Tag Archives: Self-Harm

Self-Destructive

So #Write31Days didn’t work out, but not because I couldn’t be motivated to write. The reason was that, on Wednesday, I landed in crisis, took an overdose of medication and had to be taken to the hospital. I spent the night on the internal medicine ward and was medically cleared the following day. However, it took till around 5PM before I could see the consulting psychiatrist. She was a nice woman. I knew her nurse from the other time I’d taken an overdose last July. Nothing much has yet been decided, as the psychiatrist will speak to my CPN on Monday, but I was cleared to go home.

Today, I want to talk about harmful and self-destructive behavior as it happens in various mental disorders. Particularly, I want to relate it to what I assume are my current diagnoses: autism spectrum disorder and borderline personality disorder. Unlike what many people believe, the reasons for harmful behaviors are not either fully due to autism or fully due to BPD.

In autism, self-injury and aggression are common, but are seen as steretypical behaviors. For example, some autistics hit themselves as a form of self-stimulation. However, there is a common behaviorist phrase that says all behavior is communication. As such, autistics often also engage in self-injurious behavior to communicate pain, overload or frustration.

Here is where the lines between autism and BPD become blurry. After all, unlike what is commonly believed, borderlines don’t self-destruct “for attention” or “to manipulate”. Most self-harm to deal with strong emotions that they perceive as overwhelming. Whether these emotions come from within the person themself (as is often the case in BPD) or from external sources of frustration, may seem to be important, but it isn’t. A situation doesn’t make you self-destruct, after all. It’s each person’s choice, within the limits of their mind’s capacity at that particular point.

The reason I took an overdose on Wednesday, isn’t fully clear to me either. I do remember feeling sensorially overloaded with cold. I tried to warm up by going on the elliptical trainer. After all, I needed my exercise too, as I hadn’t worked out all week. I couldn’t find my sneakers or my sports clothes, so I tried for a bit to work out in my regular clohes, except for my vest. I was shivering though and this overloaded me even more. From that point, I don’t rmemeber much. I was feeling rather unreal, though I must’ve had some awareness of what I was doing, as I retrieved medications from various sources. Once the first pill bottle, which was the easiest to find, was down, I didn’t feel there was a way back.

So is this typical borderline behavior? Yes, in that it’s not stereotyped and was rather purposeful. It certainly wasn’t the stereotypical “cry for help” type of BPD behavior though. I didn’t want to call the out-of-hours GP and I had zero interest in being admitted to a mental hospital. I do think I need some more guidance, but not in the sense of somemone providing me emotional nurture.

In the sense of what caused it, it’s more autistic sensory overload and difficulty handling unexpected situations and frustrations. The help I requested when talking to the consulting psychiatrist was of such nature: I need some practical guidance on getting more structure in my day and dealing with unexpected situations. It may be my home support worker could provide this, or I may need my nurse from the assertive community treatment team for this. I also remember just now having discussed with my nurse a prescription phone call. This means that you can call (usually I think a max number of times a week or month) to a psych unit for support if you’re about to go into crisis. I will ask my CPN about this.

In Between Mental Illness and Wellness

I have often talked about recovery on this blog. Particularly, I have talked about recovery from my disordered eating habits and to a lesser degree self-injury. I wanted to get rid of my binge eating and stop self-injuring. Today, as I gave this some more thought, I took recovery one step further. So what if I stop bingeing and self-injuring? Would that then mean I’d be cured of my mental illness?

Of course, strictly speaking it wouldn’t. However, what if it did? What if I were cured of my mental illnness? After all, I exhibit far fewer destructive and aggressive behaviors than I did years ago. If I were to check mysel finto a mental hospital just as I am now, with no history of acute mental illness, the registrar would laugh at me. I wonder even if I’d be sick enough for outpatient mental health care if I presented with jut the symptoms I’ve been having lately. My overeating may or may not meet the criteria for binge eating disorder or eating disorder NOS. My self-harm does meet the criteria for non-suicidal self-injury, but then again these crteria are quite vague. My mood does not meet the criteria for a disorder. Heck, even when I was suicidal in 2007 and was clearly in need of acute psychiatric care, the only diagnosis the psychiatrist could come up with was adjustment disorder. Adjustment disorder is no longer covered by health insurance. In other words, under DSM-IV, which doesn’t include binge eating or self-injury as diagnoses, I would hardly if at all qualify for psychiatric care.

Of course, I do have borderline personality disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome – I still meet the criteria for these. However, no general practitioner would come up with the idea that I’d have these if I asked them to refer me to mental health services, and the vague referral letter my GP wrote in 2007 would not be enough now. So if I’m not sick enough at first sight for mental health care, am I then recovered? I don’t think so.

Mental health care has in recent years been more and more reduced to mere crisis intervention or other interventions directed at averting people becoming a pain in the neck. Now I won’t say I can’t be a pain in the neck, but a GP writing my referral letter from scratch now would not know. If you aren’t a danger to yourself or others, you most likely won’t get mental health services paid for through insurance. As such, mental health treatment is focused on curing the symptoms of severe mental illness (which is in most cases impossible), whereas recovery is more than that. Recovery, after all, is getting your life back on track.

As a long-term institution patient, I struggle with this. I am relatively well mentally speaking – probably not as well as I describe in the above paragraphs, but still -, but I don’t have a life. When I was admitted to the mental hospital in 2007, I was a university freshman in a new city. Now I’m nearly 30 and have little that could fulfill my life. I have my blog, but that’s about it. It makes me depressed. Not suicidal-type depressed (or should I say “adjustment-disordered”), but it does definitely make me slightly depressed. If I am not sick enough for mental health services and not well enough to get my life back on track without help, then where do I find help in recovering my life?

I hope that outpatient mental health services aren’t really as bad as I now think they are. I can only hope the recovery model still hasn’t been killed by the push for budget cuts. It however makes me sad to read in memoirs of mental health consumers about the recovery model and using mental health services to get your life back on track. After all, I’m afraid you can’t get mental health care for that now even if you’re severely mentally ill like myself.

S – #AtoZChallenge on Mental Health

Welcome to day 19 in the #AtoZChallenge on mental health. We’ve arrived at the letter S. Here goes.

Self-Injury

Self-injury or self-harm is the deliberate infliction of wounds upon oneself. Some scientists make a distinciton between self-injury and self-harm. Self-injury is then seen as leaving relatively minor, local wounds such as cuts or burns. Many people with depression, anxiety or emotion regulation issues such as in borderline personality disorder self-injure. Self-harm then is the infliction of grave harm onto the self, such as amputation. This is seen more often, according to these scientists, in people with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. In reality, of course, only a small portion of even the most severely psychotic patients engage in severe self-mutilation.

In DSM-5, non-suicidal self-injury was introduced as its own mental health diagnosis. Prior to that, many people who self-injure were misdiagnosed, often with borderline personality disorder. The DSM-IV guidelines even said that, if someone self-injured to cope with overwhelming emotions, BPD should be diagnosed, even though BPD has nine criteria, five of which must be met for a diagnosis.

Self-Medication

Self-medication refers to the abuse of alcohol or drugs with the goal to cope with mental health problems. It can also refer to the use of prescription medications that haven’t been prescribed to that specific person. Many people “self-medicate” with alcohol, even though alcohol does not have any medical benefits (except in mouthwash). In fact, it can make symptoms worse. Same for drugs. For instance, many people with psychotic symptoms use cannabis because it seems to calm them, even though it is in reality thought to worsen psychotic symptoms.

Of course, some drugs sold on the streets actually do help with certain symptoms. For example, people with undiagnosed ADHD might start using stimulant drugs to counter their symptoms. It is for this reason that self-medication needs to be taken very seriously. In my post on dual diagnosis last October, I addressed the complicated relationship between alcohol or drug use and mental illness

Survivor

Many people were and still are treated for mental illness against their will. In the antipsychiatry movement, people who come out of (forced) psychiatric care are seen as survivors. Many mentally ill people have indeed endured traumatic experiences at the hands of professionals. Many also have had other traumatic experiences, which may’ve contributed to their mental health condition. As such, they’re also survivors.

When I Started Self-Harming

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my disordered eating and self-injury issues. I’ve written a few posts about my disordered eating already. Today, I want to discuss self-injury. As a thought starter, I’m using question one from the 30-day self-injury challenge. It’s about when you started self-harming.

I started self-harming when I was very young. Until I was a teen, my self-harm looked more like that of the stereotypical low-functioning autistic person. I often banged my head and bit my hands. It was possibly in part self-stimulatory or stereotypical behavior, but I also self-harmed when I was frustrated. Now that I’m an adult, I still bang my head or bite my hands when frustrated on occasion.

I started cutting when I was sixteen-years-old, although I didn’t do it that often and the wounds were more scratches than cuts. I was somewhat depressed at the time and struggling with mood swings, low self-esteem and anxiety.

By the time I started independence training at the age of nineteen, it got worse. The wounds didn’t get that much worse, but I did cut more often, sometimes daily. One of the reasons was I had more opportunities. Before then, I’d use ordinary table knives that were my parents’. In the independence training home, I still used kitchen appliances, but they were sharper and within easier reach. I never had the opportunity to buy razor blades or whatever other tools other self-harmers use. Part of the reason my self-harm worsened, though, was I started struggling more as expectations increased.

I never went to great lengths to hide my self-harm wounds. That may get some people to believe I did it for attention. I personally still don’t know how to hide fresh wounds and being blind might’ve contributed to my not realizing people would notice. I never drew attention to my wounds or scars and was usually avoidant when confronted with them.

Now, still, when I self-injure, I try not to make a big deal out of it. When I tell my staff, I tell them pretty matter-of-factly unless I’m still melting down. I do on occasion freak out about my own self-injury, in which case I do tell the staff. I don’t tend to talk over the issues that got me to self-injure unless I’m still having the issues when I get to talk to staff.

Of course, writing a blog post (or more) about the subject can be seen as attention-seeking. Quite frankly, I don’t care. I have now only been free from self-injury for four days since my last slip-up. Some people count the days they’ve been free in total, rather than the days since their last slip-up. I like that, and it leads to a much more optimistic outcome. After all, I self-injure only once in a while now. I don’t cut or bite or bang nearly as often as I binge.

What My Mental Illness Feels Like #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 29 in the #Write31Days challenge on mental health. Phew, we’re almost done. I truly find it a challenge and unfortunately don’t find it particularly rewarding.

Today, I’ll give you a glimpse into my unquiet mind by describing what it feels like tohave my mental illness. I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by self-regulation difficulties. It also overlaps with other disorders.

Once, years before I had been diagnosed with any mental illness at all, I read a description on a Dutch site of the “borderline feeling”. It described a starting point at which you are feeling fine, or at least appearing as though you are fine. Then, a minor annoyance occurs. You start feeling frustrated, angry, infuriated. Then you feel sad, depressed, depserate. Fear and then panic also comes in. Finally, all feelings tumble over each other and create a big emotional whirlwind. That’s what the experience of BPD is like.

I can illustrate this with an example. This afternoon, I was feeling slightly on edge because it was time to make afternoon coffee and no-one was available to assist me. Then, when I noticed the nurses were flipping through some seemingly unrelated photos at the nurse’s station, I completely lost it. They had told me they were busy and now they were just chattering! I can’t even remember how the situation progressed, but within minutes I was banging my head, screaming and then ran off. When I came back to the unit (I had the sense of rationality to find my way back myself), I accused the nurses of faking being busy and ignoring me. They had truly ignored me (or been oblivious to me at least) when i stood at the nurse’s station and I still cannot be sure what thing was keeping them so busy. That being said, I couldn’t politely ask them whether they truly didn’t have time to help me make coffee.

We had a group discussion, in which I was again relatively calm. Then we had dinner, after which I went on the computer for a bit. I still was feeling slightly on edge but not over the edge. I wanted to talk to the nurse, so made use of my daily talk time to discuss my tension. However, I couldn’t get it out clearly what I was feeling and why. At that point, all emotions started coming together and I became angry and depressed and fearful at the same time. I went outside, accompanied by the nurse, to blow off some steam.

Usually, this feeling I had in the evining for me is triggered by some flashbacks or relivings of past “trauma”. I put that between scare quotes because the events I am reliving can be relatively minor. However, they can cause distress nonetheless.

During such episodes I also often feel dissociated. I used to completely regress into a child mode, but now I just feel as though I’m small and start speaking or babbling incoherently but don’t fully act like a child.

When an episode is severe, I may resort to self-destructive behaviors such as binge eating or self-injury. Usually, these behaviors temporarily relieve the tension but obviously they aren’t the solution. I often relapse soon after I engaged in destructive behaviors. With PRN tranquilizers, especially benzodiazepines, the same used to be true: they temporarily calmed me down, but when they wore off, I was increasingly agitated. Research shows that borderlines often become more agitated and may become aggressive when given benzodiazepines, because benzodiazepines reduce their anxiety and thereby their impulse inhibition. I do not personally experience this.

Supporting Someone Who Self-Injures

I have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (known in the UK as emotionally unstable personality disorder). BPD is sometimes known in the Netherlands as emotion regulation disorder, because it causes people to be unable to deal with intense and rapidly shifting emotions. BPD sufferers get stressed much more easily than those without mental health problems. They also tend to cope with stress ineffectively. One destructive coping mechanism that is common in BPD is self-harm.

Self-injury is not unique to people with BPD. In fact, starting with DSM-5, non-suicidal self-injury is its own diagnosis in the psychiatrist’s manual. Before then, if a person self-harmed, they were often incorrectly diagnosed with BPD, which has many more symptoms than just self-injury.

Self-injury is also common in people with autism, which is my other diagnosis. It is thought that people with autism, particularly those with a co-occurring intellectual disability, self-harm as a way of self-stimulatory behavior (to regulate sensory input) or as a way to communicate. For example, they might start to self-harm when they are overloaded sensorially or cognitively, or when they are in pain.

People with BPD are thought to self-harem to regulate their emotions. For instance, they may feel intense hopelessness or rage, or they may conversely feel numb and self-harm to have any sensation at all.

Self-harm is commonly thought of as a way of manipulating or attracting attention. This may be true, but isn’t necessairly. Many people feel a lot of shame about their self-harm. I, for one, don’t tend to self-injure to garner attention of others. I self-harm for many reasons, one of them being expressing emoitons to myself.

It is important to realize that people who self-injure, no matter their diagnosis, are in distress, be it physical, sensory, cognitive or emotional. It is important to find out what precedes the self-injury and what follows it. Don’t make judgments about what goes on inside the self-injurer’s mind. For example, I commonly start self-harming when I get frustrated trying to communicate my needs to my staff. It may then be easy to assume I do it “for attention”, because the staff give me more one-on-one attention when I self-injure. However, if I am able to communicate my needs effectively, I don’t self-injure to get attention. Behvior is communication, but bad behavior is not always intended to be malicious.

There are different ways of supporting self-injurers. Prevention is the first step. Some people, particularly those with emotion regulation disorders, may benefit from mindfulness and other skills training in a form such as dialectical behavior therapy. Others may benefit from augmentative or alternative communication methods to signal they’re in pain or overloaded. I need a little of both. I practise emotion regulation skills and mindfulness, but sometimes I also need support in the area of communication. For example, I cannot always communicate when I need a staff member to help me with something, be it emotional support or a practical task. Signaling cards, gestures or other alternative or augmentative communication may help in this situation.

When someone self-harms, it is of course important that their physical wounds be taken care of if they cannot do this themself. I find it helps most when someone doesn’t make a big deal out of my self-injuring when taking care of my wounds. Some professionals advocate limiting contact for a day or more after a person has self-injured, reasoning that in that case they have solved their problem already, albeit in a destructive way. Though I find that a bit of distance is good shortly after I self-harm, it is still important to make sure the person is safe from further harm. I do also find that I want to discuss the situation later when I’m calm, so that I can learn what better strategies will help me in the future.

Everyday Gyaan

Grateful for My Suffering

It’s been a hard day. I went to the institution’s educational department to study a bit in the morning. I literally had to drag myself there, because I was so tired. When I was done studying, I had lunch and then went on the computer to find an E-mail from the housing corporation. My husband and I have been contemplating moving house for a few months now. It’s been up in the air in many different forms. Over the week-end, I thought we’d decided we weren’t going to move after all, but then on Tuesday my husband found out I may have more time on the housing waiting list than we expected. It would be eight years, whereas I thought I had just 2 1/2. Long story short, the housing corporation E-mailed me to let me know the 2 1/2-year’s waiting time is correct. This confused me, because no explanation was given. So no moving house for us.

I was rather upset at first and went up to the nurse’s station to ask someone to take me on a walk. “Don’t you have day activities now?” the nurse replied. Well, I might, but that wasn’t my question. Turned out day activities were canceled (again!). I got upset. At that point the nurse and I had an argument about whether I expected the nursing staff to keep me occupied. If they’d just answered my question up front – no, they couldn’t take me on a walk -, this had been avoidable. Then again, this may be my autistic inability to cope with uncertaintty and change.

After a huge meltdwon, I’m now relatively calm. As I stumbled across the Thoughtful Thursday linky, I mulled over this day in my head and remembered a blog post I had read a while back (sorry, can’t remember where), which reminded the reader to be grateful for your suffering. I think I wrote about this before in one of my devotionals. Because I couldn’t find the post or the Bible quotes it references, I searched for some myself.

“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13 NIV)

In other words, without suffering, there is no happiness. When you’ve never suffered, you cannot appreciate the joys of life. This goes for Christians, who share in the suffering of Christ and in His glory, but it also goes for non-Christians. After all, my anology of no joy without suffering does not require God. He can of course support us in our suffering and share in our joys, but if you are a non-Christian, you can still learn to appreciate the joys you face each day amidst even the darkest of suffering.

For instance, instead of being angry at the times the nurses can’t take me on walks, I can appreciate the times they can. I do this, and in truth, it wasn’t the fact that the nurse couldn’t take me on a walk that upset me. It was the housing corporation E-mail. Then again, not moving house means I know where I’ll be living once I leave the institution and can hopefully leave sooner than had we been moving house first.

I came across another Bible verse, which reminds me that, because I have moments when I am in a less than optimal state of mind, I also have moments when I am better.

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV)

This verse again reminds us that, in the face of persecution and hardship, we show our strength. We cannot be truly strong if we are never challenged. In other words, if we sit on our butts in a flowery garden eating chocolates all day, we will not grow (except in weight). I may have been in a meltdown this afternoon, but I made it through. I did self-injure, but it wasn’t bad and I was able to calm myself afterwards without needing to be secluded. I survived another crisis and, because of my mental illness, it undoubtedly won’t be the last one. Other people have it easier, but no-one is free from hardship and suffering. It is in the face of challenges that we show our human strength.

Creative K Kids

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness: BPD Explained

May is mental health month in the United States. It is also borderline personality disorder awareness mnth. BPD is my current diagnosis. I have written a few posts on this condition already, but most required some previous knowledge of BPD or mental illness in general. In honor of mental health month and BPD awareness month, I am going to write about my experiences with mental illness in this post and will share facts along the way.

I have always struggled with rapidly shifting emotions and mood swings. If it had been popular at the time and my parents had sought help for me, I might’ve been diagnosed with a childhood-onset mood disorder. I do not have bipolar disorder or major depression now, but these conditions are thought to affect children differently. In the current edition of the psychiatrist’s manual, the DSM-5, there is a diagnosis for children with severe mood swings, dysphoric (sad or angry) moods and extreme temper tantrums. This disorder is called disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. It is thought not to be lifelong, as it can only be diagnosed in children under age eleven.

I remember as a child of about nine already experiencing suicidal thoughts and making suicidal threats, particularly during meltdowns or tantrums. This is not necessairly a sign that the child is going to attemtp suicide – I never did -, but this is also not just “attention-seeking”. It is, in fact, a sign that a child is in serious distress.

Making repeated suicidal threats or attempting suicide is one of the core symptoms of borderline personality disorder. It is commonly thought that most people with BPD only threaten suicide and “aren’t serious about it”. In fact, however, about ten percent of people with this diagnosis die of suicide.

As a teen, I started self-injuring. Self-injury is also a core feature of BPD. This may have many functions other than “attention-seeking”. Of course, some people with BPD do not know how to ask for attention and instead use self-harm as a way to get it. Even then, attention is a human need and withholding it altogether will not usually solve the problem. Other functions of self-injury may include to express pain, to numb out feelings or conversely to feel something when one is feeling empty or numb.

Chronic feelings of emptiness are another symptom of BPD. Generally, a person with BPD is somewhat depressed or numb. This feeling of numbness is also common with major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative disorders, all of which commonly co-occur with BPD.

Dissociation is the feeling of being disconnected from oneself, one’s thoughts or feelings or one’s surroudnings. Symptoms of dissociation, particularly depersonalization (feeling “unreal”), are common in many mental illnesses. The most well-known specific dissociative disorder is dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. My former therapist, who diagnosed me with BPD, believed that BPD and DID/MPD are on the same spectrum.

Paranoia is also common in people with BPD. However, as opposed to people with schizophrenia or related disorders, people with borderline personality disorder experience paranoia only briefly when under stress. For example, when I am overwhelmed with eotions, I tend to mistrust people and situations, while I am not usually paranoid.

Lastly, people with BPD have difficulties in relationships. Firstly, they often have an intense fear of abandonment and go to great lengths to prevent people from leaving them. Some may push people away (“I abandon you before you can abandon me”). Others, like me, are excessively clingy. People with BPD may also alternate between idolizing and devaluing the people who are important to them.

No two people with BPD or any other mental illness are alike. For a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, you only need to meet five out of nine criteria. I meet between six and eight depending on how you look at it.

Borderline personality disorder bears similarities to post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociatve disorders and mood disorders, particularly bipolar. However, the difference between bipolar and borderline personality disorder is that people with bipolar disorder experience long-lasting mood episodes, whereas people with BPD have rapidly-shifting moods. BPD cannot be diagnosed in children, although of course they can have mood swings. They may then be diagnosed with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Psychiatrists are beginning to diagnose BPD in adolescents starting at arund age fifteen. This is good, because, the earlier someone gets treated, the more likely they are to reach recovery.

Scarred

Scarred. It can mean so many things. We can have scars on our bodies and on our souls. Sometimes, the scars on our bodies reflect the scars on our souls. Such is the case with self-harm scars.

I started self-harmign when I was very young. I don’t even remember when I started, but my maternal grandma asked when I was about ten wheter I still banged my head at night. I didn’t, but apparently I’d done this for a long time when I was younger. This is seen as a typically autistic way of self-harming.

When I was older, I started biting myself. My sister and I would sometimes bite each other when in a fihgt – usually I’d bite her more than she’d bite me. I also remember using hand-biting sometimes as a way to manipulate. Hand-biting is typically autistic too, although using it to manipulate is not. This could be related to my pathological demand avoidance traits.

I started cutting when I was sixteen. I vividly remember the first incident. It never got severe – most likely because I don’t have the tools to make severe cuts -, so my scars are relatively small. My biggest self-harm scar is on my leg from an incident last year.

The first time I was confronted with my self-harm scars, was when a staff member at the independence trainign home I lived in at the time, asked me about a slight scar on my hand. I didn’t want to talk about it, fearing that if I disclosed my self-harm, I’d be kicked out of the home.

Self-harm had multiple functions for me. The manipulative function is possibly still there subconsciously, but I also use self-harm to cope with strong emotions that are common in people with borderline personality disorder. Self-harm by the way wasn’t the main reason I was diagnosed with BPD.

As I said, self-harm has many causes. It can be used to express pain, as is often the case for me, but many people also hide their self-harm. If a person does it “for attention”, as it’s commonly called when someone self-harms to express emotions, that doesn’t mean they’re fake. Their (and my!) pain is real, only they have probably learned that the only way to express it is through self-injury. Ignoring people or suspending them from help, as happens in some therapy programs, is only going to be counterproductive and especially harmful if the person hasn’t learned more effective ways of expressing their pain. They need validation especially badly, because the very reason they started self-harming “for attention” is the lack of attention they and their pain got in the past.

Even those who self-harm “for attention” may feel self-conscious about their scars. I am fortunate not to have any too obvious self-harm scars, but I do know what it is like to be questioned about your scarred body. I, after all, have a scar on my belly at one end of the shunt I have because I had hydrocephalus as an infant. Children sometimes said I had a second belly button. When I was at one point worried that my shunt had malfunctioned, my parents also offhandly asked whether I could get the scar beautified if I was going to need to see someone about my shunt anyway. My husband, fortunately, has never made a problem out of my scar. I don’t even think he’s ever commented on it except when I asked him about it.

I am not particularly proud of my scarred self, but I don’t feel bad about it either. In November, I took part in a self-harm event which was being filmed for a documentary series. I don’t have time to go to the preview and most likely won’t watch the series as it airs either, so I won’t know whether I’m in it. If I am, I don’t mind. I don’t show off my scars, but I’m open to educate people about them and their cause.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Mami 2 Five

 

Mental Illness and Causing Emotional Harm

On day four of the recovery challenge, we’re supposed to honestly say whether we have emotionally harmed anyone (besides ourselves) with our addiction/disorder. This is a hard one for me, because with respect to my eating disorder, my answer would be “No”. That doesn’t mean I’ve not harmed people emotionally because of my mental health problems.

Generally speaking, it is not cool to admit you’ve harmed others because of your mental illness. Then again, a lot of family members of the mentally ill do consider being victimized to abuse by the mentally ill person a regular consequence of mental illness. Why is it that people with mental illness don’t want to admit that they can do harm with their disorder? Probably it’s because we don’t want to be seen as bad people, and actually many of us have experienced abuse ourselves. It seems pretty much impossible to find someone who will admit they’ve been abused and yet they are harming others themselves. There is a forum on iSurvive for abuse survivors who abuse others, but that’s about it. I understand it is hard for victims to admit they cause harm to others themselves, but you have to be completely honest about your own actions in order to heal.

I have caused emotional harm to others because of my mental health conditions in several ways. The first is engaging in the addictive behavior in front of others. I have never binged in front of my husband or parents, but I have self-harmed in front of them.

Then there is the emotional unavailability because of the addiction/disorder. I remember one day my mother wanted to talk to me and I ignored her and started eating candy. I also believe that I may not be as available to my husband as I could be. I don’t know whether this is due to my eating disorder – as I said, I don’t binge in front of him, but food is on my mind often. It also could be my general self-centeredness which may or may not be due to any of my mental health conditions.

Then there is the anger issue. This is not caused by my eating disorder or self-harm, but more often the other way around. Both my borderline personality disorder and my autism though have caused me to act out towards others. This is the worst way in which I’ve harmed people emotionally. Except during my teens according to my mother, I haven’t been physically violent, but I have been verbally aggressive often. I can’t be sure that the urge to overeat has never contributed to this behavior. IN fact, usually at least compulsive or rigid behavior has. I mean, if I’ve gotten it in my head that we’re going to do X, the idea of doing Y often sets me off. It is possible that X more often than would be considered normal involves food.

The thing is, mental health problems make people emotionally hurt others. They also are common in people who have been the victims of emotional or other forms of abuse. This is why the cycle of abuse usually doesn’t end with one victim. And it has to end. If you’re suffering with an addiction/disorder, admit that it causes harm to others too. That doesn’t make your own traumatic experiences not valid.