a Twitter story, 2

I kind of do a lot of thinking on my Twitter because I can take my mobile phone to my bedroom, and send out tweets on the fly. (Not sure I can always do that with my laptop, you see.)

But here’s the thing I was thinking of, a few nights ago, while trying to get some damn sleep.

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a little less trapped, a little less helpless

In one of my previous posts, I talked about why I thought that I needed to hurt myself in small but very painful ways, and one of the major reasons for my self-harm has to do with fighting to stay anchored inside my own body, with trying to stay grounded.

Since I was a child, I have had these terrible moments (sometimes longer) of being a disembodied thing: that my mind and body were fundamentally separated from each other. That can lead to two different feelings, both of which happen to be pretty scary.

One: my mind was trapped in my body.

Two: my body was unable to follow the commands sent to it by my mind.

Those are some of the extreme reactions that might be linked to dissociation: and that is exactly what I have been struggling with for a long time. I read somewhere that one or two instances of dissociation is pretty normal, like maybe when you wake up for the first time in a new place, or next to someone new. Or maybe when you’re in a high-pressure situation and you’re trying to convince yourself to perform. We all dissociate from time to time.

My problem, and likely the problem of some others who might be drearily familiar with this phenomenon, is that I dissociate a lot. There are no actual triggers. There is no visible proximal cause. I could be reading a book and be hit with that terrifying sensation. I could be sitting at a desk working and feel that dizzying awful disorientation.

I could be walking or commuting and feel that I am actually literally not part of the body that I am in — and believe me, that turns into a horror show really fast, especially when traveling late at night.

I could never find out the causes of my dissociation.

I only found out later on that dissociation was very very frequently linked to major depression — but yeah, I did sort of heave a sigh of relief, because then at least I could see that there was some kind of twisted sick sort of sense in my feeling the way I did. Dissociation in and of itself is a stressor — and stress, as we know, does contribute to depression. So combine the two and — yeah.

I am writing about the topic now because I was surprised to realize that right now, the spells of dissociation have been sort of receding. I mean, they still happen — but they’re not as intense or for as long, and that really does tell me that the circumstances of my life have changed.

Next week will mark the second anniversary of finally getting something to help me fight my depression.

So it’s really — it really makes me feel a certain kind of relief to say that things have sort of improved in my life, and things are not as desperate and painful as they used to be.

I’m actually not just surviving. I’m actually thriving in my own way, though my idiot brain refuses to understand that concept completely. Hence the still-recurring bits of bad things like being depressed and being joyless and dissociating.

But I’m still here. And that’s an important thing, not just for myself but for, maybe, others who might read my words. I got help and I got support and things changed in my life that were shatteringly painful at first but have actually contributed to my overall better state of being.

I was hopeless and nearly suicidal two years ago. I was nearly suicidal one year ago.

But today — today is a good day.

I hope you find the courage to find your way out, too.

things I wrote to psych myself up before a final evaluation at training yesterday

(I passed the evaluation, and I’ll move on to the next phase of work starting Monday evening. I’m not going to claim that these things that I wrote will work 100% of the time, but — they worked for me yesterday. They really did.)

1 – Anxiety and Fear

Anxiety and fear are resources. They are fuel for the fire. If you find it impossible to get rid of them — if for you they are weights on your shoulders or hanging from your neck, then maybe it might make sense for you to make use of them.

Use anxiety. Use fear. Add these terrifying terrible emotions to your arsenal.

If you do get paralyzed by anxiety, or by fear, let them chew on you for a little and then start working on using them. Be sneaky with them — make them work for you, instead of them making mincemeat of you.

Use anxiety and fear; don’t let them use you.

(And I am writing this to let you know that it was the anxiety that made my pen go; and that it was the fear that wrecked my handwriting but I kept writing anyway.)

Feel the anxiety or the fear and then forge on forward anyway, using these emotions to stoke the fire and keep it burning white-hot.

Important thing to remember:

Feeling anxiety, and feeling fear, absolutely does not mean that you are inferior, lacking, worthless, or less of a human being. We all feel fear. We are all afraid of things in this world. We feel the sweat on our palms and the shivers in our limbs; we feel the crawl of sweat down the backs of our necks. We feel fear, and we are made anxious, and we are humans. We are all the same. We all feel these things.

So what to do with the fear, when it’s there? What to do with the anxiety?

Use them.

Turn them into a means of going forward.

2 – Inspiration

It’s actually a good thing when people say, “Take inspiration from the world” — but the thing is, that means having the willingness, in the first place, to look out at the world and to see what it has to offer. That means having the willingness to open the eyes and the heart.

Even when it comes up over pollution and the streams of gridlocked traffic — the sunrise is still a beautiful thing to see, and it seems to go better when you’re pretty high up in a high-rise building.

And then there’s the thing about a favorite song: it doesn’t matter how often you hear it. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a long time since you last heard it, or if you’re been listening to it on a loop. It’s the music, or the words, or the performer, or a combination of these factors, that gives hope and inspiration.

Food can be a source of inspiration, too. Some people feel more creative after a mug of soup. Some people fall into coffee as their fuel. Some snack on sweets, while others have a salty or sour tooth — and then run off to create something.

Warmth, whether from a jacket or a blanket, can be just the thing the Muse needed to start throwing out ideas — and the same holds true for wearing a certain item of clothing.

There is inspiration all over the place, but you — we — need to be open to it. There are so many sources for this inspiration, and there are so many ways of throwing fresh fuel onto the fire.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, however: it’s true that the world is nasty, brutish, and full of stupidity.

But the beauty is there. It really is there.

And maybe I want to tell myself that thing — that the world is just as full of inspiration as it is of pain and sorrow — because I have depression, and I know friends who have their own struggles with their mental health to deal with, and god it can be hard to get up on certain days. It can be hard to find a reason to keep going.

But there’s beauty in the world and I know that it’s there. I found it. I wasn’t looking for it. I found it and I’m grateful.

I hope you get the chance to find the beauty in this world, too.

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

(with apologies to e.e. cummings)

(This post will talk about self-harming, so please take care of yourself — I will totally understand if you feel vulnerable right now, and can’t bear to read further. I hope you’ll be okay. And if you want to approach me about this topic, comment away so we can try to have another kind of conversation. )

I’m a self-harmer. I pick incessantly at the skin around my fingernails. I also have a terrible tendency to pick at the scabs if I get wounded, which actually explains why many of my scars are so darkly pigmented and still visible in many places on my body.

I pick and I pick and I pick and some days I bleed because of my picking. Whenever I pick at the skin around my fingernails, I wind up feeling pain for the rest of the day, and the pain doesn’t go away when I do things like wash the dishes or cut food or pick up a pen in order to write.

My mom gets mad every time she catches sight of the wounds on my fingers. I can’t really fathom the reasons as to why she would feel that way. Maybe she’s afraid of what people might say when they see my hands — but what does that have to do with her? Would people think that she’s inflicting those wounds on me? Or, worse, would people think that she’s one of the reasons why I inflict that kind of pain on myself?

Put it that way, I can see why she gets ticked off.

Okay, that leads me to the question of: why? What makes me pick at my skin to the point of drawing blood, and to the point of creating or worsening scars?

There are many reasons why people might self-harm. They might want to express something that is really hard to put into words. They might want to take control of their bodies and feelings and experiences. They might want to escape bad memories, especially if those memories are of trauma.

Some people who self-harm do it because they feel numb or disconnected or dissociated from their physical selves, and the pain helps them to feel connected to their bodies once again: after all, the brain picks up the signals from the nerves, right, and the pain is an actual physical manifestation, a means of showing that the world is real and that it exists.

That’s my reason: the pain grounds me back in my body. It helps me understand that my consciousness is tied to the physical body that walks around in the world.

Ever since I can remember, I have had these vivid episodes of being convinced that I’m not real, that I don’t exist in this world. I think that the “me” of my brain, meaning all the thoughts running around in my head, is stranded as a passenger in the “me” that is my physical body, the “me” that casts a reflection in a mirror and a shadow on the pavement.

Dissociation is a really scary thing. I have had to convince myself that I am still real and alive and that I must still keep myself safe, fighting through the disorientation of dissociation while walking down a poorly-lit street in the middle of the night. I have had to convince myself that I am still real and alive while looking at my own reflection in a mirror.

For me, and I guess this might be true for other people who might feel this way, intense sensation is a link back to the actual and real physical body — it’s how we know that we’re not just, I dunno, invisible minds and collections of thoughts floating aimlessly through the world. The signals that flash up and down my nerves, which are interpreted by my brain as pain, tell me that what I tell this physical body to do will have a real effect on that same traitorous brain that has already half-convinced me that I’m not real.

Yes, I know it means my hands look frankly unkempt and rough. Yes, I know the wounds become worse the more I pick at them. Yes, I know I bleed sometimes. I don’t see these things as a problem; I see them as proof I’m still in this world and that I can still interact with the keyboard of my laptop, or the glass of water next to my hand.

Many mental health experts think that self-harm is a response to terrible memories and experiences, or that it’s a reaction to trauma. Well, yeah, I’m certainly carrying quite a few of those terrible memories around in my head. I also have self-esteem and self-worth problems, with impostor syndrome and a host of other hang-ups to boot. And I feel like I can’t always contain those memories, can’t always escape the consequences of those thoughts. I can’t always control how my brain works, or how it sometimes throws up a bad memory.

Does reading about self-harm help? I guess it might in my case. The reading tells me I’m not the only one who’s doing something like this. The reading tells me that there is an actual explanation for this thing that I do which my mom excoriates me for. The reading tells me that there are coping mechanisms.

The reading also tells me that what I’m doing is crying for help.

If you think that you might need help, too — please know that you’re not alone. Please know that you can ask for help.