The self harm game is strong right now. It’s fighting a fierce battle to take me down. I’m spiraling. It was a subtle swirl that started a few months ago. I didn’t notice or recognize it at first. But in hindsight, I see it rearing it’s ugly head. Tightening it’s grip. And somehow, just like that, it’s programming has taken over and I am it’s prisoner trying fiercely to get free.
I had gained a lot of headway in my life last fall. I had taken control of my health. I had reversed illness that had plagued me for years almost to the point of complete body failure. My anxiety was under control. My body was the strongest it has ever been. Emotionally, I was steady and grounded. Therapy was productive and introspective, hard, but tolerable and progressively helpful. I was taking steps forward. So I thought. But somewhere in that process of healing, things went awry. My healthy habits of eating well and exercising turned compulsive and into an eating disorder with a frightening diagnosis of atypical anorexia nervosa. Exercise turned into an addictive drug and eating became a punitive practice, a means to relive past trauma in a covert way.
Feelings that had been stuffed and buried under the guise of my new leaf on life began leaking. My body is trying desperately to purge the memories, to make sense of them, to bring them to my awareness. I don’t want to see them. I’m scared of what I see. I don’t understand. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel in control. And the more I try to “be in control” the more out of control I become.
In therapy a couple months ago, I began moving my fingernails back and forth on the top of my hand. Digging deeper as the distress and memory erupting from inside intensified. I was completely shut down as I recounted what happened with my therapist and after I got into bed later that night my husband pointed out the cuts across the top of my hand. Like a perfect four lane track…bloody and raw. I had no idea I had done that. I didn’t feel it. I was still numb. And then it happened again in therapy a few weeks later. This time, my therapist caught it, but not before I had dug so deep into my skin I now have a scar to remind me daily of the turmoil that brews inside of me.
I haven’t cut myself since I was a teen…over 25 yrs ago. Now, I have to fight the automatic response to do so when I feel overwhelmed and go numb. Is it a way to try and ground myself? To feel something? A punishment I inflict on myself for telling secrets I’m not supposed to reveal? I don’t know. But I want to stop doing it.
When I was a child, food was both restricted and tightly controlled. It was also offered as a reward for compliance. Eating became a confusing practice. I was punished and food was withheld if I did not obey or if a lesson needed to be learned. But I was rewarded with food of I did obey or my training was successful. It was used as bribery to do things I did not want to do. It was used as bait to lure me into vulnerable situations where I became trapped and used. When I realized my eating was becoming an issue I sought out help and the anorexia diagnosis followed. I agreed to more therapy. And I started. But then something weird happened. I did a full 180 and self-sabotaged/self-harmed again. I stopped exercising. I stopped all self care. I stopped eating well. I stopped every “good habit” I had put in to place and went backwards. I stopped restricting and ate everything. I ate all the foods given to me to lure me into abuse. Ice cream, candy, fast food…whatever it was…things I have long avoided and refuse to even look at, I eat and relive my trauma. I also suspect now as I contemplate this, I was trying to regain control. Trying to prove there was no eating disorder, I got this, I’m not wasting away, I’m not restricting on purpose, I’m not punishing myself…
I’ve made myself sick again. I’ve spiraled down fast and furious, after I swore I would never go back to feeling that way. Every day I subconsciously look for something to do to hurt and punish myself for being so awful, for failing, for remembering, for telling my secrets. I don’t know why I do it and I don’t even know I do it sometimes. It happens automatically. Like a different person has taken over my body. I don’t feel like me anymore. I’ve lost myself. I feel so much shame and guilt. I feel like a failure. I feel small and vulnerable and afraid. I’m afraid of myself and what this might escalate to next. I’m alone in a darkness I haven’t seen in a very long time.