Looking for self compassion

A few hours ago, I was sitting on the floor of my psychologist’s office, choking on tears as I talked about what it felt to like to want to hurt myself. Something that started at 10 as a way of escaping the unrelenting misery of my experiences at school has stayed with me throughout life. My longest stretch without cutting or burning myself is 8 years. I was devastated when I fell off that wagon, and even more so to realise that for me, denying the impulse does not stop me wanting it. A desire that divides people immediately – those who simply cannot grasp the sense of need, the intensity of the urge, and those who have felt it too. It’s difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t been there.

I remember the first time I went and bought blades. The build up was appalling. I was in year 12, under massive pressure, with no opportunity to find emotional support. I had PTSD but had been offered no treatment and no possibility for recovery. That day I walked to the newsagents and I didn’t feel broken by pain. I felt powerful, I floated. I had found another way out of the trap, of the pain of bullying and loneliness and alienation, of being forced to spend hours a day in a place I hated, where I felt without value, where I longed at times for the physical abuse because at least that left a mark I could show. At least that garnered a response from the adults. I couldn’t escape my situation, but I stumbled onto a way out where my body stayed but I broke out of the rules instead. The rules about decorum and what is appropriate, about how to live and what to value and that the little people must learn to ‘take it’. Alone at night my body became my thing again, mine to do with as I chose, to use as an instrument on which to play out my pain, to prove my agony. I felt powerful and defiant. I felt less suicidal. It was a way to stay, to settle into the trap and obey the path I’d been given to walk. I felt above pain.

There have been days when I wake up and look at my wrists and feel so revolted by myself, such intense shame and self loathing that self harm is not enough, I want to annihilate myself entirely. There are days my wrists feel so naked and vulnerable, shivering before my rage, that I have to cover them. I wear sleeves or gloves or cuffs. I sit and find my fingers stroking stroking stroking the skin, like you stroke a distressed child or a hurt animal – it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, I won’t hurt you. There are days when I see self harm marks on someone else and there’s such a leap of longing inside me, such desperation – ‘how come they get to do it?’ ‘How come they can be hurt and they are still loved?’ And then I feel so very small, and ugly, and alone.

I’m so tired of the struggle. I’m tired of the shame. Trying to walk carefully around the things that trigger the impulse, trying to find other ways to ease the pain. I sat on the floor today and talked about what it was like to be at school, what it was like to be so desperate to escape it that at 10 years old I was bashing my writing hand with a brick so that I wouldn’t have to go in. “It’s still so raw” she said to me. Yes.

Somewhere, between a house to live in, and pets and friends and a garden and a wonderful girlfriend, I feel like I’ve lost the rights to my own pain. How can I paint scenes of anguish and despair now? How can I write? Too many confidences to betray. Too many people looking to me to see if it’s possible for life to get better. So instead, there’s the longing for blood, the need to see scars, to prove pain, to connect to it and disconnect from it. To find a way not to drown in the pit of self hatred. I’ve lived my hell in the daylight, in a world oblivious to it. “You survived” she said to me. “Parts of me died!” I snarled. “Things were taken from me they had no right to take.” Nothing makes up for that.

There’s good days. There’s so many good days, things I’m excited about, new hopes and dreams. How quickly we begin to speak the language of the daylight, to conceal the wounds, to deny the pain that lingers. I’m trying to listen. I’m still here. I’m looking for self compassion beneath the fear. I don’t want to go down. I need a better way through this. I’m looking. Ink, not blood.

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