Successful Coping Skill for Self-Injury

Long time no see.

Grad school is stressful (duh) and living on my own, in a new state, means much less support. However, I’ve managed relatively well. I’ve caused some bumps along the way, but I still have my internship and I’ve passed 2 out of 3 semesters. I’m about 1/2 through with my last semester right now!

I haven’t forgotten about the peeps who are just here for the inspirational pic 😉

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However, this week, stress has come to a head. Long story short: I was battling severe Self-injurious behavior urges today.

Details: I hadn’t slept in almost 48 hours because I am overwhelmed with the workload this semester and anxious I won’t pass. Granted, I am always anxious I won’t measure up. To be fair, this semester, the concern is warranted. I am currently failing one class. Uh oh!!

Using the syllabus I calculated the remaining possible points in the course and I can still pass as long as I do well on the midterm and final exams. The midterm is next week! I am extremely behind in reading. The exam is essay based and the questions come from the reading. Of course, this is no ones fault, but my own…

Anyway, the urges were intense enough that I was unable to function. I did not go to work yesterday. I got nothing done for school or my practicum, even though (for once) I was awake all day. This morning, intrusive images made it tough to distract from the urges. When suicidal thoughts and a plan entered the picture, I decided riding out the urges was not a safe option.

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In treatment, people sometimes held ice as a coping skill because it causes pain, but no tissue damage (as long as you are careful to watch for frostbite and are able to curtail the SIB urges enough to take off the ice as needed, if tissue damage begins). I find that a little helpful. The pain works to elevate my mood. However, blood is a strong motivation for me as well. It is a discriminative stimulus for relief from overwhelming negative emotions. The sight of my own blood is so strongly paired with SIB that without it, the compulsion remains.

Therefore, I tried something new! I froze ice cubes made by mixing red food coloring with water.

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It worked wonderfully!!! 🙂

 

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Next time I’ll do a few things differently. I’ll put a towel down under my arm to avoid staining. I got the red  out of the counter tops, but it took a few seconds with a Brillo pad. Additionally, I’ll have paper towels within reach.

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Surprisingly, the red dye came out of the silicon ice cube tray without a hitch,

The important take away is I avoided self-injuring despite struggling with the urges for over 24 hours.

 

If seeing blood and feeling pain are part of your self-injury, are there other ways you sublimate the urge? What works for you? I hope this helps someone avoid SIB.

 

 

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Pessimism Creates a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I did well until I was alone with no accountability or schedule.

I slept for 36 hours and didn’t get out of bed for almost 48. Unsurprisingly, my weight is no longer stable. However, I’m not as happy as I usually am about weight loss.

I’m not talking to friends. I worry my quietness indicates I don’t care, I’m too busy, or I’m not thinking about them now that I am far away, none of which are true. Unless, you count literally staring at the wall as too busy.

I’m lying to family about functioning and daydreaming about locked psych wards.

Passive suicidal thoughts are back.

This can’t be over before it even began. I don’t start the internship until next week.

I identified a few contributing factors. I missed meds accidentally for 2 days (now 3 as a result of sleeping). I’m afraid. While I’m sleeping a lot, I’m not sure if it is restful sleep because I’m tossing and turning all night and having unpleasant dreams.

For example, I was talking to student, who shares my past, about getting kicked out of school. I’m trying to explain that being placed in a more restrictive environment than a normal school does not reflect on your ability to succeed in a typical environment and it doesn’t make you bad. Suddenly Ginny’s daughter appears, we make eye contact, and I know she overheard. I immediately feel ashamed and wish she hadn’t heard. Then some random person enters and says, “I heard you guys are weird and into crazy stuff.”

Another dream: I’m at prom with a friend who left high school to go to residential treatment and then went to a new school. We get kicked out because former students aren’t allowed to attend prom. Then transporting, in time and place, I’m at a middle school dance for the school that kicked me out and I’m “asked” to leave the dance for the same reason my friend was asked to leave prom.

It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to determine my dreams’ meanings. I’m scared I won’t fit in and I can’t handle this. I’m ashamed of numerous facets of myself like getting expelled from middle school and my perceived culpability in abuse. I worry I don’t deserve this internship and they’ll soon figure that out and ask me to leave.

Using behaviors ensures that outcome. Of course I won’t fit in if I’m constantly subtly self-injuring or I never talk to anyone because I’m too busy planning binges. I won’t be “smart enough” if I’m restricting and can’t think.

Part of the problem with posting all this positive stuff is I feel like I can’t post when I am struggling. On the other hand, that feeling forces me to TRY to be a little positive. I spent over an hour looking for inspirational sayings that tie into this situation. Many rang hollow because of my mood, but this one still resonated with me. 

I know I can still turn this around. What can I do to be successful?

So far, I’ve got:

1. Stick to a sleep/wake schedule (proving very, very difficult!)

2. Plan activities that get me out of the apartment and seeing other people

3. Create and use a daily schedule for studying, ADLs, and talking to loved ones.

4. Tracking positive, recovery oriented actions, instead of only focusing on “failures” Ex. Today I got out of bed at 8 am, took my medication first thing, and ate breakfast.

Evolution or Reinvention

I’m moving to a state where no one knows me. I could be anyone. Other than my stupid scars, I don’t have to have a past. I know I can pretend to be bubbly and extroverted because I was as a camp counselor. I also know I can make small talk because I managed to be the talkative one at a high school friend’s baby shower, where I knew no one.

Ginny told me a while ago that I’m too intense and it is off-putting to some people at work because I’m always serious. On one hand, I’ll be surrounded by other graduate students and they may be more serious as well. On the other hand, I could try being less Olivia Dunham Season 1 and more Olivia Dunham Season 5. ;p

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In the meantime, I’m sad that I have less than 9 days of work left. I’m avoiding packing. As I feel more sad, I’m withdrawing from friends. I’m not sure if I’m isolating to decrease the pain of leaving or if I’m isolating because that is my MO when I’m sad.

 

Have you ever moved states? If so, how did it feel and how did you handle it?

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Annoyance is the feeling, but I’m not actually feeling it. I just liked alliteration.

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I want to cut right now and I don’t know why. I’m not thinking about anything upsetting. I’m not dissociating. I don’t feel depressed. I can’t identify any negative feelings, other than, “I-want-to-self-injure”. Lame.

I told my boss’ boss on Friday that I was leaving. That made me want to cut. I think I felt sad because I also felt like crying, but maybe it was anxiety. I’m not sure.

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Office Supplies and Good Byes

Feeling overwhelmed.

I’m checking out apartments this week, but I also have 3 exams and 10 hours of lecture to watch between now and when I return home.

I need to create and print my students’ work for the 2 days I am out.

Ginny is leaving and that means there is no BCBA for my students until a new one is hired. In the mean time, Claire and I are trying to fill the gaps. I don’t see how that is possible!

The thought of leaving my kiddos and my co-workers makes me sad. I’ll miss them.

Jessica moved a few weeks ago and I’m worried about her because she is struggling with eating disorder symptoms.

However, here I still have Ginny and Madison. Even though we don’t hang out much, I have the opportunity to and that option makes a difference in my mind. It won’t be an option soon.

I don’t want to be that person who lets their work slide when they decide they’re leaving, but I don’t have enough hours in the day to finish everything! I guess I need a new coping skill that involves problem solving instead of avoidance. 

 

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I purged at work, for the first time in months or maybe even a year. However, I also took apart the tape dispenser, intending to cut, and did not. So, I suppose that is a minor win, sort of… The better option would have been asking to talk to Ginny, Ashley, or Claire again (we already talked as a group once in the morning, but I was still anxious) before getting to that point. Despite knowing that alternative was better, I didn’t want to bother anyone. They seemed annoyed or perplexed by my anxiety.

Self-Injury Scars and Interviews

Interview time!

I need to find appropriate business casual clothes that hide my scars (long sleeve) and don’t look out of place in sunny, 64 – 81 degree Fahrenheit, weather.

I’m not sure if that is possible!

 

Edited to Add: I know people at my current job think I’m capable and smart. I’m also being compared to co-workers with less education. So, I’m terrified when I move to a new environment, full of other graduate students, I’ll fall flat on my face and everyone will see how inept and stupid I am. I’ll fail.

Strong enough?

I’m nervous about Ginny leaving because I don’t know if I’ll handle things as well without her. I would never have disclosed to anyone 2 weeks ago, much less asked my boss for help dealing with my student’s identical history.


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Thursdays are bad news apparently because this Thursday I ended up in tears at work again! This time, one of my new students (a different one) disclosed abuse. I was “normally” upset; I felt sad and worried for him. However, I flipped out when I heard my boss’s boss called his PARENTS instead of calling the child abuse hotline.

I was furious. I abruptly turned to leave the room, but Ginny yelled at me, “Don’t storm away from me!” She knows me well enough to know I was probably about to self-injure. I stopped in my tracks and she took me to the same empty office we talked in last week. It took me some time to explain why I was upset and when she understood, she teared up. I was scared for him! He refused to get on the bus for a long time and I said I wouldn’t have gotten on that bus either! I understood what he felt, to a certain degree, because I tried to disclose my situation once and realized the school counselor would report me based on her probing questions. So, I recanted and never told anyone until last week. DFS wouldn’t get an investigator to his house that night, meaning he was alone. I remember a separate incident where I accidentally said something to a teacher, which my parents thought could get DFS involved. Their reaction was highly emotional and they’re relatively normal people. A few things were thrown at me and more than a few things were broken that night. I was imagining the worst for my student, whose story was much more straightforward. 

Thankfully, he came to school the next day and he impressed me with his control. He eloped a few times and hit, but also talked to us and vented. He had more self-control than I did.

I would have self-injured the day before if I hadn’t talked to Ginny. When I turned to leave the room, I wasn’t thinking rationally anymore, I was going to look for a blade. I would not have stopped on my own, but her yelling bought me time to talk and calm down. My boss promised she will never be a part of that again and Ginny said she is going to try to convince the administration to have everyone undergo mandatory reporter training to ensure it doesn’t happen again. I hope it works! However, I’m worried the next time I encounter something triggering at work, which seems to happen frequently lately, I won’t be able to handle it.

On another note:

I wonder why Bulimia is correlated with childhood sexual abuse more than other eating disorders. I can’t stomach anymore journal articles right now, but I wish I could find out why.