I’m always ‘aware’ of what I’m doing, what I am ‘unaware’ of is whether what I’m doing is logical or making any sense. My thought processes become blurred and my mind creates situations that don’t exist.
A personal account of self-injury
Anxious, confused and upset
Anxiety is something I struggle with regularly, and usually it builds up over time, whether it be days or hours, and eventually I becomecompletely overwhelmed and unable to function normally.
I can’t eat, sleep or even breathe properly without thinking about breathing. I become agitated, nauseous, my legs and arms shake and my heart beats too fast. I can actually feel the adrenaline surging through my body, with nowhere to go.
So many thoughts go spiralling through my mind, I just can’t slow them down in order to separate them and deal with them as individual thoughts. I become paranoid and say and do stupid things. I feel as though my head will explode and I’m more likely to react to the slightest thing with anger and aggression rather than by crying.
I am ashamed to say this, but sometimes, I will pick a fight with an object or someone close to me. Many a times my partner or a close friend has found themselves in the middle of an argument with me, utterly perplexed as to what has triggered it. How do I explain that my body has prepared itself for ‘fight or flight’ and I’m choosing to fight my way out of it? Unfortunately, this rarely works as a distraction and just leaves me upset, confused and with an increasing urge to self-injure.
Self-injury has an immediate effect – it slows my mind, calms me down, my breathing regulates and my heart slows down. I am then able to deal with things again, and regain some control, for a while at least. [Check the Pre-cursors to Self-Injury page]
Self-injury is not a healthy coping mechanism. It works, but only in the short term and for me it is now a last resort; a final attempt to regain some control if all else has failed. I recognise that the cause of my physical symptoms is the adrenaline, and if I can find some way of controlling the adrenaline then I can calm myself down long enough to deal with the emotional distress that has led to my anxiety in the first place.
I might go for a walk, do some cleaning – anything physical that will use up the adrenaline.
Zombified and dead to the world
Dissociation is another precursor to self-injury. When I dissociate, I feel as though either I’m not real and the world around me is, or that I am real and the world around me is not. Time, when I’m dissociating moves at a different speed for me. I either feel as though the world is on fast-forward and I’m slowly walking through it at normal speed, or the world is almost on pause and I’m racing through on fast-forward. When I’m dissociating I feel very vulnerable.
It’s difficult to explain dissociation to someone who has never experienced it, and even for those who have, it’s something that I feel can be different for everyone. I know that some people do things when dissociating that they cannot remember afterwards – but, unfortunately perhaps, this never seems to happen to me.
Self-injury not only brings back a feeling of ‘reality’ for me, but it also merges time for me again, so I’m level with the rest of the world. It allows me to take full control of my actions, and as with anxiety, it has an immediate effect.
How I tackle the urge to self-injure while dissociating is quite different. I need to ease the feelings of being separated from the world and myself, and to make myself feel safe and secure. I might have a hot bath, or wrap myself in a duvet and curl up on the. Or I might play some really loud music, so I can actually feel the vibrations of it.
Depression can also led me to self-injury, although less frequently. Depression makes me overly sensitive – and although I cry a lot at silly things or for no reason, when I’m deeply depressed I can’t cry at all. Self-injury either gives me a ‘real’ reason to cry, or relieves the need to do so. I become more easily triggered when depressed, but am less likely to actually SI. Often when I’m depressed, I can’t be bothered to self-injure.
Unless I’m suffering from anxiety or depression, I’m not easily triggered by external events or things, but there are some seemingly strange things that trigger me. These things cause ‘flashbacks’ I don’t understand and images / sounds in my head. Once this happens I find it very difficult to stop and I find myself drawn towards self-injury.
Self-injury creates silence and peace for me, in an instant.
Whether my urge to self-injure has stemmed from anxiety, dissociation or another trigger, I always try everything else first. Whether surfing the urge, the 15 minute rule or another distraction technique, self-injury is always a last resort, and something I am happy to say I am gradually moving away from.
[Many thanks for this personal insight into self-injurious behaviour and the surrounding emotional patterns.]