Self Harm & Support Systems

Disclaimer: This post contains material that could be a mental health trigger. It contains content about self harm.

I’ve been sleeping portions of my days away lately. I’ve been too depressed to try to fill them. I’m not quite stable enough to work yet, but I’m still bored and antsy. I feel like my life has no purpose.

This general state of being resulted in a catastrophe on Monday, which involved 4 bottles of imported beer, a cigarette lighter, and some very bad judgement on my part. I got drunk and gave myself a lot of little burns on the side of my hand with the metal part of a cigarette lighter.

I’m not writing this to recommend it. It was a really stupid thing to do. I have a history of cutting myself with razor blades. The last few times, I’ve done more damage than I intended to do. In my hazy brain, cigarette lighter burns were a safer alternative than possibly accidentally hitting a vein with a razor blade. This is, again, not something that I recommend. I hurt myself pretty badly. I have second degree burns that turned white and blistered. I would not recommend hurting yourself in any way, but that’s what I did.

When I cut or hurt myself, I don’t do it for a rush. I do it for a release of emotion. I feel like my emotions build up to levels that I can’t handle, and I then hurt myself to release them. To me, it’s like a surge of anxiety release. A massive wave of calm washing over me.

Until I see the damage that I’ve done. Then I start to freak out. I see that it’s more than I meant to do, and I panic.

So what is the positive in this? I turned to my support system, my family. My mother took me out to lunch at Cracker Barrel, lectured me about the dangers of self harm, brainstormed better ways to release emotion, encouraged me to discuss it with my therapist and psychiatrist, and even generously bought me Band-Aids and Neosporin for my burns. Sometimes you underestimate how much people care about you or what they are willing to do to help you when you are wrapped up in your pain. She also facilitated me in calling about a psychiatric Intensive Outpatient Program. I have a screening in a few weeks to see if I can get in. Last but not least, she drove my hazy self to the animal shelter to fill out an application to volunteer there to fill some of my empty time. Thank you Mom!

I am so grateful for my family. They are a wonderful support system. They always go above and beyond. It’s so easy to not see how much people care about you when you get wrapped up in sadness and the grind of drudging through daily life. I tend to curl in on myself instead of reaching out. They are reaching out to me more too, now that they see that I need it.

The moral of my story is lean on your support system when you really need it. That’s what I had to fall back on and I am so grateful for the support I received. There are others in my life that I would consider a support system as well and who also deserve a huge thank you. However, at this point in my blogging career, I don’t feel comfortable writing about specific people in my life unless I have nice things to say about my mother (which I quite often do).

I am trying to keep myself busy today and away from self harm and depression. So far, I have taken my meds, fed the cats, worked on my budget, mailed a bill, did some laundry, washed my CPAP machine, changed the litter box, did a little yoga, stopped in a consignment shop, gone to the gym and walked on the treadmill/used the exercise bike, taken a shower, read a few pages of my book, meditated, and written this. That’s a lot for me. I’m trying very hard to keep busy so the sadness doesn’t overcome me.

I’m also trying a technique I found from this YouTuber. I really love it.

As I write this, my hand is covered by a giant Band-Aid. However, I know that I have support and some tools to get better. I know that I won’t be left alone to do it. I know that I have people to help. I know that I can still experience moments of happiness. I know that I can have hope. I can fight this, the tattoo on my wrist screaming “contend” (inspiration to fight my mental illness) leading the way.


Social Anxiety poem

Social Anxiety: The Night Mask

Loud voices, video screens, the smell of liquor thick in the building
coat me with fear.
Tears piss backwards into my eyes.
The breeze from the patio pours over me as I scratch down my wrist with my mind.
Over and over, I scrape through the whiskey,
clutching the mask tightly over my eyes.

In the car,
I slide through the darkness.
The air is thin on my skin.
It smells like relief.
We weave through red plastic lights burning from the backs of cars.
Voices from the backseat start to sink into my comfort zone.
Anxiety dips down.
I slide down, down, down and finally into a velvet safety in company.

What to do when you just feel like sh*t

Sometimes when depression shows up in rare form, you just can’t cope with it in the way you normally do. It’s harder to find periods where you can lift out of it. I’m in that spot right now in my life. Depression is hitting me really strongly. I’d like to share a few things that I’ve done recently that have helped me. Sometimes you just need baby steps.

1) Binge watching YouTube videos. This is my version of Netflix and chill. I don’t like to watch TV or movies because I don’t focus as well with longer episodes. The short length of YouTube videos helps me stay tuned in. Here are two of the YouTube creators that I love to binge watch. Both of them have queer content. I also like them because I learn things related to the queer community. I am cheered up and educated all at once.

Stef Sanjati, a trans woman and activist

I also recently started watching Neon Fiona, a bisexual woman and activist.

2) Break up tasks. I have trouble concentrating due to anxiety and depression, which sucks because I really enjoy reading. I’ve started reading in small chunks or going back and forth between reading and another task (such as watching YouTube videos). It really helps me feel less pressure to rush to get a certain amount done. I don’t feel as forced. This tactic can also apply to things other than hobbies, such as housework. Focusing on one part of the house or one set of chores at a time helps me get things done more easily. Breaking up tasks is one of the most important skills for mental peace for me.

3) Be around an animal. I’ve spent time with my cats recently, as per usual. I cuddle them when I am sad. One cat will sit on the couch with me for hours on end, begging to be petted. It’s nice to have an almost unlimited source of attention. I also had the opportunity to dog-sit for a weekend. The joy and details of being around a new animal can distract you even more. Sometimes animals can drain the hurt out of you.

4) Do something anyway. Planning to bail on plans with friends? Deciding not to go out and do something distracting for a little bit? Don’t cancel or give up. Do it anyway. Just for a little bit. A change of pace is sometimes exactly what I need, but I am always initially so resistant to it. Just a little bit of distraction always makes me thank myself later. Sometimes I think about how upset I was before the change of pace and I almost can’t believe the difference. On a daily basis, this is most often solved when I decide to get out of the house for a little bit.

5) Don’t think in black and white. Today I walked on the treadmill for an hour. In my mind, it’s hard not to think, “Well, you should have jogged.” If you do something positive, you deserve credit for it. Don’t automatically think that it doesn’t count just because it could have been better. It’s still a worthy accomplishment. I have so much trouble with this cycle of thinking. I try to be lenient with myself, but it can be really hard. Undoing a little of that thinking at a time helps the anxiety seep away. This tactic is actually listed in numerous cognitive behavioral therapy books.

Those are a few things I’m trying while wallowing in what feels like a bottomless pit. I hope you can relate to some of them in a positive way if you have the same struggles. I have to have hope that things will get better. I have to hope for a healthier version of myself. As the affirmation bracelet that I wear says, “The best is yet to come.”

Identity & Mental Illness

Sometimes I have trouble forming an identity for myself in my head because I’m not working right now (due to the current circumstances of my mental illness). Other people talk about their jobs and I feel envious that I’m not in the workforce. I want to have an answer to the question, “What do you do?” even though I’m not feeling my best/up to working right now. I need to brainstorm some things that I do that can give me a sense of identity and an answer to that question. Let’s go –

Writing poetry
Writing this blog
Rock climbing
Exercise classes
Spending time with family
Spending time with a significant other
Keeping up with bills, budget, and house
My cats
Listening to/discovering lesbian icon music
Occasional dog sitting

Sometimes I just need a reminder that my identity as a citizen who is not currently in the workforce counts too.

What am I? I am more than an empty job title. I have worth. I am the book I am reading, the time I’ve spent rock climbing, the time I’ve spent watching a dog. If you are in a similar position, know that you have worth. You are an important part of the world. Many things connect to you. You are important. If you feel isolated due to a part of your mental illness or how it affects your ability to work, know that you are always an important part of this life. Don’t doubt yourself because of the harsh restrictions society places on what we “should” be. What you ARE is beautiful. Your mental illness does not rob you of your right to have a unique identity.

Depression mini poem

Take Prayer

I’m coming closer to the point where my pen strikes, but nothing is written down. I can’t see past the haze, but when I look up, everything seems clear. I’m clutching colored pencils as weapons and begging you

away from me. Sunshine is warming the edge of spring, but I’m grinding through the mulch. I forgot that I could speak when I emptied out the quiet words in my pockets, those soft puzzle pieces. I try to take prayer to keep me safe from every vase. I won’t shatter. I try to take prayer to keep me from alien thoughts. I pray to stay me.

Reacting to the Horror of Another School Shooting

Reacting to the Horror of Another School Shooting

Go to a field of clover.
Bring with you a vat of shining oil,
rainbows eddying into each other.
Hoist and cock.
Release the pressure.
Gasoline everywhere,
on every small flower.
The match is just the accessory you wanted
as you watch the clover mat into each other.
This is more than you, too much of you.
The fragrance of too much of you is suffocating us.

Hope Unfurls in Small Moments

I’ve been having a hard time lately. What a shocking opening blog statement for someone with bipolar disorder. Pardon my luxuriating in irony.

Even when you’re in the depths of the ocean, sometimes little things can become big enough to shake you out of it for just a little bit (before you settle back down to the floor).

A few things that have helped distract me lately:

– Spending time with family
– My cats
– Getting absorbed in a book
– Adult coloring
– Spending time with people in general
– Exercise

For this last one, I have a really cool little story. I’ve been taking a Barre class on Monday nights at the health club. I’ve really been enjoying it, so I’ve been a few times. The instructor is “not a typical instructor” as she says herself. She talks about her horse, her annoyances with her young children, and how much she loves tacos the whole time. The style of an instructor really makes or breaks the class. I took a liking to her and to Barre, so I stuck it out. This leads up to last night, when I was the only one who showed up for Barre on this cold Monday night.

She asked if I wanted her to still do the class with me. I hesitantly said yes. She proceeded to give me my own personal training style Barre workout, ONE-ON-ONE! It was amazing. I got personalized exercise and someone with which to talk. It really helped pull me up. I need to find a way to thank her.

I was tempted to just skip it and head home because of my social anxiety. I’m so glad I didn’t because the human contact of those 40-45 minutes was exactly what I needed. I’m shocked that I apparently wanted that Barre more than I wanted to run away. Sometimes we cheat ourselves out of what is best for us. It’s so hard to open up to what is good for us, but it can be done. We just have to try to open up again at each turn.

Little opportunities can mean everything when crawling out of depression. Try not to be afraid to take advantage of them. Hope can unfurl for small moments.