TW: (I should probably just make a general warning sign for my page) this post will contain reference to self-harm, abuse, rape, and suicide. It’s going to be a doozy, so read with care.
I have cut on three separate occasions within the last 6 days. The first was at midnight on New Year’s Eve/New Years. The second was while watching Thirteen Reasons Why. (I like to believe that I am immune to triggers. Clearly it is time I admit to myself that I am not). The third was right after therapy yesterday.
I have had suicidal thoughts so many times within the last 6 days that I cannot even count. They weren’t something I was worried about until yesterday. I was in such a bad state that I had to put aside all other plans for the day and sedate myself. The only way I could be certain I wouldn’t kill myself then and there was to be unconscious. I’d like to say that I woke up this morning feeling all refreshed and happy to be alive but it doesn’t really work that way. I still feel terrible but I had dreams upon dreams which let me get in touch with a lot of the buried bits that were causing so much pain. So, without further ado, I’m going to share those revelations and experiences with you now.
I won’t speak much about the first instance of self-injury because it has to do with the rape I endured on a previous New Year’s day. I mention that incident in great detail on another blog. I will say, however, that I was doing pretty okay that night. I thought I had things orderly enough. But then my friend invited me to hang out with her and a group of our mutual friends. This doesn’t seem like a big deal but it was the same friend who, on the night of my rape, got tired of me and left me with the guy who decided he would “take care of me.” I have always had conflicted feelings about the events of that night. On the one hand, I have anger that she just gave up on me like that, that she didn’t stay and make sure I was safe. Because, that’s what best friends are supposed to do, right? On the other hand, I know I was difficult. She thought I was drunk. And, maybe I was. But, I had only had two drinks. Drugged was more likely. Regardless, she was exasperated. I was belligerent, at least from the perspective of everyone at the party. I wasn’t trying to be; I just literally couldn’t move my limbs. I couldn’t make myself get off the floor. It was like my brain was online but it wasn’t communicating with my body. So when I said to just leave me there, that I couldn’t go to the other room, I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I was trying to protect myself and to unburden them. But, to them it didn’t seem that way. She called the cops on me. The cops didn’t do anything, just made someone carry me to a bedroom so I could “sleep it off.” That’s when my friend and everyone else left. That’s when I was raped. Logically, I know that I can’t blame her for my getting raped. I can’t blame her any more than I can blame myself. (But, I do. I do blame us both). I know that the only real person to blame is the rapist. Yet, somehow… my fucked up brain won’t let me go there. And so, when my friend invited me to another party this New Year’s my brain went to all of these places. Eventually, it ended up at, “I’m trash.” Trash for not being able to go to another party. Trash for being at that one in the first place. Trash for not being more careful with what I drank. Trash for being so awful my best friend left me with a guy I barely even knew. And trash for not fighting back when he ripped me open from the inside. Trash. So, I cut.
The next time I cut was while watching the show Thirteen Reason’s Why. If you’ve seen it then maybe you can see some parallels between my experience and Jessica’s. She was drunk at a party and raped. It’s the perfect teen drama, rape narrative. We see it over and over again on ABC family and in Young Adult novels, and now YA novels turned Netflix original. It’s so overdone because it happens. Those warnings, “watch what you drink”, “never accept a drink from someone you don’t know”, etc. Yeah, those warnings exist for a reason. Because shit like this is real. And, yeah, it really shouldn’t be up to us to keep ourselves from being raped. We should be able to have fun, to enjoy, to let our guard down. But, rapists exist and society doesn’t tell them to “watch where you put your penis”, “or never accept a vagina from someone you know can’t consent.” (Wording used to mimic the “feminine warnings”). And, so, Jessica in the show gets drunk. Her boyfriend can’t protect her. Her friend hiding in the closet cannot protect her. She gets raped because a rapist chose to rape. Not only this but some episodes later Hannah gets raped. (Sorry, for spoilers if you haven’t watched the show). The ice cold, dead inside look that fills her eyes as this guy she barely knows fills her being… I know that look. I feel that soul death in my core. I should have stopped the show in any one of these instances; I should have chosen one of my safe activities. I should have text someone or called someone or done something. But, I didn’t. Instinct. I grabbed a razor.
It would have been one or two cuts that time but I left the damn show running. And, some time later (no idea how much later) her boyfriend is being choked by his abusive “step-father” (or the mother’s asshat boyfriend). My brain latches on and takes me for another whirlwind journey. I’m 6, maybe 7. My father has my brother up against the wall. He is choking him so hard that I think my brother is going to die. I’m crying. Yelling at my other siblings that we have to do something. We have to stop him. I pick up the phone, try to call 9-1-1. My sister stops me. She calls the neighbor. I don’t remember what happens after that. But, I remember the terror from everything before. And, that terror fresh, I cut a few more times. Let it release the pain.
The last time I cut this week, yesterday, was right after therapy. And I do mean, “right after.” I went to session already feeling like I had been lit on fire from the inside. I felt raw and exposed. I had finished watching Thirteen Reason’s Why that morning while I had my coffee. So that was fresh, plus the other incidents from just the day before, and a few days before that. I almost cut again that morning but I was able to stop myself, knowing that I would see my therapist. But I wasted the session. She asked me what was on my agenda; if I was coming with anything pressing I needed to talk about or get out. And, I froze. I didn’t say a damn thing. I just shrugged. So, she took initiative, decided we would practice walking mindfully through a non-threatening event. This way, eventually, we can do the same with events that lead to my cutting (or whatever other shit behaviors I have). I don’t really want to do this “chain” activity but I go along with it because I trust her. It’s going fine initially. We go through the mundane activities of my morning routine. But then we reach a point where she just isn’t seeing the picture. It isn’t clicking for her the way I’m describing it. This really isn’t a big deal. It should not have been a big deal, except that the rational, adult thinking version of me was not there. Who knows where that me was and when she checked out. What I found happening was her inability to get it and my frustration at not being able to explain took me back to a younger time. A time when my father would be forcing me to do something that I didn’t want to do and I wouldn’t do it right. He would get so frustrated with me and he would get this look in his eyes like he could kill. I’d want to quit. Self-preservation. But if I tried to walk away he would explode. Many times his explosions really would put my life in jeopardy. I don’t think he ever intended to risk my life so nonchalantly. Had he ever actually hit me the knife or whatever, I think he would have had remorse. Still, that’s where I was. So, I tried to tell her, I was struggling with myself to keep going. I told her that my mind just wants me to bail, to give up. She told me to table it and keep going. She said we would get back to those feelings. I just wanted her to understand that I didn’t feel safe going on but I felt so stupid for feeling the way I felt. She was being gentle with me and there was still some part of me that could acknowledge that she was safe and that this activity wasn’t the same. I just felt like I didn’t deserve to feel the way I felt, so I kept pushing. I did what I always did when I was little, stuffed it all down and soldiered on. When we finally finished and she brought my feelings of wanting to quit up, I couldn’t talk about them. I mean, what difference would it have made anyway? I felt like I was not being heard or seen. I felt misunderstood. I felt like my choice had been taken away in a space where I always felt like I had choice before. I felt like my safe space had been turned into another place of “just suck it up.” And when I looked at her eyes, I didn’t see the warmth or encouragement I usually saw. I saw her own tiredness and sadness. So, we didn’t talk about any of this.
I did, however, add fuel to the fire by fessing up to having cut with only 5 minutes left in session. Yes, I know… what is that a hand-on-the-door-knob confession or some such nonsense? Well, yeah, that’s what it came to… I felt like she should know at least something was going on… in hindsight, I should have just stuffed that, too. Because, I just added shame to the mess of things I was already feeling. She saw that and asked me what I was feeling after having told her that I cut. I told her, “shame.” She said, “I can see that but I wanted to confirm. Your whole body language changed. You cast your eyes down, you leaned forward, sat at the edge of the couch. I can see the shame.” Then she said something lovely about not wanting to change me but working on the chain because it will get us to changing these behaviors. Blah, blah. I don’t really know because I was sort of checked out. I decided to change the subject by way of diversion, otherwise known as “Oh, hey! I have a gift.”
I had a wee figurine to give her for her sand tray collection; it was a little Wonder Woman I got at Movie Trading Company. I thought maybe her clients could make good use out of it. I mean, sometimes I wish I had a WW to protect me. Or, that I was a Wonder Woman. I do not use the sand tray though. Therapist and I established this early on: sensory issues. Anyway, I placed the teeny Wonder Woman on her shelf with the rest of the figures. My therapist seemed pleased but I didn’t actually feel anything from her response. As we were both standing already, I asked if I could give her a hug (usually I ask the other way around, “may I have a hug”). I thought maybe that would help me contain everything I was about to leave with; she said, “yes, of course, always. Thank you for asking.” The hug was nice enough, though she doesn’t let me hug as long as I’d like. I start to feel clingy when she rubs my back. It feels like this is a sign of “okay, we’re done now”, so I always pull away. It’s entirely possible she doesn’t mean it that way… but you just get this feeling that the other’s shield has reversed polarity or something. It’s weird. I don’t know. All of that to say, the hug did nothing to contain all of my feelings. I was just feeling too much. And that was it… that was my session, it was time to take my damn feelings and go. I picked up my bag, picked up my shame, walked out the door, and walked straight to the bathroom.
I did text my therapist later, told her about the shame, told her that I cut. Her response just made me feel worse (though I don’t think it was a necessarily “bad” response). She said:
“I know that the shame you feel sounds overwhelming. It happened. The urge was there and so consider how it is helping to beat yourself up? Consider what purpose it is serving. I hope to see you Monday.”
I just got hung up on, “the shame […] sounds overwhelming.” Like, she couldn’t see that it actually was overwhelming. And, in fact, it really wasn’t the shame that was overwhelming. It was all of it and I couldn’t tell her all of it via text. Then I got hung up on that whole what good does beating yourself up do bit. Like, no shit… do you think I want to be beating myself up over this? No. News-fuckinig-flash, people don’t beat themselves up over things because they like the way it feels. I was spiraling. I text back:
“I shouldn’t have text. I think that just made it worse. It isn’t just the shame.”
In response to this she said, “Anything you can do to shift the moment will be helpful. A walk. A movie. Calling someone. My hope remains.”
That hope bit helped a little. She always tells me that she is holding hope for me when I feel hopeless. So, I chose to hold onto that and I called someone. That was a damn mistake. The person I called couldn’t have possibly understood. She was really abrasive with trying to force me to talk it all out, when I was just sobbing and sobbing like a tiny child. I ended up saying “nevermind, this was a mistake.” And then hanging up on her. I took 6 sedatives and fell asleep for 15 hours because I had spun the web of feelings and thoughts so tightly that the only way out that I could see was to just kill myself. And I know, somewhere deep inside myself, I knew that wasn’t a reasonable solution. Sleeping it off, however, was the best I could come up with.
It’s probably a good thing I’m not a fire fighter because I’m not very good at putting out fires, especially not metaphorical ones that erupt when I spontaneously combust from the inside out.