The first time and the last time… self harm

Someone else wrote about the topic of self harm the other day and I thought I would share my own experience as it is part of the road I have traveled in learning to cope with trauma.  You can read the original post at http://heathershelpers.org/2014/10/13/self-harm/

 

9207e756b2b8db7d3438541448c4626f(picture was found on pinterest, don’t know who to credit)

 

I remember the first time… I supposed anyone would.  It was… 15 years ago?  I was trying to deal with the never ending anxiety and constant state of alertness I was in.  I had a little corner in my bedroom, I lit some candles and some incense and tried to meditate.  I hadn’t ever really tried this before, unless you count prayer growing up… and even then- I’ve always had a hard time being in the moment- connecting to it.  I can recognize that now.  But growing up, I didn’t know those words… have the language.  I don’t know why I disconnect, disassociate.  It’s just always been a coping mechanism I guess.  But in the year after the rape, I started to learn the words, and I started to recognize the ever present state.

I had also just started massage school.  So I was learning new things, about body awareness, mindfulness… things that sounded wonderful and I KNEW they could help me.  (It sounded so easy in those days….)  So yeah, candlelight, incense, deep breathing… try to clear the mind… HA.  I kinda freaked out.  A lot.  And I remember looking at that incense stick kind of curiously.  And I wanted to feel it.  I picked the stick up and just slowly pressed it into my arm.  Just drawn to it.  And it was such a relief!  Suddenly clarity!  CONTROL!  visibility.  Things my insides did not have.  It was… peaceful.  Just what I had been looking for!  I pressed it into my arm again, feeling that connection to my pain.  And I just started repeatedly jabbing the thing all over my arm.  I don’t know how many times.  But it was almost like taking a paint brush and painting pretty little dots.  Springy… from one to the next.  It was… happy.

(It’s really weird looking at this memory and smiling… because I know how fucked up it is.)

And when I was done, my arm was a mess… but I was proud of it in a weird way.  I remember the next day, I was sitting in class… and I had pulled the sleeve up on my shirt just a little bit.  I want to say it was accidentally… but I’m not honestly sure there wasn’t some part of me that wanted someone to see it.  And I remember I caught the girl sitting next to me staring at it, and I said something crazy about grease splatter and I’m sure she didn’t buy it, but I think she was the only one who really saw it.  Eventually they healed.  I remember it kind of scared me, the power I felt when I was doing it, and the ease at which I got caught up in it… I only did that one other time, years later.  But I remember for the next few years, when summer would come and my arms would get a little color, you could see all these white spots, scars all over my arm.  And I always liked the way they looked.  I admit, even now, I wish I could still see them, but they eventually faded away.

I think it was a while before I tried anything else.  A couple of months at least.  I think I’d had some medication changes that made my anxiety skyrocket… I can remember taking my lunch break at work and going to the grocery store where I bought a steak knife.  And I can remember going back to the parking lot at work, sitting in my car and lightly running it all over my arms.  Just enough to leave scratch marks.

Here’s the thing- I’m kinda a wuss about pain… well, I used to be anyway.  I don’t know if I ever cut deep enough to draw actual blood.  So I call myself a scratcher 🙂  But yeah, the steak knives and the “scratching”- that became the method of choice for… the next 2 or 3 years?

The last time…  I had started taking ambien again to help me sleep.  The drawback was that I looked forward to that first hour after taking it, because it was the best I felt every day.  (I missed the whole drinking, partying, etc stage in life so ambien was really my first experience with anything remotely mind-altering.)  Ambien always made me feel so damn creative!  And I used to write a lot.  So I remember reading some things I had written the next day.  And it freaked me the hell out.  I can’t even remember what I wrote, but it was about cutting and blood and it was just messed up.  And I started to worry that I’d do something while on Ambien and go too far.  Control was a big part of the need to cut, so losing control just wasn’t going to work for me.  I decided I was done.

The next time I felt that urge so powerfully, I tried painting it.  I went to Walmart, got a cheap canvas and some paints.  I came home and started painting.  First the flesh, then the cutting.  And it actually worked for me.  So well, that for a long time, all I had to do was look at my painting and it brought relief.

20141015_011701

I still get the urge.  And there have been a few times I have come pretty damn close to giving in.  But it’s been about 12 years now since I painted that picture.  Being stubborn sometimes plays into my favor… and now I’ve got the control issue working for me instead of against.

So that’s my story.  I thought the post I linked to above went into why people self- harm and explained it pretty well, so I didn’t repeat.  I also thought she listed some great alternatives… coping strategies.  I think we all have our reasons and our methods for getting through it.  And I’m not really sure why, but I really felt the urge to share my own experience here.  Read Heather’s post above, if you haven’t.  People are complicated things and we deal with things in complicated ways.  It’s so hard to know how to help or react to someone who is dealing with some of these things and one of the things I hope to accomplish in keeping this blog is normalizing what might seem like really abnormal behavior.  I’m not in any way saying that self-harm is a healthy coping strategy, but I think it helps to know that we are not alone in our experiences.  We are normal people just trying to get by.

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Full Disclosure:  You know how when you share something like this you kind of get that little bit of anxiety about what people will think when they read it?  Someone in group therapy once derisively called me a “mormon drug user” when I mentioned ambien.  And it really stung.  I have anxiety that people will read this and not think my experiences are valid… (“ambien? ha… what a sheltered little girl…”) (“only a scratcher?  That doesn’t count!”)  I actually KNOW that people won’t think that, but I’m still afraid they will?  Hmmm….I’m really in a sharing mood right now.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ccchanel41
    Oct 15, 2014 @ 03:14:47

    No one will think that…not after reading that….one of the best expressed was I have read ….p.s. if they have the nerve to think it, fuck em they are horrible and not worth your time. Thanks for sharing that..people need to read that …it is brave to share shit like that…and go thru it…-R

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. manyofus1980
    Oct 15, 2014 @ 04:17:53

    You were so brave to share this. I cut too but I am not a deep cutter. Like you the wounds are always superficial. It helps to know we’re not alone in this. Again thanks for sharing xo

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • kmaramarie
      Oct 15, 2014 @ 06:28:54

      Wow thanks for your response. I kinda always laughted at myself for being kinda too wimpy to just get in there and cut! So weird to judge yourself for something like that. Thanks again for your comment!

      Like

      Reply

  3. Safe.Amanda
    Oct 15, 2014 @ 14:11:36

    I think you are immensely brave for sharing that story. Sending you love ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. tfoz
    Nov 01, 2014 @ 05:04:17

    People who will say your pain and reactions are not valid don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, and they’re probably only saying that because THEY are in hellacious pain and don’t know what to do. There’s no way to compare hurt, because we all experience it internally as much as externally, and it is based on our own paths through life, so who is to say we don’t hurt or grieve or react to disease or whatever as much as someone else. This isn’t my original thought–learned it from a wonderful therapist. You are also wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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