Over the years, I’ve come up with some fairly classic borderline maladaptive coping mechanisms. 20 years ago it was relationships. From about the age of about 15, I hopped from one relationship to the next. It became a running joke – how long would the next one last? Apart from a couple of relatively long term boyfriends, most only managed to make it to a couple of months. I’d get bored, feel trapped, resent the commitment, and swiftly move on to the next person. I needed a relationship to define me – if I had a boyfriend, it meant I had something going for me, that in some way I fit in. Alone made no sense. Needless to say, I was completely unaware of this at the time, as was everyone around me.
15 years ago it was relationships with the addition of drinking, which made it seem so much easier to cope with chronic social anxiety. I’ve written before about how challenging I found college, and my first real job out of college was no different. I was working in archaeology, I was desperate to fit it, and drinking helped fix all that (or so I thought) so I went with it. Ultimately though, it led to stupid decisions, bad relationships, and a hefty dose of regret and shame.
Fast forward a few years – I’m married, and am breastfeeding a young baby, so drinking isn’t an option any more. I turn to self harm. Of course, I didn’t see it like this, not at all, and it certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. Self harm is cutting, or burning, something that leaves a noticeable physical mark. I wasn’t doing that, I was ‘just’ hitting myself. Repeatedly, and hard enough to bruise at times, but, as far as I was concerned, not self harm. It was a way of coping with incredibly intense feelings that I couldn’t understand or control – anger that would erupt out of nowhere, and went away again once I hurt myself, made myself cry.
Fast forward another couple of years, and I moved things up a notch. I discovered cutting. To say it was a release is a cliché. It was more than that. It gave me a sense of power, a focus, and a delicious secret. There was something almost intoxicating about knowing I had done this to myself, and keeping it from everyone. It became a safety valve, something that no more than the drinking or hitting of earlier years, in whatever bizarre and twisted way, made me feel better.
All of the above is in the past, and has been under control (for the most part) for the last few years. Through some miracle act of whatever higher power you choose to believe in, Hubby has stood by me through thick and thin. I’ve managed to have two gorgeous kids, and hold down a job. I’ve learned so, so much about what I act the way I do, and have acted in the past. And yet……………for whatever reason the old urges are really, really strong at the moment. I find myself visualising bouncing my head off a wall, or just putting my foot down and driving through a busy crossroads. I’ve thought about hurting myself. The last two days in particular I’m on an incredibly short fuse. I feel like there has constantly been someone either climbing on me, sitting on me, swinging out of me, shouting at me, asking me for something, or not listening to me. I feel like I can’t breathe. And I’m angry! So angry. Given the opportunity I would gladly have put my fist through a wall an hour ago.
I don’t know where this is coming from. I don’t like it. It’s scary, it’s hard to control, and it makes me want to run and hide. Of course, there are things I can do – I can walk, I can (try to) run, I can read, I can talk to someone, I can find some way, any way, to distract myself. But the problem is that all of the above take time, ideally time where I can be alone and that isn’t always an option. I can’t exactly go for a run when I’m home with the kids, and heading out en masse can often make things worse if I’m either met with resistance or people elect to ignore me, which is why the quicker, albeit far more damaging options, are so much more attractive. They’re a quick fix, but an extremely temporary one.
When I sat down to write today I had no clue where this post would go, and I certainly didn’t expect it to turn out like this. I think this is what I’ve needed to write about for the last week or so, but I was afraid to. Downside of non-anonymous blogging – people who know me read this, and I didn’t want to scare anyone. Now would probably be a good time for a caveat – I haven’t hurt myself. I’ve given it a more than healthy level of thought, but that’s as far as it’s gone. Honestly, I feel better for even having admitted to that much. I know it will pass, it always does. I could really do with talking this through with Therapist but I don’t get to see her this week. Instead, I’ll take myself out for a run later, and otherwise just try and keep things as calm as possible. I’ll be ok. I always am.