Therapy today: Self harm and separation

Good stuff happened this morning. I heard from the charity that’s supporting me with setting up my project. They are really happy with the marketing material I’ve produced and they confirmed they’re giving me a grant to get things started. I was delighted to hear that, and to know that I can start promoting my first event.

I also went to see one of my best friends. It felt good to catch up with her. We talked about all the normal run of the mill stuff, had cups of tea and laughed at the cuteness of her little boy. I’ve missed seeing them.

First thing today, before all this, I self harmed again. I don’t even know why. I just saw that the cuts from a few days ago were healing and felt compelled to add some new ones. It’s a slippery slope I really don’t want to end up on again.

I talked to J about self harm in our session today. She said she’d been reading about self harm and separation, because of its links with adolescence. That was interesting to me, as I feel like I’m not separate. Not from my mum, my wife, or the friends that matter to me. I am so susceptible to their feelings, I absorb them and feel them too. I inflict them on myself. Then I manage to make it my job to resolve everything for them. Which, of course, isn’t possible.

That’s the role I carved for myself growing up. So when I was desperate and everyone around me was struggling, I focused entirely on them. I honed in on my perceived impact on them and how I could control it. That meant I cried alone a lot. From the ages of 11 to around 14, I would quietly sob in my bedroom – not even knowing why I felt so sad.

Talking to J about all this today, I remembered something quite disturbing. I recalled that in my childhood I self harmed. I hurt myself deliberately before I even knew what self harm was. I can see myself now, punching myself in the face. I would scratch at my skin until it bled. I’d rub my elbows on the carpet so they’d burn. I even tried to break my own arm. All at the age of 11. I’m not sure where to even start on that, it is so dark.

Today I also spoke to J about our relationship. I always find it really tough to talk to her about my attachment issues. I feel forced into a corner, embarrassed and anxious. I know that lately I withdraw in our sessions and avoid eye contact with her. Yesterday I met her gaze for just a moment and I felt completely overwhelmed with emotion.

Reflecting on it now, I know that in that brief exchange I felt like she was really there. I mean REALLY there. Still. After all this time and all the misery I pile at her door. She’s there. Often, I feel like she isn’t real, I just imagine her kindness and her support. Her belief in me and her encouragement just don’t feel tangible. And when I’m not with her, I immediately feel like she’s not a part of my life. I’m not even sure why. Perhaps it’s defensive. Perhaps I’m punishing myself again. But I seem to always hold back from letting myself feel that she exists, she cares and most importantly, she’s not going to abandon me.

Photo: Thomas Shahan, Creative Commons.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. nintschgo says:

    Oh I can so relate to this…self-harmin as a child, trying to solve other peoples’ problems as a teenager…
    It’s so brave of you to face all this, I wish you all the strength you need for it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rea says:

    Just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in this. I’ve always identified my self harm as starting when I was 13, but now I can recognise that it probably started at 5 when I was pulling my teeth out before they were wobbly, or at 10 when I started hitting myself and doing other things to myself. Sending lots of love and compassion to your younger self who didn’t have any other way to manage the intense emotions she was going through. Glad to hear there are good things happening in your life now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      I’m sorry to hear that you experienced this too. I’ve just bought a new book, ‘Rescuing the child within’, so maybe that will help me develop some compassion for myself. Wishing you health and healing.


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