Mommy Transference at Work

It’s been almost two months since Nikki left. At first, I missed her intensely, thought about her constantly, was counting the hours and minutes and seconds until she’d be back, but I was stable. No self-harm, no suicidal ideation.

Then I crashed. Like a piano falling out a twenty-storey window. It was loud and dramatic and I ended up in pieces at the bottom. Without Nikki around to catch me and protect me and parent me, I glommed onto the first mother figures I could find, and I can’t make myself let go.

Unfortunately, those mother figures are my managers at work.

***

There’s Carol. Frighteningly competent, matter-of-fact but with a sharp sense of humour. Two teenage children, boys – she invited me to go camping with her family last year. I’m completely in awe of her, and I so badly want her to think well of me that I get tongue-tied whenever I talk to her. She’s the human resources manager, and she’s told me I’m precious, beautiful, intelligent, hard-working and good, but she was also the one who sat me down and told me I was coming across as arrogant and my colleagues were complaining about me.

There’s Sam. Only been with the organisation about a year, and I feel less intimidated by her. Has a teenage son with major mental illness, and is fascinated by brain plasticity and optimistic about healing. The level of detail I’ve shared about my issues is way out of proportion to the depth of our relationship. Over the last fortnight, she’s started calling me “dearest“, and “hon“.

And Kim. The manager of the internship program, the one who’s known me and believed in me since I was an undergrad law student with no work experience. Her brother killed himself in front of her – this stuff is re-traumatising for her, but she still sticks around. Calls me “love“, “bubba“, “my angel“. The first time I had surgery and she was visiting me in hospital, she said “I wouldn’t let one of my kids go home in this state, so why would I let you?“. Later, when she said she had too much on her plate and she could be my friend but she couldn’t be my mother, I was humiliated at the implication that I was expecting too much from her, and crushed.

***

It started with the overdose.

I’d been in a downward spiral for days. Not going to work, not even getting out of bed. I couldn’t make myself do anything, and that made me anxious, and that made me even less able to do anything. So, I texted Kim, and asked if she could pick me up on her way to work the next morning. That way I’d have to get up. Inconveniencing Kim by not showing up on time and making her late would be even more anxiety-provoking than getting up and going to work.

Except I impulsively decided to take thirty times my normal dose of anti-psychotic, (knowing it wouldn’t be fatal), and I did not show up on time. I slept through all fourteen of my alarms. And they panicked.

When I woke up, I had missed call after missed call, and a bunch of texts. The last one was from Sam, and it said I had half an hour to get in touch before they called the police.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

I felt so stupid. Why was I so fucking useless I couldn’t take myself to work? Why was I so fucking useless I couldn’t get out of bed on time? Why was I so fucking worthless? I called Sam and told her I was fine and I was about to start work on a report, but I felt so young and guilty I couldn’t put up my normal professional front, and I was slurring my words, and she worked out something was wrong.

It didn’t take much convincing for me to tell her how many pills I’d taken. I wanted to give her a better reason for scaring them than just I’m a useless cunt and I slept in.  I felt about four years old, and she was talking to me in the kind of tone you use with very young children.

Can you unlock your door? I’m sending someone around to check on you.

I heard Carol’s voice in the background, muffled, and then Sam came back on the line.

Rea, have you cut yourself at all?

Nooo.” I was disappointed with myself – I wished I could say yes.

Carol’s voice in the background again, then another question from Sam.

Have you done anything else at all?

It was one of those crazy frustrating moments where I just wanted to shake myself and yell at myself to snap out of it. Rationally I knew that I hadn’t, completely 100% knew, but the part that was running the show genuinely felt unsure.

Don’t think so.

You don’t think so?” A pause. “Can you have a check and see?

I thought for a second. “I’m fine.”

You’re fine,” she repeated in a cooing, baby-talk tone, presumably to pass my answer on to Carol. “What about your arm? Is your arm okay?

Yep.”

Yep. What about your legs, are your legs okay?

 

She kept running through and confirming different body parts, and part of me was going I’m a 26 year old woman with a law degree what the fuck is happening, and the rest of me wanted to be babied even while I found it ridiculous and embarrassing.

What about your neck? Is your neck okay?

While the rational part of me was saying internally ‘Yes, of course it is, it’s fine‘, I was standing in front of the mirror, examining it, leaning in close to check. Then the intercom rang.

Do you know what that noise is? That’s your door.”

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, no. I put her on mute, and started taking pills as fast as I could swallow them. The same thing I always do when help is on the way – make sure I’m really fucked up enough to need it. Things had gotten so out of control so fast, and this was the only thing I could control.

Rea? Rea? You have to let them in, hon. You need to let them in. Go and push the button for the intercom.”

“Rea? Rea? Rea?”

“Rea, it’ll be okay, just go push the buzzer and let them in.

I could hear Carol telling the police that I wasn’t responding, but I didn’t know what to do. My mind was running frantically, trying to come up with a way to undo it all. To go back to 8am and get in the car with Kim and drive to work and listen to her nag me about whether I’d eaten breakfast.

I’m fine, Sam,” was all I could come up with.

I could hear her brain working, trying to come up with a new angle to convince me. “Well, just let them in so they can see that you’re okay, and then it’ll all be okay. But if you don’t let them in then we don’t know you’re okay.”

I caved, but it didn’t matter – they’d gotten into the building anyway, and they were on their way up.

I’m going to stay on the phone, okay? Will you leave me on the phone so I can be here if you need me?

The whole conversation makes me cringe, and I want to block it out and hold it close, both at the same time. But that part – that part makes me feel warm. She wanted to stay with me.

***

That afternoon was beyond awful. The police called the paramedics, and they decided not to schedule me, and I was pitifully relieved. But the sedative effect of the pills took all control away from me.

I had a psychiatrist appointment in the city, and I woke up five minutes before it started. Getting up and walking downstairs was a struggle, and I kept gagging in the back of the Uber. By the time I walked into the building, I was staggering like I was drunk, and I crashed into the wall and then collapsed on the floor. I couldn’t get up. My face felt hot and my arms were tingling and I thought I was really going to die.

This is rock bottom, I thought. Oh my god.

Lawyers from the chambers in that building were walking past and stepping over me, but there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t keep my mouth closed, and I couldn’t think of anybody I could call. I just had to lie there.

After fifteen minutes or so, I managed to stagger the four steps into the lift, and once I reached the fourth floor, I stepped out and collapsed again, so close to my psychiatrist’s door I could have reached out and touched it. It was another ten minutes before I could get up again.

***

I didn’t go in to the office the next day, but I talked to Sam on the phone. She tells me she feels closer to me, and she feels like she got to talk to the real Rea for the first time.

I don’t want to dump this stuff on you, though.”

There was a moment on the phone where I just got this gut feeling that you’d gone – I thought you’d slipped away, and the way that felt…” She trailed off.  “Anything is better than that. I’d do anything to prevent that.”

***

Things kept getting worse.

It’s heartbreaking for me to see you like this,” Kim says, while I’m lying on the couch in the Story Room at work, unable to get up and sit at my desk.

We’re deeply worried about you,” Carol says, after pulling me into a private office to ask me why I have steri-strips holding together a cut on my face.

Everest isn’t the only one who loves you,” Sam says, holding me while I sob and tell her she has to keep Everest if I die.

One night, when there’s nobody else around, I take out the rope I bought specifically for this purpose, climb up onto a wobbly desk chair that’s missing a wheel, and hang myself from a bracket in the wall. The rope leaves friction burns on my neck, and even though I cover them with concealer the next day, people notice.

***

A couple of days ago, Carol and Sam left for a week-long visit to one of our remote program sites, and the childish intensity of my feelings was terrifying – I had to literally bite into my tongue to stop myself saying “I don’t want you to go“. When I found Sam had rushed to the airport without coming to say goodbye to me, I was crushed.

But I wanted her to check on me, the little parts whimpered. I wanted a hug goodbye. 

Yesterday morning I had to text them both to tell them I’d be working from home – that’s the deal. If I don’t show up and they haven’t heard from me, they call the crisis team.

Are you okay? Is there a particular reason for working at home today?” Carol texted back.

This is where I fucked up. I could have kept a balance between honesty and boundaries, and told her I wasn’t feeling great but I was able to work as long as I could stay in bed. But those baby parts have no fucking boundaries. They hurt, and they need mommy to know that they hurt.

Nope, not okay. Mostly working from home because I can’t get up, but also am not safe being in the office atm. I am being productive and have talked to [boss] about priorities for today and tomorrow.”

Reading that makes me want to kick myself in the face. I hadn’t told anyone about hanging myself in the office and the massive triggers I was facing there and I desperately needed someone to hear that things were really not okay, but I knew that sending that message was just feeding an unhealthy dynamic. I knew, and I sent it anyway, because I so desperately needed to not be alone.

She called me immediately, and tried to convince me to go to the emergency room. I didn’t want to, so she gave us both half an hour to think, and then she and Sam called me back on speaker, and spent twenty minutes coaxing me into a safety plan for the rest of the day. We agreed I’d work for an hour, then I’d go out for a walk, and I’d text Carol a photo so she knew I’d got up.

Okay, so that’s the plan – you do that, and then we’ll talk again later this afternoon, okay?

You really don’t have to do that.

Yeah, I know, but we want to do that,” Sam said firmly, and Carol chimed in over the top of her.

Yes, we want to.” And I felt held, and a little more stable. I showered, and I went out. I texted Carol a photo of the McDonalds sign [“This is what you meant when you said to go outside, right?“], and sent Sam a couple of photos of the kittens.

They didn’t call.

***

I cried on my bathroom floor for hours last night. I thought about taking myself to hospital, but the thought of going alone…I didn’t want to do it. I wanted Carol or Sam to take me. I thought about texting Kim, but it was late, and I was afraid she’d say no. Or say yes, even though she didn’t want to. A couple of weeks ago, on a really bad day, she’d offered to take me to the hospital, but made it clear that she’d just drop me off, she couldn’t stay – she had to work on a scholarship application with her daughter that night. And it stung. She’s not my mother, and her daughter comes first. But it stung.

I feel very alone. I know there are millions of people in the world who feel the same way I do. Who’ve hurt themselves the way I have, and worse. But in my therapy groups, in my friends who self-harm, I’ve never connected with anyone who understands what it’s like to spend hours breaking your own wrist. To burn yourself badly enough to need surgery. To smash your head against the wall hundreds of times until you’re bleeding from your eyes. To have done two of those things while you were still a child. I’ve hurt myself so, so much. It feels like too much.

I climbed into bed with Everest, and she curled into me with her head on my chest. I kissed her nose, and told her I loved her so much, and that everyone knew how much I loved her, and they’d make sure she was okay.

And then I took an overdose of Panadol.

(Which I almost immediately threw up. I’ve taken so many overdoses my body anticipates the nausea before it even comes. I can still feel the chalky taste of the pills in my mouth.)

***

There was no way I was going to the office this morning, but I didn’t want to tell Sam and Carol that. I wanted to be petulant and sulk. I’m not your friend any more. Making them chase me, though – no. I was grouchy with them, but I didn’t want them to be grouchy with me. So I sent a short text: “Staying home today“.

An hour or so later, Sam called me to check in, in a casual ‘I’m assuming everything is okay’ kind of way, and we chatted amiably for a couple of minutes. Until I threw another.fucking.dramabomb.

Is there anything you need from me before I go?” she asks.

It would be good if you or Carol could refer me to the crisis team,” I say off-handedly, and she’s startled.

What’s happened?

It doesn’t matter.

It does, it does! Okay. You’re very – well done, okay? Have you taken something?

 

We go back and forth – I’m cagey, trying not to over-share, and she’s insistent that I tell her what’s going on.

Don’t be shame with me,” she says firmly. The way Aboriginal people speak about shame really resonates with me – it’s not something I feel, it’s something I am. Every piece of me is consumed with it, wants to disappear into myself, hide. I’m so mad at myself for being so high maintenance. I’m not worth it; I’m a waste of space; they should just fire me for causing so many issues.

I tell her. Carol calls the crisis team multiple times, and they refuse to get involved.

***

I don’t know how to make myself stop.fucking.disclosing.everything. I have to have better boundaries, but it’s so hard to put that cat back in the bag. Especially when they’re actively encouraging me to reach out to them. I’ve made some feeble attempts to be more professional and take a step back, but:

I don’t want to keep holding you guys up. I know you’ve got lots of stuff you need to be doing.”

You’re not holding us up. I don’t want you to feel like that. We want to make sure that you’re safe. That’s the priority – us supporting you as best we can.”

How can I not crumble?

Mommy Transference at Work

Stupid, Pathetic, Disgusting Bitch

I haven’t been able to find the words to respond to your comments yet, but please know that you and Everest have literally been getting me through. I am so grateful to all of you. [TS, tonight I sat in bed with chocolate milk and read Winnie the Pooh.] But this post is different, and it talks about things that feel incredibly wrong to share with people who have survived assaults when they had no choice but to endure it. So I want you to know that if you feel angry with me, or repulsed, or whatever you might feel, that’s okay, and I’m sorry. 

Last night, I wanted to hang myself. I had the rope tied, and I leaned my weight against it to make sure it would hold. Right now, the idea that I didn’t hang myself seems crazy, but I wrote here, and read blogs, and watched children’s movies on Netflix, and somehow the time passed until I fell asleep, with a scalpel under my pillow.

I am so far at the end of my rope (oh, god, pun not intended) that I seem to be giving zero fucks right now. I told my boss that I couldn’t work because I was suicidal. I told our HR manager that I couldn’t go to our biggest event of the year because I didn’t feel up to it. And last night, when the beautiful La Quemada said she wanted to keep me safe, and asked what she could do, I told her she could make me a recording. When I first started writing, I was so impossibly in awe of her, but she has been one of my staunchest and most loving supporters, and when she offered, I wasn’t afraid to ask.

A little after midday today, I got up, got dressed, and went out for a walk. I patted a dog, and smelt some flowers, and felt a little better. Then I went into a hardware store, pretending to myself that I just wanted to look at plants, when I knew I was really going in to look at dangerous things.

I found one that I really wanted. I picked it up, put it down, walked away and came back to it, then repeated the cycle again. I really wanted it. If I’d taken it home, I would have used it. So I took a breath, and thought ‘Okay, this is the time to listen to Q’s recording‘. The shop was pretty empty, and I ducked behind a shelf and sat down on the ground.

I was in tears after the first two words. I cried, and I felt relief. She told me she could see that I was weighed down, and beyond tired, and that I couldn’t see how I was supposed to go on living my life like this, and that it’s okay to feel like this. That I don’t have to force myself to keep pushing through no matter what, and it’s okay to take a break.

Actually hearing her say that was powerful. I’ve only ever been able to express myself with cuts and burns and suicide attempts before. But I’ve been using words, and Q understands. She really understands. (I think you all do.) Those two minutes and forty-six seconds decreased the urgency of needing to act on the thoughts and the feelings.

I went back and touched the dangerous thing one more time, then left without it.

It’s getting harder and harder to hurt myself. That sounds like a good thing, but it isn’t. I still need to hurt, I’m just too much of a cowardly chicken-shit to do it myself any more. My pain threshold is getting lower, or my critical voice is getting weaker, or something, I don’t know, but sometimes I just can’t make myself do it, even when my whole body is on fire with the need for pain. I’m afraid of it, but I need it.

I don’t know if this is a sensation that’s familiar to anyone else, and the closest analogy I have is that tingling sensation that comes with attachment pain, that visceral need to be held. It feels intolerable, like there’s no way to soothe it.

A few weeks ago, I was lying in bed, completely taken over by it. I don’t remember what was happening, whether I was stressed, or anxious, or if something had happened, but I needed to hurt. I ran through all the options in my head – cutting; burning; hitting myself; banging my head; breaking a bone; choking myself – and I couldn’t come up with a single one I felt capable of doing. I didn’t think I could cut deeply enough to feel better, and I didn’t want to hold a flame against my skin. It hurts so much, and I was scared, and I just didn’t want to. Couldn’t.

I felt desperate. So I started Googling.

Hire someone to punch me in the face.” No results.

Pay someone to beat me up.” No results.

Looking for somebody to hurt me.” Nothing. Other than an (apparently defunct) app in China which allowed people to hire vigilantes to beat up their enemies for revenge (or their friends for a laugh), it wasn’t getting me anywhere.

I am very, very averse to sex of any kind. I don’t want to have sex, ever. I’m saying that (with some discomfort) so you understand that when I reluctantly started looking into S&M, it was a last resort. The urge to cut myself is coming up now, just thinking about being in that situation. But I was desperate. I couldn’t hurt myself, so I needed to find someone to do it for me.

Over the next few days, I trawled through Craigslist and any other website I could find, finding men in my area who fit my criteria. Anybody who mentioned aftercare or safe words was automatically off the list. Anybody who seemed kind or respectful was off the list. Somebody who was just going to mildly bruise me in a controlled way then rub it with soothing ointment was not going to hurt me enough to make me better. I was looking for somebody who wouldn’t want to talk to me, who seemed likely to punch me and cane me, kick me, who wouldn’t stop if I was crying, or if I said no. Somebody who would probably want sex, and wouldn’t care that I didn’t.

It sounds like a rape fantasy or something, but I swear it’s not. I want it because I don’t want it. Part of me believes that if I go through something traumatic and awful where I have no control over the pain or what happens to me, it’ll fix me. If it’s bad enough, I won’t want to hurt any more. The same way I thought breaking my wrist might fix me. It won’t, I know it won’t, but I don’t know what else to do.

I held on for a few days, and then the need to hurt triumphed over the fear of going to a stranger’s house where god knows what would happen. I clicked on the profile for the man ‘looking for a submissive slut to abuse‘, and started writing a message.

But god, I so didn’t want to do it. So I ended up in the bathroom, giving myself a chemical burn instead.

The last time I burnt with chemicals, I’d promised myself I’d never do it again. It takes hours, and it’s agonising, like a million fire ants biting at your leg. Unlike lighter burns, the pain lasts for days, and the next night I was literally writhing in bed, whimpering and crying. But it’s passive. You don’t have to slice, or hold a flame against you. You just have to sit, and endure.

And that is why I needed surgery.

I think this is maybe part of why I’m so suicidal. The burn didn’t change anything – it just postponed it. I’m still struggling to hurt myself, and I still need to hurt. It would be easier to be dead.

Stupid, Pathetic, Disgusting Bitch

Psychiatrist #10, Meds and DBT

I’m not sure whether I’d actually shoot myself. I just want to hold the gun, and see how it feels. And then put it in my mouth, and decide. Do I want to pull the trigger?

It’s 3am, and I didn’t go to work today. I meant to, I was going to, but I couldn’t get up. My boss called this morning to check whether I was in the office yet, and I told him I’d be there in half an hour or so. And then I hung up, lay back down and went back to sleep.

I am not functional. I can’t function. I have been hurting myself since I was five years old, and I am still hurting myself. I broke five bones in my wrist this year. I burnt myself so badly I needed surgery, again. I am fucking traumatized. I have been traumatized for years and years and years. I first tried to kill myself when I was 13 – why am I still alive?

Everest just heard me sobbing, and got up on the bed to rub her face against my cheek. Over the last few days she’s been lying with me, her head on my neck, on my shoulder, tucked into the crook of my arm. She’s saved me so many times.

I think the best way to describe Psychiatrist #10 is to describe her office. Her desk is bigger than the ocean, and sits between us. My chair is low to the ground, so I am looking up at her, feeling a little like I’m in the principals office, and I’m in trouble. The tissues are in a gold metal container, resting on a silver platter next to a bottle of hand sanitizer. I imagine the psychiatrist uses it more often than her patients do.

On Tuesday, I saw her for the third time, and she switched my Effexor for Cymbalta. On Wednesday morning, before I’d even started the switch, I couldn’t get up – it’s not the meds that are breaking me. But Effexor is hard to come off, and my body is feeling the way it does after I overdose. There’s a weird taste in my mouth, and a blockage in my throat, and a cold knot in my stomach.

The second time I saw her, she told me there was no point doing psychodynamic therapy because there are so many gaps in my memory, and the only thing that has any chance of making a difference is DBT. And I agreed to join a six month class, because I don’t want to sit around complaining about how bad things are without doing anything to try to make them better.

The last time I did DBT, almost exactly a year ago now, I spun completely out of control. I took an overdose and cut my arms, and I would have died on my bathroom floor if the police rescue squad hadn’t broken in. I am fucking terrified of doing it again. Last time I had Aisha, and Jen, and Anna, and R, and it wasn’t enough. Now all I have is Nikki, once a week, and it’s nowhere near enough.

Wouldn’t it be better to die now, before any more broken bones? Before any more lacerations, concussions, burns, bruises, stitches, surgery?

It occurred to me a couple of hours ago that I need to write a note, to make sure someone posts to tell you if I die. I don’t want to just disappear and leave you wondering.

Psychiatrist #10, Meds and DBT

What Do You Get When You Cross An Elephant And A Fish?

Yesterday I sat in an empty waiting room for five hours, and waited to be called for surgery. I was edgy, and I could taste the nervousness in my throat. I read a book for a while, I surfed cat videos on tumblr, I (ironically) played the solo game in Words with Friends, I looked up cheesy elephant jokes, but I was continually aware of the fear bubbling in my chest. After a few hours, I slipped off my shoes and gave in to the urge to tuck my knees up to my chest.

Where were they going to put the cannula – would they try to put it in my foot like last time? When I woke up, would I be in searing pain again? When they asked whether I was in pain, would I automatically shake my head no, like last time? Would the shorts I’d brought fit over the bandages? What would I do if they didn’t? How long would I have to wait, staring at the wall, until my bag with all my stuff was brought up from admissions and I’d have something to distract myself with? When my friend from work (who can’t drive) came to “pick me up”, would I manage to stand up the whole way down in the elevator, even if it stopped at every floor?

At 4pm, the doctor came out to tell me the operation wasn’t going ahead. They’d had an ICU patient and it had bumped me off the list. Could I come on Friday instead?

I was almost in tears. The logistics of taking another day off work aside, I don’t want to endure more time waiting. I just wanted to get it over and done with. I haven’t decided, yet, whether I’m going to do it at all.

On my way out of the hospital, I texted the consulting rooms to cancel my appointment with Nikki. I was so upset that the thought of having to be in a room with her was unbearable. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get past my instinct to withdraw when I’m struggling, instead of reaching out for comfort.

The cancellation was 100% because I didn’t want to go. But I chose to text the consulting rooms instead of Nikki as a test. I wanted to see whether she would contact me to see how the surgery went. Our session time came and went today, and she didn’t. And she didn’t text me beforehand to say good luck, the way Jen did last time, the way Anna would have. I’m really having trouble getting used to her way of doing therapy – it’s so much less involved than anybody else I’ve seen.

I’m so mad at her for not hearing me that it brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. Last week, when she told me to have a lovely weekend, the Angry Child actually had the urge to hit her.

Mentally, it’s almost like everything’s fine, but I can tell it’s not. This morning, the workman who’s tearing up the tiles in my bathroom arrived, and I let him in, then went back to bed and went back to sleep, not even waking when he walked past my bed to leave. My entire apartment is 4 metres by 4 metres, and the idea that I could fall asleep with a stranger literally in my bedroom is kind of horrifying.

All day, I’ve had that frantic feeling. The one where it feels like you’re running really late for an important meeting, but you’re wearing high heels and the floor is glass so you can’t run, and all that urgency just builds up in your body. I need to swim, but with all the bandages I can’t, and after the graft I won’t be able to swim for another 12 months.

I should reach out to Nikki, I know. She’s one of only two people that even know I’m having surgery, so God knows I need her support. But it feels too hard right now, and it seems like we’re never in tune. I’m still seeing her because I don’t want to start all over again with someone new, but is that a good enough reason?

P.S. The answer to the joke? Swimming trunks!

What Do You Get When You Cross An Elephant And A Fish?

I Don’t Want To Do This (I Don’t Want To Be Brave Any More)

Four days ago, I turned 26. Three days before that, I poured chemicals onto my upper thigh and left them there until they burnt a hand-sized hole in my leg.

Two days ago, I found out that I have to have surgery to fix it. Again.

I don’t even know what to say. Two days from now I’m going to be flat on my back on an operating table, and I don’t even really know how this happened.

It’s hard to work out how I feel about it. Sad, I think. And really, really angry.

My brother’s 30th birthday party is tonight, and I’m sitting on the plane, about to fly home to make small talk with near-strangers at a bar. I’m staying with my parents, so I’ll have to sneak garbage bags into the bathroom to cover my dressings while I shower, and do my best to walk without a limp.

When I saw Nikki yesterday, I told her I was having surgery on Monday, and she diverted into a conversation about my parents. I felt like she wasn’t hearing me at all. As I was leaving, she told me to have a lovely weekend, and I was so angry I went home and cried. Is she really so clueless? Am I so bad at communicating she thinks this is no big deal?

The part I’m dreading the most is waking up alone. In agony, without my phone or laptop or a book or anything to distract me, and having to sit and stare at the wall for hours.

I don’t want to be alone.

I Don’t Want To Do This (I Don’t Want To Be Brave Any More)

I’ve Been Quite Busy (Falling Apart)

I’m so angry and sad and despairing and I need to hurt myself but I just don’t want to.

I guess I should start at the beginning.

On Tuesday, my session with Alina was mostly about safety planning.

You told me that you came to therapy because you are afraid that you might kill yourself. And I think you’re right; I think you might.” It hung heavy in the air for a moment, then she continued. “So, I need to think about how to set limits on behaviour that is going to interfere with therapy.

She asked whether I’d had any discussions or agreements with previous psychologists about what needed to happen if I had urges to self harm or commit suicide, and I explained the crisis plan I’d been required to enter with Anna as part of the DBT program; if I was imminently about to hurt myself, I had to call her, and if I wasn’t able to start talking to her within half an hour, she would call the police.

Alina contemplated this for a moment. “I certainly would not think that it would be right to call me. Not because I don’t want to know, and not because I won’t care, but if I’m on the other end of the phone line then there is nothing that I can do.”

That first sentence hit me pretty hard. It would have been different if she’d said ‘not helpful‘ or ‘not a good idea‘, but ‘not right’ felt so harsh. I felt ashamed that I’d agreed to do it with Anna, that that had been wrong, and somehow chastised and rejected, even though I hadn’t suggested or even wanted a similar arrangement with her.

The safety plan Alina decided on was that every time I self-harmed, I would have to go and see my GP, and then my GP had to send me for psychiatric evaluation by the hospital. That wasn’t up for negotiation: “We can do work only under these conditions. When I see you next time, you will have to make a decision.”

I was so angry and upset that for a moment it took all my focus to remember to breathe. This plan is not going to keep me safe. Making me miss work and lose income every time I hurt myself is not going to help me stay stable. Making me go through all my history with a strange psychiatrist every time I hurt myself is not going to keep me safe. Last time I was in the emergency department I smashed my head against a concrete wall 28 times before a staff member came in and yelled at me to stop, and they sent me home a few hours later anyway, so really, the chances of them admitting me against my will just because I cut myself are slim to none.

“I guess my question is, since you said you accept that I’m probably going to keep self-harming for a while, why do you want me to be assessed every time I do?”

I think we need to treat each event of self-harm as a potentially life-threatening event and you need to be assessed. That’s one thing. Secondly, I think you need to know that people take it seriously. And I think GP makes it too comfortable for you. She’s nice, she’s supportive, she talks probably very loving to you, stitch you up, tell you goodbye, give you a hug, say ‘be good’. It’s all very comfortable. So you get double comfort; initially when you’re cutting, and then when you get stitched up.

This made me feel awful. I feel awful, reading back over it. Firstly, she’s wrong. I haven’t had many experiences that are more horrible than having to expose fresh wounds after an emotional crisis and then deal with the physical pain of having them treated. I like my GP, a lot, and I have taken comfort from her, but it’s a terrible process to have to go through. And I understand that she wants to avoid reinforcing dysfunctional behaviour, I do, but the logic behind going You know what, I think your GP is making you feel better after you’ve been in emotional crisis, so I think we should instead make the process as horrible for you as we can is just awful.

I went home, crawled into bed, and sobbed while I thought about which method of self-harm I was going to use; if I was going to be threatened out of doing it after Friday, then I had to at least do it once or twice before then.

On Wednesday, I met the psychologist, Nikki, and went home to calculate my savings and try to figure out how to afford to see her long-term. (The answer: I can’t.)

I really liked her. That doesn’t mean she’d be able to help me, but I felt comfortable. (Ish.) She was warm and empathetic and attuned, and the only time we went far enough out of my comfort zone that I froze up and started getting flashes of blood, she verbally acknowledged “I’m pushing you too hard too soon” and shifted topics.

On Thursday, when I arrived at Margaret’s, she had no idea who I was. She didn’t have me booked in for an appointment, but was willing to slot me in in the afternoon.

And she surprised me. She said she’d been thinking about me, and she’d gone to a monthly meeting of psychiatrists and asked them for advice, and they’d recommended I come off Effexor and start taking Seroquel regularly, and suggested that neurofeedback might be helpful for me. She was still as blunt as an old axe, but softer somehow, and I told her how much I’m struggling with work, and with my relationship with R, and I cried when I told her how much I hate having to be in therapy.

And then I went home and held my arm over the stove with the hotplates turned to full, because now I liked Margaret and I was going to have to decide between her and Alina, and I didn’t know what to do or how to choose and it might be my last chance to hurt myself before I had to contract with Alina the next day and should I even agree to the contract and what am I going to do?

The answer, as it turns out, is fuck shit up royally.

After I’d spent every evening this week flooded with thoughts of self harm brought on by the conditions she’d set out on Tuesday, she didn’t even mention them today. At the start of the session she described my self-harm as ‘attention-seeking‘, but when I pointed out that in the first 13 years of self-harming I only sought medical attention once, she was surprised and let it go. The only condition she set is that I call the crisis team if I’m about to act on a suicide plan.

Her rules around contact out of sessions are no texts and no phone calls unless it’s logistical or to inform her that I’ve been hospitalised. I can send her emails, and she’ll read them but she won’t reply. And that’s okay, I don’t think I need more than that, but I was still upset.

I was so proud of how hard I was trying today. When she asked again what my goals are for therapy, I took out my phone and went back to the list I posted here, and I went through almost all of it – I only skipped food and body issues. I’ve never given a therapist an answer to that question before, and I’ve never looked at something I’ve written down to give a really comprehensive answer to something.

So, all of the groundwork was done. She put down her pen, and said “And now we begin“.

The silence stretched on, and she was just looking at me. I started feeling panicky, and like I was about to cry, and the room was too small and I didn’t have enough space and I needed to calm down. So I reached down to my phone, which was sitting on my chair, and I opened my work email.

Alina asked me what I was doing, and I told her.

Are you testing me?

I thought about it for a moment, to make sure, then said “No, just giving myself a break.” Checking my messages or looking at photos was a strategy I always used with Anna to calm down when I needed to, and if she could see I was struggling then she would suggest it to me.

How would you feel, if I checked my email?

If I wasn’t talking to you, I wouldn’t mind,” I said, honestly. There’s something companionable, to me, about sitting quietly with someone while you both do your own thing.

So it’s like me punishing you?

No.

If we are here in therapy, it’s just you and me; there’s nothing else between us. That’s sabotaging, what you’re doing. So we should put that into our contract. No other activity in session, apart from being in session.

I can’t commit to that,” I said, softly. It’s not that I disagree with her point, and I agree with it as something to work towards, but I’m not there yet. It just feels like too much. I don’t know her and I’m not comfortable with her and if I feel like I need to look at a photo of my cat and take a minute to breathe and calm down so I can try to keep going and keep shoving my hands down my throat to pull out some words, is that such a big deal?

Then I can’t commit to therapy,” she retorted immediately.

Mmm. That’s fair enough.”

Is this what you want to do?” she asked.

Not really,” I said, and there were tears in my voice. “But it’s do this or leave.

Well, that’s your decision, but you will have to leave, then,” she said.

So I did. There was still half of the session to go. I don’t think she was wrong to call me out, but to make me leave? I don’t think I did anything wrong and I feel like she’s not giving me any space for this to be hard and I hate her, even though I don’t. Everyone expects more of me than I’m capable of doing and I can’t.

 

I ran out of Effexor four days ago and only got a refill today, so I’m in withdrawal; nauseous, sweaty, dizzy and aching. My head is heavy and my body is light and there is nothing behind my eyes. And I keep thinking that Everest is dead, even though she’s sitting on my shoulder.

I’ve Been Quite Busy (Falling Apart)

Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day

* 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.

Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day