I Cut for the First Time in Years

⚠️⚠️⚠️!!!TRIGGER WARNING!!!⚠️⚠️⚠️

NOTE: This post graphically discusses self-harm. If this is a trigger for you, please do not read further.



Even though my husband and I had a great time on our recent trip, I felt depressed during our time away, and now it’s worse. He usually works from home, not to keep an eye on me, but to help me if I need it. On Tuesday and yesterday he was in Nashville for work. He came home last night.

In no way am I blaming my husband for not being here for me. I’ve been experiencing a lot of emotional pain lately for no reason at all — as in, it isn’t situational. I just feel so much pain. The only way I know to let go of this pain is by cutting. I’ve written this before, but in my mind, transferring the emotional pain into physical pain will heal it — physical pain heals, after all. Except it doesn’t work. I know this. I knew this.

Screenshot provided by author

I tried so hard to resist yesterday, but this screenshot on my Instagram feed tipped me over the edge. I’m not blaming the image, either, because it’s meant to be uplifting, but the writing on a person’s forearm was, to me, a sign that I should cut. The image became a talisman that convinced me to self-harm. So I did.

I used a disposable razor to cut lines up and down my right inner forearm. Though I’m right-handed, I didn’t want to mess up my “warr;ior” tattoo on the inside of my left forearm, which is where I used to cut. Aesthetics are important, are they not? *eyeroll*

There was no blood at first, which wasn’t satisfying. To me, the blood is a sign that the emotional pain is being released. The only thing the razor scraped was dead skin, probably because I hadn’t showered in a week (yes, I’m back to that). I finally bled on the second try, and the tension I felt all day was released.

Today, here I am with Disney bandages (it was the nearest box of an assortment that I reached for) covering my inner arm. I’m scheduled to have a manicure and have no idea what to say to my nail tech, because there’s no way she won’t notice it. I know I don’t have to explain myself, but she knows about my bipolar.

My husband e-mailed my psychiatrist this morning, who replied:

“We’re still at a low dose of the lithium, but it is concerning to me that there is this degree of depression right now.”

He offered to see me sooner than my scheduled appointment, and made alternative suggestions to cutting like rubbing an ice cube on my arm, which, let’s face it, if you cut, you know this just doesn’t work in the same way (although it wouldn’t ruin my tattoo haha!). I realize, however, that it’s his job to make suggestions.

As I write this, I’m still in my pajamas and haven’t brushed my teeth. I have to get dressed today because, as I mentioned, I have a salon appointment. But I have no desire to get in the shower. I’m getting my hair colored bright red (hopefully it turns out!), so they’re going to wash my hair, anyway. And to be perfectly honest, I still feel like cutting and would rather do that than get in the shower.

I realize that my self-soothing behaviors leave plenty to be desired. My other, “safer,” way of self-soothing is eating chocolate. I tried doing that, too, yesterday, but it just wasn’t as satisfying as cutting.

Have you ever self-harmed?

Daily Prompt: Talisman

My Meltdown Last Week

105903652_a78476cab4_zAs I mentioned in my previous post, I get derailed easily if my strict daily/weekly routine changes. I said that the biggest thing that gets me off track is when my husband gets sick. Well, he was sick with a bad cold last week, and it felt like my world came to an end, especially because this is the worst time of year for me. Once again I realized how dependent I am on him, which I hate because I want and am striving to be more independent.

The first day of his illness, he still drove me to my psychiatrist and dentist appointments, because I haven’t driven in over a year due to anxiety. Also, I’m too scared to take a taxi service. Sit in a car with a complete stranger and depend on him/her to drive you to your destination? No, thanks.

The second day, I could barely get out of bed knowing that I had to face the day without his taking care of me: he’s the one who makes the coffee; he’s the one who takes the dog out in the morning and late at night; he’s the one who cleans up after the cats eat because dumping leftover (wet) cat food in the trash gives me the dry heaves; he’s the one who cleans the litter boxes; he’s the one who cooks; he’s the one who deals with food delivery people because I’m often scared of interacting with strangers. And, except for cooking, he did all these even while sick. Again, except for cooking because I can barely make a grilled cheese sandwich, I know these are little things that I should be able to do, but I can’t. And I’m not lazy — I’m depressed and anxious.

When I finally got up, hours after I normally do, I burst into tears. I sat on the edge of the bed wanting so badly to cut myself or punch/slap myself upside my head, but I didn’t. Unlike the past, I didn’t want to cut because I wanted to transfer the emotional pain into physical pain; I wanted to do it to punish myself for being such a loser. He sat next to me and asked me why I felt like cutting. I said, “Because I want to do things on my own but I can’t, and you’re sick.”

He replied, “You’re sick, too.” That was incredibly kind of him to say, but that’s the type of person he is —  kind. I felt bad that a part of me didn’t believe it even though the other part of me knew he meant it, and that it’s true.

I’d been doing so well, walking to my physical therapy appointments by myself, and walking Rudy alone. My mood had improved because of the Prozac my psychiatrist recently put me on, and I thought I was stable. My husband’s being sick is a trigger for my anxiety and depression. I don’t blame him obviously, but historically, this is true.

I cancelled my 2nd physical therapy appointment of the week I had scheduled that day, which I’d done the last few weeks because I haven’t been able to get myself there. I couldn’t shower, could barely meditate, and just wanted to lie on the couch and stay there all day. Instead, I rallied: I got dressed and walked Rudy that afternoon. I also posted a blog post because it was already written, so that was easy to do.

On the third day,  my therapist and I had a phone session, and she pointed out that when I’m feeling low, I see all of my perceived inadequacies through a magnifying glass instead of seeing the whole picture. She reminded me of my progress: going out alone, which I wasn’t doing when I started this blog in August. This helped put things into perspective, at least for a little while.

The weekend went a lot smoother because my husband felt better. I finally got up at a normal time and showered, but I really had to push myself. As some of you know, for me, not getting up nor showering for several days are red flags for an oncoming depressive episode, which I was worried I was spiraling into. But after we went out for brunch, which was the first time I left the house in 2 days, I no longer thought I’d go into a depression, which was a relief. I posted a blog post because again, I had already written it ahead of time (which I usually do).

I still kind of feel like a loser because I reacted to the situation emotionally rather than responding to it reasonably, and was unable to do so. (I’m writing about reacting and responding in my next post.) I feel like a weak person who depends on her husband too much. Yes, I realize that I’m mentally ill, but sometimes it’s hard to separate that knowledge from the way I feel inside.

Photo by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA

Suicide Attempts & Self-Harm


NOTE: If the topics of suicide and self-harm are triggers for you, I suggest you discontinue reading.

pills-medication-tablets-bottle-drugs-drugstoreI hesitate writing this because it’s so personal, but having attempted suicide in the past is a part of my journey living with bipolar disorder. There have been times, even as recent as a few months ago, that I no longer wanted to live, though the intensity of this feeling varies. Now, when I have suicidal thoughts, I contact my psychiatrist and therapist immediately, and depending on how intense the thoughts are, I’m scheduled for ECT. But it wasn’t always that way.

I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve tried to kill myself because the attempts mostly happened in the mid-’90s, when my diagnosis was in its infancy and I was unstable, and which are hard for me to remember, probably because of ECT. I tried again in the 2000s, according to my husband, which was my last attempt.

Everybody’s experience is different; for me, the depression becomes a source of deep, emotional pain, and I want that pain to end. On occasion, I have cut my forearms to let that pain “bleed out.” If it turns into physical pain, the wounds heal. But guess what? The emotional ones are still there.

During certain periods of my life, I’ve wanted to end that pain permanently. The emotions wash over me in a black wave through which I can’t see or feel anything but the pain. I can’t see the people in my life who love me; I can’t feel their love. The depression compels me to end the pain, and so I try.

Other forms of suicide scared me, so I always tried to overdose on one of my medications. I naively imagined that I would just feel drowsy, fall asleep, and that would be the end of that. Except it never got to a point where I became unconscious. I’d get frightened and tell my then-husband or current husband what I did, and they would call for help. I genuinely wanted to die, but after taking the pills and having some time to think, I couldn’t go through with it.

The last time I remember being in the ER for this was what made me stop deliberately ODing on my meds. It hasn’t stopped the suicidal thoughts, but it has definitely kept me from trying to kill myself again.

3946975795_d982d257e9I guess they never did this during my past suicide attempts because I hadn’t taken enough medication, but the last time I was in the ER, the nurses told me to drink this mixture made up of black powder that they called activated charcoal. It was in a 16-ounce styrofoam cup (I’m a coffee addict, so I recognized the size). It was supposed to neutralize the medication I’d ingested, or something like that. It looked like a shiny, black milkshake, and had a similar consistency. The picture on the right is the closest thing I could find, except imagine it much thicker.

I refused. It looked as gross as it sounds. They repeatedly tried to make me drink it, and I repeatedly refused. Finally, they said that if I didn’t drink it, they would pump my stomach. That sounded worse, so I held my breath and drank the nastiness called activated charcoal. All 16 ounces.

Because it was so thick, I couldn’t gulp it down all at once. It took a while, and it was disgusting. I gagged, had black stains down the front of my hospital gown, and black liquid drying in the corners of my mouth. I can’t remember if I vomited (probably the goal), but I also can’t forget the experience of drinking that stuff. It has certainly kept me from ODing again.

This isn’t to say that I may not attempt suicide nor have suicidal thoughts in the future. But since then, when I have felt like killing myself, that activated charcoal experience comes to mind. So far, it’s kept me from acting on my thoughts. Knowing that I have a family who loves me also keeps me from acting on my thoughts. As I said, I contact my psychiatrist and therapist immediately, before that black wave washes over me and I forget about everyone and everything but myself.

Photo 1 via Visual hunt

Photo 2 credit: hurricanemaine via Visualhunt / CC BY

Throwback Thursday #2: Tried to Cut Today


portrait-of-squirrel-in-forestAUTHOR’S NOTE: This post, as you can probably tell from the title, discusses self-harm, and may be triggering to someone who struggles with it. If this is you, then I suggest you discontinue reading.

Throwback Thursdays feature relevant posts (of about 20) from a private, online journal I kept last fall. They chronicle my time during a depressive episode, which led to another round of  ECT. You’ll read firsthand what that was like for me. The entries are slightly edited for clarity, and with regard to anonymity.

Tried to Cut Today – October 17, 2016

Which is something I haven’t done in years and years. I say “tried” because our damn knives weren’t sharp enough. And my husband’s razors looked gross, although I tried using the least gross one, but that didn’t work, either. I couldn’t find any spare blades.

I woke up from my second afternoon nap feeling depressed. I got up at 5:30 to turn on the lights and shut the curtains. That’s when Rudy went to the living room windows that he recently “discovered,” and there happened to be squirrels out there. He saw one and started his squirrel bark, which is different from his normal bark. This one is very high-pitched and squeaky and grates like hell.

I thought we had poster boards that the dog trainer told us to buy to cover the windows with when not in training mode (Rudy’s learning not to bark at squirrels outside our windows). I only found one. I taped it to the window behind the chair, and that helped some, but his barking was incessant and he kept running from one window to another.

I couldn’t take it anymore and ran into the kitchen but as I said, the knives were too dull to break the skin. At least my husband is home now.

I did text my therapist to tell her, and she asked if I still felt like cutting. I said no, which is true, and my husband’s now here. She said she’d call me tomorrow to check in. And clearly, I need to work on my low tolerance for frustration.

Photo via Visual hunt

The Rx Allergy Med Episode


NOTE: This post discusses self-harm. If that’s a trigger for you, then please discontinue reading this post.

Last April or May, I saw my primary care physician for a dry cough that wouldn’t go away. He attributed this to allergies, and prescribed the oral (as opposed to inhaler) version of an allergy medication.

I took the first dose on Saturday night, and felt inexplicably moody the next day — like I was PMSing, but I wasn’t. I took a second dose Sunday night, and by Monday I was a mess. I felt depressed and had suicidal thoughts. Sounds like a description of side effects, doesn’t it? That’s because they are! My suicidal thoughts, I knew, weren’t “real” as opposed to “induced,” because I didn’t really want to kill myself. I didn’t want to die. But I wanted to self-harm…I couldn’t get away from it.

I hadn’t self-harmed in months, and before that, in years. But this time the pull was incredibly strong. When I’ve self-harmed in the past, it was because I had so much emotional pain that I felt the only way to release it was to cut myself, make myself bleed. I was, in my opinion, transferring the emotional pain to physical pain because physical wounds heal. Guess what? It doesn’t work.

This time, I did it for an entirely new reason: I felt that I should be punished for being depressed. Instead of cutting, I scratched at my wrist until the top layer of skin was gone. Then I felt that I should be punished for having self-harmed, but I stopped scratching.

I called my doctor Monday morning, before the self-harm happened, but he was on vacation. Of course. So I talked to a nurse practitioner who told me to stop taking the medication immediately, which I would have done anyway. Still, it triggered a depressive episode that lasted about 3 weeks. I saw my psychiatrist immediately. He increased the dosage on one of my antidepressants, which helped. Fortunately, hospitalization or ECT wasn’t required.

Photo credit: Charles Williams via Visual hunt / CC BY