This post is only six months old, but ahead of Self-Injury Awareness Day on 1 March, it felt appropriate to share it again. This is a poem I wrote on the subject of self-harm:
In addition, the feelings described in the poem are very present at the moment, and they are one reason why it’s so hard to write about anything else right now. Over the last few days every area of my life has felt like a battleground at one point or another – therapy, my marriage, my relationship with my children. But most of all the battleground is in my head, and until that arena is better understood, a little quieter, and more in control, I know that all my other conflicts don’t stand a chance.
I don’t want to have stand-offs with my children where no one is a winner, and no one is an adult, either. I don’t want to feel resentful every time I ‘give ground’ to my husband or ignore comments I’m unhappy with, just because it’s too reminiscent of not having some of my own needs met by my parents. And I don’t want to miss out on some of what therapy has to offer (including things I desperately crave, like unconditional acceptance), just because it always feels as though I ‘want more’ – words, emails, caring, attention – and because I find it so hard both to accept the boundaries and the things I cannot have in therapy, and also the unchanging and unfaltering nature of the things I do have.
I really want to work with my therapist, not against her. I don’t want to fight her – even if a part of me does, and tries to, often, and very successfully. The same issues, the same battles, are coming up again and again but in slightly different forms. I try to take comfort from the fact that this just means that there are clearly things we need to resolve – and it is becoming both more urgent and also easier for matters to make their way to the surface. And if all this is ultimately about me changing, I also take comfort in this wonderful quote about change by therapist Alison Crosthwait (from The Good Therapists): “In order to change you need repeated exposure to your own coming apart, to the border between conscious and unconscious, and to the parts of yourself that you resist being with“.
For the nth time this day, week, month, year, it feels as though I am fighting my own resistance and trying to prevent even the tiniest of victories from unraveling, and myself from coming apart. That fight is so exhausting; and the urge to try and find some peace from it by hurting myself is so tempting, it just feels like just another thing to fight against. But ultimately I know that self-harm is my attempt to avoid sitting with the parts of myself that I resist being with, and what I really need to do is not avoid, but to surrender. Surrender to the process of therapy and to the process of change, which inevitably, as described in my poem, will bring a great deal of grief, before it can bring a long-lasting – rather than temporary – relief.
February 29, 2016 at 6:49 pm
Good thinking. Acceptance means coming to terms with what is and letting go of control over things we will never have control over- someone else’ choices. This is very hard to learn. I struggle with it too, but peace comes with acceptance. Good luck.
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February 29, 2016 at 8:27 pm
Thank you so much for this comment – I have just emailed it to my therapist as I know that she would agree with it absolutely. I really really want that peace – I think I’ve reached the stage (at least temporarily!) where I’m just utterly fed up and exhausted with how awful this inability and this struggle makes me feel, all the time, and I just wish I knew how to change it so that I can have that peace, and have it soon. I know it won’t come quickly though, and I still don’t quite understand how that acceptance happens, but if there are specific lessons you have learned that have helped with that, it would be great to hear them! I guess what it takes is different for each of us, but is there a _way_ of learning that, that makes it easier? Thank you again for your wonderfully wise comment….
March 1, 2016 at 6:32 am
A DBT therapist I work with made a suggestion that was helpful. On your google space, type in : DBT selfhelp.com There is a green menu box on the left. Click on DBT video text. Then click on radical acceptance text. It starts with Part 1-Part 7. Read it all a couple of times. Text is placed strangely so you have to read each page on the left, page 2 on the left column, and p.3 on the left column. Then come back and read right column of page 1,2,3. That’s part one. Then go to part two—-. It’s written by Marsha Linehan. Good luck..
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March 1, 2016 at 10:59 pm
Excellent suggestion from Yu/stan/kema. One line caught my eye in your introduction: “I find it so hard both to accept the boundaries and the things I cannot have in therapy.” Religion has something to say about this. For example, some religions have dietary restrictions. I once asked a believer what value that had. He told me that by giving something up, you were affirming the importance of the faith in a behavioral fashion — giving meaning to your decision to observe the limitation on what you could eat. Best of luck in this difficult time.
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