Self-Harm v. Suicidal Thinking

Warning: This is a brutally honest description of some of my most destructive thoughts and behaviors. If you are in any type of emotional state right now that would leave you vulnerable to being triggered by this type of material, I’d recommend not reading this post. 

This post is something of an assignment, a question of J’s that I’ve been trying to develop an response to. How are self-harm and suicidal thoughts/gestures similar to me (if at all) and how are they different? I don’t even remember anymore why she asked, but I’m finally discovering my answer.

I find that it’s easiest for me to organize my thoughts by getting them down on paper. And now really seems like the best time to consider my response, considering in the past week I’ve had recurrence of both problems.

The way I experience it, my self-harm and my suicidal thoughts/behaviors are similar because they both reflect a high level of distress. For me to actively engage in either, my negative emotions will typically be at highest intensity and it will feel to me like those emotions are endless. In both cases, pain is often exacerbated by negative filtering, in the sense that I cannot seem to hold on to the experience of feeling well.  I am resistant to entertain any positive thoughts, especially those about myself.  I struggle greatly to recognize the progress I’ve made.

Hence, all that pain.

Self-harm is typically a reaction to something in the past that has created emotions of shame/guilt, worthlessness, or self-directed anger. I feel ashamed of something I have done wrong, angry at myself for a mistake I have made, so I think “I deserve to be punished.” Alternatively, I may think “I need to escape my pain” or “I need my pain to be visible” and if I’m feeling incredibly worthless I won’t value myself and my body enough not to resist those urges.

For me, self-harm has never been a direct means to end my life. I have not actively hurt myself with the intention that it would kill me in that moment. If I were going to follow through on an end of life plan, cutting would not be my ideal choice of action. However, as difficult as this is to admit knowing that J will read this, there have been a few times where I have cut shallowly at my wrist to see if I could handle the pain if I were to cut deeper the future. Almost like a test.

Suicidal thinking and gestures are typically by-products of self-harm, which means they equally follow shame and self-directed anger for past mistakes. I experience suicidal thoughts more in reference to the future than the past. There are accompanying thoughts of “I can’t live with myself for my past mistakes” (shame), “I am fundamentally flawed and will never get better,” (worthlessness) or “I am and will always be a stupid, terrible person who deserves to die” (anger).

However, where they differ is that I also experience suicidal ideation and planning in response to feelings of emptiness, anxiety, and sadness. The associated thoughts there are those such as “I cannot handle to continue feeling this alone” (emptiness), “I have so much fear at the idea of continuing to handle difficult situations like a job or relationship that I could fail at” (anxiety), or “I am feeling so low it is not worth living” (sadness).

It was interesting to parse that out. While some emotions seemed to me at the outset of this post like they have contributed to me hurting myself, I realized that they only do so when followed up by the previously listed anger, shame, and worthlessness as secondary emotions.

What I mean is this: While suicidal thinking is automatic to me when I am feeling sad or empty, I am not likely to actually hurt myself (or want to) because of those isolated feelings, but rather because I feel such intense anger at myself for my own actions that created the emptiness or because of my intense shame over how I’m handling my sadness.

There are a wider range of emotions that trigger the desire to die. This is unfortunate, because it feels like almost every negative emotion has very automatic suicidal thoughts attached to it, whereas my desire to hurt myself by cutting is more situation specific.

As such, I’ve found that while self-harm is usually combined with suicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts may occur without even the impulse to hurt myself. My thoughts about suicide are much more frequent, recurring nearly daily even in some small form.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed the a difference in thoughts vs. actions. Both types of thoughts are out of my control, but the suicidal ones are harder to fight back against than thoughts about self-harm. Are my suicidal thoughts more common because they have always been harder to fight? Or are they harder to fight because they have always been so common and thus I’m worn out from dealing with them? Which came first, chicken or the egg?

Anyone’s guess, really.

If you’re talking only about action, I have noticed the actual impulse to self-harm is harder to ignore than suicidal planning. That urge is more fervent and lasts for longer.  I will feel an impulse to do both, but can and do put the latter off for much longer. For example, during a very difficult week I thought both about burning myself and writing out suicide notes that I had typed. I did hurt myself, but I didn’t do the notes. While my impulse to hurt myself grew with space, the impulse to plan suicide fizzled out. My motivation just disappeared.

Why? I’m not completely sure, but the first I thought I had is I regard self-harm as less problematic in a sense. In my head, the scars are trivial. They will heal, so what’s the big deal if I slip up? Obviously this is isn’t true, but I’ve been engaged in this behavior for so long I’m almost desensitized to it.

With suicidal gestures, it feels more grievous. I’m intricately aware of how final suicide would be, so any steps I take toward it, even if I feel the urge to do so, are scary. It’s a weird form of ambivalence pulling me in two different directions.

Maybe the part of me that believes there’s hope for the future and staying alive is larger or stronger than the part that believes I’m not deserving of punishment. I can’t say for sure, because I just can’t make complete sense of how I feel.

Both of these things are dangerous to me. They are similar in that way. Whether I’m hurting myself now or planning to hurt myself later, they only escalate my feelings and cause more distress. They reinforce themselves and have become super super hard habits to break. I know that. I want to move past them, but when the minions take hold I often feel overpowered and give in the impulses. I let them control me. I’m not proud of it, but it’s where we are at right now.

I don’t know how writing all this out with help J in our work together. Like I said, I can no longer remember what part of our conversation sparked the question. But it was an interesting thing to consider, I’ll give her that. I understand my motives and behaviors a little better.

Am I doomed to these urges? Maybe. Maybe not. What I believe right now about how things will end for me might not be what I believe in one or three or six months. I’m working hard for it to be different.

One thing is for sure. These are difficult desires to deal with and I keep that struggle so close, concealed from others for fear of judgment or failure to understand. I just want to be free of them. I just want to know what it’s like to truly value myself and my life enough to protect them.

 

 

 

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A Letter to My Suicidal Self

This prompt was suggested to me rather emphatically by J after I told her honestly just how intense and difficult my suicidal ideation has been in the last couple weeks. I had, for the first time, moved past simple thoughts and into actual plans. I think this admission scared her, and it has scared me too. The depth of my challenges has always been formidable, but lately it has felt insurmountable. 

I hoped to wait until I was in a truly stable and perhaps even positive place to write this, because I wanted some true light to contrast the darkness I feel when I am suicidal. However, the difficult days continued to linger. In fact, I spent most of the weekend in bed, chained by a depression that refused to let up. Finally, finally some relief has come in the last day, and I am hopeful that it will be enduring. Since I know the course of my disorder, I know that the pain will return at some point. When it does, I hope that this will help me in avoiding giving into the voice of temptation, as a fervent reminder about what remains here for me. 

To the part of me that is suffering in a grievous pain, whether of the past, present, or the future, I have some things I want to say to you:

I know your pain is huge. It’s a great big mammoth. Always present and easily aggravated, it threatens to spear you with its giant tusks, to step on you and squish you, at any given moment. Even when it is quiet, it is always there walking beside you. Following. Stalking. And you never know when something else will set it off into a frenzy again. It really takes so little.

Day to day living is not easy for you, I know this too. You think you’ve damaged your life with mistakes that cannot be corrected for. You look around and see the friends that you could have had, feeling a loneliness that cannot be extinguished. You feel anxious at the thought of trying to begin new friendships, and even the premise of a real romantic relationship makes you want to run in the other direction. Conflicts happen, people leave; I know you struggle to trust them because you see abandonment as a rule of relationships.

Worst of all, I know the awful names that you call yourself. You know them too, so I won’t even give them the power of speaking them aloud. I know they’re on repeat in your head, those minions telling you that you’re destined only for failure and continued pain. They retreat from even the slightest glimmers of positivity, refusing to let you feel good for even a second, instead clinging like super-glue to those terrible names.

Right now, you want to die. You want to take yourself out of this world. You have plans for this, because it feels both like a comfort and penance. It makes sense to you, I get it. But living makes sense too. There are the reasons you need to stick around and stay in the battle, even if persistence means keeping your sword drawn and hiding behind your shield for awhile just to get through.

It’s understandable that you want to escape your pain. Anyone would. But here’s the thing: There are safer ways to do that the ones your mind invents.

Think of the things that make you happy. Like how completing a difficult run is exhilarating. There are still self-imposed running records for you to break. Once, you thought you’d never be able to complete six consecutive minutes; now, you can run thirteen. You know what else brings you joy? Animals. There is a homeless cat or the dog (or both) that is waiting for you to adopt him and smother him with love. Don’t let him miss out on the chance to know you. Don’t forget how much you cherish the holidays. There’s almost nothing as special to you as the process of decorating a Christmas tree or the magic of a fireworks show. These moments are perennial; they come back to you every year, a guaranteed piece of happiness to look forward to.

So many other things go on this list. Old home videos. An apple-scented candle. Pretty much every country song on the radio right now. Sunflowers. Snoopy. Your absolute favorite meal at your favorite restaurant. Lighthouses. The Green Bay Packers. Any of those cute videos of a puppy. The moment when it just clicks in your brain and something makes sense. All of these things spark happiness.

The pain may be intense, but so is the joy. You need the one to know the beauty of the other. And you do know that beauty. Think of how proud and excited you were when you got the call with the job offer, how truly spectacular it felt to reap the benefits of your hard work. That was a joy that the pain can’t touch, no matter how hard it tries. It happened, and it’s a memory to hold on to, ammunition to fire back at the pain.

You are not alone in this world. You have people, to whom you are connected to intricately. Your parents, who really try so hard to support you despite not always understanding the way you wish they would. Your grandfather, with all his charm and humor. Your aunt and cousins, who care and check in. Your friends from graduate school, who have known you at your worst and are still there. A few friends even from undergrad, with whom the relationship is fun and silly and strong. You have H & S, who you absolutely adore. You have J too.

I know that it doesn’t always feel like enough for you. I know you long for a certain type of connection and reciprocity among your friendships. I know how much you yearn for a real intimate relationship. But what you have here is something. It’s a chance to work on feeling comfortable with people. It’s proof that you are capable of cultivating lasting relationships in a positive way. It’s evidence that you are worth the love you don’t believe you deserve.

Being with people is hard, I don’t dispute this. But you cannot discount the skills you are learning to make existing in a social world more manageable. Every interaction is an opportunity for you to learn. There are so many more people out in the world for you to meet. People who will like you for your good qualities: your kindness, generosity, and empathetic heart. It will get easier, but you must not give up. Not everyone is a winner, and not everyone can appreciate or understand perfectly, but there are many fulfilling relationships awaiting you.

I’m not encouraging you to live for them, I’m encouraging you to live for the hope and happiness that your current relationships and these potential relationships can bring you, if you keep working for them.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with your current situation and even easier to believe the cruelty of those minions.  Their voices are the loudest, because they’ve been with you for years. They tell you that you are fundamentally flawed, but we are all flawed. Your humanity doesn’t make you deserving of death.

And just because they are the easiest voices to hear, doesn’t mean there aren’t other kinder voices back there hiding. Waiting to be encouraged forward.

What you deserve is kindness. I know you don’t believe me right now. You believe you deserve punishment, for any number of reasons I’m sure. But remember that you’d never say that to anyone else on this planet. You’d try to offer them kindness on even their darkest day, to find the glimmer of hope for them, so you must do this for yourself too. And if you can’t get on board with that, remember a general rule of psychology is that positive reinforcement is so much more effective than punishment.

Be kind. Please, please, please find room for kindness and care. Look at your safety plan, because it has everything outlined to keep you safe with your feelings. Fight back against the minions with whatever you can throw at them. Meditation. Music. Running. Wrapping yourself up like a burrito in your blankets and sitting through the emotions. The intensity will pass because it always has. You’ll thank yourself  for not acting impulsively in the darkness when the clouds begin to let light in again.

When it does begin to pass, recognize that you are allowed to feel better. You are allowed to feel happiness, relief, and even hope. Especially hope. The minions will fight it, they will try to remind you of all the reasons to slip back into pain, but screw them. Take each moment of the good, however brief, and live for that.

Then curse out the minions, if you’d like. They are wrong. Don’t let them persuade you back into suicidal thinking. They’d make you live there if they could, but you can stay housed faithfully in a place of healing.

Remember that healing is not linear, and that feelings of stagnancy and struggle may precede patches of growth. You may feel very differently in a few days or weeks, if only you give yourself the opportunity to get there.

Remember that your feelings are not facts; you may feel worthless and like a lost cause, but there is so much concrete evidence to the contrary.  It’s here and here and here. It’s in the way you keep trying to be better and do better. It’s in every kind gesture you show to everyone else. It’s in your sticking with therapy, even when you want to quit.

Remember everything you want out of this life: a home, a husband, kids, travel experiences, pets, participation in your community, the ability to make a difference, and know that these aren’t doors that have closed indefinitely. These aren’t far-fetched fantasies, you can achieve them. They just may be further down on your journey.

You have spent over two years getting to know yourself and building a better life for you. I know it can really fucking suck, but its worth the fight and you know it is. Now is not the time to prematurely cut it all short.

You are worth life and all it has to offer you. Plan out the next goals you have and the steps you’ll take to get there. . Plan out a recipe for the meal you probably need to eat. Plan which shows are on the docket for tonight’s viewing. Plan a playlist for tomorrow. Plan an outing with a friend. Plan a trip to Ireland or Italy or Nashville, even.

But please, stop planning to die.

You have survived everything before this and you can keep going. You have the power to keep going. You, not the minions, are in control.

Keep fighting, okay? You’re stronger than the pain. You’ve got this.

Reasons I Am Worth It

I had a rough time in therapy tonight. Well, I’ve just been having a rough time in general lately. Really really intense emotions coupled with some harsh negative thoughts have been debilitating for me.

It’s been a lot of suicidal ideation. Passively running through ways to end my life in my head. Yearning for an escape from this madness. I want it to be over. Suicide is a comfortable option that I am content to keep in my back pocket.

When I am in this mental state, I believe with conviction the voices of the minions. I am a bad person. I am not deserving of success or happiness. I am a worthless individual.

J is the powerful force who is there to counter those thoughts. She refuses to entertain them. She makes me come up with lists. In fact, she’s been doing this pretty much since we met.

Positive qualities. Reasons to live. Reasons I am worth it.

She did that last one tonight: reasons I’m worth it. It being…survival, at this point. I’m sure she’ll do it again since she pretty much told me she’d do it every week if she has to. 

As ideas sprung to my mind to share with her, the minions batted them away. I felt challenged to say positive things, because I wasn’t confident those things were true. J told me to say them even if they sounded like lies. I came up with some things, but it was really difficult for me.

I’m thinking, now, that I should make a list. One I can refer to in the future. So I’m just going to ignore all the discomfort that arises when I do this and get right to it.

Reasons I Have Worth as a Person

  1. I am kind to others. I like to find ways to make people smile and improve their day.
  2. I am kind to animals too. There have been many times people have been impressed at how their dog seemed at ease with me during an initial introduction.
  3. I am empathetic. I am able relate to other people’s problems and validate their feelings, since I’m so intricately familiar with my own.
  4. I am open-minded. As a favorite TV show character once said to describe herself, “I’m indecisive, because I see eight sides to everything.” As such, I try very hard not to judge others with different viewpoints. I can take any issue and pick it apart into tiny fragments when I am trying to determine my own perspective on it.
  5. I am responsible. I do what I say I am going to do. I follow through.
  6. I am persistent. I’ve survived this long. For every low point I’ve had, I always come back with a new plan to kick minion ass.
  7. Speaking of planning, I am super organized. I am able to visualize an organizational system for just about anything without difficulty: closets, desks, bookshelves. Give me some clutter, I’ll fix it up for you.
  8. I know how to self-advocate. I know how to ask for help when I need it. Just ask J. She’s no stranger to me asking for help.
  9. I am a hard worker. No one has ever argued this point. If given a task, I will do whatever it takes to achieve success. Grad school is a perfect example of that. Long days and endless papers later, I have my Master’s degree.
  10. On a similar vein, I have tons of initiative. My colleagues always praise my willingness to step up and ask if they need any assistance completing a task, instead of waiting to be assigned something.
  11. I picked a job that is all about finding good outcomes for kids by implementing strategies to promote growth.
  12. I am a caring grandchild. My grandfather needs a lot of help and I’ve been there to pay his bills, decorate the house, and go through the mail, among other things, for the last three years now.
  13. I do what I can to honor my other grandparents, to celebrate the people they were. I make it a point not to forget them.
  14. I am a positive role model to two little girls who I love so much. I am mindful of the way I talk to myself, the way I choose to problem solve. I try to teach them to be the best girls they can be.
  15. I write about and share my journey with others, something I do mainly for me but also in case it might help someone else feel less alone.
  16. I get really enthusiastic and passionate about the little things. When I said this in session, J asked me to elaborate and I froze. I told her holidays, because I can decorate like no other for Christmas or Easter. Since then, I’ve thought of some other times I was excited over small things. When I finished my first crochet project. When I order a new figurine for my collection from Amazon. Television shows! I can pretty much quote every episode of Friends from memory. J and I have had many laughs about that one.
  17. I am honest. I have never been a good liar, because my conscience won’t let me. There’s a good chance if you ask me a question, you’re getting an honest answer.
  18. I run toward the things that scare me.
    Related image Image result for pee into the wind friends
  19. I can find memes or .gifs that apply to any situation. I guess that makes me creative? Or silly? Not sure, but it seemed worth noting, since everyone loves a well-timed meme. Plus, this proves that I reach a whole new level of a Friends fanatic.
  20. I try to find the good in others. I try to believe the world is predominantly good.
  21. When I make mistakes, I always aim to learn from them.
  22. My intentions are usually good, in any situation.
  23. I am strong and I know how to tolerate difficult and intense feelings.
  24. I can show myself kindness. Not as often as I’d like, but I will go for a run, wrap myself in a blanket, repeat affirmations quietly, or meditate in the face of pain.
  25. I’m still here.

I think that there may be more reasons that I can’t think of right now. Perhaps I will revisit this list in the future and add to it. Until then, it’s a start.

It’s a start that I needed amidst some very difficult days. I’m hoping I will be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel soon.

As a follow-up, I’m going to count this as day 25 of the self-love challenge, since I haven’t added to that in a few months and it’s pretty relevant. Sue me. It works.

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Why Am I Like This?

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. I am frustrated. As in really frustrated. As in: please end this now because is eating me alive and I don’t think I can take feeling this way any more.

I’m oscillating back and forth between holding it together and going completely over the edge. Some moments I participate in a meaningful conversation, practice appropriate self-care, or even just complete a task and feel for a second like just maybe the fog has lifted. Other times I’m digging my nails into my skin or stuffing my face with Doritos or tastycakes until I’m bloated and regretful.

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The self-harm is bad in the obvious sense. You don’t need to be a licensed professional to know that an arm full of red scratches isn’t healthy coping, even if it feels perversely helpful. But the food, I realize, is bad too. It is an internal form of self-harm, ingesting too much of a substance that just damages my body. If I were eating piles of vegetables, maybe not as much. But this is not vegetables. It’s candy and pizza and popcorn. And I don’t have an off switch. I will not stop.

A blogger that I follow posted about a conversation she’d had with her therapist. She wanted to self-harm and her therapist encouraged her against it by reminding her it was just shifting the focus away from the real problem. I’m still reflecting on that weeks later.

It makes sense, because I self-harm as a means of relief from the big scary feelings, to release the pressure. But it also doesn’t make sense, because my self-harm is also a form of punishment. I’m not entirely shifting the focus if I see myself as the problem.

I can’t tell you how many times a day I ask myself why I have to be this way. Why can’t I just be the person that I want to be? Why do things have to be so fucking difficult? 

Why do I have to be so overly concerned with what other people think? Why do I hinge on making everyone happy? I want to be the person who makes decisions based on what makes me happy, who chooses myself. I want to be the person who walks their own path, even if it might bother other people. I want to be the person who can have a conversation with someone without fearing that I just said too much, was too awkward, too loud, too anything. 

Why do I lack the security to make even a single decision? Why do mistakes make me feel like an utter failure? I want to be the person who is assertive and confident. I want to be the person who has my own ideas and can support them and know that I’ve made the best decision I can. I want to be the person who can misstep and then be able to move on without getting constantly caught up in the mistake.

Why am I so competitive with everyone around me? Why am I not able to be happy for other people’s success unless I have success too? I want to be the person that can go on social media and not be overcome with jealousy by other people’s accomplishments. I want to be able to be happy when someone gets engaged, gets a job, or has a baby.

And of a similar vein, why does every emotion I have feel like it’s body-slamming me to the ground? I want to be someone who can feel a little sadness without feeling like I’m being swallowed whole, who can be mildly angry without having the urge to explore, who can feel anxious without suddenly questioning anything and everything I have ever known.

Why must I be such an addict for validation? I want to be able to be there for myself.

Why?

I feel like this world is eating me alive. My thoughts are louder than they have ever been. It’s like someone cranked up the volume so that all of this is deafening. And they come paired with the feelings. Those feelings that hit me like a sucker punch to the gut every time.

I simply can’t deal. It seems like there is so much judgment out there. We judge others to feel better about our selves. We tell ourselves we are right. It seems like everyone is just laughing and gossiping behind each other’s back. I thought that would get better in the real world, that people would be less cliquey, but they aren’t. If anything, I think it gets worse.

Why do we teach kids to be kind, to be inclusive, to withhold judgment, if all we are going to do is model the opposite?

Being around people is scary. I don’t always know how to fit in this world in a way that doesn’t tear me apart.

I worry all the time that my decisions are wrong, that I will hurt someone or mess something up beyond repair. I see everything from five different angles. I feel other people’s emotions with them, I imagine their hurt or sadness, and it physically pains me to think about it. I can’t handle my emotions and I can’t handle theirs. I can’t deal.

I tell myself that I’ll just stop caring like I do. Fuck everyone else, I’ll focus on me. It’ll surely save me the hurt.

But I can’t turn it off, I feel for everyone and everything.

These are the thoughts that are playing in my head at maximum volume almost all the time. I’m drowning here. Out in the world, it feels like I’m drowning. I don’t know how else to say it.

I wish it would stop.

I don’t have it in me for a full post tonight, but I stumbled across this while perusing social media today.

I’m feeling almost calm at the moment. I did not skip therapy. I went, I said over and over how frustrated and agitated and exhausted I am and have been. Therapist listened. She validated. She comforted.

No new revelations, but no unraveling. Just talking and tears and more talking.

I am still stuck in the awful, and my God it is awful, but I am hoping to see some of that breathtaking beauty soon.

I’m holding on.

Transference and Other Struggles

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The struggle is real.

I highly anticipate that this post will be one that takes more than one night to complete before I’m happy with it. I anticipate this because I have sat down to write this no less than 4 times today and promptly given up in favor of sleeping, crocheting, eating, and cleaning out my closet (yes, again).

See, the problem is that I’ve got too many of those half-baked thoughts circulating right now. I’m cognizant of the fact that my mental health is circling the drain. I feel it. I’m on the verge of harming or just crawling into bed and giving up. I’m seriously on the verge of cancelling my session. But then there are parts of me pushing back, forcing me to prep for the week, turning on the youtube videos that make me smile, not allowing me to grab the razor or send that cancellation text.

So the picture above is so damn accurate because there is a literal war going on inside of me. Feelings of strength or feelings of weakness. Hope or hopelessness. Endure or implode. Approach all this with therapist, really discuss it, or deny, withdraw, move away.

Yes, yes, this is black and white thinking. Well sue me, because that’s all I’ve got right now. At least I’m trying.

Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to write (or at least to write something I won’t delete ten minutes later) is that I’m looking for very specific words to describe what’s going on. If I’m going to do this, if I’m going to bare my soul, it needs to be done right.

Maybe the fact that I’m fixated on doing this right explains why why I struggled so hard the other night with not being able to participate in therapy in what I believed was a meaningful (read: the correct) way. Maybe it also explains why the struggle is real: I don’t really feel like I’m doing life right. Or that I ever really can.

Sometimes, I really don’t think that I can turn things around enough that I can mold my life into what I want it to be. What I perceive as ‘right.’ Yes, I know things might look vastly different a year from now. Yes, I know I’ve improved in the 16+ months I’ve been in therapy. But sometimes, if I’m being truly honest, it feels like therapist is dangling the carrot in front of me. Sitting there every week sending this message that things can and will get better. Acting like I have any control in the ultimate outcomes in my life.

I remember asking her, forever ago now, how she knew that I would be able to find a relationship. “Well, because you want it,” she replied.

But it’s really not that simple, is it? She can’t say with any guarantee that I will be able to find someone with whom I can enter a stable, functional, fulfilling relationship. The same way she can’t say with any certainly that I’ll be able to successfully earn and keep a job. Just because I want something and am willing to work for it, doesn’t mean I’ll get it.

There are no fucking guarantees.

I’m struggling so hard with this fear that some people are just not meant to have the same success other people do, and that no matter what I do, how much I work to change my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, I’m not completely in control of how I end up. Maybe there’s just too much working against me.

Maybe I just won’t be able to figure out to use the inner workings of this crazy world to my advantage. I mean look at all the people who never figure it out. Look at all the people whose mental health dominates them for life.

This fear is literally paralyzing. It knocks me off the stable ground right on my ass. It triggers extreme suicidal thoughts. The anxiety about this is always there, but sometimes I can work past it. Until it really washes over me, taking me over from the inside out. Then I’m fucked, because there’s no arguing with that fear. There’s nothing I can do to prove it wrong.

Why keep fighting a pointless battle?

And see the thing is, I don’t feel like anyone understands that. Not anyone in my immediate vicinity anyway. If someone is holding down a job, is in/has been in a functional relationship, is able to thrive socially, I don’t feel like they truly get it. Because that shows they have been successful before. They have skills that I don’t. So how can I compare myself to them?

There are arguments against these thoughts. I know there are. But the point is, those arguments bounce right off me. I physically cannot hear them. This core belief, that I won’t achieve what I want out of life because I’m not smart or good or worthy enough, is ultimately so strong that I can’t let it go. Even as I’m assaulted with plenty of evidence to the contrary, I’m standing there clutching it in a vice grip, because letting it go is terrifying. Therapist is trying to help me let go of this core belief, but it doesn’t feel smart or possible to do that. What if I get my hopes up and find out that she’s wrong, that I am not destined for anything other than what I’ve currently got? Why would I risk falling that hard? No, I’d rather keep this thought nearby so that when I fail, I can remember that I knew it was coming.

You might call that a self-fulfilling prophecy. I call it normal.

Part of me really doesn’t feel like I’ll ever truly be better. It feels like false hope. It feels unfair to offer me something I can’t really have.

Enter the transference issues.

I started to talk about this the other night. How I felt the impulse to be adversarial with her even just thinking  about our session the night before. How seeing therapist interact with another client before our session effectively shut the door on me being able to share or connect in therapy. How suddenly I felt compelled to overstep a boundary, to provoke her, pretty much do anything that would cause her to respond with disapproval, so I could really have a reason to be mad at her. Something that could give me an excuse to close off from her even more.

This still confuses me, because knowing she has other clients and seeing them in brief flashes before and after a session has never bothered me before. It’s never set off a reaction this intense.

What the hell is going on with me?

Days later, I still don’t have a clue I just know that the thought of seeing her on Thursday is producing some serious anxiety. I know it’s an issue on my end, because she hasn’t done anything that would warrant this level of strong emotions.

I truly think that it’s a mix of a lot of things. Self-sabotage, maybe. I was doing better for a few weeks, so of course my brain has swooped in to make sure that doesn’t stick. And what better way to self-sabotage than by pulling away from the person who is helping me heal? Isolate myself even more.

That core belief I have of being innately unworthy of growth and happiness makes it so easy to resist therapist. It makes it easy to be angry at her for offering me something I feel like I will never really have. How dare she build my expectations and help me have a taste of feeling good, when I know it can’t really last?

Worse, I’ve got those same feelings lately towards therapist that I keeps me from confiding in friends. The feeling of: How could she ever understand? She is married, she has a job that she is very good at, and I would imagine she has many friends. I don’t know that for sure, but I would bet. All of this proves therapist has success in the areas I struggle with most. How could she ever understand what it feels like to be in my shoes?

And if she can’t understand, how must I appear to her? I thought I was long past the days of fearing that she saw me as crazy and over-dramatic. I thought I was over this endless concern of her silent judgment, wondering what she was really thinking about me. But I guess that’s not the case. It occurs to me just how much she knows about me. She knows too much. I can’t imagine actually talking to her about this because I don’t want to give her any more fuel to reinforce what a fucking neurotic loser I am.

By the way, I’m not saying any of this is logical or true. I’m just following the path my irrational thoughts are taking me on, completely unfiltered, trying to explore how I ended up feeling this way. I completely understand that some of this is probably just projection of my own fears onto her, but I want to be able to talk about this without being outright accused of projecting. I think that there is more to be gained from these very real, very embarrassing thoughts, than just that very surface level interpretation.

So how much of this strange drive to start fights and label therapist as just another person that can’t help is just an excuse to avoid talking about the important things? Probably at least some. It’s like my brain is starting a small fire to distract  me from the much larger, more destructive blaze. While I’m over here taking care of the more immediate issue (the therapy stuff), I fail to notice that everything else is succumbing to the blaze.

And if everything falls apart again, then therapist definitely has to stick around to help me fix it. I certainly cannot be left to my own devices if the blaze has just destroyed all the products of my hard work towards healing, leaving it charred and unrecognizable. We will have to go back, start recognizing the old patterns, reiterate the same shit again. That means there will be no possibility of therapy ending anywhere in distant future. Look how nicely that worked out!

Again, I don’t know if that’s unconsciously part of the problem or not, but it sure would make sense.

I don’t know. I’m seriously at a loss. Like I said, maybe it’s a mix of everything? The perfect storm of triggers. We need to talk about it, I know we do. And I want to, but I’m almost afraid of how she will respond. I don’t feel like there’s any response that will help. I don’t know what I want from her.

My mood is not helping. I barely feel like getting out of bed, let alone going to therapy. I’m eating everything in sight and I’m tired 100% of the time. I know this feeling, I’ve felt it before. Why does it keep coming back?

Is there any way to really make it disappear?

The world simply feels like too much for me right now. I don’t feel like I have enough tools to keep surviving it. I don’t feel like I ever will. Sometimes, suicide seems like the only real option. Like I’ll keep doing it, keep trying, until the day I realize that this core belief was accurate. Until the day it does not make sense to keep fighting, because there is nothing left to lose.

Today is not that day though. The tug of war inside me is still going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptance

“I’m not enough, but if I can just try hard enough, be enough to make everyone I ever meet happy and totally enamoured with what a wonderful, brilliant, kind, talented, hilarious, perfect person I am… then I WILL feel like enough at last.”

This is a quote from blogger Half of a Soul whose posts I have read many of because they are so relatable it makes me feel less alone. She has normalized BPD a bit for me, with her reminders that if so many of us are feeling the same feelings and thinking the same thoughts then maybe it is not an inner flaw but the work of the monster known as BPD messing with our heads.

In her post Letting Go Of Perfect, Cat talks about….well…letting go of being perfect. She talks about the ability to let go of all the “shoulds” in life and just be happy with where she is.

Therapist and I had a similar conversation tonight. I told her about how I was struggling with the fact that I am feeling this low, that I blame myself for not working hard enough and that somehow this all works out to be my fault. She proceeded to point out about five ways I was working hard. Surviving. Enduring. I particularly liked that last word because it sounded so strong. I think it says something that I fight myself so much just to admit that I am strong because I am here.

But anyway, as we talked she introduced me to the term dialectics, which I have obviously heard but never had specifically defined.  In this instance, we are using dialectics to encourage me to hold two different beliefs: 1. This emotional, anxious, sad person is who I am right now, or at least what is inhabiting me. 2. I am working to change that. The idea is to accept that I can only be who I am in this moment, nothing more, but to also acknowledge in the least judgemental way possible that I am working towards my ideal self each day.

There is something very freeing about that thought. I think in a way it releases me of all the “shoulds” that Cat discussed so perfectly. I should be going to the gym 5 days a week. I should be eating perfectly. I should be meditating 10 minutes each day. I should meet every single persons needs and somehow still be able to fit my own. I should be able to have the insight to figure out answers at internship before my supervisor, so I can be the smartest. I hold on to my shoulds with a vice grip. It turns life into a competition that can’t be won because you think you’re playing against everyone else, but it turns out you’re really just playing against yourself. And you’ve set the bar pretty high in this competition without giving yourself a ladder or a trampoline or any kind of tool that would help you reach it.

Even if you somehow manage to reach the bar, you usually find out it’s been moved a bit higher when you get there.

What I’m saying is, there’s no winning, I’m never enough, because I won’t let myself be. With success comes judgement about how much not perfection that success was. I could go to the gym 3 days and be guilting myself for not going 4. I’ll eat well all day and curse myself over 4 Oreos. I’ll hang out with friends on Friday and judge myself for my lack of plans on Saturday. There’s no acceptance of the here and the now. There’s no appreciation of the work that’s going into all of it. It’s not Hey! You’re having trouble keeping with your diet right now, but you’re working towards it. This is hard. It’s Try harder, you fatass. Work hard enough and maybe you’ll be beautiful.

So no wonder I feel like I’m not working hard enough. I’m expecting myself to do it all, to have my feelings and the BPD just shrivel away into nothing when that’s not a plausible outcome. It’s so much pressure.  I feel like I should be able to make it go away and if I could just figure out the exact right combination of words and actions I could somehow become #1 school psychologist intern with a boyfriend, 25 best friends who want to do things with me, a perfect relationship with my parents and absolutely no negative feelings. Ever. I feel like I should be able to make the happen and because I can’t make all of those expectations reality at this very specific point in time, I feel like a failure.

This very linear, narrow view of who I should be and the road of perfection that’ll get me there is BPD-driven and will escalate me quickly. It spurs those fears of abandonment because holy shit I’m just not good enough or funny enough or special enough for them to stay around. But if I work harder, try harder, be better, I can be. I can get rid of BPD and live out all my fantasies. 

No pressure there.

The consequence of not being good enough is a heavy mental beating from myself. It’s more pressure. It’s learned helplessness that comes from knowing I won’t cut myself a break even when I’ve grown in an area, done something better than before. If nothing is ever enough, why keep trying?

Enter suicidal thoughts.

In reality, by accepting where I’m at right now, I’m expressing a kinder more gentler view of myself that will hopefully bring me to more positive thoughts and feelings. I want to be where I’m not, but to be where I want to be I have to make peace with where I am (did you follow that?). There has to be some level of acceptance that this is where we are right now. I have to open my mind to the idea that I want different things for myself and I am working towards them, while accepting that a lot of this is still difficult and recognizing the road I am walking to get there.

Otherwise I’ll never be happy with what I accomplish, because the judgement and expectations on myself will just keep churning themselves out. I’ll just keep ‘shoulding’ myself to be enough for one more person, to get closer to perfection so that everyone can finally love me and I can somehow be enough for myself.

Except it doesn’t really work that way.

So here we go. I am struggling right now. I am transitioning into new parts of my life and it is really hard and scary. I have strong negative feelings, I think about suicide, I self-harm. I want to be in a relationship. I want to be a good school psychologist. I want more social opportunities.  I want a better relationship with my parents. But those things are hard. Sometimes they make me angry, sometimes they make me sad, sometimes they make me anxious.

I’m trying though. I write. I go to therapy. I chart my moods. I’m working on developing new insights and turning that into action. I’m still alive. I’m trying to find safer outlets than self-harm. I don’t always do it, but I’m working on that. I get enough sleep and I try to take care of myself. I am getting better at advocating for my needs. I listen to music or light a candle to calm down.

I accept that I have BPD. I will continue to work towards acceptance of what the BPD monster did in my past. And I will keep working for a better future, the one I want. I will keep pushing myself, but I will try to set the bar where I can reach it. Not perfection. Not ‘enough’ for everyone. Those are unattainable feats.

I’m letting go of perfection and focusing on acceptance of where I am right now.

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