The reality of self harm

Self harm is taking centre stage in my life right now. Most of the time I am in control of it but I am most definitely not at the moment.

It’s not new, we have walked hand in hand for 17 years now. Sometimes it follows and at other times it leads me.

Over the years I’ve developed new ways of hurting myself but for the last 2 years it has gotten worse due to medication I take for physical health problems. This means that when I choose to cut, I bleed extensively.

That’s what happened last week but the effects are more than the obvious. So much more. I have destroyed beautiful new bed linen as well as recently laid carpet. I have bled through layers of clothing that despite going through the wash at 60 degrees, still smell of my blood. The mouse mat on my desk at work is stained with my blood. I have spent a ridiculous amount of money on dressings. I go into the toilets at work and all I can think about is last week and the time I spent in there trying and failing to stop the bleeding. Each time I go into my bathroom at home I remember being bent over the sink watching the blood flowing down my arms and me crying in pain – emotional pain.

No matter what I do I seem unable to get away from any of it making it so much harder to resist doing it again.

Self harm isn’t just about the physical effects, it takes over your life.

The Paracetamol Challenge

Today I read an article that terrified the life out of me. A new “craze” called the paracetamol challenge.

The dangers of taking too many (even by a few) paracetamol are well documented. In overdose, it, like so many medications, can be fatal. There is treatment but there is a limited time frame in which it can be effective. Despite the warning labels, I think it’s easy to forget this or even to dismiss it, to say “what harm can 1 extra do?”

This feels particularly personal for me. 10 years ago I made a decision to find a new way of self harming; cutting was no longer enough for me. I knew the risks, I was well aware of the potential for irreperable liver damage and how painful it is to die from liver failure, I just didn’t care. In fact it was a case of “bring it on”. For a period of time I took small paracetamol overdoses on a regular basis. I wasn’t trying to kill myself, I wanted pain and damage, but I also didn’t care if death was the outcome. It eventually landed me in a psych ward and I managed to curb the behaviour for a period of time. But not for long and when it returned, it of course came back worse than ever turning me into someone really sneaky, someone I don’t like.

Overdosing on cheap shop bought paracetamol is nasty. When it comes back up all you can taste is powder and for me, it involved spending hours curled up on the bathroom floor. So obviously I decided to try something else. I have suffered from migraines since I was a teenager and around this time, they got a lot worse so I was taking a paracetamol based painkiller that handily included an anti-nausea ingredient. It wasn’t long before I was taking double the daily dose everyday, which turned into 10 and then 12 tablets. It let me self harm in an invisible manner so no one could accuse me of attention seeking and I knew it was probably still causing damage.

This has gone on for about 5 years now with periods of abstinence. Sometimes it’s worse than others but I am making an informed choice – albeit a pretty dumb one.

What I will say is that it without a doubt the worst decision I have ever made and I am sure it will kill me one day. This is why it’s so hard to read about the paracetamol challenge. I urge anyone out there taking part in this to stop and think; think about the consequences. I ask anyone contemplating overdosing on paracetamol to seek help now.

Looking after oneself

My mum worries that I don’t take care of myself. Beside the obvious self harm, she is right. I don’t eat well, I ignore physical health concerns and I drink too much.

I have pondered what she said for a while but it was only today that the answer came to me in a lightbulb moment.

To take care of yourself, you have to believe you are worth taking care of. I know it’s pretty obvious and I guess I knew it – just couldn’t articulate it.

I don’t think I have ever believed I was worth taking care of – by me or anyone. The phrases self care and self soothe (phrases my therapist uses much to my disgust), make me really uncomfortable. The whole idea of looking after myself seems to me like a selfish thing. Anyway, if I thought I was worth anything, I would probably never have started to self harm.

10.38pm

It’s 10.38pm. I’m sat in front of my mirror sat in my pyjamas crying, hating my reflection. Hating it so much, I want to smash the mirror. I won’t. Good girls don’t do things like that.

Today I got up and went to work. I had a relatively productive day and despite working 8 1/4 hours as opposed to the 6 I am meant to, I managed to leave the office by 4.30 and head home to see a friend whose back from travelling after 3 months.

I had a lovely evening. I’ve had a few drinks and am perhaps a bit tipsy. I am not wasted however. I know I can trust my feelings. How? Because even though I’ve had a “better” day, it has still included self harm. The day is not yet over and there is more self harm to come.

My wrists ache and my scars itch. I need to hurt myself. Why? Because I feel disgusting on the inside. Because what I see in the mirror is disgusting. I need to mark my body so that it matches.

I have taken a bag from my bedside drawer. In it is a tupperware box full of pill packets and bottles. All different colours, they remind me of a bag of sweets.

I know what the trigger is – apart from the crap that I deal with everyday – I just can’t write it down. I am too ashamed. It’s not something I have ever admitted to anyone and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to.

So, I’lll sit here, cry some more. Hate me a bit more and hurt myself a whole lot more.

It’s the only thing I am good it. It’s all I am worth.

Change

As a general rule, I am really not good with change. It throws me and then I start to panic.

I have just seen an email about massive changes happening at work. I find it frustrating as the changes are basically going back to the model we used to use. I can see that there may be a chance for me to progress into the area I want to but I’d still rather not go through the changes.

Tonight it feels as if it’s given me the go ahead to self harm. I’ve been wanting to for days but haven’t for some reason. This feels like a good excuse.

 

 

Sad

I feel sad. I haven’t had the best time of it over the last week. I kind of self harmed last week after 3 weeks of not. I had a good chat with my CPN about today. Do I need to worry about it or just accept it for what it is. We talked about alternative options, including talking to friends. The reality is that there is only one friend I would talk to about it but if I am honest then I don’t want to and I won’t. It’s not her, it’s about me and my fucked up thought processes.

My therapist asked me last week what I wanted to work on. I hadn’t realised that we haven’t really looked at any particular issues since last year – “you’ve been too ill” was what he said. We agreed to go back to the big issue – my belief that I am a shit person. That’s all well and good but it seems as if every time we go down this road, I can’t handle it, my distress levels sky rocket and self harm increases. I don’t think there is a safe way of dealing with it but equally it HAS to be dealt with.

This week & Self sabotage

I excel at self sabotage; then we all have to be good at something.

I am exhausted but it’s completely my fault. 2 weeks ago I increased my working hours from 16 to 20 per week (5 x 4 hour days). The first week I ended up working a lot more than 20 hours. I wasn’t being pressured to by anyone but me. There was work to be done so I stayed and did it. It didn’t help that one of the team (I work as one of 3 administrators) was off for a couple of days. My job involves managing the recruitment admin for one division plus central services. In addition, I manage another inbox so when one of us is off, the workload becomes unmanageable. I got a bollocking from the head of the department for working too much but when I admitted that I was scared she’d realise she didn’t need me if I went home, she was very sweet about it. Anyways, this week was just as busy if not more so. On Monday we were only in the office for 2 hours before spending the rest of the day at a team away day, followed by therapy and drinks with the guys. On Tuesday I was playing catch up from Monday so I stayed until my line manager realised and kicked me out at about 4.30. On Wednesday one of the girls was off an A/L and the other one went home sick as I got in, so that was 5 inboxes I was managing. Thursday was insanely busy again and then had 1st session of family therapy…fun times. Yesterday I knew I had to leave on time as I had to see CMHT at 3pm. By the time I got there I was all out of energy and it didn’t take long for the tears to start.

Next Tuesday will be a year since I went off sick. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a year later I would still not be working full time. It makes me feel like such a failure – I am such a failure. In previous years/episodes when crisis hit, I would generally end up taking a day or 2 off but last year I made a concious decision to take the time I needed to get better. I can’t help but think that if I had just taken 1 or 2 days to get myself together then maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so bad and maybe I wouldn’t still only be working 20 hours a week.

2 weeks ago I  had a call with Occupational Health – his report states “she appears to be less able to cope the more hours she is doing. She currently reports that she is finding it harder with her increased hours. I have discussed with her and advised that in my clinical opinion she should reduce her working hours and concentrate on achieving on a stable set number of hours of no more than 20-25 hours per week on either a 4 or 5 day week for at least a period of 6-12 months…”

and

“she feels that she would be able to gradually increase her working hours every few weeks as she is more aware of her limitations. I am pessimistic about this and in my clinical opinion it is likely that she would be able to provide a more sustainable level of service by working lesser hours. Increasing her hours should only be considered when she has been able to satisfactorily provide an effective and regular level of service on her set hours for at least 6-12 months”

This is bothering me. He is an OHN, not an RMN, he is not a specialist in mental health. In addition, I don’t like him. The upside (I think) is that he asked for details of my GP and Psychiatrist so he could request a medical report. I have indicated that I need to see this before work do and in any case I do trust my Shrink. It is bothering me because at some point, work are going to start thinking about what is best for the department which won’t end well for me. For my own sanity, I can’t take another 6-12 months to get back to work full time. The financial impact is also a problem. I can’t live on what working 20 hours a week gives me. Last year I was claiming Housing Benefit but this stopped in January when I went back to work full time. When I went sick 2 weeks later I thought about claiming again but because work stupidly overpaid me, I couldn’t claim (they said I was earning too much to qualify).

That’s another thing. Work screwed up my pay last year starting in July by paying me salary instead of SSP. I informed them straight away but it has still not been rectified. They continued to pay me incorrectly until December. Because of this, the housing office think they have overpaid me so have said that I owe them over £2k which I am having to pay back £100 per month. I explained the situation to them but as long as my payslips are incorrect there is nothing they can do. I have spoken to my payroll dept and we have agreed the correct figures but they have still done sweet FA about it. I asked them a month ago and they said they couldn’t do anything until March payroll was done. Fair enough but we are now coming up to April payroll and we are no closer to fixing it.

On top of all of this is my voluntary work which I love but is taking up so much of my time.

Wow, that turned into a rant. Reading it back, at least I can see why I am so exhausted. It doesn’t make it any better though.