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Confession Time March 24, 2008

Posted by Jae in The Crazy.
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For almost ten years, I have been living with a secret. Though there are people who know it, they never bring it up, never want to talk about it; even when they heard it for the first time, they had very little to say. It is the kind of thing that needs to be talked about, begs for it in fact, but at the same time it seems to stop all conversation. When I told my former best friend she was stunned and said she needed time to think; the next day she asked me never to bring it up again unless I really needed to. Another friend who shared my secret never wanted to talk about it either. Eventually, I stopped trying to talk about it with anyone.

But this month is Tell Someone Month, and so I decided that now might be a good time to break my silence: I am a cutter.

(Note: I don’t intend for this entry to be especially triggering, but if you feel you are very vulnerable, you might want to stop reading here.)

Wow; that was actually harder than I thought it would be. Truth be told, I never found it easy to call myself a cutter, or a self-injurer, or a self-harmer, or any of that; somehow I never thought my problem was real enough to deserve naming. Though I have had occasional relapses (my last was nearly seven months ago), I have been in recovery for the past three or so years. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure I would ever get to a place where that was possible.

I had an accident the summer before my fourteenth birthday that left me with a bum knee and a constant sense of terror. The randomness of what happened terrified me; it might have been the first time I really realized that terrible things could happen that I couldn’t control. Suddenly everything about the world seemed frightening. I had always been shy, but I became crippled by fear of interacting with people (I was also still dealing with a very negative friendship, though I had not yet realized how much it had affected me). I also became terrified of injury and disease for the first time in my life; I was sure every headache was an aneurysm and every occasional flutter of my heart a sign of congestive heart failure. I also hated my body. For awhile, I ate compulsively, but eventually the pendulum swung the other way and I lived on one tiny meal a day.

It was right around Memorial Day that I injured myself for the first time. I don’t remember much about it; the only thing that sticks in my mind was that I had just had a fight with my parents. By the next year though, I was harming myself several times a week; sometimes it was almost daily. To this day, I’m not 100% sure what my reasons were for doing it. My best guess is simply that I was loaded with a lot of destructive feelings and I had no constructive way to release them; I didn’t feel close enough to most people to confide in them. I also was a stereotypical “good girl” type; I didn’t engage in any other after-school-special behavior. I didn’t smoke or drink. I didn’t sneak out to go to parties. I didn’t cut school. I was too insecure to consider sleeping around. I was the girl who got good grades and was home every, single, night of the week. Occasionally I went out with friends, but that was it. And when you’re sixteen and everything about the world frightens you so that you don’t even feel safe in your own mind, when you hate yourself and expect everyone else to hate you too, and you’re carrying a little more baggage than you can handle…something has to break. For me, harming myself was sort of a way to reign in the madness.

I wish I could tell you how I got over it, but I’m not sure exactly how it happened. Things changed. I changed. Just a few years ago, I was convinced that I was mentally ill…and maybe I was. The smart thing for me to do would have probably been to see a therapist, but I was afraid. Though I was more than willing to admit something was wrong with me, indeed I had a list of different diagnoses in my head whose criteria I felt I fit in one way or another, going to therapy was too proactive for me; the only way I could recover was to take it so slowly that I barely noticed it happening.

Often, a person who is totally unfamiliar with the concept of self-harm will look at it as a problem in and of itself, and it is for a number of reasons, but in most every case it is just a symptom of a larger problem. I was lucky; I got away from the dark cloud that followed me everywhere. I am no longer crippled by fears and insecurities. And I learned other ways to cope with stress and emotional pain. In the past three years any time I have given in to the urge to self-injure, it has felt empty and mostly pointless, kind of like calling up an old friend who you don’t really like anymore.

I thought that once self-harm was no longer a part of my everyday life anymore, there would be no need to tell this story to anyone. My scars are hidden from public view, and in fact they have mostly faded; there is no reason the truth can not go with them. Except that my truth may matter to someone else out there.

Self-harm typically goes on in silence, and even when people try to break that silence they might find, as I did, that it isn’t as easy as merely telling someone. The important thing though is to keep talking, keep trying to get the truth out, because creating a space where people can truly be honest about what’s going on in their heads, is the only hope we have of preventing people from harming themselves in the first place.

For anyone out there who would like more information some excellent resources can be found at Secret Shame, Selfinjury.org, and LifeSigns.

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Pity Party October 21, 2007

Posted by Jae in Me, myself, and I, The Crazy.
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So…I promised a post (for anyone who cares) about my recent departure from my own blog. I wish that the reasons were dramatic and exciting, but really it all boils down to one simple fact:

I feel kinda lost.

Part of me knows that I’m still young, and that I’m not supposed to have everything all figured out. However there is another (loud, growly) part of me that wants everything to fall into place now-now-now. It’s so hard getting up every morning to go to a job that I don’t really like. I sit and daydream about getting into grad school (if I haven’t already mentioned it, I’m hoping to enter an MFA program next fall and I am in the process of applying), but I don’t feel like there’s much hope of me getting into any of the programs, let alone any of my top picks. Also, every now and then, if I let myself think about it, I start feeling the tiniest bit lonely.

And I have no idea what to do about any of it. Realistically, I know there’s not much I can do right now. I can’t control whether or not I’ll get into grad school; I just have to put my best face forward and hope, and try not to take it personally if I’m rejected. Once I’m more sure about the school situation I can decide what to do about work. And the lonely…well…it’ll pass eventually.

Unfortunately, knowing all this doesn’t quiet the voice inside my head. It keeps begging me to fix all this, and it just doesn’t seem to understand that I don’t have an answer right now. In the past, this kind of thing would have driven me crazy, but these days it just makes me want to curl up in bed and listen to sad songs until it’s over. I console myself with the fact that life isn’t so bad, in fact, my life is probably better than it’s ever been, but still that doesn’t seem to be enough. As guilty as that makes me feel, it’s true. I don’t want anything extraordinary out of life, I really don’t; I just want to feel like I have something to look forward to instead of stumbling around in the dark.

I’m just tired of feeling so messed up. I’m tired of being so messed up. It’s been so hard just to get here, I almost can’t bear to do any more work. Why isn’t this enough?

Love is a many complicated/nauseating/confusing/painful (and don’t forget splendid) thing October 1, 2007

Posted by Jae in Hearts & Butterflies & Cupcakes, The Crazy.
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I have a complicated history when it comes to relationships. I guess though that there isn’t anyone alive who doesn’t.

I haven’t dated anyone in over a year, and everything before that was…messy. I met a boy who I promptly fell for who said he was falling for me before something changed his mind; I managed to get past my heartache and he became my best guy-friend. After him there was someone else. We got to know each other, we spent some time together, and it fizzled out. After that, I quit. I was hurt and I swore that this was just a sign that I was meant to be alone forever because I was a fat and horrible human being who clearly didn’t deserve love.
These days, I’m not so sure. Obviously I know my old hypothesis is a load of rubbish, but I still have my demons and I’m trying to work through them. That clearly tells me that this isn’t a good time to be meeting anyone, that there are things I need to straighten out first. But I’m lonely.

And how is waiting to be “normal” different than waiting to be thin? Am I just substituting one for the other or do I truly just want to work on some things before I start putting myself out there again?

It’s easy, too easy, to keep doing what makes me comfortable, even if it’s destructive. Whether we are talking about food or relationships or self-treatment, life becomes what we allow ourselves to get used to, and I am used to being single and it doesn’t make me miserable. On the whole, my life is happy. There’s no reason to change.

Except for the fact that just writing this entry has made me want to eat a bag of candy corn.

Avocados and Other Demons. September 28, 2007

Posted by Jae in Jobz, The Cast, The Crazy.
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Today was one of those days were I felt guilty every time I took a bite of food, and now all I want to do is jump on the scale.

I have long denied any connection between my emotions and the way I feel about my body. The most I was willing to say was that my body got in the way of my happiness, and it did, but not in the way that I meant it. My body got in the way of my happiness because I made it my enemy and swore that I would never be truly happy until I had vanquished it–lost 50 pounds, shed five inches off my thighs, wore a size 8–however, that was the only connection I was willing to acknowledge between my body and my emotions.

Today though, guilt followed me around like the proverbial trained puppy. I wanted everything and nothing for breakfast; I picked on dried fruit and pretzel chips, and felt bad for even wanting pretzel chips, let alone eating them for breakfast. At lunch, every nibble of my grilled chicken wrap felt like one bite too many. And when the pilot light went out on my stove, leaving half my dinner undone, I didn’t even bother to relight it, even though that was the part of the meal I most looked forward too. The strange part though was that I wasn’t really having any (more than normal) negative thoughts about my body, but I still felt tremendously guilty for having a body that needed things.

Tonight I think I figured out why.

My best friend got a new job yesterday, and I truly am very happy for her, but a part of me is envious. We both graduated college this year; I graduated in the winter and she escaped just this past May. It took me until the end of July to secure a job, and I was only able to get it because someone else left the small company where I was interning, and even then they waited nearly two months to offer it to me. In spite of having a degree, with a double major, in spite of having graduated with honors, in spite of having some experience in my field, I had no other job prospects. I never even received a call-back for the jobs I applied to.

My best friend on the other hand, had several interviews scheduled, and blew many of them off or didn’t take follow-ups as seriously as she might have. She went weeks without applying or even looking for jobs. And then, this one fell into her lap, and it seems like a fantastic job. Don’t get me wrong, she deserves a fantastic job; she works hard, she is smart and talented, and she has suffered more than her fair share at work and in other areas as well. But that’s why I feel so guilty.

She’s my best friend and I love her, and I want her to be happy, yet I can’t seem to shake my petty jealousy. She’s going to be making more money then me. She’s going to have better benefits than I do. She’s working for a well-connected company, so she can build a big network. She has an assistant. She’s also going to get to travel and go to some pretty exclusive events. And I get to work in a shabby loft in a no-frills neighborhood, making less than she would have if she’d accepted a management position at her retail job, in an area of my field that doesn’t interest me that much.

Are there perks to my job? Of course there are. In fact, most days I’m sure it is the right place for me to be right now, but sometimes I just get so tired of working so hard and feeling like I have nothing to show for it–especially when I see someone else work just as hard and get so much more.

That’s a hard thing to admit though. It’s much easier to feel bad about eating half an avocado.