TW- self harm/suicidal thoughts
I’ve been feeling rough the past few days, and I felt like it really hit me today in the car when I was driving home from work. Out of nowhere I was sobbing… like the loud, ugly kind that you only do when you’re alone. It felt good letting it out, and honestly it felt almost like I was grieving the loss of someone; it felt deep in my chest, like it took over my lungs and throat and choked me until I had to break free of the grip, and the tears were the release. I can’t say I feel 100% better now and all is good, as honestly, I will probably cry again writing this, but I do feel a bit more relief and I definitely feel a bit better after the shower I just took.
Let me state that I literally haven’t showered in days, and it’s because I have been so tired and hormonal. My period was eight days late this month, and my periods are already rough enough, so of course this one is taking a toll on me. Part of me wishes it was the cramping/pain that was the worst part, but honestly for me it is the depression. I find that every month during this time, it is so hard to get through the week doing my normal chores and tasks. I feel like my anxiety gets very elevated during my cycles, which for me means that I not only deal with that down feeling, but I also have insane irritability, which typically just gets me more upset with myself and then I feel like I am just regressing and repeating my old patterns. I know that I am not that person though, and I am a human being who is having hormonal changes and normal emotions…I am still learning to give myself grace each day.
Something that helped me was I had recently listened to Mel Robbins’ new podcast, and she had Dr. Russell Kennedy who is a neuroscientist. She was telling him how her daughter’s anxiety comes out as rage/irritability, but how hers is completely different, and she asked him why. He had said that our anxiety typically takes form of the most accepted emotion in a person’s mind…and that clicked for me. I always hated how angry I get and how quickly something can make me snap, but it makes so much sense when I think about it now with that information. I grew up in a home where everyone was always angry; whether my parents were mad at each other, or mad at the news, or truly just mad at the world, that is all I saw. The screaming and slamming doors in that two-bedroom apartment, so much tension for a young body to live in. In my mind, unbeknownst to me at the time, I understood that being angry was acceptable, and as I grew older, that is what my anxiety manifested into.
Being at home, I felt completely out of control. Of course, when you are a child that is technically how it should be since your parents are the ones in control, but I literally had no clue how to deal with my anger or emotions. I have a brief memory of crying to my mom and telling her that I kept feeling an impulse to swallow a bunch of pills. All I can remember is that she asked “Why?” and I had no explanation-it was a feeling I was having because I felt so hopeless, but I also had no clue how to express that. As you can see, I am still here, I did not take any pills, and when I did self-harm, it was not deep enough to do anything. I didn’t even want to die; I don’t even know what I wanted other than to get my anger out. I knew that if I broke anything or carved anything else into my dresser that I’d get in trouble, but hurting myself didn’t seem punishable since my emotions were dismissed anyways. My parents never even saw, and although I decided against taking those pills, I never went to therapy or got help for those dark thoughts.
I remember one night when my parents were fighting so bad and the cops ended up being called to our apartment. This was a relatively normal occurrence as the walls were thin and my parents were loud after a few drinks, but I remember texting my neighbor/best friend and telling him that they were there. He had known about the self-harm because he had seen the marks on my arm that summer and I just remember him texting me: “Don’t let the cops see your arm, they’ll take you away.” Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about that, but I knew I didn’t want to end up in a mental hospital, so I made sure to keep my sleeves down. After that moment I honestly can’t tell you if I stopped or if that is when I switched to the inner thighs, but once I started dating my current boyfriend, I swore to him that I would never self-harm again, and I haven’t. I guess I mentally have been beating myself up for years, but I am actively working on ending that cycle.
Something I am struggling with right now is that I am coming to realize how much of my life has been on auto-pilot, and as I learnt to become more present, it is almost like a grieving process. Even though I escaped my parents’ home at nineteen, I feel like the true anxiety didn’t hit until I was gone. I still I get so upset that I spent so much of my life in a state of worry and constantly planning the next step. I could never sit still as I’d just think about all of the things I needed to, whether it be school or work or house chores. On the more extreme end of my anxiety, I’d spend so much time thinking about every worst-case scenario of everything that could happen in my life. I’d spend time thinking about how everyone I love will die and how I can’t control it and how I don’t know how I would go on. I lived most of my teenage years and twenties without even being truly there in the room I was in, and it makes me so sad to think about. If I am not here, where am I? It feels like I have been avoiding my own life. I am so scared of making mistakes, because I never was the kid to rebel or break any rules.
I also am scared of hurting people around me, but sometimes I keep people around even at my own expense. I used to feel so drained after friends would come to me with their problems and I felt like I took on all their feelings, and now I look at that as I had wounds of my own that I was resonating with. But instead of working on my wounds, I would just take on theirs in a way. I would worry about my friends who were going through rough times, I would worry about my parents living without me there to try to moderate, and I would completely abandon myself and my own feelings. Every so often I’d have a breakdown or a panic attack and I just didn’t understand myself and since I hated the feelings I was having, I ended up just hating myself. I feel so blessed that I have my boyfriend and I can’t tell you where I’d be in life right now if I hadn’t have had him and his loving support over these past eleven years, but I 100% believe it wouldn’t be as good as it is now. He has listened to me, supported me, and loved me in ways that I never could have done for myself in that state of mind. He never judged me for my anxiety, and although I felt like a huge burden, he never felt that way about me; he loved all of me the whole time, even when I couldn’t.
Even though I have rough days where I cry and feel anxious, I have come a long way from where I was. I also have come to terms with the fact that if I want to be present, that is up to me. I am unlearning anxious habits, as well as my people-pleasing behaviors; it was a hard pill to swallow when I read about how people-pleasing is a form of manipulation. I’d always say that I didn’t want to disappoint people because I hated being disappointed. Or I’d say that it’s because I treat others how I want to be treated and I honestly did feel this way, but also, I have to realize how I felt about myself. I wasn’t present with myself because I didn’t like myself. I had so much internalized self-loathing and because of that, I wanted others to like me. I wanted others to see me as a good friend and, if I am looking at this realistically, I probably wouldn’t have been able to handle it if others didn’t like me.
As I write this now, I can honestly say that now I don’t care if someone doesn’t like me. I am aware that we all live our own lives, through our own lenses, with our own traumas, so it has been much easier to not take anything personal. I also feel much more present and aware of myself and my values, which has created a sense of confidence that I have missed for a while. Another thing I am doing is setting boundaries in relationships, which is really all you can do unless you just want to cut people off (which is also needed sometimes). I have friends who sometimes do things that I don’t align with and would not do, but that does not make them a bad person or friend, and it doesn’t make me love them any less! I just know to set a boundary with certain things if I don’t want to experience those parts. As I write this, I realize I need to do the same for myself. I may have negative thoughts or judgments sometimes, but that does not make me a bad person, and I shouldn’t love myself any less! I am a human being who is learning, growing and healing; there is a long journey ahead, but I am determined to be present for it!