Previously: After You Self Harm
Looking After You and Your Injury
If you have just injured yourself before doing this look at your wound. Does it need first aid?
(I’m filling out this section with just general information on how I look after myself and my injuries after I self harm.)
When you’ve dealt with the injury, think about yourself.
Do you need to be with someone, or alone?
I usually want to be alone. Since it has a calming effect I’m most likely tired from freaking out so I need to lay down.
Is there anyone who can help over the phone?
There are people I can call if I ever need to. The problem is I don’t want to bother them or even want them to know that I have self harmed. Even though my partner and I live together I will usually not tell him because I just don’t see the need to share it. I may tell him a few days or a week later which can be counterproductive because then he can’t help me through it.
What do you find helpful when distressed? (Bath, hot water bottle, TV, music etc.)
Laying down and reading. Deep breathing is also something I’m a huge fan of.
I’m going to add a part on the first aid that I engage in when I self harm.
- If I remember/care I wash with soap and water the tool I’m about to use.
- After, I apply pressure on the injury to stop the bleeding.
- I wash the wound with soap and water.
- I apply an antibacterial cream to kill any left over germs and it also speeds healing (I’ll applying this for maybe up to 3 days, twice daily)
- Once it’s healed I’ll use scar reducing oil
I may not have the money for DBT treatment right now but I do have my trusty workbook!
I just read about Living in the Present moment so I have some skills on how to bring myself back to the present when I’ve been “time travelling”. For example, if I’m speaking with another person and I find my mind wandering to past mistakes I can bring myself back by noticing what they’re wearing or things around me; things that are in the present.
So, self-encouraging thoughts. I’m actually pretty good at this (when I want to) and have used it a lot in the past. Many times when I am in distress I find myself with people who are unable to support me so being able to support myself is very crucial.
Here are a few self-encouraging thoughts I checked off to use:
“This situation won’t last forever.”
“I’ve already been through many other painful experiences, and I’ve survived.” (A variation of this is actually written on a piece of paper in my bathroom)
“I can ride this out and not let it get to me.”
“I’m not in danger right now.”
“This situation sucks but it’s only temporary.”
“I’m strong and I can deal with this.”
I find it telling that as I’m choosing which thoughts I can do I’m skipping over a lot because I feel like I couldn’t say them. That I couldn’t believe them. I know I am strong though but I don’t usually feel it in those moments.
Step at a time.
The workbook includes a worksheet to record stressful events of where I’ve used self-encouragement. There are 10 spots for 10 events. I’ll report back when it’s filled.
Previously: Self Harm Timeline
How you feel BEFORE you self-harm
Thinking of your most recent experience of self-harm, answer any of these you feel comfortable with:
Describe what happened.
I was arguing with my partner and saying I didn’t feel like he cared about me. He told me this was wrong and that I need to stop saying those lies to myself. I began to panic because I felt like I couldn’t trust myself. I couldn’t understand how I could feel so confident about something but it be wrong and if it was wrong, why couldn’t I talk myself out of it?
What led you to do it?
A need to feel something that was real and too bring myself down from the strange feelings and thoughts I had going on inside.
What did you feel before?
Panic, desperation and out of control.
What else was important at the time? (Events, thoughts, memories, exhaustion, voices etc.)
I don’t think I was focused on anything but needing to come back down, I guess coming back to “reality”.
Was there anything else in the background? (This may be something current or an echo from the past)
I don’t think so. I was very focused on the moment and getting control back.
Did you spend a long time thinking about harming, or was it impulsive, or both?
More impulsive. I sat for a few seconds with the scissors and thought about if I wanted to do this since cutting lately hadn’t had the same calming effect it used to but I did it anyways.
Is that your usual way (if no, what was the difference)?
My self harm is usually a combination of thought and impulse. The more I think the less likely I am to do it or the less likely it will have the desired effect I want. This was just the first time in a long time that my self harm was impulsive and I can only assume it was because of my desperate need to regain control over my mind and body.
How do you feel now?
I feel that if I can keep getting that relief that I want to keep self harming. If I can’t then I want to continue with different coping techniques. I know that experience won’t always happen because I am in more control of myself than ever before which is good.
Many of my fellow BPD’ers will probably be familiar with the book “Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder” by Paul Manson and Randi Kreger. I learned about this book sometime last year when I was researching BPD discrimination and while I have never seen what is written inside just the title alone I find to be horribly offensive! “Taking back you life”…..seriously? That makes me feel like I’m the destroyer of worlds or the devil! It makes me feel like I’m struggling on purpose which I’m really not.
So, why am I bringing this book up now? While strolling through the bookstore with my Bestie we wandered to the self help section and looked around. While I was looking at a book called F**k It Therapy I saw the BPD book out of the corner of my eye. I picked it up and flipped through the pages, mildly annoyed, but then started raging inside when I came across a chapter called “Protecting Children from BPD Behaviour”. My Bestie told me to put it down which I did and she giggled while I stamped my feet down the stairs of the bookstore to leave. I told her I was going to get my hands on that book and she said if I did that I would only get mad, which is true.
So I got a copy! Should I read it? No, because it will most likely make me horribly angry but will I read it? Yes, because I want to know what people are raving about?! Does this book really make us look like monsters? Does it show the brutal truth that sometimes we can be shitty people (well, I’m sorry but who isn’t at times?) or will it provide a fair look at how we come to be the way we are?
I’ll find out and keep you posted!
A friend of mine lent me her copy of Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining your Love Life by Samhhita Mukhopadhyay. I’m only on the first chapter and already I have more insight into my past and current dating experiences than I ever.
Outdated first speaks about how it appears impossible for feminist women to be able to navigate romantic relationships because there is not model for how feminism would work in said relationship. Feminism is currently being used incorrectly and being blamed for ruining relationships but that is not actually true. Many believe that feminism is encouraging women to not date or marry, that’s it’s all about the “independent women”. True but nothing is ever that simple. Feminists want love and relationships too. Outdated blames the gender roles that are pushed on men and women, followed by the romance industry and government legislation are the culprits for romantic relationships of any kind being difficult.
Gender Roles: It is was dictates everything. Gender roles in relationships tell us what men and women are supposed to be doing in order to be happy (it’s all lies by the way). For example: men should be the breadwinners and women the homemakers. Not following what your gender role tells you to do is believed to lead to chaos and the ultimate break up of your relationship. For some, stereotypical male and female gender roles may work but Outdated (and myself) would argue that majority of us end up suffering, staying in poor relationships longer than we should because we are trying to be someone we are not in order to find love.
Romance Industry: This industry enforces gender roles. What motivated the author of Outdated to write the book was because she found all women’s “self help” love books to be focused on what is wrong with us, women, and how we can fix ourselves to become a “man whisperer”. This is where “that girl” comes in. No woman wants to be “that girl”. Outdated uses The Needy Girl and The Bitch as examples of “types” of women these “self help” books say women should avoid being (ie: telling us to ignore that our partner doesn’t keep us posted on events in their life or else we’ll seem needy and controlling). These books, that claim to be able to help people find love, want us to repress what we personally want from relationships (ie: attention from our partner).
Government Legislation: There is nothing better than legalized sexism (sarcasm). It is in government legislation that we can really see not only gender but heternormativity (which in this case means straight, monogamous and married). Straight, monogamous, married couples are granted privileges that are denied cohabiting partners whether they be opposite or same sex (the details of this legislation depends on your country of residence). Privileges such as marriage, insurance coverage, ownership, separation etc are not given to most couples unless they are legally married. The government is dictating what types of relationships we can have which in turn can make us pursue relationships we do not want or not pursue relationships at all.
I can see how all of this played out in my life. Mostly when I was younger, and knew nothing of relationships, I put myself through a lot of pain because I wanted to be the perfect girlfriend. This usually meant that I ignored what I wanted and did what I thought would make the guy happy. I let a lot of things go, for example, not saying I felt ignored or that the relationship was unfair. I believe the perfect girlfriend let the guy decide things. Now I’m wondering what is my purpose in a relationship if I’m not an active participant in how it works? That’s not the relationship I want.
I was always worried about being labeled as “needy”, “crazy” or a “bitch”. No matter how hard I tried though I would end up being those things and it was probably because I was denying myself what would make me happy in a relationship.
How can we use feminism in our relationships? I think the first way of having feminism in your relationship is by not allowing gender roles to decide how your relationship works. I can’t speak for everyone but this is how I feel it’s playing out in mine.
I am with someone who has similar goals, values, morals and beliefs.
We support each other in our professional and creative endeavors.
We do not expect either of us to do certain things because of our identified gender.
We communicate about our needs and work through how to achieve them.
We accept each other as we are.
Still, Outdated is right, there is no framework for feminism and dating. There should be one but the most important thing is that you are in a relationship that is working for you. Only you and your partner(s) can decide how everything is going to work and that will actually change as your relationship changes.
I have a feeling this book is going to produce some great posts and hopefully great comments from all of you
I haven’t done any work in my DBT workbook in 2 months. This was part laziness and part being very busy with work.
I’m going to try and get back to it to see if DBT can bring more to my life (I’m also at home sick and very bored).
- I have learned radical acceptance. Acknowledging that some things are beyond my control is important in being able to move on from those stressors and focus on what is within my control.
- I have found ways to distract myself from self-destructive behaviours using things (for a lack of a better word), people, my thoughts, leaving a situation, preforming tasks and chores and counting.
- I have created a Distraction Plan.
- I have found ways to relax and soothe myself.
- I have created a Relaxation Plan.
I am now on Chapter 2: Advanced Distress Tolerance Skills. I don’t know if I’m “advanced” but we’ll see. The goal of advanced distress tolerance is to make me feel empowered in future stressful situations.
Safe Space Visualization
It’s pretty self explanatory; imagine a place that makes you feel safe. By creating, in your mind, a safe and relaxing place you can respond in a more soothing manner to distress.
This place can be real (ie: your bedroom, a beach, or a hotel in the tropics) or a place you have made up (ie: magical fairy land, a cloud or a castle in ancient Rome).
My safe place is: a forest.
My safe space makes me feel: calm.
There is a whole breathing and visualizing exercise after that I don’t want to write out but hopefully you can all get the message about transporting yourself somewhere more enjoyable so you can chill first and react later!
I chose a forest as my safe place because I like nature. My parents took my sister’s and I camping a lot when we were younger. I loved sitting on a rock, by the water or among the trees and read a book. I like to pretend that I lived there all the time and knew forest secrets. It was always quiet in the forest which was a change from the loudness of my house and my head. We always had good times camping. I always felt clean breathing in the forest air. It was nice to see the animals that lived there and dip my feet in the lake. i love the city but I could easily live in a forest that was close to a city
As I wrote before I was having issue understanding radical acceptance and maybe it was just because the exercise didn’t chose good examples to teach me how to do it. Radical acceptance is something that I have been doing for a little while now but just didn’t have a name for it. It was just acceptance to me.
One task from the radical acceptance exercise that doesn’t make me feel complacent is: Review a non-upsetting event that happened in your life many years ago and use radical acceptance to remember that event without judging it.
About 3 and a half years ago I left yet another controlling boyfriend. We had been together for 14 months, which was my longest relationship at that time. I found myself upset that I had wasted that much time on someone who wasn’t going to change his controlling behaviours. So how to radically accept this moment?
I can’t take back that the relationship happened. i’m out of the relationship now and it’s time to look forward. I only have control over my future.
The concept of radical acceptance isn’t very difficult for me. In the upsetting moment it is hard, and I know that this strategy is for the beginning of those moments so I don’t have a full blown angry one, but I don’t really hold on to things the way the woman in the example did by being mad at her friend for 3 days and starting up the argument again. I do let things go….until we fight again on a possibly unrelated topic….so I guess temporary or hidden acceptance doesn’t count.
Work in progress!
Next in the chapter on Basic Distress Tolerance is “Distract Yourself from Self-Destructive Behaviours” (this is what I need)
(I swear this section is never ending! I actually haven’t finished it….)
Please say YES or NO
I cannot tolerate uncertainty NO
I have a history of stormy relationships YES
I have had difficulties with people I work with NO
I can form an immediate attachment to someone YES
People are either good or bad with nothing in between YES!!!
I have been known to blame others for my situation YES
1. What other experiences or feelings have you experienced which have caused you problems when dealing with other people?
All the shit we’re already talking about. Other people’s shit, not mine for once, has caused issues. I personally feel like I always try and work through problems within my relationships whereas others may not want to which could also be a fact and not just a BPD symptom of blaming others for my situation. It’s hard to work through anything when the other person/people aren’t as invested!
“If you suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder you will find that you are hypersensitive
to the cues in your environment and react to them with an unpredictable set of emotions
People who suffer from your disorder have main thoughts which rely on what is happening
in their relationships at this present moment. Because you may have difficulty not knowing
‘who you are’ and underneath this feeling is the fear that you may be rejected or abandoned,
you might try and search out your identity through other people. Your need for love and
acceptance may cause you to fear that if you lost this relationship you might lose an inner
sense of who you are.”
2. Would you say this was true for you?
I am hypersensitive but do not act completely unpredictably. I have always just been “excessive”. The second paragraph use to describe me but I have been finding as the years have gone on that I am developing my own identify outside of my relationships which has provided me with multiple supports. This is not to say then when I get depressed I don’t have doubt in myself or my relationships but it is not a daily consuming thought.
Say YES or NO
I have hurt myself when I feel stressed YES
I feel guilty and bad after I have hurt myself NO
Self harm gives me a sense of relief YES
Hurting myself is triggered by a feeling that I can’t cope YES
When I self harm I don’t necessarily want to die YES
1. What other feelings and emotions have you gone through which relate to your self harming behaviour?
Boredom and a feeling of “addiction”, that sometimes I just want to feel the cutting even though I’m not stressed out. It’s something I’m just used to seeing on my body so when I don’t see it I feel weird.
2. If you self harm, do you understand the reasons why?
Yes. I would self harm when I feel stressed out about a situation and can’t deal with it, when I need to punish myself, when I feel upset for someone (old reason) or when I’m not feeling much (old reason).
3. Have you felt tremendously stressed about something that was bothering you and did not know how to deal with the problem?
At times yes. I don’t always have the answers.
4. Did it get to the stage whereby these feelings of fear and worry overwhelmed you and you felt like you were unable to cope with anything around you?
5. Did these feelings trigger the need to do whatever it took to get the situation under control and restore a sense of calm and to relieve your distress?
Yes, sometimes at the pain of others. I need to get myself out of a horrible mind situation as quickly as possible so I don’t get hurt and I sometimes, if not always, need someone to help me with that. I can sometimes pass a point where my ability to manage on my own is gone. I do not have a problem admitting I’ve gone too far in feeling something and can ask for help. Whether I get it or not is not up to me but I can’t deal with that rejection. I wouldn’t reject anyone.
A way of expressing anger.
Some sufferers manage anger by self harming. They have a wish to punish another person, but mainly they want to punish themselves for some of the wrongs that have happened to them in their life, whether they were responsible or not which for some sufferers continues the abusive patterns from their past.
A cry for help.
A common myth of self harm is that it is an attention-seeking behaviour.
6. How do you feel about this myth?
I feel there is some truth to “a cry for help” but I hate thinking of it as “attention-seeking”. I know I self harmed because that’s what I wanted to do and it did show people that I was seriously feeling something horrible! Also, if I did walk around with scars showing it was sort of like me saying, “please, someone, notice that I’m hurting and ask me if I’m ok. Please talk to me.” When I hear attention seeking I picture someone walking around waving their cuts in the air and doing a dance or something. That’s not what I want people to think when they learn that someone self harms. I hate that the attention seeking myth made quitting cutting almost impossible. It made me hide more which was dangerous.
Acts as a distraction.
1. Have you experienced a feeling of emptiness and a sense of numbness where you felt disconnected from the real world in some way?
What Famous People Have Self Harmed?
- Johnny Depp
- Princess Diana
- Angelina Jolie
- Kelly Holmes
- Marilyn Manson
2. How do you feel about the above famous people using self harming behaviours to cope with difficult emotions?
I don’t care. I hate the pedestal we seem to put “crazy” celebrities on! I don’t like looking up to celebrities because they have money and access to things I could never dream of! I would rather focus on the non-celebrities I have in my own life that have overcome great challenges!
Next: Session 3 Activities Part 6
CHRONIC FEELINGS OF EMPTINESS AND BOREDOM
Please say YES or NO
I constantly feel restless NO
I am always feeling bored NO
I feel really scared about being on my own NO
I feel confused when others are around NO
I constantly have feelings of emptiness NO
I will go to any lengths not to be alone YES
1. Are there any other feelings that you have experienced which relate to your life having no meaning or purpose which has not been mentioned above?
Emptiness can be described as being unable to feel anything emotionally.
2. Would this best describe how you feel?
Fuck no, I feel too much!
“Boredom can be described as being uninterested and knowing that you must do something but don’t know what. Otto Fenichel (1951) described boredom as a sort of emotional withdrawing.”
3. Would this best describe how you feel?
Please say YES or NO
I have attempted to take my life YES
I have made suicidal threats on occasions YES
I don’t necessarily want to die but to escape from my situation YES
4. Which other feelings have you gone through which relate to your suicide ideation?
I used to mix prescriptions drugs and alcohol, take lots of pills or cut my wrists with the belief that if I died then that was ok but if I didn’t then oh well. Now I’m stuck with just not being troubled if I die. I won’t pursue it but I don’t know if I’d fight it or if I should fight it if it happens. Feeling of just not caring.
GREAT FEAR OF ABANDONMENT
Please say YES or NO
I will do anything to stop people I love from leaving me YES
I fear people will eventually abandon me YES
I keep asking my partner if they are going to leave me YES
I am terrified of being rejected YES
I rely a lot on others for emotional support YES
I rely a lot on others to make decisions for me NO
I fear disapproval from others YES
5. Are there any other feelings that you have experienced which relate to you being neglected or feel that you may be left behind?
The neglected and rejected feelings produce my anger, feelings of worthlessness, the desire to hurt myself or kill myself.
Next: Session 3 Activities Part 5