Sunday, February 8, 2009

Self-Injury: A reflection

**Warning: this post may include some graphic content, including physical descriptions and emotional vomit.  Tread carefully.**

There was a time when so much of my body was obsessed and reliant upon markings.  These marks were of a rather depressing, self-loathing nature and yet they also allowed me to live.  I had to leave them on arms and hips and ankles so that I could make it to tomorrow.   Each time I cut, burnt, hit had its very special reasons.  Slightly raised white scars and red depressions on my epidermis last long past the moments that seemed so necessary and required for me to go on living are now uneven hints I don't fully get anymore.  The ritual, the cadence of a life linked so closely to pain has become more and more distant.  Flashes come and I reel.  The lightening sears through my mind.  I can feel it radiating through my neurons and as the electric storm rages I struggle to see beyond the currents.  I repeat the mantra "this too shall pass."  I know in time it will stop, or at least fade and then I can go limp.  My diligent resistance can break the constant flexing of will against will.  

It is with great pride that I have built up the knowledge that I can make it through, particularly when this knowledge stays in moments of mania.  It is not a lovely lucid conversation I have with myself in those times.  Rather it a translated transference.  I have not learned the language of mania, but still I manage now to insert into that rapid, swirling place the voice, the words, the feeling of pause.  And that pause is enough.  
What challenges me the most are the places the anger, desire to hurt comes from.  There is a primal element to it.  Half the time when I try to come up with words all I get are urges.  Urges to scream, or throw a bottle... watch it shatter.  But what does that communicate?  To what what end am I heading?  Divining the answers often leaves me with just as many if not more questions.  

One element has become clearer to me after much personal introspection, embracing the desire to move on, to love myself just a little bit more.  The one unifying piece to the self-injury has been guilt.  A strong belief that I don't deserve and I have done things so wrong that self-flagellation seems the only option.  And yes, it did develop alongside, intertwined with my screwy relationship with religion.  The confessions of sins part of church apparently really resonated with me as a small child and repentance loomed over me.  You'd think I was catholic the way I talk about it, but in a way I think if someone had given me the sentence of two Hail Mary's and one Our Father to wipe the slate clean perhaps it may have been easier.  

Of course me punching the stucco wall of our rental house until my hand was swollen and the thin layer of skin over my knuckles had split open wasn't so much a conscious begging for forgiveness, but an act of a mind in the clutches of bipolar.  Logic is not a requirement, but entire commitment seems to be.  (perhaps it was more like religion than I realise...)  

Not too long ago I had a very manic evening.  I didn't see it coming and when it hit I was not prepared.  The bird of prey (I have always felt possessed or captured by something foreign when the mania comes) swooped down and dug its claws into my back.  Yanked suddenly up I soared for a moment before the talons, pierced so deep, began to ache.  I tried to shake free, knowing a fall awaited me.  That bird, that hawk didn't want to lose its meal, but I yanked and yanked.  Open air rushed past me.  

Upon finding/smashing into the ground I encountered the nearly inevitable urge to hurt myself.  I had to literally shake myself, cry, vomit words, holler out to get past it.  But I did.  It is with this positive note that I want to conclude.  I don't pretend to understand why all of this has happened the way it has, but I can at least say I am learning how to address it and more often let the part of me that cares for my wellbeing be my voice.  Thunder, lightening, sins of ommision and comission, entrapment by neurotransmitters do not have to speak for me.  The whisper of hope I emit in crisis has become more powerful than the amplified booming of my torturer.  

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