In October last year I took my first overseas trip to beautiful Stockholm, Sweden to present my paper ‘Expressing nonsuicidal self-injury: using creative writing and autobiographical fiction as self-care’ at the Autobiography 2014 conference at Södertörn University. The conference ran over three days and featured presentations from … Continue reading ‘Expressing NSSI’ published in ‘Writing the Self’
Self-injury can be difficult to talk about. Even choosing how to refer to the behaviour is problematic. Most mental health organisations and academics within Australia use the term Self-harm or Deliberate Self-harm (DSH). The DSM-V outlined Nonsuicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) as a condition for further study … Continue reading What if I told you…. SIAD 2015
This afternoon I tweeted “Don’t mind me; I’m just sitting here over thinking.” That over thinking led to some rampant Googling. That Googling led to some more over thinking and then to the acquisition of pizza, but that’s irrelevant. ‘What was on your mind?’ I hear you say. Well, besides the delicious greasy goodness of a fresh hot pepperoni pizza I was thinking about an attractive individual who I met on the weekend.
Much of my over thinking is channelled into affairs of the heart/hormones and this afternoon’s musing was no different. Often over thinking this topic is what leads to my problematic thinking and that leads to not fun times. This evening, however, I made a realisation.
I had a productive day, much of which was spent revising a paper I’ve written which discusses my experiences with self-injury and my process of writing about self-injury. In the paper I write that self-injury is a practice of avoidance, often of avoiding difficult emotions. Physical pain and injury is seen as easier to deal with – take a pill, put on a bandage, there you’re all fixed. There is a level of instant gratification or at least a series of tasks that can be done to minimize damage. Emotional pain is not so tangible.
For the last two years I’ve been working through some difficult experiences and their impact on my behaviour, coping and thinking process. I have found that I’m not comfortable with vulnerability. Who is? As a general rule it’s not something anyone enjoys. Unfortunately I have a very unpleasant way of reacting to it and it’s important for me to be able to acknowledge the difference between “I am a bad person” and “I am feeling vulnerable”.
Weaknesses can sometimes be strengths when applied in a different context. I am an “I’ll do it myself” kind of thinker, a great attitude to have in many ways. It’s the kind of attitude that is often encouraged in small children and workplaces. However, it is a double edged sword. Ultimately that kind of attitude relates to a need to control situations and a desire for control can (oddly enough) get out of hand. For example: “The house is messy so I’ll clean it up”, good. “Things feel uncertain in my life so I’ll hurt myself”, not so good.
A mantra I have adopted over the last two years is “sometimes the only thing you can control is your reaction”. My reaction this afternoon was driven by a desire for certainty, an urge to make things happen. Once again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in the right context. I questioned myself – what was I really thinking, and what was I really feeling? I was feeling vulnerable, if there was the possibility of a negative outcome I wanted to get it over and done with, I wanted to bring it on so I couldn’t be surprised. I wanted to force someone else’s hand. Not simply to get the reaction I wanted but instead to get a reaction that I could deal with. Because uncertainty is uncomfortable, because feeling vulnerable is scary.
Controlling my reaction should not be about taking actions to manipulate a situation. Controlling my reaction should be about staying calm, thinking clearly and allowing myself to sit with discomfort sometimes. What I really need to focus on is my ability to trust, not just other people but also myself. I need to trust that sometimes people will do as they say and that sometimes, more often than not, people will be there for me when needed. I need to also trust my abilities to cope when people may let me down. I need to trust my own worth and the ability of others to see my worth.
This evening instead of “doing it myself” I decided to “do something for myself”. Rather than trying to force an outcome in a situation I chose to sit with the discomfort, possible rejection and disappointment because I trust that I am worthy or good things. While I may feel vulnerable not knowing what will happen in this particular situation I can be confident in knowing that I am a person of value. Instead of trying to control someone else’s reaction I controlled my own by taking a deep breath and channelling my need to do something into this assembling this collection of words. My tendency to over think serves me well as researcher and my desire to “do something” often results in me writing.
Don’t mind me: I’m just sitting here with my vulnerability, naked on the page.