Today was a pretty rough day for me. I got an early start by waking up unexpectedly at 3:30 AM and was unable to go back to sleep. I was feeling okay, although not especially connected to myself or the community here in treatment until my individual session with my therapist, Christa. We started talking about shame and trauma, two very difficult subjects for me, and I could feel myself shutting down–seemingly with no way to stop the process. I frequently refer to the feeling as being “a marble in a jar,” meaning that I feel like my consciousness is a small, impenetrable marble rattling around in the fragile vessel that is my body. It’s not a good feeling.
The feeling persisted and then worsened during a group called “Boundaries and Relationships,” which seems to always be a very difficult group for me. During the group, we were discussing messages we’ve received from society, family, our eating disorders, and finally ourselves about various aspects of life, one of them being sex and sexuality. This was too much for me, and I left the group room in tears. After the group, the therapist who was leading it came to get me and we talked for a little while, but didn’t really get anywhere. All I was thinking about was what I had in my room I could use to cut myself with and whether I really wanted to eat dinner.
But, as I write this, I’m safe and sound, just hungry enough a little while after my (delicious) dinner to look forward to the cookies I’ll be enjoying for night snack. So what changed? I asked for help. During post-meal process group, I told the community how I was feeling: disgusted with myself, upset, triggered, sad, and angry. It was too much to deal with alone, so the community helped me get through it. I decided to try something I have always been afraid to do. I wanted to explode.
When I self-harm, I don’t have to feel whatever negative emotion is driving me to hurt myself. I can focus on the physical pain and not have to feel whatever’s really going on inside. It numbs me, comforts me, and prevents me from ever having any insights into what might help with my recovery. Self-harm is a way to prevent any sort of emotional explosion by stuffing everything down inside. It is an extremely maladaptive coping mechanism, and one that I genuinely do want to shed–and soon. So tonight, I took the first step towards getting self-harm out of my life for good. The community and I went outside after dinner and process group and screamed. I screamed over and over, huge scratching shrieks that wrenched their way out of my throat. I screwed up my face and clenched my fists, and when I was out of air, I took a deep gasping breath and screamed again. And you know what? I felt better afterwards. I felt the relief I needed, and I hadn’t hurt myself. The community and I walked back to the house and sat on the back porch. I said, much to my surprise, that my self-harm urges were gone. They affirmed me for using a more positive coping skill, and one woman (the one who originally suggested the screaming) said she was glad I got over the idea that screaming was silly. I’m starting to believe that nothing is too silly to try if it might make you feel better. You just never know.