Every now and again I surprise myself with the stark recognition that I enjoy my self-hatred. I like being self-destructive. It feels like such a sick paradigm to be stuck in. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like misery. I don’t enjoy emotional pain or my symptoms of PTSD. But I am so very attached to sabotaging and hurting myself.
If I harm myself, I am heard
Growing up, I was the compliant child. I was the good-natured, people pleasing entertainer of the family. I desperately sought to make sure everyone else was OK – it was my habit. This left me feeling unable to express my own needs, least of all after my parents found out my brother had been abusing me. So I continued the performance for the next twenty years.
That is, until my breakdown at the end of 2014. At that point I started to cut myself, increasingly seriously. I got drunk and disappeared. I plotted my suicide. And suddenly everyone I care about was listening. After all my years of silent suffering, I had managed to find a mechanism to alert them to the fact that I was a million miles from OK.
Hurting myself speaks so much louder than words
This is a viewpoint I know most people would want to challenge. But I can honestly say that for me, with my family, it is the truth. I have tried talking to them. I’ve poured my heart out in person, on the phone, and I’ve written them letters so they could read and re-read the message.
Nothing I can speak or write does these feelings justice. Nothing is more true to the pain I feel than the act of inflicting physical pain on myself. This simple, yet disturbing demonstration is the only way I can authentically communicate my distress.
The reactions of those I love proves to me that they care
Sounds perverse I know. But I doubt myself constantly.Most of the time I can’t fathom why anybody would care about me. I accept that the people close to me are warm and generous and I adore them. But I don’t see what they get from me. I leap to the conclusion that they spend time with me because they pity me. I decide for myself that they get no enjoyment from my company – particularly not in the past year when I have been so miserable and needy.
This means that something important is reinforced in their shocked reactions to my self-harming behaviours. I want them to be horrified, as I believe it demonstrates that they do in fact care about me. I feel important to them when they are scared for me.
Lashing out at myself is lashing out at my parents
I hold a lot of resentment towards my parents, and a great deal of anger. I also love them deeply and this creates an awful conflict in me. When I am so enraged by everything they can’t or won’t change for me, I know that inflicting pain on myself gets to them. I know it is devastating for them whenever I cut myself or overdose.
They love me and essentially they created this body I live in. So hurting what they gave me, what they nurtured, seems like a perfect punishment. Or at least one that I feel is effective.
It probably sounds bizarre that I don’t want to give up these behaviours. And I suppose that there’s truth in that. If I could just conjure up some love for myself, some compassion for my suffering, I think I would easily let these patterns go. I am aware also, that this is a major obstacle in my work with J. Ultimately, I know that there will always be a limit on progress in my therapy if I can’t rediscover how to love who I am.