I have a penchant for self-destruction.

Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

I just flushed some pills down the toilet. I haven’t drank in two weeks. I’m actively trying to improve my sleep. I’m making healthy foods. I’m finally taking care of myself, because everyone finally started taking me seriously.

For nearly two months now, I’ve been skirting the line. At what point am I going too far? What can I do to hurt myself, but without my husband sending me to the psych ward. And the answers is, plenty.

Being told that I’m functioning or strong or doing well has always sent me off on an unhealthy path. I’ve never felt like falling apart was an option. The adults in my life were so busy running from their own demons. If I fell down, I’d be trampled long before anyone would have the energy and time to pick me up.

When I do cry for help, please don’t compliment me.

My therapists have been awful cheerleaders.

In early 2021, I started therapy again for the first time in 8 years. I’m now on my fourth therapist. She and I mesh well and she realizes that pats on the back mostly just feel invalidating right now. Like I’m not sick enough for help.

But my time the third therapist spoke of my functionality. How well I was providing insight about myself. Applauding my ability to care for myself when it felt awful to do so… I snapped.

My husband would come home to find me tipsy multiple nights a week. I leaned into the manic sleep deprivation and wrote or read or painting in the middle hours of the night after the equivalent of a nap. I barely ate. Basically, I wanted to get bad enough that no one could pat me on the back.

I’d be taken seriously if I couldn’t keep it together anymore.

But this habit isn’t new.

Back to those adults and their demons.

Like I’ve mentioned, my adults had their own demons. My mom has bipolar 1 and had several psychotic manic episodes when I was a kid. Following those manic episodes were crushing depressions deeper than any I’ve exeperienced myself. My mom was strong. But she wasn’t strong enough to save me and herself.

My dad was a depressed alcoholic. I sat on the porch of my father’s friend one day. I heard the squeal of a car cut through the quiet, calm country air. Then watched as my dad flew down the road and slammed the car into an electric pole. He survived, thankfully.

And I’ve had the peace of telling him he’s a damn idiot.

Nonetheless, these adults didn’t have enough of themselves left to offer to me. So when my depression settled in at 7, I did what needed to be done. When my mom’s depression drug her deep down when I was 8, I did what I had to do. When my parents would get drunk and my mom would assault my dad at 9, I did what I had to do.

And when my mom complimented me by telling me I was a little soldier, I wondered how she thought I ever had a choice. So I started self-harming.

Then there was that hospitalization in college.

Perhaps the greatest example of this phenomena happened my freshman year of college. I was 5 days into my Bipolar diagnosis and medication regimen.

I shuffled into my therapists office. He was a short, peculiar man, with a particular interest in hypnotherapy. And while I did often leave relaxed after these sessions, the experience was not unlike guided meditation and the relief was brief.

So when I told him I was contemplating inpatient care, and he told me I wasn’t “bad enough”… well you can probably guess just about what happened.

I left his office that day with a mission. I was going to overdose.

I skipped my English class — my absolute favorite class — and headed back to the dorm. I didn’t know if my brown bag of depakote and klonopin would get the job done. But I did know that I would at least get enough attention for SOMEONE to take me seriously.

I put my head down and headed to the dorm.

Until the very sweet guy I’d been dating texted me. He asked me to come meet him and some of his study buddies in the basement of the engineering library. The big, beautiful building sat up the hill from my dorm. And I was more-or-less standing in front of it.

Okay. A brief visit. Then back to important matters. I told myself.

But, in an act very like me, I saw his face and crumpled. As dreadful as I felt, this guy liked me. And while his reasoning was (and still is) beyond my comprehension, I couldn’t fathom hurting him this way. I thought about the crushing pain I’d feel if he left after visiting me and did what I wanted to do.

I pulled him aside. I told him my plan. And he called my psychiatrist.

She told him not to let me out of his sight. Go to the hospital. Take her meds so she doesn’t have access to them. Get her to the hospital.

We were taken the the emergency room where we waited for hours. Then I was escorted to the mental hospital for a voluntary stay.

So I guess, as I’m typing this, I really just want everyone to know I’m falling apart inside. It feels like no one sees me for that pain. I ask for help. I’m told I’m fine or I’m doing well. Then I decide to make my pain visible. Let me cut out my guts and lay them before your feet.

And I have to say, it’s worked so far.

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