My therapist called me a hermit crab today. She’s also called me a clam in the past. [Insert joke about being shellfish here]. I deflected by talking about when I accidentally brought a hermit crab back from the Caribbean. Plucky little thing survived the flight home, but probably not the English winter when I set it free in the garden.
I keep withdrawing in my sessions. I retreat into my shell and J has to pick and pick to get me to speak. I’ve written about it before, because it keeps happening. Today it felt different though. I felt like it was deliberate, like I was sabotaging myself.
My habit when my thoughts are very dark is to hide away and keep them to myself. I know I’ve started doing this in therapy. I don’t want to tell J that I still hate myself and I still have a constant dialogue between the tiny part of me that wants to succeed and the louder one that wants to self-destruct.
Walking home it dawned on me that this argument is between perfection and oblivion. In fact it’s not an argument, it is a war. I get so conflicted because I’ve spent so many years striving to perform perfection, that since my breakdown I see oblivion as the only alternative. It’s like because I’ve failed at being perfect, once and for all, I might as well channel all my energy into the opposite. I’ve given up on being a high achiever, so I should probably give up completely.
I’m also drawn to oblivion because I feel as though I was forced into being perfect. Whether that’s true is another matter, although I’ve read it is quite common for children to respond this way when they are sexually abused. I know that at age 11 acting like I was absolutely OK was my strategy for fixing what I thought I had broken.
I feel like my exhausting quest for perfection was in some way inflicted on me, and that means I see suicide as the perfect revenge. It sounds childish because it is childish. It’s a childish rebellion that sits with me; the desire to self-harm, get drunk or kill myself.
After so many years pushing myself, I also see my self-destruction as a relief. Now that the pressure to perform is off, nobody expects anything from me. I’ve got room to be a failure. And you know what? I’m really fucking brilliant at it.
Photo credit: Michael R Perry, Creative Commons.