"I have often been severe in the course of my life towards others. That is just. I have done well. Now, if I were not severe towards myself, all the justice that I have done would become injustice. Ought I to spare myself more than others? No! What! I should be good for nothing but to chastise others, and not myself! Why, I should be a blackguard!"
– Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables
I really empathise with this statement. How can I let the things I have done to others and also to myself go unpunished.
This post will be talking quite a bit about self harm, so if anyone reading it is feeling vulnerable at the moment, perhaps not best to read on.
I think I have figured out some of the patterns for my self harm. For the different ones and why I do them.
Take the cutting. This is usually when I need a release, I need some reprieve from the feeling of feeling so low that I need to escape from that for just a short while. The rush of endorphins is what I chase. That feeling of getting deeper and deeper, taking the risk that you are going to hit a vein, hit something. Pushing yourself further each time, then the stitches if I can't manage it myself tell me how bad it was from if any internal ones were needed, how many external ones there are.
Most the time the next day the guilt kicks in. I feel that I shouldn't have cut. That I have yet again been to hospital taking up peoples time to deal with me, someone who has inflicted the injury on them self. Someone who obviously doesn't hold much regard for their own life and has been seen numerous times at the local ED being treated for things that I have brought on myself. There are people in the ED who need to be there, who want to be there to be treated to be made well, to be discharged from hospital and be well. I will be discharged, and knowing how it has gone in the past, I will be back again with a similar. So, it makes sense really when the staff often don't treat you well.
So there is also the shame the next day. I also feel like a failure for ending up self harming. I have let myself down, I have not met the standards that I set myself, I am failing in my recovery, I am failing the people who have put so much time and effort in to me, and I have not been the easiest person being stubborn and all that. Think I know best and need a lot of convincing other wise. I also find it hard to accept help. Although, that is changing now. I have let my family and friends down, they have this illusion of me being well. That that is all behind me. I have let people down and I have let myself down.
So, I feel the need to punish myself in some way. This can take a couple of forms. The main one is swallowing items. For a while after I get a bit panicky that I have caused some damage, that I will have to have another operation and spend months in pain with my stomach. It took over a year for me to finally be free of the pain. A reminder every day that I had caused serious damage to myself. And of course now a huge scar pretty much from my naval to breast bone.
But I continue to do it. Not in a few weeks. But I still have a box of things that I turn to when I feel I need to.
This kind of punishment can also come from letting people down, if I have said I would do something and then I am not able to as I have got mixed up with dates, if I have been feeling to low to get out the house, if I cant do something for practical reasons, and then I am left worrying that this person if put out, the feelings that I have let someone down escalate. This, usually ending in swallowing something.
It also comes from letting myself down. If I have not achieved what I wanted to do. If I have failed in something or if I have not met the standards I set myself. If I have not lost weight that week, if I have had a bad week with following the plan, if I got drunk and then drunkenly gave in to that late night chicken and chips or garlic bread. If I have been lazy and have not been to the gym in a while. When I failed to get back on to the uni course I wanted to do. Then the swallowing begins again. It's usually on a daily basis for a few days.
Other ways in which I self harm by punishment is by controlling what I eat. In that I don't eat at all for days on end. Usually happens a few times a year. I have gone without for about 10 days before, not healthy I know. But this was because I felt I didn't deserve nice things. I didn't deserve my basic staples.
Other times when I have self harmed as punishment was when I spoke to my friend about what happened on that holiday when I was 15. 14 years ago now. But I can't let it go. It is something that often plagues me. I blame myself a lot for it. I should have been more forceful, I should have done something, fought back a little. I feel as though I let it happen. I was 15, I was a kid. He was 30. And I later found out a married man with a kid on the way. I remember feeling as though I had just been used. It was horrible. I remember small details about that day. Weird details about the clothes I was wearing, the drink I drank when I got back to the hotel room. Telling my parents I was ill and laying in bed crying afterwards. But I felt that I moved on. I didn't think about it. It was only really about 3-4 years ago when I thought about it when my cousin turned 15. At 15 you don't see yourself as a kid. But you are. I saw my cousin, and she was a kid. And I realised more so that it was wrong.
For so long all I thought about was the impact it had had on me. I felt shameful, I felt defective, I felt as thought I had failed. And I felt awful that I hadn't considered other people he may have done the same with. OK, it didn't have a huge impact on me, not for long. But what about other people. There could have been people that are scarred by it, people who have nightmares. People he really hurt. I felt so bad for not considering these people. To me, I don't see what happened between him and me as rape, but other people may. But I can't do anything about it. Mainly because of the shame of the situation. I didn't want to do anything about it as because it would probably lead to what happened coming out. I could be seen as a promiscuous female, my mental health history would be dragged up and I would be questioned about that. I would be seen as though I am doing it for attention. I can't have that. I can't have my integrity and my personal life exposed like that. It could possibly help others but I really don't think I can take the risk. Around this time I did start drinking a lot, some nights a whole bottle of vodka. Just to block out what was going round in my head.
I feel it is my own fault. There is nothing I can do about it. And when this all came up over the summer last year, the swallowing and controlling started again.
Then there is the money I stole when I was 13. I was 13, I knew right from wrong. Other people may have forgiven me for it, but I have never forgiven myself. I hate myself for it. It makes me a failure, it makes me defective, I fail in meeting my own standards of how a person should be. I don't come anywhere near them. It affects me massively now and I really panic if someone misplaces something or lose something in case they think I have had something to do with it. I get really anxious and the anxiety stays with me which can lead to urges to cut. Because of the shame, the sense of failure, I feel the need to punish myself to relieve some of that anxiety. So yet again swallowing.
The overdoses are sometimes as punishment. The most recent one was because I had yet again failed to hold it together. I had let people down, I worried people and I didn't meet their expectations and didn't meet mine. Just a small OD. Wasn't an attempt at my life or anything. Just enough to possibly make me a bit sick.
In the past they have been prescription medication to knock me out. To take me away from the real world and in to a dream like state. I couldn't cope with where I was and what was going on, so I took a few extra tramadol knowing that they make me go into a dream like floating state. Again not enough to do any damage as was only twice the daily dose.
I suppose I can find reasons behind most of the self harm actions. Some control, some punishment, some relief. There are some I don't understand though.