A little “what it’s like now” before I get to the “what it used to be like”: It’s a full life these days. I got hired permanently at my new job, which is a blessing and a curse. On my second official day, my coworker went out on maternity leave (which is in itself a very long story). One of my good friends went into a voluntary psychiatric hospitalization. And I even have a special someone in my life now. The job stuff, well I knew even before I accepted the position how utterly insane my work environment is so what’s happened there, while extremely stressful for me, is more or less par for the course. My friend made it through his time in the psych ward and it seems to have been good for him, but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed, regardless. And the special someone, while a wonderful addition to my life, is a subject I have a very strong policy about not blogging about for many reasons, not the least of which is respect for her privacy. So that’s the update on ol’ Z ;-)* * *I was doing some thinking recently about our stories, how we tell our stories at meetings, how the learning to talk about ourselves and see the patterns of our lives is such an important part of the Recovery process. I’ve got a version of my story here in the blog--called ‘My Story’ for some unimaginative reason--that I wrote a while back. I re-read it recently and was surprised. I’d thought it wasn’t very good, but it was. It rambles a little, and it’s a bit talky, but it was truthful and it covered the important stuff. One thing it didn’t mention, though, was my history of self-harm. If I ever do a revised version, I’ll have to be sure to include those details.It was washing my hands earlier today that jogged my memory about all this. I did a little cutting, but mostly I was a burner--self-inflicted cigarette burns. There’s a scar on the back of my left hand that is all but invisible now, but I know it’s there and I can still see it. There’s one on my upper left arm, too. The rest are all on my legs.I’ve forgotten how many there are, and some have faded over the years, but they’re all there on the insides, stretching from my ankles up to my knees. I suppose I could rub glycerin on them for a few months, but I’ve never really wanted to get rid of them. These days, they’re an important reminder of just hard it was for me, how deeply in pain I was at that time of my life, before I learned to dull that pain with substances.I can still remember it, though. An intense, crushing pain. Sort of like having my mind squeezed by an overflowing of raw, negative emotion. I’ve heard people describe their experience with self-harm as a way to overcome numbness, a way to feel something. It wasn’t like that for me; for me it was about giving myself something else to focus on, and to give myself a reason for why I felt how I did. And there was a weird power thing to it. Like, I felt so powerless in my life, so weak and unmanly. Holding a cigarette to my skin and counting the seconds--sometimes minutes--was a way I had found to feel powerful, to feel strong, like I had some minor semblance of control. Maybe the extent of that control was nothing more than hurting myself but still. It was a desperate attempt to find something to hold on to.Just as an aside, my suicide attempts were like that, too: a desperate attempt at control and escape from a painful, painful existence.There was a news story not too long ago. It was an interview with an author who’d just published a book about self-harm. She talked about how the act is becoming more “mainstream”. Not that more people are doing it, but more people are talking about doing it, finding each other and being more accepting of the act. It’s not the hush-hush thing it used to be; less and less are people being thought of as sick or seriously mentally ill if they commit self-harm. Personally, I’m not sure that’s the greatest thing; I was seriously in need of real help when I burned. Most people I’ve known who self-harm do it because of deep, unresolved issues. I didn’t burn myself for sympathy (and most people I’ve encountered who cut or burn hide their scars) and if anyone had managed to see my scars or find out I was a self harmer and they gave me a ‘poor baby’ routine, I would have responded very viciously. The last thing I needed was for someone to see that very wounded part and feel sorry for me.In fact, that reminds me of something I shared once, about why the rooms of Recovery were such a place of healing for me. It was because no one said, “poor baby” to me. No one offered my sympathy, just honest understanding. I didn’t (and still don’t) need to be coddled; I just need to be listened to. I need to speak my truths and just let them be spoken.I’d stopped hurting myself years before I got into Recovery, but it wasn’t until years after I’d started that I finally felt okay with that part of my past. I remember the first time I wore shorts to a summer BBQ event. One of my close friends who knew why I never had before told me she was proud of me. And wouldn’t you know it, no one even noticed the scars, or at least certainly never said anything to me about them. Such a far cry from those years ago when people would ask me very pointedly why I did that to myself. I would try to answer them, but no matter what explanation I gave, they never really understood.So much of Recovery is like that. The people we meet in the rooms understand us in ways no one else ever will--because they’ve been where we’ve been; they’ve felt how we feel.These days, the scars on my legs are a reminder of where I’ve been. And they’re the physical proof, too, when I meet someone else who self-harms, they can know without a doubt that I understand.
read more: “Self-Harm”