* Trigger warning for self harm *
I broke my own wrist today.
Sometimes once I decide to do something, it’s like it’s already happened. I have one of those brains that thinks through every step in every activity, whether that’s a trip to the grocery store or snapping one of my bones. And once I’d figured out how I would do it, and when, and what I would tell people – hell, even what I’d write on this blog – it felt too late to turn back. Even though I knew that I didn’t really want to do it.
I lay awake two nights ago, reasoning with myself.
I’ll have to miss out on going swimming with my nephew at his birthday party next week.
I won’t be able to drive.
How will I get dressed and do my hair? What can I wear that will fit over a cast?
How will I work?
And just one small voice, on the other side. If you get it over and done with now, you won’t have to think about it any more.
I understand self-harming when it’s the result of intense emotional distress. That makes sense to me. And because it makes sense, it doesn’t frighten me. This did, a little.
Last night was my first attempt. I went upstairs, put a load of laundry on, went out to the rooftop, counted to eight, and then did it. It hurt intensely at first, and my hand immediately bruised and swelled, but I was relieved – I could see the bone looked out of place. For a couple of minutes, I paced, taking deep breaths, feeling sweat starting to bead on my neck. Then I went back downstairs, tidied my room, vacuumed and did the dishes then commented on a few blogs before returning to the rooftop to hang out the laundry one-handed. It was all very calm. Just part of the routine. Nothing to see here.
I don’t know how to regulate these intrusive thoughts, because they aren’t emotional. I mostly felt numb. Resigned. Scared of the pain, because I’ve never broken a bone before and didn’t know what to expect, and a little scared that I’d fail, that I wouldn’t be able to do it and I’d be a pathetic little sook. But mostly numb.
That all flipped when I went to my doctor this afternoon. She told me she didn’t think it was broken – it might be, but we’d wait a few days and see before doing any x-rays.
I’m finding it hard to identify how I felt, hearing that. In some strange way, it was like being knocked down yet again. Another thing that hadn’t gone right. More pain I’d suffered for no reason. More pain I’d have to suffer, because I’d decided I was going to break my wrist and so I had to break my wrist. I was fighting back tears, without much success.
“So how will I be able to tell when it is broken?” I asked.
And she told me. Not only that, but she told me why what I’d done hadn’t worked and explained the way this bone is usually broken. She didn’t ask why I’d done it, or whether I was planning to do it again. She just sent me home in tears.
The next attempts were so much harder. I was up on that rooftop for hours. Crying, pacing, laying my hand out but losing my nerve at the last minute and pulling it back. Scared. And feeling so much grief over all the time I spend reluctantly inflicting pain on myself. Over the nights I’ve lain awake worrying about having to do this, and not having anybody to tell who could help me. It was a choice – doing it was a choice – but how many people have to make decisions like that?
The fear was much worse than the pain. As soon as it was done, I took myself to the walk-in clinic on my block, and a couple of hours and five x-rays later, the doctor confirmed it – I’d broken my wrist. But my hand was so swollen that he was worried I might have compartment syndrome, and he wrote me a referral letter and told me to go to the ER.
And then the terrible, no-good very bad day got worse. I went home to plug in my phone, anticipating hours waiting in the emergency room, then went out while it was charging to buy a drink to take with me. Without my keys.
Deep breath. Okay. This is annoying, but okay. My spare keys are at R’s – he’s sulking and mad at me and told me I had to ask permission from his PA Anne before I go over, but we explicitly agreed that my spare keys could stay at his place. So I just have to walk over there (broken wrist still uncasted and not even in a sling), grab the key from the concierge, go up and get my spare keys, then get my phone and my x-rays and go to the hospital. Deep breath. It’s okay.
But it wasn’t okay. When I asked the concierge (a nice guy; I always stop to chat with him) for the key, he looked intensely uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry, Rea. You’ve been taken off the list.”
I felt humiliated. I’ve paused, writing this, because I just can’t find the words to explain the shame I felt, that this place I used to live was now sealed off to me, that I no longer belonged, and that I couldn’t stop the tears that came to my eyes.
Voice shaking (bite your cheek, hard, until it bleeds; get yourself under control), I asked him to call Anne and get her permission to let me in. He did, and things got worse.
“I’m sorry, Rea,” she said, hesitant. “My instructions from R are that you’re not allowed in the apartment.”
In the end, she called R and got permission for me to go in, then drove the hour’s journey from her house to retrieve my keys when it turned out he’d locked them in the safe and I couldn’t get to them. In the meantime, I was sobbing but furious, taking down my photos from what used to be my bedroom in his apartment, gathering my pot plants from the window sill in the living room, taking my Sprite from the fridge, collecting any trace of myself I could find. I’m angry with him for agreeing to keep my spare keys without telling me I wasn’t allowed to access them, but mostly I am boiling with rage that he has had such a childish fit because I dared to request that if he wants me to work after hours, on a Friday night when I am sick but have still worked 12-hour days to get papers ready for him, when I told him the night before I wouldn’t be working more than 8 hours on Friday because I also had to work through the weekend, that he ASK me to help instead of texting and TELLING me to check my email. That’s it. That was my crime. (I checked and answered the email.) That tiny piece of respect I wanted is why I have endured weeks of silent treatment and snappiness and petulance, and I am sick of it.
You could say all’s well that ends well. It took over 2 hours, during which time my hand ballooned even more, but I got my keys and I got to the hospital. My arm has been put in plaster and I have an appointment with the specialist team tomorrow morning. I’ve called my mother and fed her a cheery lie so she isn’t surprised and suspicious about the cast when I go home next week.
But I feel sad. The kind of sad where you can’t think of anything that would make you feel better. The kind of sad that makes you wonder what the point is anyway.
I called the psychiatrist’s office on Monday to make an appointment, and they told me they’d check her schedule and call back. It’s Friday tomorrow and still no word.
There are wars, and famine, and deaths, and none of it is happening to me. But I still feel sad, and lost.