(Or: At Home – Day Four)
I had my support group today. It’s not therapeutic but offers practical and emotional support, and it’s useful for that. It informed me about a lot of options locally for help etc so it’s a thing I go to, and will do until I’m in proper therapy.
Today, I talked a lot about my personal experience of crisis, including self harm. I was told I was extremely verbose about how it feels being in crisis, which was a lovely compliment, and apparently I should do a TED talk on self-harm which to be honest, I’m now thinking about quite a bit.
Self-harm is often countered with the questions of ‘alternatives’. Ice cube, rubber band, felt tip. They’re admirable ideas, but don’t understand the full experience of self-harm. It isn’t just about pain. It’s about permanence. It’s about establishing your relative reality in a world that you’ve lost. You do it, it hurts, it’s there, it exists, you exist. The hurt reminds me I’m real. The permanence reminds me that I stay real.
An ice cube doesn’t hurt in the acute, breathtaking way that real harm takes. The snap of a rubber band is a sting on a finger, when you’re desperate for a stab in the heart.
Hurting yourself tells a story, acknowledges that there is no replacement but to hurt yourself. Sometimes, of course, it is attention-seeking, and that is massively important in itself. But often it is about no attention at all, or attention from yourself, or attention from anybody who will listen to your story. It isn’t about saying ‘look, I’m hurting’, it’s about ‘look, I’m desperate, and I don’t have words that cover this’.
I hurt myself when I’m in crisis, almost like a note for my future self, to remind me of where I’ve been and where I will be. It can tether me to a time and place. It is real, it is utterly and unequivocally real, when my reality is so often pressured: I am too emotional, too extreme, too raw, too up, too down. Hurting myself is a categorical statement of constancy, and I love and loathe every single scar for what it gives me (and what it took away, when I first etched them into my skin).
And sometimes, it really is just about pain. It doesn’t even necessarily imply self-loathing. Sometimes it implies nothing at all, but it hurts, and sometimes I need to hurt. Even in the smallest things, like biting my fingernails down to the quick because when I type, every single letter sends small shooting pains up my fingers and it’s cathartic and infuriating, and it’s not simple.
Like my eating disorder: I binge, and I throw up. I force my body to do something utterly wrong, something that contradicts every aspect of my normal world. It hurts. Bulimia hurts. It hurts everything from my bank account to my teeth to my blood pressure. Every time, it is physical and mental torture, and that is no exaggeration. I say this after thirteen years of making my body do things it desperately doesn’t want to do, after learning every comprehensive way to hurt myself, both transient and constant.
I cannot explain, to somebody who has never done it, quite why I do it.
Even when I’m well, I love and loathe every scar I have. They were vital when I made them. They are painful, horrible, excruciating to remember. They are ugly and they are immediate. They pose questions, even when I’m not ready to ask them aloud. I don’t believe I could have done anything else than what I did, but at the same time, I wish beyond words that I hadn’t.
I doubt I’ll ever quite be able to kick it. Once you’ve started, it is like any addiction; it serves so many, too many purposes to really let it go. Even now, I have only just brushed the surface of what self harm does, for me, and for others I’ve discussed this with.
No addiction is simple. No addiction can be easily understood, not unless you live in it. Many minimise it; alcohol gives you a high, helps you relax, uncomplicates things, gives you bravery, gives you peace, gives you a social life, gives you amnesia, gives you anything. Everything. Self-harm is another. Bulimia another. Addictive and wonderful and perfect and evil and awful.
I’m making peace with it.
And one day, maybe, I’ll even manage to beat it.