I was looking forward to my therapy session today. I have missed having that breathing space available and I’ve missed my therapist. It’s not that I just miss talking to her, I miss knowing she is there if things go wrong. She’s talked me out of a self-destructive spiral a few times in the past and it is a comfort to know that’s possible.
This ties in with what came through for me in our session today. That’s my glaring inability to comfort myself or even ask for help from people who love me. I can go to my wife or close friends when my mood is mediumly bad. But when I feel really desperate I just can’t bring myself to bother them with it. There are a few reasons for this.
I can’t tolerate people I love being upset
I hate the idea of my distress hurting the people I care about. I’ve created a rule for myself about keeping my negative feelings to myself in order to protect people. The CBTers would say I catastrophise the impact I might have on people. It’s not going to kill them to know that I want to kill myself. While that’s true, I know it is an awful thing for someone who cares to have to hear.
I can’t find the words
Going with my rule about protecting people, I’ve managed to achieve this a lot of the time through the mechanism of withdrawal. As a child I thought I had to take care of my caregivers. I made the executive decision that they couldn’t cope with me not being OK. And if they couldn’t cope, it followed that they wouldn’t be able to look after me. It was a matter of survival. But this behaviour has become habit. If I feel really low, I go into myself. I put my headphones on and zone out, I get drunk, or I swallow some benzos and sleep.
I don’t ask for help. I don’t feel like I even have the vocabulary to express what I feel when I’m in that place. I wait for it to become apparent that help is needed. Or I make it apparent by self-harming or ‘acting out’ as my consultant calls it.
I don’t think I can be helped
When I’m in a black mood, I don’t anticipate anyone understanding what that’s like or being able to respond in an adequate way. My therapist sometimes asks me, ‘what would feel like enough?’, and I never have an answer. I honestly don’t feel like telling people what’s going on will make me feel any better. There have only been a handful of occasions when I’ve talked and got some relief from it.
I don’t think I’ll be taken seriously
I have a number of friends who also suffer from depression, but I still don’t feel like I could go to them for support. It’s like I expect that talking about those horrible moods will just be interpreted as moaning. My friends would be hurt to hear that. But everyone has crap to deal with, so I don’t see why mine should be any different. I believe I don’t deserve the indulgence of people looking after me, I’m an adult and I should be able to take care of myself.
The problem with that is I simply don’t know any way of calming myself, other than the dangerous coping methods I’ve used in the past. When I was admitted to psychiatric hospital, they designed a ‘care plan’ around me finding methods to self-soothe. In my ten weeks there, not one person managed to suggest anything to me, aside from taking pills or pinging an elastic band as a substitute for cutting myself.
So I’m not better off. But the photo I’ve attached to this post cheered me up. That’s what I got from my search for ‘help from a friend’. And it reminded me of how happy I was to see my therapist’s dog today.
Photo credit: jinterwas. Used under license from Creative Commons.