Self-Harm & Managing Difficult Feelings: Making Good Choices During Therapy Breaks

Therapy break, once again. This time for two weeks. And I’m feeling somewhat apprehensive about it. The funny thing is that up until the night before the final pre-break session I had hardly even reflected on the fact that there was going to be a break. I mean, on the whole I’m doing good. No major hitches the last few months. Nothing much to worry about, apart from the pending move, which is still a fair while away, and is also a different kind of worry. It’s more of a stress factor than something that expresses itself in an anxiety ridden can’t cope sort of way.

So, as I said before, I’d felt absolutely fine about this upcoming break. Fairly confident that it wouldn’t pose a problem. And then, suddenly, I had this huge slap of panic hit me right between my eyes.

Talked about this in my session the following day, and naturally A. wanted to know what I had been doing when this happened. So I gave it a second and then began trying to explain. It ended up being a bit complicated, but in essence it went something like this: I was thinking about something someone at work had told me. It was to do with a child acting out in a way that both my [equally upset] co-worker and I felt was an obvious cause for concern. The incident had happened at another establishment, and so I was hearing about this as a third party, but even so, this retelling really got to me. Not so much what the child in question had done, but rather that no alarm bells had gone off for the staff on duty. From what I was told the staff had been much more concerned about the nuisance the child had caused, rather than triggering any questions of why the child had a need to act out in this rather extreme way.

And it was in the middle of thinking about this that I suddenly felt panicked by the thought of not having any therapy for two weeks.

It may seem that there’s very little to connect what had happened earlier in the day at work and the sudden onset of separation-anxiety later that evening, but if you look it from another angle it may become a little more clear.

To me, the incident with the child and the staff’s reaction was about people whose job it is to look out for kids failing to do so. This got to me because it echoes off other incidents also missed by the adults who ought to have been in charge; in short all the adults who in my childhood failed to notice that something was wrong.

My party line regarding this has always been that they didn’t see anything because there was nothing to see. I was simply such a good little actress that I managed to steer peoples’ attention elsewhere.

But – and this is where it gets hot – is that really true..? Is it even possible for abuse of the kind I was subjected to truly go unnoticed by every single adult in a child’s life..? Parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, family friends..? Really? Twelve years is a very long time, and whilst I may have become a very skilled life-actress as I grew older, certainly at the very beginning, back when I was barely five, I simply can’t have had the tools or the know-how to cover up that something had happened. How would I even have known that I needed to assume the role of model child. At that age..?

So, now we’re entering dangerous territory, because that all-important party line – that no one could have seen anything because I was so darn good at concealing the truth – well, it’s a party line in the flavour of a defence mechanism. Not only has this mantra served to allow me to dissolve all the adults around me of any responsibility, but it’s also been a perfect reason for putting the blame solely on myself.

No one could help me, because I didn’t signal that I needed any help. Through acting so convincingly I am the one who made sure the boat wasn’t rocked. In short, I am to blame for not making the abuse stop. I get to take full responsibility while, at the same time, avoiding having to think of the possibility that perhaps there were some signs somewhere that the adults around me where either blind to or did not have the courage to tap into.

I’ve always been very good at blaming myself for letting the abuse go on for as long as it did. Expressing, or even experiencing, any anger directed at the adults in my life (whether founded or unfounded) has simply been too frightening to cope with. And to a large degree it still is.

So, whenever feelings along those lines surface I am astonishingly apt at turning that anger back on myself. Half a heartbeat and out come the scalpels and matches and choke-cords; I turn to self-harm in the most creative ways imaginable. I suppose it would be fair to say that I act out the way I never did as a child. Anything to avoid having to think about the possibility that, maybe – just maybe – there was something to see. That maybe all those adults did miss something, maybe they did fail to act, maybe they did lack in courage.

And this is where my anxiety about the break in therapy comes in. I have enough self-awareness to recognise this pattern of mine; to take things out on myself. And to have thoughts of this nature surfacing at a time when A. is going to be away, it’s not ideal. It is cause for concern. Because, as aware as I am of this pattern, I am equally aware of how incredibly hard it is to break it.

I battle with thoughts of self-harm on a regular basis, but having the safe haven that therapy offers I can usually make a different choice. I can choose to explore the underlying emotions, I can decide to gently prod whatever it is that has triggered the urge to self-harm in a safer way.

Therapy gives me the option to work through rather than act out.

But with thoughts like these in my head, and no therapy.. Well, it makes me worried. I hope that enough will have changed inside of me to make it possible to resist falling back into familiar patterns. In many ways I feel that enough has changed. I just don’t want to be over confident. Because, ignoring the danger signs can have very serious consequences.

Anyway, time for bed.

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. I feel obliged to point out that it hasn’t gone unnoticed that whatever anger I have about what happened is hardly ever directed at the source of it, at the abusers.. but hey.. that may be the next step.. Who knows?

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2 responses

  1. Just wanted to say that I like the new site. Don’t need prettying up I don’t think. It’s fine just the way it is. Also that’s a good post. Insightful.

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