Forever Etched.

I see line after line of almost parallel scars, like rungs of a ladder, as though they're symbolic of%

* Discusses self-harm and scars – read with caution *

 

At the time of writing this I am two weeks self-harm free. It may not sound a lot, but with how things have been lately it’s a massive achievement for me. Not only have I survived two weeks since the end of my CBT course, which was a traumatic loss for me, but I’ve also not harmed myself since late that night, before I called the Samaritans.

The urge to do so has lessened, but it’s an odd experience to be triggered by your own scars. I’ve written before about how I feel about my scars, and the strange, complicated relationship I have with them. A part of me hates them and wishes they didn’t exist. Another part of me doesn’t want them to fade and is fascinated with them.

People who don’t self-harm would think it’s crazy that we could ever like our scars. But it’s an odd sort of ‘like’… it’s detesting them, yet being afraid of losing them. Not that you ever lose a scar, they just fade… they’re always there, just not as visible.

I want to talk about my scars, because it’s troubling me a little bit at the moment. I’ve just been through a period of my life where I have harmed myself quite a bit, and quite badly at times. Whilst I was in that zone I wasn’t bothered by the wounds and scars. In fact I wanted more of them. I’d always be eyeing up the next space to add another. I’ve always tried to keep my harming to a small area that can be covered with a plaster, but unfortunately over the last couple of months I broke out of this zone, and once I did that I no longer cared about containing it.

Certain emotions set me off and I couldn’t stop doing it. I honestly didn’t care about scars – I didn’t even think that far ahead. And after a wound had healed, I would crave a new one. It sounds insane when I think of it, but when you’re in the state of mind I was in, that need is overpowering. Pair with that the fragile emotional state I was in too – I was controlled by my self-harm.

Whilst I have a long way to go to recover, and I’m still battling some very deep, intense and distressing emotions, I feel more in control in this moment. Don’t get me wrong – some nights I’m up until the early hours of the morning, crying my heart out in desperation, and my urge is to end that emotion the only way I know how. But so far this fortnight I’ve managed to resist it.

It’s only now I’m away from what was causing me distress that I am clearly seeing my arm and the damage I caused. I see line after line of almost parallel scars, like rungs of a ladder, as though they’re symbolic of the desperation to climb out of the pit of despair I found myself in. And even from saying that you can see I see them poetically. But at the same time I hate to see them. I hate that I have them and will now have to hide them for months until they fade. I’m disgusted by them. I’m ashamed. Some of them I remember the event that led to them.

Out of all the scars, I can still pick out which one started it off – I can see the one I did at therapy. I can see the second one I did at therapy. I can see the one I did after a bad session and interaction with the therapist I was transferring on. I can see the one I did once the course ended. Those stand out in my mind. The rest have blurred together. But I recognise some of my scars for the events, and in that way it’s a painful reminder of things I’d probably be better to forget.

Oddly enough the worst and biggest scar I have came from after that bad interaction with the therapist, and I went home and harmed – but I ended up going to the hospital to have it treated, and they used steri-strips and glue, to minimise scarring… the one and only time I’ve had a wound glued and it’s turned out quite a bad scar. It’s peculiar because it healed so well to begin with. It was closed well, a small line and suddenly it started growing bigger, it’s itchy even all these weeks later, and red around the edges, and it’s bumpy. This is where the fascination comes in. I feel my scars, especially if they’re raised ones… and the feeling’s the same – it’s a slight interest, but mainly disgust and it freaks me out.

But the thing with scars, is although they’re reminders of bad times, they are also reminders of hard times I survived. They also have memories attached to them of self-care and love. For instance, the one that started this slippery slope of self-harm has memories attached to it, of being found by one of the therapists, and her treating it for me…. having the hospital look after it…. me looking after it. In fact because I damaged the tendon, it has memories of that and the fact I didn’t self-harm for three or four weeks after that, as I was looking after myself. It was only once I’d really begun healing from that, that I started chasing the feeling again… wanting to recreate it – for very complex reasons, which I will cover in a future post.

So there’s actually a lot of emotions connected with our scars. They’re not just a physical sign on our bodies. They’re an emotional experience forever etched in physical form. And at least for a little while, we can call to mind that experience and the emotions we felt, just from seeing that one scar. I find it takes about as long as it takes for a scar to fade, for the emotional memory to fade with it.

So whilst at the time self-harm feels like a good choice – actually, at the time it feels like the only option if I’m honest – all it does is keep the bad experience around longer. It might bring the emotional intensity down in that moment, but every single time we look at our scars we will be reminded of what made us cut in the first place… and in that way we give the situation or person more power than they are worth.

One day I will forget this period of my life. I will look at my arm and these scars will be white. I won’t recall what happened to cause each particular scar. The emotions attached to my scars will weaken, and I will be in a different place, fighting different battles.

But right now I’m in recovery. All I have are my scars, my memories, my emotions and my strength and determination to beat this addiction. I’ve done it before, I can do it again, and although I will likely never stop entirely, I can have control over my urges to harm, instead of them controlling me.

I may feel guilty, ashamed and repulsed by the sight of my arm, but at the same time I have to love and accept myself, scars included. They are not the sum total of me, but they are a part of me, and I have to learn to like and love every part of me, in order to recover. This will be my aim in the coming months.

 

Poem: One Slash.

*This poem is about self-harm & depression, so read with care*

 

One Slash.

 

 

One slash of skin and the monster within

Breathes new life.

From that moment the whirlpool had me;

I pedal hard beneath the water, but to no avail,

I cannot escape the clutches of darkness…

I’ve tried and I’ve failed.

The fog has thickened,

The tunnel has collapsed,

The weight of the world has doubled upon my shoulders;

My heart has grown colder.

There is no joy anywhere in sight.

Everything troubles me, nothing is right.

Erratic emotions,

Volatile moods,

One word and then SLASH,

The monster stirs, clawing at my arm;

Although it is a part of me, it wants to do me harm.

Never before in my life, have I been victim more –

Victim to my unstable mind,

I watch my life as it all unwinds.

My sanity splatters against the walls of my soul,

I’ve lost my compass, and all of my control.

Torn apart from all that held me together,

That one slash of skin has changed me forever.

The path I walk is treacherous in nature,

And frightful to the eye;

A slice of me no longer cares if I live or die.

They summoned the demon inside,

Walked away, and now I’ve nowhere to hide.

Its grip on my heart cannot be denied.

The sickness tells me they want me to perish,

An untimely death.

If I cannot help myself then I don’t deserve breath.

If they knew the violence of the monster they’ve released,

Would they swoop in and help me tame the beast?

One slash was all it took

To lure me back, and have me hooked.

One slash, one bad relapse,

One letting of blood and now I’m trapped.

Please save me someone, save me from myself;

I’ve drifted miles away from everyone else…

Alone,

Suspended in purest black,

I’ve fallen too far, now there’s no way back.

There’s no safety net as far as the eye can see…

Could this be the end of me?

I’ve lost the person I used to be.

God, take me back before that night,

Make those blood-stained tiles dazzling white;

Take that razor from my hand,

Make the encounter go as planned;

Undo my actions, and heal my heart,

For that one slash is all it took for my life to fall apart.

Baby Steps Through Anger.

Baby Steps Through Anger

 

Nobody knows the truth of the last week for me. So I’m going to write it here, to unburden myself.

I struggled at the CBT group session last week. I was anxious, I’d taken a diazepam, I gave a note to one of the therapists asking for them to help me speak out at the start, and she didn’t. I left with suicidal thoughts. A member of the group appeared to snub me on the way out. I went home and self-harmed, couldn’t sleep, considered phoning the Samaritans, but don’t like using the phone, and couldn’t risk no answer. So the next morning texted the other therapist as I had his number, and it wouldn’t require speaking on a phone. I got no answer. This sparked off reminders of the past for me, and many different emotions. Nobody in my life knows how much I’ve been struggling in the last couple of weeks or why.

In total honesty, I went to my session last night, prepared to harm myself or much worse. I felt really angry at the therapists and group… seethingly so. When we started with a grounding mindfulness, this just pissed me off. I couldn’t take part in it properly, as I was fuming. So in the feedback I told them that. I told them that I went away the last week, in a bad state of mind, and although we were told we could talk to them if we didn’t feel safe, I felt unable to, because of the point they kept making about time restrictions. I told them it made me feel like a burden, therefore unable to open up to them anymore. I also said about the text I sent and not getting a response, and how that triggered the memories of the past. I was so upset and angry as I spoke I had to stop and breathe, so I didn’t burst into tears. My voice shook, but these things needed saying, or else I would’ve walked right out of there and not come back. I told them I had thought of quitting the group.

I was commended for being brave enough to say anything, and for being honest. But not much else came from it at that point. I didn’t receive an apology for being ignored. I didn’t feel a resolution on the other issue, so my anger didn’t subside. It bubbled underneath for almost the whole first half of the session.

One good thing was the member of the group who appeared to snub me the previous week, publicly apologised to me for it… which felt awkward and embarrassing for me, as I’m sure it did for them too, but was nice that they had recognised what they said, and what effect it might have had on me.

But the anger towards the therapists kept simmering underneath. At times I felt I wasn’t listening to other members of the group. I wanted so many times, to excuse myself and go outside for a break, as I couldn’t stand looking at the therapists, particularly the one who ‘ignored’ my text. Their voices were pissing me off, and I wanted to get out of there and harm myself. But I sat with the anger, and eventually it did come down, like a wave. I kept telling myself ‘Just make it to the break’… and I did. But just before the break, my feelings were dredged up again by one of the therapists, and I became desperate to get out of there.

As soon as the break started, I headed for the toilets, and sat in a cubicle, trying to calm down by breathing. It wasn’t working. It didn’t feel enough. So I admit, I harmed myself… not quite as badly as before, but enough to need to treat it again. I kept listening out, hoping nobody was going to come into the toilets. And just as I was finishing up, I heard someone coming in and thought ‘Oh shit, not again’. It was the therapist. I told her I was okay and just needed some time away from everyone. I chatted with her through the cubicle door, not giving away what I’d done, all the while trying to bandage my arm back up as quickly as possible, so that she wouldn’t suspect anything.

By the time I came out of the cubicle, someone else came into the toilets, which likely distracted her, so I quickly washed the blood off my hands. She then said either we could have a quick chat and miss the first five minutes of the second half, or she could phone me today to chat, rather than me feeling rushed at the end. I went for the quick chat, as I thought I wouldn’t be able to carry on otherwise.

When we came out of the toilets, the other therapist was lurking, probably concerned I’d harmed myself again, and he wanted to apologise for not responding to the text. He said he didn’t receive one. However he was aware of a ‘multimedia message’, which he thought might’ve been spam. His work phone is an old sort of phone, so probably didn’t even share my number, I assume, otherwise I’d wonder why he wouldn’t open it. He said he wouldn’t ignore me if I was in distress. It was just because obviously my message was too long, and didn’t come through like it would on a more modern phone. Unfortunate. And going to be hard to get over, as it kicked up a lot of shit for me.

I went for my chat with the female therapist, and told her the week I’d had. She recognised that I had faced three situations, effectively in the space of a day, whereby I felt rejected or abandoned, and how that would’ve felt. She confirmed what I had thought about her lack of support the previous week, in speaking out, and said it was because she knew I could do it myself, and wanted me to push myself to do it. This still pisses me off actually, as that’s not helpful to me right now. I needed the support. And now I don’t know if I can trust their motives. It makes me feel more alone.

I went back in the room and felt less angry, but aware of the pain in my arm. But they’ll never know about that. I’ve become good at hiding my pain and pretending nothing is wrong. I even put on a brave and happy front at home. Nobody will know. I guess in a way this shows I’ve gone backwards even more, as my self-harming always used to be very secretive like that.

But last night I decided enough is enough. I put self-care ahead of anything else. That’s why I didn’t stay up and write this blog last night. I put self-soothing and sleep ahead of it. I’m also going to create a ‘Crisis box’… a nicely decorated box, with things in it that can help me in a crisis – colouring book, chocolate, a favourite film, photographs of my Godchildren, and anything else I can think of – with reminders in it of why I don’t want to cut too. I need to stop self-harming. If for no other reason than I’m running out of space! I realise it’s spiralling out of control, and I don’t want to be that person again. I’m ashamed of who I am at the moment, but I need to be self-compassionate in my approach to stopping.

Obviously I can’t carry the box with me when I’m out, but I’m going to try the rubber band technique when I’m outside the house if I get an urge, and dig into the crisis box when I get home if needs be.

I need to look after myself. Nobody else will. Nobody knows I have self-harmed three times in a week – that’s the worst it’s been in many, many years. It’s my secret… though you now know it too…. so I alone have to face the consequences and pick myself back up. Nobody else can do it for me. They don’t know my suffering. I have to be my own therapist, my own best friend and my own carer. It’s either that or give up entirely and self-destruct. But I’m choosing to TRY and get better.

I hope to start sharing more positive news with you soon. But the positive parts I can take from last night, are that I was brave enough to speak out and tell them what I thought, and how I felt. I got apologies and explanations in the end – unfortunate that it was AFTER I had self-harmed. Things could have played out much worse – they could have discovered my self-harm and kicked me off the course… or I could have done it, run out and killed myself, as it played out in my head. So to just harm myself to the level I did, is a small ‘victory’… I’m still here to tell the tale and learn from the experience. I witnessed that anger can subside on its own, which I’ve not really experienced before – I’ve usually reacted and harmed myself to get rid of it, rather than just feeling it. I have come away more determined to stop harming. And I will never take something to harm myself with again, no matter how awful I might feel, and how big a confrontation I sense coming. I will deal with it in a different way from now on.

I want to make the most of the last sessions I have with the therapists. In four weeks I’ll have said goodbye to them forever. This breaks my heart. I don’t want to spend that time being bitter towards them. I want to try my best and take some steps forward. I have to, else this has all been for nothing.

xxxx

Poem: Save Me.

*Implies self-harm*

 

Save Me

 

I’m falling apart, piece by piece,

Cell by cell;

Dug myself a grave and fell

Right in, over my head,

With emotions too deep to keep,

Too real to feel,

Too raw to endure.

Reality dawns, that I might not make it out alive;

The darkness has taken hold –

I haven’t the strength to fight it, if truth be told.

The scales have tipped,

My self-esteem has dipped,

And the ways long-lost have returned,

Refusing all I’ve learned.

Pain has become my language,

Blood, the ink,

My wounds, the words…

But my pleas for help remain unheard.

Look at my scars, I beg you…

Read their story,

Find the moral of the tale;

It’s there for all to read, inscribed in Braille.

Let your fingers feel the outline of my pain;

The ink may dry, but it leaves a stain.

Search each chapter, every single line,

Find where the parchment and pen combined.

Read the tragedy of my mind.

Cover the stains upon my wrist –

Cover them with your kiss,

Heal me, please, I beseech you,

Hold me in your arms, for as long as my arms may reach you.

Take away my agony,

Dry my tears,

Banish the dark and stave off my fears.

I need you now, to take a stand,

Go out on a limb and hold my hand.

Carry my burden, as if it were your own,

Show me love and compassion like I’ve never known.

Give me hope,

Or pass me the rope,

The pills,

The knife,

Be my saviour,

Or let me leave life.

Without you I am nothing,

In your presence I am all;

Be my hero, or let me fall.

I fell in this coffin long ago,

Signed my own death warrant, falling for you,

Now all I can do,

Is enjoy the view

As I’m buried alive by affection,

The reality of your eternal rejection;

Silent, unspoken,

No answer required to leave my heart broken.

Now it bleeds…

Bleeding through the slits in my skin,

Nothing can tame this monster within,

Its sole intent is to claim my death;

To make my blood stagnate, and rob me of breath;

To kill all my hopes and leave me bereft,

And if truth be told, I’ve no more fight left.

I’ve fallen apart, piece by piece,

Now my broken heart prays for death’s release.

Poem: The Darkness.

This poem is pretty dark, depressing and needs a trigger warning, so please read with caution. If you like dark poetry go for it, but if you’re feeling vulnerable please stop reading now. I want to state right now, I’m okay – this was just exploring the feelings I have inside, in a creative manner… trying to put it into words. It was harder than I thought it’d be. Much easier to write of love (which I’ve never experienced!) than to write about depression, which I feel every day.

 

It has helped me to vent it through words though. I think if you can put a feeling into words, and externalise it, it actually lessens the power of the feeling. I’ve also given shape to my emotional mind… the part of me trying to cling on to the suffering I’ve known, and holding me back from recovery. Maybe if I can see it as a form I can start to challenge it as an entity. I know that might sound rubbish to others, but it’s something I might try this weekend – writing a compassionate letter to my emotional mind…. my demon. I’ll let you know how I get on with that and if it helps.

Look after yourself.
xxxx

 

 

*Self-harm heavily mentioned… please take care*

 

 

The Darkness

It’s there, inside me… I can feel it stirring,

The darkness I felt is once more recurring.

I can feel its presence, and sense its shape;

Caught in its clutches and cannot escape.

A being within me, it mimics my form,

Its rumbling warns of the impending storm.

It grapples my mind, and twists it downhill,

Distorting reality, and bending my will.

It claims it’s my ally, but wishes me harm;

It begs for release through the slits on my arm.

It sees the blank canvas – the arm on the right

And craves a new lesion to witness the light.

It toys with my feelings, makes me seek pain,

Romanticising me harming again.

Grieving my scars as they heal and fade,

It worships the crushing power of the blade.

Vivid imaginings plaguing my mind,

Resisting recovery, I’m caught in a bind.

I want to break free of the monster inside

But the shackles to darkness can’t be untied.

The slashes I make to my skin will not sever

The links to this demon within me forever.

The external world brings pain and distress;

The letting of blood does not make the grief less.

It lets in more darkness and adds to the size

Of the burden I carry and try to disguise.

The blackness is growing… dictating my life,

Caught in obsessions – the razor or knife…

How do I beat it? Should I let it win?

Let it rip me apart as it breaks through my skin?

Or do I accept it, and just let it be…

Welcoming it as an aspect of me?

How do I get this torment to cease?

Will ever a day come when my mind is at peace?

I long for the day my spirit will mend

But by death or recovery, I wish this to end.

Daily Prompt: Superficial

via Daily Prompt: Superficial

 

*This post talks about self-harm*

 

I had a letter through the post recently, outlining what was discussed in therapy sessions, and it talked about ‘superficial self-harm’ and how I’d cut myself and didn’t need treatment.

 

What I find fascinating is that I was actually offended by this. It felt as if my wounds were labelled as ‘superficial’, meaning that they weren’t that bad, weren’t ‘important’ and didn’t show a great depth of pain underneath.

 

It got me thinking about how the amount of damage done whilst self-harming doesn’t equate to the suffering which caused it. I have only had someone else help me treat a wound three times in my life…. once about ten years ago, where I needed it steri-stripped at the walk-in centre, once where a family member had to put them on for me at home, and then the time at the hospital a couple of weeks ago.

 

They were what would be classed as ‘deep wounds’, but in reality I have had deep wounds before and patched them up by myself. Just because I haven’t sought treatment for my self-harm it doesn’t mean it was ‘superficial’. Perhaps I’m just scared to go for treatment because of the fear of judgement, and because I don’t want people to know I do it. I don’t want to let people down or hurt them.

 

When I was at college I would make several shallow cuts, which would be deemed ‘superficial’, but that doesn’t mean the mental torment is any less than it is for a deep cut. And sometimes I’ve cut too deep for what I would consider a stupid reason, when I’m not in despair. Very often my worst cuts come from impulsivity more than anything. It’s usually when I’m angry or desperate and don’t take time to stop and think about it.

 

But this last time was not superficial. In fact almost two weeks later and my tendons in my wrist, into my thumb still hurt. I could’ve done very serious, permanent damage, but I’m lucky I probably stopped just short of that possibility. I was in a great deal of pain emotionally, but even the amount of damage I did to myself did not fully represent the anguish inside. No amount of harm could illustrate that to people.

 

Personally I think that calling self-harm wounds ‘superficial’ is risky. It conjures up all sorts of feelings, that the wounds we inflict upon ourselves are not taken seriously. When you think of the word ‘superficial’ in broader terms, you often think of people who lack depth. They exist just on the surface and don’t have a lot going on underneath. But many who self-harm have a heck of a lot going on underneath – and that’s the problem! We do have depth. We think too deeply about everything. We see meaning in everything. So when our wounds are described as ‘superficial’, it’s like we’re being told it’s not serious. There’s no deep story behind it. It’s just for show, on the surface. If we really meant it, and were truly in pain, we would have deeper wounds, that need treatment. That’s how it feels when reading such words.

 

And that is dangerous, because it can lead people to harm themselves in more serious ways. I’ve read from people before who feel they don’t harm severely enough, and they’re not taken seriously. And it makes them want to cut deeper, to feel their suffering is noticed, believed and they get the help they need. I’ve been there. I used to harm with one type of tool (not going to mention methods, as I don’t promote self-harm – I wouldn’t recommend or encourage it in anyone, I just stand up for those who are already there and know the feelings)… and after a while that method wasn’t good enough. I needed wounds to be worse. So I eventually found a different tool, which caused a lot more damage. And from then on, nothing else is satisfying enough. It’s dangerous.

 

Some people have thought they’re not ‘proper self-harmers’ if they don’t cut themselves deeply. They feel ‘superficial’ wounds are thought of as ‘attention-seeking’ and like they’re not committed to it, and are just doing it to get attention… whereas a deeper wound is deemed as a sign of immense pain inside. No matter how much or how little these things are talked about, they are beliefs held by a lot of people who self-harm. We think people judge us by the severity of our wounds, so we get the urge to do awful damage to ourselves to express just how broken we are inside.

 

But people have to understand it takes an insane amount of pain and turmoil to feel the need to drag a blade across your own skin in the first place… deep or shallow. The suffering is real and deep, and should not be measured by the depth of a wound, the amount of wounds, the amount of blood spilled, nor the frequency of self-harm.

 

For instance, right now I am in the worst emotional pain I’ve felt, at least since I had to go for treatment for my last wound a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know how to  deal with this pain. I don’t know if I can make it through…. am I self-harming at the moment? No. But that doesn’t mean my suffering isn’t the worst it’s ever been. And it doesn’t mean I won’t resort to cutting again. The urge to do even more damage is so strong right now, and I’m fighting to get through each day without acting on that urge.

 

But if people judge your inner pain by your self-harm wounds, then whenever you are trying to recover, therefore not self-harming, they would assume that you are okay, and not suffering inside. Very often the opposite is true, and that’s often why we self-harm in the first place, to express the emotional pain on the outside. It’s a sign we’re not okay. We feel nobody understands how much we’re struggling. So it’s a bit of a vicious circle, trying to recover and cope in healthier ways, yet having people have higher expectations of us, and forgetting the agony inside, just because they no longer see it on the outside…

 

Am I being sensitive to the word ‘superficial’? Perhaps, yes. But if you were a self-harmer yourself and had been for many years, you would likely feel the same. It might just be a word to most people. But to have your wounds, the expression of your inner torture, labelled as ‘superficial’ feels insulting.

 

The reason behind this is in the words often connected to the term ‘superficial’ :

  • Slight
  • Trivial
  • Shallow
  • Unimportant
  • Casual
  • Facile
  • Frivolous
  • Inattentive
  • Simplistic
  • Unconvincing
  • Unsophisticated

 

The reality is that the word superficial is used to describe a wound as being on the surface – the epidermis and the dermis. Anything below those layers would likely be considered deep. So I know there’s scientific reasons it’s used. I just wonder if there’s another word, which means the same but doesn’t come with the negative connotations of ‘simple, shallow and not serious’… and whether that word might be more appropriate for describing a wound, without seeming to reflect on the suffering that led to the self-harm. Just a thought…