Something weird and kind of terrifying to me:
I frequently fantasise about running into a wall. Smacking myself against it. A huge, sturdy brick wall that will throw me backwards onto the ground and leave me in a bruised heap.
Something that spoke to me recently in a moment of doubt and guilt regarding writing:
‘I keep secrets inside of me like birds in cages, but I’m fed up of hiding. So I write. This blog is not a safe space. Anyone could read it, anyone could comment, anyone can read everything that makes me most vulnerable. But that’s okay, because I’m a person, and I’m not normal, and this is my truth, and I’d rather share it than have it eat me up under layers of clothes. This is scary. But it will be okay, because nobody is normal, and we all have birds inside of us. And knowing that makes the world feel okay.’
Although the bird analogy frightens my inner six-year-old (the playground myth of accidentally swallowing an apple pip leading to the inevitable growth of an apple tree in your stomach never truly leaves you), I like this a lot.
I especially like the idea that making yourself vulnerable might not be a cause of harm and shame, but that it might actually make things even more okay.
The last couple of things I wrote about mental health were accompanied by some extremely terrible (if well received) doodles. Thank you for your grace with regard to my lack of artistic talent. I’m not sure I can do many drawings for this. Partly because they’d be a bit graphic, but mostly because hands are damn hard to draw.
This blog/story/piece of writing lacking any apparent structure or purpose is about self-harm and the void that physical pain momentarily tries to fill.
(Note: please do not read this as necessarily speaking for my life or mental state as it is now or at any defined point in the past – I’m not putting any kind of time frame on this. Just know that I am, at the time of writing, making use of another widely-used and trusted coping technique: some voids are best filled with cake.)
The first thing to say might be that, for the longest time, it did not cross my mind that I was self-harming. It was like those ‘I had no idea I was pregnant’ stories you read about in trashy magazines, where you silently yell ‘How the hell could you not know?’, internally smug that you would never be so stupid.
The second thing might be that I’m kind of scared that nobody will want to speak to me anymore. Not that people haven’t been great (and I mean really, really great) and understanding before, but this seems different.
If you’ve experienced depression, anxiety or any ‘mental’ illness, you’ll know that the experience can have an extreme physical dimension. But for others, self-harm may bring what was before simply a concept, something that existed in theory, in its own ‘mental’ dimension, crudely into the physical realm. It is much easier to be repelled, even repulsed, by a physical fact than an idea; now something ‘real’ exists from which you can distance yourself.
Perhaps because of its sheer physical quality and propensity for ‘grossness’, self-harm doesn’t seem to have enjoyed quite the same level of destigmatisation as some other elements within the (ever developing and lacking in much) discussion on mental health. I do not have the remedy for the ache we might feel or the stats to tell you what makes a truly happy society, but I can tell you about the small patch of existence that I inhabit, in the hope that you might feel more comfortable and less afraid on your own patch.
You’d be right to say that I’m a hypocrite. Even though I declare that Jesus has saved me and that He loves me, lives in me and makes me brave, the gulf between His heart and mine is wide and deep. Although I have His love, and He pursues me unerringly across the gulf, I turn my back and almost unthinkingly abuse my heaven-sent body, enslaved.
I have always been a coward. Even the way that I’ve hurt myself is cowardly. No sharp blade, no searing pain, no pooling blood.
When the voices inside my head compete and become so loud that they are all drowned out and I have no emotion, only the ache that courses the length of my body and drags me to the floor, I search for a sense. I search for a feeling.
My hands are knives and I bring them up to my head and beneath my hair. When they come back down again, my fingers are streaked with blood and the soft sting of my violence reminds me that I am alive.
I search for a feeling.
A few weeks ago I wore a long necklace with a heavy pendant to work. Walking home is often when I find myself becoming empty, a kind of ‘walking void’, if you will. Something to do with a sudden lack of distractions and interactions, I guess. Anyway, I began walking home as usual, and the ache of the void arrived. It doesn’t seem to make much sense to be both feeling nothing and in pain from this nothingness, but perhaps that’s what makes it seem inescapable.
I search for a feeling.
As I search, I begin to walk faster. My necklace bobs against my torso, and as I speed up, it swings more violently against me. Thud, thud, thud. There is something sharp on my pendant. Oh, sweet feeling. There are small bruises on me when I get home.
It goes in cycles.
Sometimes it’s not there. Sometimes there’s brightness to the sky and an excitement in waking up. I dance around a lot on those days.
Otherwise, there are crying times and nothing times.
The first time I knew I was depressed, back in the second year of uni, it was because I realised I had cried every day for multiple months. Those stretches can go on for a while.
Now I find myself in a nothing patch.
Some moderately crappy things have happened over the last few months, and I cannot cry for them. There is only empty, and no satisfaction to be found in mourning.
Some things I know to be wonderful have also happened lately, but the joy cannot seem to penetrate my skin.
I want to cry for my dead dog, ill mother, boy who stole my heart across the sea. And I want to laugh as hard as I used to at your drunk dancing, friend.
I search for a feeling.
(Save me a beer, I’ll be there shortly.)