Jan. 21st, 2011

I'm going to try and articulate a conclusion I've come to in the past few months related to my coping habits of self-injury.

Okay, first, I'd like to just start off by explaining that I have PTSD. I had no idea until a therapist told me, but it made a lot more sense than my normal explanation "I'm just weird" to explain some of the complete emotional/mental breakdowns I would have under stress or confrontation. Looking back, of course it makes sense that a couple of decades of violence and the threat of violence from my father, day after day of wondering if he might actually try to kill me were I to cross him too flagrantly, would sort of fuck up my ability to handle stress.

So, in 9th grade, I started cutting myself - tiny little scrapes, punctures, jabs that no one ever noticed but were fairly painful. It helped me completely avoid melting down and freaking the fuck out as a kid.

I spent many years horribly ashamed of the fact that I had this coping mechanism. Although I don't really blame her, my girlfriend (who for the remainder of this blag I shall now start referring to by the letter K, for slightly but not entirely arbitrary reasons, since it feels weirdly dehumanizing/possessive to always refer to her as "my girlfriend")...so...anyway, K would get really upset by the fact that I'd hurt myself. She was, I think, very afraid that it was a path towards suicide, that if I could injure myself a little bit again and again that I might become somehow desensitized and actually attempt suicide.

Now, this wasn't a completely unfounded fear - the majority of my pre-hormone therapy life was spent wishing I was dead. The first time I wanted to kill myself was, I believe, age 4. It is a wish that only occasionally still visits me in states of absolute physical and emotional exhaustion.

However, what I wasn't able to articulate well before was that self-injury was not the gateway to suicide but my defense against it.

It was, and sometimes under extreme stress still is, my gateway back into my body and away from the dissociation. It's when I feel completely distant and removed from my body that I'm probably really and truly in danger of committing severe self harm, and the minor temporary but painful injury I inflict on my hands and arms in this state is part of how I come back into myself.

As I said, I used to feel a great deal of shame for this, but I've begun to reclaim it as a positive act - an act of reclaiming my skin and my body and my self as my own, and not simply a vessel for others' abuse and violence.

It's a tool that I try to use sparingly, and I'm trying to use consciously and mindfully, rather than a desperate reaction to being in a state of fear and dissociation. I want to make sure I'm using it in a positive sense rather than merely a way of "punishing" myself for failure.

It's hard to tell sometimes why I have the urge to do it, but I'm starting to tease out the differences between the two major motivations. The reason why it's sometimes hard is because mistakes were always punished with extreme violence, and so the act of making a mistake is generally the source of panic and is a ptsd trigger.

So, anyway, I'm not saying that it's the best coping mechanism I could have...but I can definitely think of worse strategies. At least it doesn't involve truly running away from the pain and fear, but trying to push through it. Sometimes it helps, it really truly does, and I'm grateful I have a technique that can help me.

Sadly, I think I need to work a bit more on my subtlety. For example, yesterday I was a bit more overt than I really wanted to be because I was panicking and not really thinking about it.

In the future, I really do hope I can try to be more mindful of what I'm doing and whom I'm around and, again, use it as a tool for reconnecting with my body.

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Mx. Pre-sheaf

April 2012

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