It is a known fact that cutting is very different from a suicide attempt, even though some suicidal people cut. The difference is that cutting is an attempt to change something, to make life a little better, suicide is the last escape.
Someone who cuts, is trying to chance something. We often do not even know what it is. We are trying to get help. If we knew how to make it better, we would. Suicide is the manifestation of the believe, that it is never going to get better and that we are not willing to live like this. Cutting is showing that we do not want to live like this. And that we need help to figure out, what is wrong and get better.
I stumbled upon this in a video and I think it is something many people can benefit from. Because it is not only about getting better, is about getting motivated. And we all have times where we do not feel motivated and a source of motivation of positivity can be so helpful in those situations.
A Recovery Journal the way I was introduced to is a place that is entirely positive and contains two parts:
A section for quotes
A section for reasons to recover
The first one is just a collection of quotes that speak to our hearts. Quotes that touch us. Move us. Motivate us.
The second is broader than just “quotes”. When we think about it, there are a ton of reasons to recover:
We want to own a pet
We want to publish a book
We want to graduate
We want to marry
We want to eat our favorite cake
We want to see a close friend again
We want to own a fancy dress
Anything can go on that list, as long as it is positive. It reminds me a little of a positive bucket-list, that contains everything we want to do and become, the little things and the big things. There is no limit as long as it is positive.
I personally added a Gratitude Section. This is not a substitute for a Gratitude Log but it is a place to write down all the great things in our lives that we are grateful for. Things like:
Another thing that might be helpful to keep in a Recovery Journal is a list of triggers. And what helps avoiding them or dealing with them. Yes, the Recovery Journal is supposed to be a place of positivity. But there are two reasons for such a list: The first is that we cannot fight something that we cannot name. And knowing what triggers us is therefore crucial. And the other point simply is: this page can show us, how often we actually managed to get out of a triggering situation, or deal with a trigger. Therefore I think it has the right for a page in the Journal.
But what do we do next? What do we do, when we have a few quotes and reasons to recover, identified and put down a few triggers?
We keep going. We come back to these lists and read them, when we are not so well, we keep those lists growing, whenever we see the opportunity. Whenever we see a good quote, we write it down. Whenever someone tells us, what helps them, and we want to try that to deal with a trigger, we write it down and see if it helps. Whenever we think of a new thing we want to do, we write it down.
And as for all of these things writing it down on actual paper makes a lot of sense, because what we have written down we remember better. I like to keep my Recovery Journal in my Book of Lists, to always have it on me. But you could totally have a designated journal for it or just use sheets of paper and file them. You can go crazy and decorate it, if you feel like it, or you can keep it to the bare minimum. Your choice. Just remember that it should never be a source of pressure. You should like to go back to your journal and read through those lists and remember the good things.
I think the Recovery Journal is a step in the right direction, because it helps having a more positive mindset. And maintaining one, is an act of the will showing that we want to get better, even if we struggle to feel like that in our everyday lives.
I realize how volatile I am. How my emotions swing from me loving from the bottom of my heart. From being the girl on top of the world to being sad, pushing everyone away. Hating.
Deep inside me the sensation has grown that I cannot be helped. No matter how many amazing people I have around me, who want to help me. And no matter how much I wish they could help me. They cannot.
This goes hand in hand with the fact that forcing someone to therapy will never do any good. We have to accept the truth at some point. We have to get better ourselves. And we have to walk this path alone. No matter how much we may fear loneliness. The only way out of the pain, is through more pain. And I am not saying, we should all give up hope. Because there is a way out. But it is not as easy as we keep thinking. And we are more alone than we like.
When there is no one there to help us, we have to help ourselves. No human being can take away our pain, no matter their efforts. All there is left to do is for us to be courageous enough to embrace the cold of this sickness and to realize that we are our only way out.
But there is one thing that all those people trying to help us can tell us: We are worth the efforts. We are worth it, even if we cannot believe it. We may not be understood. We may be in the dark. We may be exhausted from all the mood swings that throw us all over the emotional map, but we cannot give up. Because if we do, we are insulting everyone who ever tried helping us. All their efforts are in vain if we stop fighting.
Sometimes that thought is all that keeps me going. All that keeps me from grabbing a blade. Because in a world where every single thing we believe in, every single thing we feel, can become the total opposite in the blink of an eye, the blade, its impartial cold and the pain it causes becomes the only constant in our lives. Becomes certainty.
And certainty is all we long for. And when we loose faith in the people who are close to us. In the people who believe in us. When the emptiness swallows our trust, we seek comfort in the cuts. A friend once told me to put up pictures everywhere. To remind me of the people who believe in me. The people who I do not want to disappoint. Hoping that this will keep me from doing it. However all it does is it makes me feel like I already am a disappointment.
And I know that everyone who does believe in me will contradict me. But I cannot just stop feeling a certain way. I am aware that this is one step of getting better. But when it comes to getting better, sometimes every single step feels like running a marathon. And yet: we are the only ones who can run it.
So all we can do is hold on to the believe that there is a way out, even if it feels like it is going to take everything we’ve got. And sometimes even believing that there is a way takes everything we’ve got. But it is crucial to getting better. Realizing that we are the only ones responsible for what is happening to us. Realizing that we are the ones to change something, if we do not like it the way it is now.
On our way to getting better, we have so many people who wish to help us, but can’t. Well, their faith in us. Their pushing us to get better, may be the thing that gives us the will to heal. May be the thing that empowers us to run that marathon that the next step is.
I felt like
therapy was getting me nowhere. I did talk to my therapist about it. Then my
therapist went on vacation. Meanwhile I was supposed to decide how I want to go
on about it. I figured out very quickly that I did not want to stay with my
current therapist. And I made the plan to go see someone else. However now that
I have not been to a therapy session for almost three weeks, I feel like I do
not even want therapy at all anymore. There literally is no difference. Sure,
there were some times where I thought that it was the worst time to not have
regular sessions, but after all: It was so relaxing to not talk to someone for
an hour, trying to explain and justify every severe action I did, without
anything. Really. I do not think the last three weeks would have gone any different if I had seen someone in
that time. I had a few friends who were amazing when it came to listening to me
and giving advice.
Yes, I have
been cutting a lot in the last few weeks. Yes, it has been an exhausting time.
But now I am just trying to re-define myself. Trying to become better. Trying
to move on. The topic of cutting makes me so angry. The thought of going to
therapy frustrates me a lot and I just do not know if I really should go on in
therapy. Sure, I need to fight my cutting. I should. But, do I need the help of
a therapist for that? Do I really spend all that time trying to explain myself?
I simply do not see the benefit. I do not need a therapist to revisit the
things I have done in a week. I do not need someone asking me how much I drunk
or how often I have cut. I can do that all on my own. In fact, I do that per
default. I naturally check back in with me, and ask myself how I am,
reflecting, trying to figure out how I can handle a problem. I do not need
someone who is just as confused with who I am as I am.
Here is the
thing: I do not want to. Really, my whole being is resisting, but I will go see
another therapist. Because as a matter of fact I need someone to prepare me for
the exam-time. I need help getting from “I
went a day without cutting.” To “I
did not cut for a week.” “For a month.” And hopefully months turn into
years. But apparently I cannot get there on my own. So, I have to trust another
human. Have to allow another person to see me the way I am. I am not scared of
it. Just tired. Because it takes so much effort to try make anyone understand.
Especially if I don’t really care about how that person sees me. It is like
pouring salt into my cuts, because it forces me to walk all those dark paths
again. It makes me remember the pain and loneliness, even if I am over it. But
on the other hand I cannot be helped, if I do not talk about it to someone who
can actually help me.
Four minutes. One song. That is how long it took me to write the 8 letters onto my skin. My hands sweaty. And shaky. My eye twitching. My fear is as strong as always. And I feel nothing. Nothing. All I know is that I will always be convicted. That whenever there is someone who is getting close to me I will end up trying to explain. That I will be asked questions. Even after I may or may not have won my war. There will always be those lines and letters on my arm. On my legs. Manifestations of my pain. My addiction. My fear.
Once more I have lost my “why”. I have no clue, why I cut. I just do it. It does not help. It does not change a thing. “The person you hurt most is yourself.” Maybe. I should care, right? Do you know what I do care about? The fact that I don’t cut deep anymore. The fact that it never actually bleeds. just a few red lines. It saddens me. Scary right? I know. I do not want to protect myself anymore. I cannot stop the pain. Trying to is just a waste of time and energy. I know. I know. I hear everyone’s voices in my head:
“You will make it.” “It will be okay.” “I am here for you.” “It will get better, easier.” “There are people who can help you.”
Lies. Nothing but lies. Form people close to me. Some of them have an idea of what is happening. Some just really care. Some helpless. But I have known this for years. Known it long before I started cutting: We are alone. And it does not matter. We are who we are. In the place we are. We can do whatever we want.
We do not give up hope. We try to keep fighting. And we want to believe those people telling us that it’s gonna be alright. We want to. But… Until I experience that it is true. That it can get better, I can’t believe it anymore. I trust so easily. I want to believe that there is an end to the darkness. I do want to hold on to the light. But at some point the poet in me dies. Leaving the scientist alone. The scientist that looks at past events to determine the future. And those past events show no sign of light. It is not even about the cutting anymore. It is about what’s wrong inside me. I should get up and fight. I should be trying to find a way. But… I am trembling. I am parallelized.
In the context of cutting, I have mentioned before, that I often do not even want to stop. I realized that cutting is not my enemy. I do not hate cutting. I do not hate myself for cutting. Cutting is a friend. When I have added another line onto my skin, I do not put the blade away hating myself. I am just as empty as I was before. But I do not feel the need to cut. When I have sled down into addiction, the need to cut grows stronger and about every 48 hours I end up giving in. So, when I am done, my thought is: “I don’t have to cut for next few hours.”
How does this make sense with the fact that I call cutting a problem?! I said, that anyone who cuts should probably get help. But if cutting is a friend, and we do not want to stop, why would we seek help?
Just because I do not hate myself for cutting, does not mean, I do not hate myself. Just because cutting is not the actual problem does not mean that I do not have a problem. I hate myself for being weak. I hate myself for being negative (yes, this is why I make such a fuss about positivity). I hate myself for the sadness. For the intense feeling of loneliness that I cannot handle. That darkness inside me. That darkness that I express, when I cut, is what is my problem. Is what I want to get rid of. Is what I want to treat. Is what I need help with.
A friend of mine recently answered my question whether cutting defined me by saying: “No, but it’s a big part of you.” Well, I guess he meant the darkness. He meant the pain. Because cutting is just expressing that. And this is why this entire thing is so hard… I am not at war with cutting. I am at war with myself. With the feeling of emptiness. The feeling of not being good enough. The sadness that just takes control even though I know I have everything I need. I have everything to be happy. And yet: I cannot escape the cold inside me. I cannot escape myself. I cannot experience peace. Because I am fighting myself. And I do not know why. Sure, I know I hate myself for sleeping through lectures and classes. For binge-watching random shows instead of studying. But I don’t feel like that is the actual problem.
This is perfect conflict material for a book: I am fighting a war with myself for a reason that I do not know. And I do not know how to find that problem, so how am I supposed to change anything? And then again: I have been told there might not be an actual issue. It might be impossible to pinpoint it. I might never really be free of the darkness. And… that is scary. Because I do not want that to be the case. I want to be okay some day. I want it to stop. I am not afraid of fighting. I am not too weak to fight and win. But I cannot fight something that I don’t know. I could win, if this thing was winnable. If there was a single way to win this, I would go it. No matter what. But I have not found that way. And I have not met anyone who can show me that way.
Just a word on how cutting is perceived: It may seem like attention-seeking. And it may even be that. But there is so much more behind it. When I started cutting, I thought it was simple. But it is not. And I assume this goes for any addiction. Maybe this even goes for anything in this world that involves human beings. So, I think, we are too quick to judge. Especially me. If there is something that my condition has taught me it is that things are not always as they seem and while it is easy to objectively determine is something is right or wrong, it is impossible to judge a person.
So, I think especially social media, but we in our daily lives, should go easier on people. Because, we do not know why they do something. Maybe they are just hurting. Maybe they are doing it for a reason. Maybe they have no choice. Maybe… maybe. Point is: we do not know. And I grew up thinking that someone who is addicted, is addicted by his/her own fault. But I have learned that this is not necessarily true. And think we should -I should- treat addicted people more with sympathy than with judgment. Because the sympathy might actually help them, while the judgment definitely will not.
The moment we think we are fine, we get ourselves in a situation where we realize that we really aren’t. We end up in bathrooms. Cutting. Crying. Just sitting there hoping the panic goes by. But it won’t. Your body screams. Tickling. Twitching. Heat racing through your veins. But the pain doesn’t stop.
How does it feel when your heart breaks? How does it feel when you reached the end of the road and you know that it’s all over? Is it cold? Does it not tear you apart anymore? Because if it did you were still trying to fight. It’s when you have lost all hope. When you have given up the fight… that is when being shattered to pieces is peaceful. Because you have stopped trying to put yourself together. Do we need to give up to find peace?
Why do all the attempts to get better fail? And why is it so frustrating? Frustrating enough that all I want to do is declare my hate for everything and break into pieces. Irreversibly. Why do I feel like giving up? Maybe because I have always kept saying that I was about to get better. And I believed it. But it was never true. This is not how I imagined to be. Why does the cold not end? It should have been over a week ago. It should have. Maybe it will never. And I am starting to loose my strength. I am loosing my will to fight.
I once trusted that I could become better. That trust hast faded into a hope. And that hope is so faint now. I lost the will to hope. And when that happened… I turned my back at everyone. Because I do not want to hurt anyone. My pain shall not hurt those I love. And still. Those I love will tell me that it is not true. Then why does it feel like it? Pushing you away hurts. But putting you through my pain -my pain that I am not even able to name- hurts just as much. How can I trust that you will be able to handle it, when I am not able to deal with it? How can you still hope, when I am giving up? Why can you not see that it’s almost over. That there is nothing left to say. Nothing left to do. Just waiting until the fall ends and I hit the ground.
I am probably exaggerating. As always. I am probably just absolutely normal. Just going through some emotionally intense times. Am I not? How am I different from anybody else? The answer is: I am not. What I feel. What I experience… happens to everyone at some point. I do not know how other people deal with this. How other people can survive this. But I don’t feel like I can. That is probably the thing that makes me different: I am not strong enough to go through this. Others are.
Well… I even think giving up needs strength. I do not think, that I have that strength. Not yet. I am still trying. I guess… If I wasn’t I would not be writing this. But I am at the point where I look at the blade and think:
“You do not have to do this.” “I know, but I want to.”
I am supposed to not hate myself for the darkness inside me. And you know… I don’t. Because I feel nothing. But pain. I am so good at covering it. I guess everyone with a mental disorder is. We smile and laugh to calm others down. To make them believe that we are fine. But it is just another lie. A lie that we tell because if we don’t we are just going to make ourselves and those we love more miserable? How is accepting the cutting and giving in different? Maybe I will find an answer to that question. At some point. For now: I am trying to not fall any deeper.
I keep talking about positivity. And a friend of mine recently asked me, how on earth one simply “acquires” the mindset of positivity. How do you simply “choose” to be positive. Chances are I will keep spiraling back to this, because the way I see it, this is key to becoming happy (really who could have guessed that?).
I am trying to elaborate on actionable steps to have a more positive mindset, to remind oneself of the good things on a regular basis. The first thing that comes to my mind here is a gratitude journal or a gratitude log. In essence we write one line starting with “I am grateful for…” at the end of every day. This may be in a designated journal or in your calendar. I would recommend actually writing it down on paper, rather than typing it in some form. Because what we actually wrote down we remember better.
But why would we do this? Where is the benefit? Why being grateful? Well… because this is exactly how we can actually switch into more positive thinking. Because when we are grateful, when we take the time to think about what was good in on that day, we start thinking “This is something I can write in my gratititude log” tonight. And that is the point, where we start remembering the good things in our daily lives.
But what if the world around us is too dark for us to see the positive. What if we cannot find something we want to be grateful for? I find that this can have two causes: Either we cannot see the good things, or we think we can only be grateful for the mindblowing things. And that is an issue. Why not be grateful for the little things? Those little things, that make our lives better, day after day. I once wrote into my diary: “I am grateful for my Google Calendar.” No kidding. The other reason is a bit trickier. Not bein able to see the good things has a lot to do with not wanting to see them. Which is a whole other issue that I have not found a solution to yet.
I have spoken about positivity before. And in my last post I talked about how a vision can help fighting negativity. So I thought I might elaborate on being happy a little more. Because I find, that I choose to be sad and hurt and angry most of the time. I let all those negative emotions get to me. And feeling them is not evil per se. But there is a limit to it. And we overstep that limit, if we find ourselves, being more sad than we are happy.
Please do not get me wrong. I am not saying that someone who for example suffers from depression is choosing to be sad. I think we all have phases in our life, where choosing to be happy is pretty much impossible. We all have to decide for ourselves, whether or not we are able to work on choosing happiness… because we really are not always in a position to do so. But sometimes we are. And I think, if we can, we should be happy.
But how? I think it is a mindset. It means that we focus our mind on the positive. Like our vision of ourselves. Or the beautiful sunset. Being positive by choice means choosing to not complain. I often do that. Just complain about everything. Finding a reason to pick on everyone around me. And yes: I know this is toxic behavior. This is why I am trying to work on it. Because at some point I realized, that complaining is for immature people. Because either we do something about whatever is annoying us, or we shut up. Why talk about something that makes us unhappy and thereby remind us why we could be unhappy? There is literally no benefit to it. There are so many awesome things in this world we can go on and on about for hours. That will wake the fascination and love in us and make us feel happy. Why talk about something that does the exact opposite? Sure sometimes we need to face a problem. I am not talking about productive criticism. I am talking about pointless complaining.
The next step of being happy by choice is believing that we can do, whatever we want to. It is working on us becoming the person we want to be. Becoming our vision of ourselves. Sure thinking we are absolutely invincible is not helpful either. Some occasional “If I do not work hard enough I will fail.” is perfectly normal. But can you see what this sentence implies? It actually comes from the mindset of “I can do this.” because it gives the condition under which we fail. Not the condition under which we succeed. And it also implicitly explains how to not fail: Work hard enough. So, if we doubt ourselves, which is normal. Let’s try to figure out in what cases we fail and formulate it such that the very same sentence that presents the problem holds the solution.
Now why would we go through all that trouble with all those details? Why does it even make a difference how exactly we put our doubts into words? Because what we say has a direct impact on our mind. And positivity is a mindset. So formulating the problem alongside with our solution will make ourselves understand that there is a solution to whatever problem we are facing.
So choosing to be happy in the end comes down to acting and talking like a happy person. Because after doing that for a week or two. Our minds believe us that we are happy. Doing this alongside with having a good vision of who we want to be, sets us up to actually becoming happy. And it boosts confidence incredibly. This I say from experience. I am not just rambling here… I once was very happy. I once had pretty much reached my vision. I stopped being positive. And I stopped being happy. Ever since I have been trying to get back into that positive mindset.
All I am saying is: it is possible to be happy. Despite everything that is hard. Despite all the pain that comes our way. Because happiness can be worked for. Yes, there are times, when all we do is try to get through the next day. Through the next night. Through the next our. Next minute. Without hurting ourselves. Without hating ourselves. But when we finally wake up from our pain. We need to remember that positivity is a choice. A mindset. One that we need. Because it will make us happy.
I got lucky enough to know that my fear had a deadline. To know that at some point I would have an answer. And I got lucky enough to get the answer I had been hoping for and not the answer I had been so afraid of.
But now what? When we are lucky enough to get the chance to leave our fear behind. What do we do next? When our entire life had been evolving around that fear. (It does not have to be fear. It can really be anything you have been evolving around and now stopped.) How can we move on?
I think there are two crucial parts: One is looking back and figuring out what went wrong. And what went well. This is important, but I think it is quite self-explanatory. It allows us to deal with the emotions and not bury them inside us. But we do not want to live in the past. We shall not be devoured by regret. (In fact this could be the topic for a whole separate blog post.)
The other part is looking into the future. And sometimes, when we have been so caught up in something we need to actively create a vision of ourselves. But why would that be helpful? A vision allows us to measure our actions by. If something makes us more like the person we are in that vision, it is a productive action. But why do we need that?
Because we need a direction. Until this point we have been evolving around whatever it is we are leaving behind. Now it is time to evolve around something positive. Around the person we want to be. In my vision I never say: “I am not a self-harmer.” I say things like: “I am a strong, independent woman.” Such a positive vision, a vision of what we want to be rather than what we do not want to be, is very powerful, because it motivates us to go on. And it gives us somewhere to go. Somewhere we want to go. And every time we are able to take a step towards our vision, we will be able to love ourselves a bit more. Because we did something that made us better.
In the self-harm and self-hate context this is so important. Because we tend to be trapped in all that negativity. And I know I could not even have written this post last week. I think us hating ourselves… as sad as it is: It is part of who we are. And yes, we do have to fight it. But we cannot fight negativity with more negativity. We cannot fight the fact that we hate ourselves, by hating that we hate. That’s… recursive. So instead we need to find something about us, that we can love. And that is why we need a vision: because we want to be like the vision. And every time we get a little closer to who we want to be, we are allowed to be proud of ourselves. Love ourselves a bit more. Trust ourselves a bit more. Experience that we are actually not as much of a failure as we always like to make ourselves believe. And that I call taking control of our lives. Actively fueling our self-confidence instead of letting negativity destroy us.
But how can we create a vision? What inspires such a vision? There are many sources for that: People we admire. Ideologies. Quotes. And more mundane: Books, movies, series, music, pictures. I usually work with 4 categories:
Me and university
Me and my hobbies
Me and myself
Me and others
In each of these categories I determine what is important to me. I write it down and that is how my vision is born. Then I take one or two points in each category and figure out a way to actively improve that point. I make a plan. And most importantly: I try to ask myself on a regular basis: “Is this how the person in my vision would act?” or “Is this bringing me closer to the person I want to be?”. This is not entirely about accounting for the progress we make in becoming the vision, it is mostly about remembering that positive vision. Getting into the mindset of that vision. Because we can so easily forget, what we want to fight for. So reminding ourselves of it is always a good idea.