The Allure Of “Nothingness”

surgery

 

My depression and anxiety have worsened. I attribute this to my recent ‘surgery’. It was only something very minor, but to someone with anxiety it was a big deal. I had a general anaesthetic, though I was offered other options, I didn’t want to know a thing about it. Unfortunately one aspect I did know about – when they took the breathing tube out of my throat. When I first woke up I wasn’t really aware it was in there. It wasn’t until they said they’d just take it out for me, I kind of thought ‘s***!!’ – though in a sedated way. Let’s just say it hurt, and I remembered it. I felt more nauseous afterwards than the last general I’d had. And as I’m emetophobic, it was very anxiety-provoking. They gave me more anti-sickness medicine straight away though which helped a little. And sitting up and drinking sips of water also helped. It was not the best experience in the world. Still, it was better than knowing anything else about the procedure.

I had prepared for the anxiety beforehand, and how to cope. What I hadn’t prepared for was afterwards…

The pain and discomfort which would last for several days afterwards. For the first few days to a week, I was living from dose to dose of painkillers. I was merely existing, waiting for the next load of pills. And in between doses I was in bed, dozing. Ice packs, and then finally hot waters bottles were my friends. I couldn’t eat properly, speak, smile or laugh. It was difficult to get through the days. And therein lies the problem…

I had so much downtime, just sitting propped up in bed, feeling sorry for myself – and to begin with all I thought about was the pain, discomfort, and looking after myself. But as time went on and it became slightly more bearable, my thoughts travelled to other places. I thought about how ridiculously horrible this year has been. The amount of people who have died or gotten ill. The people who hurt or abandoned me when I needed them. Besides 2012, this has got to be the worst year of my life.

This way of thinking spiralled my depression. I feel there was a part of me that thought ‘oh crap’ when I opened my eyes after that surgery. When you have a general anaesthetic, there’s a chunk of time you’re completely unaware of. I know some people wake up during it, and some enter a kind of dreamlike state and see things. I saw nothing. There were no dreams. There was absolute nothingness. I didn’t exist. To me that’s ‘peace’. It’s what I’ve never imagined death to be. I’ve always been spiritual and believe that life goes on. I’ve known someone who wants to believe that once you’re gone, you’re gone. That’s it. Nothingness. And that thought has always scared me. But to me, that general anaesthetic  was ‘nothingness’. And the thing about nothingness is that you don’t know it exists until there is ‘something’…. until you awaken. I didn’t know I didn’t exist until I opened my eyes and saw the world I knew.

There’s a strange comfort in nothingness. And I’m scared because a slight part of me wants to go back there. My life has been such a struggle and so much pain. And I watch everyone else getting on with their lives, leaving me behind. I feel I’ll never fit into this world. And the heartache sometimes gets too much. And I just want the pain to stop. I want there to be nothingness.

Also, after you’ve had surgery, your friends and family ask after you, and care about you, looking after you. You feel loved. Over time as you get better, this stops. Your family leave you to it and treat you as if you should be better by now. Your friends don’t check in to see how you are. Expectations come leaping back at you. You go back to work, and nobody really gives a s*** about you, as they’re too busy talking about another colleague who was ill for 5 days with flu.

Everything suddenly goes back to normal, but you feel anything but normal. You’re still in pain and discomfort. You feel ashamed for needing the surgery in the first place. You feel depressed and anxious, plus feel hurt that everyone suddenly stops caring about you. You’re ultra-sensitive to the outside world, find it too much, get home and decide never to go out or communicate with anyone ever again. It’s too much. And you fantasise about ‘nothingness’. As anything is better than the depression you feel.

At the end of last week I was in a bad place. Because I had been in bed for nearly a week, in a dark room, silence, I didn’t want that to change. I know how hectic the outside world is. I know that I can’t handle it at the best of times. And I was feeling particularly low. I was scared to leave the house. Just the thought of having to go out the front door and back into life, had me in tears. I didn’t want to go out. And it was only yesterday that I did for the first time.

I found it too stressful, as I knew I would. People didn’t seem to understand my feelings at the moment. And there’s nothing worse with BPD than feeling misunderstood. I’m tempted not to go out again. I’m meant to go again on Friday, but I’m scared to. I can’t cope with other people’s moods. Someone at work was in a bad mood – okay she was ill – but some people, when they’re in a bad mood and ill, they make it known… they take it out on everyone around them. I was feeling like utter s*** yesterday, and I just kept my head down and got on with things. I spoke to people with respect. I can’t stand people who take their headaches, illnesses and bad moods out on other people. I never do that. At home if I’m ill I’ll tuck myself away from everyone. You can’t afford to make enemies out of everyone just because you’re ill.

I just got on with little jobs here and there, and though I was polite to customers and staff alike, I mainly didn’t interact. I could hear them talking to each other and sometimes to me, but the words weren’t fully going in. I couldn’t understand them. Sometimes I could understand them and that was the problem! When they were bitching about someone who had just left I totally ignored it and stayed out of it. I have no room in my heart for bitching like that. I saw the situation in a different way from them anyway and was on the other person’s side. But I listened to their banter and jokes, and usually I’d join in and involve myself in the fun side of work, but I couldn’t even force a smile yesterday.

I think it’s the first time I’ve ever gone out and not put on my happy mask. I think my face probably told everyone the pain and discomfort I was in, but also the depression I feel. It was freeing to be myself, but at the same time I knew I wasn’t so popular for it. It took a lot of energy out of me, and it took until this morning to quieten the noise in my head. I have no emotional or spiritual armour at the moment, so that’s why I can’t go outside the door. There are far too many dragons out there!

I felt pressured into staying longer than I felt capable of yesterday. I was told to be positive and not be so negative about it. But what they didn’t understand is where I am mentally I needed that safety of ‘If I can’t cope or I feel too unwell then I’ll have to go home… but I’ll do as much as I possibly can’…. how is that negative?? I see that as positive. I effectively felt bullied into staying, and since it’s my time I’m donating, all that’s done is made me think ‘Fine, I won’t come in again then, until I feel better, and able to cope’. So at the moment I have doubts I’ll go in on Friday. I can’t cope with certain personalities in there when I’m like I am right now. The last time I went in before the surgery, was the day I had to walk out halfway through so as not to burst into tears or start harming myself. So I already had fears about going back in yesterday, knowing that I’d face those same personalities potentially. But I tried to tell myself they might be really caring this time, as I had my procedure and hadn’t been in for two weeks…. I was wrong. One of them didn’t even know I hadn’t been in last week as she wasn’t in either. And when I shared my state of mind, that’s when she said about being positive and to keep coming in – this coming from someone who has apparently been through the same feelings herself!

I want people to listen to me. If I say I’m not up to doing something then that needs to be respected. If I feel cornered and forced to cope with something that I mentally cannot do at the moment, then I’m likely to have a breakdown, in public, and it won’t be pretty. I need people to understand a few things…..

  • Pouring boiling water from the kettle, I didn’t care if I ‘accidentally’ spilled it on my hand.
  • I am now able to swallow tablets if I cut them.
  • I find ‘nothingness’ inviting right now.

This is not meant in a manipulative way. I just want people to be aware I am scared of myself. This year has pushed me too far already. And I am terrified of the outside world and of reality. So I want to avoid it. I need to feel safe. And unless anyone can provide me that safety net, then I’d rather stay home, in the quiet… in the dark. Some might say that’s not the ‘right’ way to deal with things. But only I know what is right for my soul. It doesn’t mean forever… I just need safety and solitude right now.

I’ve had to come to terms with a lot of things. My beliefs about death are in question. Falling asleep, forgetting about the world, existence and time, and then waking up again, in this year that I wish never happened, it’s too much. Having people stop caring, has made me recall the past. I’m questioning so much at the moment. Nothing feels safe. Nobody feels trustworthy. Everything I felt before the surgery is back, plus new feelings.

I looked it up the other day actually, as I thought there’s ‘post-natal depression’… is there such a thing as ‘post-operative depression’, and oddly enough yes there is. It’s more common in people who smoke, which I don’t…. in people who are single, which I am… in people who have high cholesterol, angina or heart disease – which I’m not aware of having! And in people who experienced high levels of anxiety prior to the operation – which I definitely did!

The thing is, they don’t prepare you for how you might feel afterwards – only in the sense of ‘take these painkillers; do this; do that’ etc. They focus on the physical sides of recovery. They don’t warn you that you might experience mental health issues afterwards. I think the fact I already had mental health issues probably put me at risk.

I don’t know how to overcome this. I don’t know if it’s just something that will pass. But I have to weather this storm alone. Just as I have this year. I have so many grievances about this year… things I can’t get over. Things I can’t stop thinking about. Things I don’t want to think about and can’t cope with. Things I can’t forgive. And this time on my own, recovering has only allowed me to think about it all, and made the depression and anxiety worse.

People could help me out of it, but that would mean me facing reality, which I can’t do right now. I can’t face ‘the public’ in general – in the streets, in their cars, on the bus, in the shops, at work. I can’t face stress and disappointments. I can’t face being let down, hurt or betrayed. I can’t face rejection. I can’t face more people I love getting ill. I can’t face friends not having my back 100%. I can’t face confrontation. I can’t face the unknown…. or the known. It’s all too scary and threatening… and potentially dangerous.

So I will happily wrap myself up in a big ball of bubble wrap for the time being. And unless anyone will bundle me and my ball of bubble wrap into their car, take me somewhere safe and quiet and accept me for how I feel at this point, and ease the pain of this year, then I will gladly stay at home in that bubble wrap. If nobody else will protect my heart and soul, then I must.

My Scars And Me.

armies1

 

I want to talk to you about the darker, lesser known sides of self-harm. If you’re a self-harmer you may find this post triggering, so please don’t read it if you’re in a vulnerable state. Having said that, I think you’ll understand what I’m writing about, and I’m doing so, to let you know you’re not abnormal for having these same thoughts. It’s common, and a part of the addictive side of self-harm.

If you’ve never experienced self-harm in your life, first and foremost I want to say that’s good – please keep it that way. What I’m about to write about is not ‘glorifying’ self-harm. I would never want anybody to think it’s a good thing to start doing. If I could turn back time I would never have started. But I want you to understand what the mind of a self-harmer is really like. What you’re about to read may trouble you, as you probably can’t comprehend how someone could harm themselves in the first place, let alone want to keep doing it…. believe me, at times we feel crazy for our ways of thinking, but it’s one of those things you can’t understand unless you’ve been there. It makes sense to me, and I think a lot of people who self-harm experience the same thoughts and questions, so to those people I want to say, you’re not alone….

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*Only read on, if you’re feeling safe*

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I want to discuss scars with you. And the strange relationship I have with mine. I both love and hate my scars at the same time. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have them and I had a ‘normal’ arm. A lot of people now probably don’t notice it anyway…. most of my scars have faded to white, and they’re not over a huge area. I sometimes look at my arm and it’s a reminder that I’m not ‘normal’. It’s a reminder of my issues and my failures in life. But at other times I like them. They’re pretty. They’re my ‘survival stripes’.

They’re not blatantly obvious, but they’re subtly there as a comfort to me. There were times in my life when NOBODY was there for me, and my self-harm was my only friend. Clearly I know it’s no friend if it hurts me, but it was the only thing to get me through. And I know other self-harmers would probably describe it the same, as their ‘friend’.

If you think about it, if you cut yourself, yes you cause yourself pain but you also have to tend to that wound, and show it care and love. So all those emotions and feelings of care still reside in those scars. Therefore, at times I can look at my scars and recall all the things that caused me so much pain that I took a blade to my arm…. and at other times, sometimes actually at the SAME time, I can recall the self-care brought about by harming.

Now, I know many people reading this who haven’t ever self-harmed, would be thinking ‘lock her up, she’s crazy!‘, but I also know that many reading this will relate.

Sometimes I feel disgusted with myself. Other times I find myself admiring the white lines on my arm. It’s such an odd feeling, to be entranced by something others would perceive to be ugly and flaws. I used to cover my arms up, now I’m a lot more laid back about it, unless I have fresher ones. Maybe because I’m more open about it now, less ashamed, and particularly if I feel comfortable around people, I forget I have the scars, or that they might be an issue to someone else.

But I still have moments where if I feel someone has seen them, I’ll start hiding them. I feel like they’ll offend other people. The biggest problem I have is what to do around children. What if they ask about my scars? I’ve worn a plaster over newer scars, as I don’t want people to see them… and children have pointed to it, and I just say I’ve ‘got an ouchy’ – but I really don’t know what the best thing to do is….

That’s one of the questions when you’re still harming. Is it better to wear a plaster…? A bandage…? Or just let people see the wound / scar…? I don’t know the answer. I’ve tried several things over the years – loads of bracelets up my arm, arm-warmers, bandage – and then people ask what you’ve done and you have to lie…plaster – likewise sometimes they ask. But I don’t have the courage to expose more recent wounds. I don’t want to unsettle other people with it. I mean it’s obvious what it is – I can’t lie and say I burnt it on the iron or the oven, if it’s on display. Because of where it is, and all the similar white scars around it, I can’t lie. But unfortunately I’m not sure society is ready for the truth. And I don’t want people to judge me, particularly if they know nothing of my life. So I hide new scars.

Once you’ve harmed myself there’s the shame, guilt, the nuisance of having to cover it up, wear different clothes etc. There’s the actual physical pain of healing, as the skin pulls together and the scab comes off. And then over time the scar fades into another white line. And you can once again live like a ‘normal’ human being…

And then the strangest thing happens… you miss having a wound. The white lines aren’t enough. You want the pain. You want to see a gaping wound. You want the blood to run down your arm. You want the relief that comes from causing yourself harm. You want to take care of that wound and go through the ‘self-soothe’ phase which comes after harming… typically I would take care of myself for a day or two afterwards if possible, being kind to myself, doing things I like, or not doing too much at all. You want your secret.

It’s a strange sort of secret, that you feel ashamed of, yet you feel it’s something people don’t know about you. You’re hiding something, and there’s a sick kind of excitement in that which is hard to explain. Again, if you’re a self-harmer you probably know what I mean, but it’s difficult to describe it to those who don’t understand. There’s a kind of joy in fooling people into believing you’re okay, whilst harbouring this secret. Yet at the same time it’s a very lonely place to be.

As you can see it’s very confusing in the mind of someone who self-harms. So I can understand the difficulties people have in understanding us… but rest assured we are just as confused, if not more!

How can I love and hate my scars?

How can I wish to have never self-harmed and wish to keep doing it?

How can I feel excited about my secret and feel ashamed by it?

How can I enjoy pretending I’m okay and feel lonely because of it too?

How can I feel like the most rational, sane person and feel I must be crazy to have these thoughts?

How is it possible to have so many thoughts about my self-harm, that actually contradict each other?

The most troubling aspect of self-harm for me is the wish to do it when I have no immediate reason to do it. Doing it in the spur of the moment, in reaction to something upsetting I can understand better – it’s not something you think about, it just happens. But to sit at night, looking at your arm, imagining taking a blade to it, drawing the line, slashing it open, and panicking because you went too deep…….. wanting to do that, because you MISS it. That I struggle to understand and it frightens me. I can be sat, not thinking about anything in particular, and I picture the last time I did it. And I feel the sensation of it. I’m actually struggling with the images and thoughts as I write this. But I will be alright. I just don’t understand what aspect of it I’m ‘missing’.

I even dream of hurting myself. When I’ve been overwhelmed by anger before, I’ve punched things, and my hand’s been swollen and bruised. I sometimes miss that… it’s so weird. And twice now in maybe a week, I’ve had dreams about punching my fists together, to try and damage them, and I can’t punch hard enough to feel the pain or bruise them…. it’s like I punch in slow motion in my dreams, through water, and I can’t harm myself enough. I don’t really know the meanings of dreams, but this certainly seems to reflect the thoughts I carry in my waking hours.

I’ve harmed before where it’s barely more than scratches, and that doesn’t have the same pull as deeper cuts. It’s almost like the worse you do it, the more you want to do it. All I can think is it’s chemical – maybe there’s more of an adrenaline rush, maybe there’s more endorphins released or something. But sometimes when I harm ‘superficially’ it doesn’t feel enough. I want to do it to the point I have to use steri-strips….. but I don’t want that either. I don’t want a bad scar. I don’t want to risk having to go for treatment again. I don’t want to become so addicted to it, as I was ten years ago. I’m caught between wanting to stop, and not wanting to stop. And it’s the biggest battle someone can have in their mind. Seriously, if you’ve never experienced it yourself you’re lucky. The thought of giving it up completely sometimes makes you feel like doing it more. It’s like if I was to say that I’m giving up chocolate – the thought of that … of never having chocolate anymore, would likely cause me to binge on chocolate. The thought of losing something sometimes makes you cling on to it tighter. It’s like ‘I’ll just get a few more cuts in BEFORE I give up doing it’… and that feels dangerous, because it feels like I’d make sure they’re ‘worth it’, if they’re to be the last ones I ever do.

I’m afraid of my mind at the moment. I’ve battled with mental health issues my whole adult life. I’ve self-harmed ever since I left school and went to college. Over that time I’ve had ups and downs…. times I’d harm every day. Times I’d go months without it. Through DBT I learnt new coping strategies. I’ve done so well and made such progress in coping with life. I’ve barely thought of self-harm in the last couple of years – only when things got too much. It’s been years since I’ve sat and pictured harming myself for no reason. Or spent evenings crying over how awful my life is, and the awful things people did to me – to the point I want to self-harm. Years. But this year has been the worst year of my life. One thing or another opened the gates, caused me to self-harm….. and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Now I’m back eight or nine years.

I don’t talk to people about it. I don’t talk to anyone about it. This is something that has plagued my mind for months, behind closed doors. And nobody could ever have a clue what it’s like trying to cope with difficult situations, and normal everyday life, whilst battling this addiction in my head.

I see friends and family, and I smile, I chat, I seem every bit normal and happy enough. But on the inside I’m resisting the temptation to absolutely cover myself in cuts. And I don’t know why. I’m not insane. And I’m not fake. I know it would seem like I wear a mask for my friends, and to some extent I do. But who you see is still me. I just know it’s more socially acceptable to laugh and talk, than to show the part of me that wants to harm myself. People stopped wanting to hear the reasons I felt this way. They got sick of hearing about my pain. And I don’t blame them. I wish I could stop hearing about it in my own head, and feeling it most days. I wish I could forget it. I wish I had that option. But luckily they did, so I stopped talking about my pain and now I think it’s coming out in the way it used to.

That’s why I’m writing, and will occasionally write personal posts about what I’m going through, as I don’t feel able to talk to anyone about it anymore. Some people say ‘just keep a diary’…. for some of us, that’s simply not enough. We need to be heard. We need to feel less alone. And I hope this post makes you feel less alone. This is an aspect of self-harm that isn’t spoken about much, and should be, as it’s a daily conflict in our minds.

I feel less alone with self-harm now than I used to. When I first started I thought I was the only one who did it. Now I know it’s a lot more prevalent than I first believed. And I know even if I only have a handful of followers to this blog, that handful probably encounter the same thoughts and feelings as me. That is the beauty of the internet, and of writing online… it connects you to others who you know feel the same. It stops you feeling quite so isolated. That’s why I’ll write when I need to. I won’t always have all the answers – I wish I did, so that it could stop more of you suffering, but if the only way I can help you is to let you know you’re not alone, and it’s normal to have these thoughts as a self-harmer, then at least that’s something. There’s nothing worse than dealing with self-harm on your own. We need to talk about it.

I’ll probably try and research why I may be feeling the pull of the addiction for no reason. I’ll see if there’s some chemical / biological reason why it might be, and see if I can replace that with something healthier. If not I’ll have to think about therapy and revisiting my skills I learnt in DBT. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had to battle self-harm like this… I’ve forgotten how I got through it in the past. If I remember I shall share it with you all!

Keep safe, and know that if you identify with this post, you’re not weird – well, you’re only as weird as I am, and I’ve been told I’m ‘good weird’ so … ! 😉

Take care until next time,

xxxx