Dude drinking and smoking.  Sigh.  Doing what I really want to be doing.  It was so strong that Friday I even bought a pack of cigarettes.  Gave them to Josh Friday night, and was really craving them Saturday morning. So I’m glad to have given them up.

HOPE

Hope: n. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen
v. Want something to happen or be the case

Hope is a very pregnant word. Pregnant with promise, with desire, with expectation. A feeling of better things to come. A small word with big meaning. When things are black and stormy in my life, I hope they get better. Sometimes I feel this hope is misplaced, especially when I’m deep in the pit; when it’s hard to reach out a hand and ask for help. It’s getting easier these days. When my therapist says to hang on, the depth of these feelings in transient, I have faith in her word, and trust and hope she’s right. And she always is. I always come through. And lately I can say I come through unscathed. Weary, oh gods, am I weary. But it’s been months now since I’ve self harmed. Even the most recent scars have faded to pale lines, no darker than the rest of them. She tells me that self injury had a place in my toolbox of survival long ago, BUT THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW. And she is correct in that. I’m different in my body and being. I see the urges for what they are: lying monsters.

The monsters wail
Begging to be fed
Promising light after the blood
To slumber in the post pain haze

I know the truth
Of their existence
Never sated, always begging for more
The cravings deep

Alone in the night
With the monsters in my head
In my heart
In my soul
Filling the cracks with blood
In the place of tears

SOMATIC MEMORY

The past couple of days have been really really tough. Stuck between hyper and hypo arousal constantly shifting back and forth. Moments where I’m overwhelmed by fear and can’t breathe, and then moments where the slightest sound makes me jump. Even though my mind finds no connection between the here and now and this feeling of doom, I have a full blown fear reody response. My therapist did get back to me today, (YAY!) and she said it sounds like I’m having somatic flashbacks. I should have recognized this right away. What is a somatic flashback? It’s your body remembering, not your brain. “Memory is reminding you about the state of your being all those years in childhood and adolescence when you were in danger” is how my therapist worded it in her email to me today. I lived in fear growing up. Beatings from my father were a daily, consistent thing with him. The only thing that was. And I had a real rough session this week. Last week brought up a lot of history, how no one noticed the sad little me acting out and begging for attention. And this week brought more of that to the fore. And just like I did in adolescence, I’m living a double life of sorts here at home again. My parents don’t know about my cousin molesting me. They don’t know about the abusive relationship I was in at 15. They don’t know about my sexual assault three years ago. They don’t know I’m living with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. They think my therapy is for my anxiety. I have to keep so much hidden, while living in the house where I grew up abused. They say you can’t heal in the environment that broke you, but I am. Granted, things are different now. I’m a grown woman with a voice. My body and being are different. It’s now 2019 and I am no longer in danger from anyone.

So I orient to the here and now. I’m in my room, the room I grew up in, focusing on what’s different. My bookcases, the books in those cases. My bed. The decorations on the wall. The flooring. The sheets on my bed. All things that are from the present. Nothing in my room remains from the past except my bear, Bettina, who has been with me since I was six months old. She has been the one constant in my life. I have been struggling with the desire to self harm this weekend. That, too, was a constant in my life for many years. It had its purpose then. But things are different now. I need to remember this with the very core of my being. All my emotional parts need to recognize that we are no longer trapped in trauma time. I have so many new coping tools and a great support network. Parts of me may be trapped in the past, but I have the strength, courage and determination to show them a better future.

SAFETY CONTRACTS AND SELF HARM

I’ve been with my therapist for about three years now. One of the first things she did was put me on saftey contract. I am proud to say, in that three years, I have only intentionally violated it once. I say intentionally, because the things she considers to be self harming behaviour are myriad. Not using my seatbelt in the car, driving too fast on the highway, not eating right, even not maintaining good sleep hygiene. All of which I’m guilty of at some point. I’m finally at a point where my med compliance is no longer an issue, just a struggle. When I’m feeling good, I don’t think I need them. When I’m not feeling good, I feel what’s the point. So it’s a constant struggle. But the main focus of my contract is the obvious, direct ways I harm myself: drinking and cutting. And after yesterdays session, the struggle is real. I even reached out to her about it last night. She didn’t respond, but as I was in no real danger, I wasn’t really expecting her to.

Self harm. Two little words. The act of hurting oneself. Doesn’t really sound too bad, does it? I even managed to inflict a bit on myself while in her office yesterday, squeezing my hand too hard and leaving deep imprints of my fingernails, took a bit of skin off. She commented on how easy it is to fall back into old ways of coping. It left marks which still are there, though faint, today. It’s so deeply imbedded in my pysche as the only way out of emotional distress, be it feeling too much or too little. And right now I’m feeling too much. Way too much. I can’t even define all that I’m feeling. I tried to in her office yesterday, and last night when I was dying for a sharp to drag across my skin. Lost. Alone. Sad. Melancholic. Overwhelmed. Not present. Broken. Hurt. And a multitude more floating through my brain and body. And that’s what’s so damn hard about this. The feelings are so strong, they’re painful. My body hurts from carrying them. The release of a little blood seems a fair price to pay for the relief. But one of the last things she said to me yesterday was, “Remember your contract. A promise.” A promise to her as well as myself to stay safe. And there are days I curse that contract. That promise. If it was only with myself, it wouldn’t be so bad. I could live with that. But the shame I would feel going into her office next week, and having to say, “I fucked up,” keeps me strong. That and the fact that there are no readily available sharps that I can access. I have a disposable razor in the bathroom, one I keep for emergencies like this. However, the fact of the matter is, I would have to dig it out, dismantle it, and then carry through with the very act I have sworn not to. Many opportunities to pause and think things through. Which she would not hesitate to point out. Something I really value in her is her refusal to accept bullshit answers and provide clarity when things are muddy to me. So rather than face that, I stayed in bed, my safe zone. Except when it isn’t. I try hard to keep my bed a safe place. Injuring myself in the bath, where it’s easy to clean up, or on the floor of my bedroom. My bed is sancrosanct. Not to say I haven’t used an x-acto knife that I forgot to put away while sitting there, focusing only on the imminent relief. That pressure valve which causes immediate and tactile release. But word is my bond. So I suffer. Like Tennyson wrote in Ulysses, “All times I have… suffer’d greatly, both with those/That loved me, and alone… One equal temper of heroic hearts,/Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”