Tag Archives: Cutting

Feel Your Feelings

I’ve written about the importance of experiencing anger and expressing it appropriately, but what about all those other feelings that cause us such discomfort? What about the intense sadness, the dark depression, the troubling fears and the debilitating anxiety? All those emotions we consider negative and just wish would go away and leave us alone and feeling “normal,” whatever that is.

I would love to make your day by telling you there is a two-step process to working through them all to move into blissful happiness. I really do wish I could do that, because I would be a very rich woman with all the books I’d sell and all the television appearances for which I’d be booked. However, you’re stuck with the hard processes and I’m stuck with a blog that I hope helps people but brings in no income.

First, the don’ts: Don’t self-mutilate; don’t binge and purge or starve yourself; don’t drink (In fact, it’s best if you stay away from alcohol altogether during these times.); don’t do drugs, except those prescribed by your one psychiatrist, and only at the prescribed dosages. In other words, don’t cop out by doing the things you usually do to blunt the feelings. Feelings are good, natural and normal. Let them come.

The good news is all you have to do is what comes naturally. When you feel those emotions, really feel them, experience them. Do not shut them down or run away. During one session with my psychiatrist, one of my alters started to cry and my doctor reached out to hand her a box of tissues. This part, who possessed great wisdom, said, “She needs to feel her tears on her face. Tears are healing.” And so, I sat there, experiencing my sadness in my heart and in my body as the tears made my face wet. I also think there was another benefit as my heart and body experienced the sadness together; I believe it helped battle the depersonalization that was such basic part of DID.

You may have already figured out that there are just sometimes you need to feel sad and cry. I just know that once and a while I need to listen to sad music or watch a sad movie to encourage the flow of the waterworks. I cry and I cry and I cry. Sometimes it’s a gentle cry with tears streaming; others it’s a sobbing, body-wracking wail. Occasionally I know why I need it, but many times I don’t have a clue. I just know what I need. That’s part of getting to know yourself and honoring You by giving You the freedom to do what you need. It’s a healing experience that leaves me feeling exhausted but almost euphoric afterward. Go figure.

Normally, when we experience depression, anyone and everyone around us, trained or not, has a, so-called, surefire cure. I’ve learned over the years that, though well meaning, most of them don’t help. I’ve also learned that just about everyone other than those who have themselves been clinically depressed and the professionals who work with us are well-meaning, but clueless, They get the blues and call it depression, so they really think they understand, and they want to help. As I’ve mentioned before, in this situation, I find it’s usually best to smile and nod. Arguing won’t change their minds and will likely only upset you. I’ve learned that when I’m down, there are certain times, and I’ve pretty well learned to know when, it is best to just give in. Lie down on the sofa, be sad, be depressed. Sometimes I don’t get dressed. I don’t answer the phone. I just let it wash over me, but only for two or three days. A lot of times I find that by then, I’m coming out of it. I just needed to give myself time to allow it to work itself out.

However, if it hasn’t begun to resolve after three days, I get on the phone with my doctor or my therapist. Then I listen to what he or she says, and I follow the recommendations.

Now that we’ve gotten to the good part, guess what? I’m saving fear and anxiety for next time.

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Attention-Seeking

Attention-seeking is a common behavior of anyone who’s been sexually abused. Frequently the only real attention we got as we were growing up was negative. In fact, our best choice was often to become invisible, thinking that perhaps invisibility would save us from the abuse we knew was coming. We’ve been starved for positive attention for years. When we get into treatment, we find people who care, people who listen. Their attention is like a drug to us, and we quickly become addicted. When we need an “attention fix” we go seeking the drug we need. So we start doing things that people sometimes term a “call for help.” We throw temper tantrums; we walk around looking sad or glum, hoping someone will ask us what’s wrong. Or, a few of us, like me, made a habit of escaping every time I was hospitalized. Part of it was that I liked the challenge, but a bigger part was the attention I knew I would get. I knew that while they were looking for me, they were all thinking about me. I was occupying their attention, and when I returned they would spend time with me trying to understand and help me understand what I was running from. Truth is: only the first time I escaped, was I running. After that it was for the challenge and the attention.

I also used my predilection to cutting. Sometimes cutting wasn’t about suicide at all. Sometimes it was about anger, and others it was all about attention-seeking. We grow up with manipulation and learn to be master manipulators ourselves. I used my skill quite effectively. I learned how to get the staff to worry about me, and I fed on that attention. Eventually, the staff figured out what I was doing, and I was “busted.” It still didn’t stop me. I was a slow learner. We use the same behaviors at home to get the attention we need from the important people in our lives. We become a perpetrator as we abuse them by causing them to constantly worry about what drama they would have to face that day.

My attention-seeking was cured in just four days when my doctor had had enough. He moved me from the trauma unit in the hospital where I’d been to the county lock-up. I was only allowed to take shampoo, soap, and a change of clothes. No makeup. No reading material. No stuffed animals for comfort. The people there were truly ill and most were under a court order. Therapy couldn’t benefit the people here. And I was in their midst for four days. Some had no boundaries and walked right up to me and behaved completely inappropriately. A few tended to violent outbursts, screaming and throwing things. One or two were watched closely, because they had a history of physical violence. There were big, burly techs who walked the floor in an effort to keep the peace and avoid inappropriate behavior. After a couple of encounters in which the techs had to intervene, I learned to just stay in my room. There were no groups or therapy to break up the days. Nothing to do. Nothing to read. So I sat in my room, contemplating what had gotten me there, just as my doctor had hoped. I hid on the floor or slept. Sometimes I stared out the window in my room at a tree that, barren of leaves in the winter, struck quite a striking pose. All these years later, I still remember the spartan beauty of that tree.

My doctor had made his point. I felt duly chastised. He explained to me that if I needed his attention all I had to do was talk to him. He wanted to give me positive rather than negative or punitive attention. Those four days cured me of my attention-seeking behavior. I learned to accept the calm, reassuring positive attention they offered me when I reached out to them. I had to trust that using words to express my hurt was more effective than anything else I could do. Talking allowed them to give me the attention I really needed. I stopped cutting for attention and quit breaking out of the hospital. My relationships with my doctor and therapist improved tremendously when it was based on mutual trust. My progress improved as I focused on healing rather than trying to get attention. It was an important step forward in my recovery process.

Attention-seeking is a distraction that keeps you and your therapist focused on something other than your recovery and keeps you stuck. You can’t afford to lose one more day on your journey to wellness. Leave any attention-seeking behaviors behind. Today.