I wrote this post in early December and then I lost it. I’m not feeling the strong SI urges these days, thank the Gods and all of my medical helpers, but the question still stands. How to you control or manage your urge to self harm to keep it away from your kiddos?
Gods’ teeth, what a week! What a month! We are living in the new house, but are really only about 60% moved. In the chaos of the move, my little anxious preschooler is on a hair trigger. Over the holiday weekend, whenever she got into sensory overload or hit a barrier to getting her own way, she would collapse into wordless screaming and punching herself in the forehead. On Black Friday, she gave herself a knot on her brow from it.
We are short listed for a new therapist, and we are working in a workbook for kids about coping with negativity and anger. So that’s good.
Her self harming triggers my urges, too. What do you all do to cope with your SI urges when your little people are around? I don’t mean “how do you harm in a sneaky way do your kids don’t notice.” I mean, do you talk about such urges with a support person frankly around them, or do you speak in code about it the same way you might discuss sex or Xmas gifts? Do you bottle it up until after bedtime?
My therapist has me doing a short breathing exercise (called Square Breathing) and then I use a special hand sign to tell Alex when the urges get invasive. We try not to discuss SI in front of the kids, because they are such little mimics. As it is, I’m terrified that this new behavior is inspired by what meaning she has gleaned from various times when I haven’t been careful enough when talking about my mental health.
My therapist tell me that when I identify unhealthy urges I should make a point of acting in opposition to those urges. When I want to self injure, I should do some kind of self care instead. When I want to over sleep, I should try to do something active. Today, I want to do absolutely nothing. My mind feels dull and slow, so in opposition I am trying to do some writing and I plan to do some stitching.
Mentally, I’m just so slow. The girls are playing “PJ Masks” upstairs: cute and sweet as can be. I started the laundry, too, so I’m not at zero productivity for the morning.
There. I wrote something. Next, I’m going to sew a hexagon flower patch onto my ancient, nearly transparent, favorite nightgown. After that I will rest.
How do you oppose your unhealthy urges? Tell me! I want to hear about you making healthy choices. <3
Nothing special to report today. The dog lives on, sweet girl. The weather is increasingly spring-like, though we could still get snow in Denver before the month ends.
My energy is strange today. My doc suggested that I shift one of my meds to AM dosage instead of PM and it does seem to make a difference. I’m not more awake, and inertia remains an hideously powerful force in my life, but there is a meditative quality to my lethargy that is quite pleasant. Instead of being worked up over what I should be doing, I’m able to simply rest. Once I do get my butt moving I’m pretty productive.
Take today. I got up at 0845 with the girlies, arranged breakfast then laid down on the couch to doze while they ate. I was up and down, alternating between taking care of the kids and dozing on the couch until 1130. Then I got dressed, wrote a blog post, started the laundry, made lunch, played a very small amount of a video game I haven’t indulged in in eons, and now that the girls have eaten I am back at writing. I feel strangely good. Small changes in routine, med management, and lifestyle can really make huge difference.
A week ago, admittedly during the worst part of my cycle, I was self injuring and crying uncontrollably. Now i’m contemplating a walk with the kids, grocery shopping, and speaking to the neighbors. My girls have made friends with the girls next door, which is totes adorbs, but I have not yet managed to get to know the parents. I’m not good at small talk and the idea of getting to know them is terrifying. Today, though, I’m able to contemplate it a little.
Having an invisible, stigmatized disease sucks. The worst part, though, in my opinion, is the process of getting treated. Because FIRST you have to prove it. Uuuuuuuuuuuugh.
It is worth it, because eventually these physicians/therapists/social workers/etc can make the pain less.
But first it is stupid clinical worksheets (“On a scale of 0 – 5, how much do your symptoms interfere with your daily life?”) and gateway clinicians trying to figure out if you are displaying drug seeking behavior before letting you speak to a real psychiatrist. First, you have an hour or 90 minutes of being questioned. It may have taken you months to work up the nerve to say “I think I need help,” but you have to have an entire session of work done before anyone will do or say anything helpful. And if anything, going into an inpatient facility is harder!
All of these places and all of these people are worth it. And these hurdle exists to protect patients from bad diagnoses as much as to protect providers from fraudulent people but AAAAARGH. There has to be a better way.
It isn’t just for us adults, either. My 5 year old started have self destructive, self harming meltdowns and NO ONE would help us. I was on waiting lists to see providers that were YEARS long. Finally, after several months of searching, we went to see someone with an amazing reputation who ONLY took cash payment. Because he could see us within a month. Then we had two multi hour sessions, one with us and one with just Jujubee, before we could even start making a plan for her. We were in terror of her behavior for about year. Autism? Depression? Did I do this to her because I’m mentally ill?
Verdict: Anxiety. We have a game plan. We are changing a lot of the way we live to help soothe her and to teach her to soothe herself. But WHY did we have to suffer and beg for a year to get here?
There is a scene in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun when Frances Mayes buys her house in Cortona. She is in the notary’s office, there are a few documents that have to be rubber-stamped, a sip of espresso, and that’s it. Francis asks, “Just like that?” and it’s met with
“It’s a house, not a Vespa. What are you going to do, steal it?”
We close on our home tomorrow. To. Morr. Ow. We have our walk through this afternoon. I’m beside myself. I want to move in. I want to spend an hour, quietly, without any extra-familial eyes on me, going slowly through the house introducing myself. I want to carry in a box and make a meal. I want to go buy paint and a new couch. I want to haul the old washer and dryer out and scrub the alcove floor. I want to huff and puff and sweat and curse and accomplish something. I want my children to have space to play where I’m not trying to work. And I want it NOW.
I’m so beyond overwrought. Good stress is still stress, my friends and therapist keep reminding me. I’m not sleeping much. I’m eating either far too much, or I’m nauseous and skipping meals. My heart is racing and up in my throat all the time. I’m weepy and it is all because of good stress.
Positive stresses cause lots of mental health symptom. Buying a home, having a baby or adopting, weddings, even planning parties and vacations cause people lots of the symptoms I’m having. It is disorienting for me because my more severe symptoms are triggered but have nothing to feed of off. I’m stressed, so my suicidal thoughts are popping up, but “Kill yourself because you are getting your dream,” just doesn’t have the internal consistency of “Kill yourself because you fought with your kids,” or any other negative stress.
Have you experienced anything like this? Are positive stresses harder to manage than negative ones, or do we just forget that the same skills we use to stay on the rails during crisis will do the same thing during the exceptionally hard-but-wonderful times. I’m going to go do my Square Breathing exercise to see if I can get productive before the walk through. Wish me luck.