Damn It, I Already Used that Title

I was going to call this entry Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, but I already used that title while I was in Taiwan.  Still, it really is what I wanted to call this entry, so read on with that in mind.

I hate changes.  I know that many people don’t like them, but I hate them.  Part of it is my OCD issues, but most of it is that in the past, changes were rarely good things.  Or, to be completely honest, most of the changes I experienced, I viewed as negative in retrospect.  Whether they were actually negative at the time, the jury is still out on that.

Let me backtrack for a minute.  When I first fell into a deep depression, I sharply whittled away my world so that it could fit in my pocket.  I didn’t feel as if I had any control, so the only way to deal with that was to cut out all the extraneous shit that I couldn’t handle.   The problem with that, of course, was that every day, there seemed to be more that I could not handle, so I would continue to cut cut cut (sometimes literally) away.  Depending on how stable I was, that world included a few very close friends whom I saw more not than often, performing, a job, and, for a whole year, school in another state.  It included a four-year, long-distance relationship, and it included a lot of self-destructive habits.

Why the small world?  In a word:  Fear.  Anything out of my routine terrified and overwhelmed me.  To me, the world was a cruel, cruel place which showed no mercy.  I didn’t believe in God, but if I did, it would be the mean, punishing, horribly petty God of the Old Testament who thrived on making people miserable.  OK, I did believe in God (at least in theory) at that time, and He was exactly like the mean old bastard who never has a kind word to say or a deed to do for anyone.  A bitter old man who wants everyone else to hurt as much as he does.   That was my view of God, and if He had created the world in His image, then fuck the world, I wanted to get off.

I had my routine, and I hated straying from it.  I saw danger in every shadow.  If it wasn’t there, I created it in my mind.  As I’ve written before, I had to sit in the aisle seat at a movie theater (I still prefer the aisle seat, but it’s not necessary any longer); I had to sit in the outer seat at a restaurant, and I had to be facing the door if possible (again, I still prefer, but no longer require said seating); I jumped at any sudden noise; I hated anyone touching me when I wasn’t expecting it or didn’t want it.  I didn’t do crowds, and I didn’t do noise.  In fact, I put myself in as near a bubble-like containment as was humanly possible.  I lived like that for many years.  To some extent, I still do.

Non sequitur:  I find it much easier to hurt myself than to be nice to myself.  I have some vague theories on why this is (hurt myself before someone else gets a chance to hurt me first; I deserve the punishment/pain/abuse; it’s what I’ve always gotten, so I’m used to/comfortable with it; it’s a habit), but none of them really touch on why I find it so easy to automatically go for the pain.  I was taught to be humble as a kid (by my father, ironically, who is one of the least humble people I know.  He’s just devious in how he brags), so there is an element of, “Oh, don’t say anything too nice about yourself.”  In addition, the few times I have been frank about some asset of mine in the presence of my father (such as my intelligence), he would admonish me with, “Minna!  You should be humble.”  Then he would break out into a grin and say, “Like me.  I’m so humble.”  It was a game to him, but it really irked me how he would say something like, “Oh, I don’t sing well at all” and expect you to argue with him.  If I agreed with him, then he would give me that mock exasperated look because I hadn’t played along with the game.

In addition, I have the voices in my head constantly telling me that I’m no good in so many creative ways.  It would be better if I would try to do something to cut off the voices at the pass, but I don’t.  Instead, I go in the other direction and immerse myself in the very things that bring me pain.  Why is pain so much more comfortable than comfort?  Again, I can touch on the outer tendrils of the reasons why I feel this way, but my mind skitters away from going to the heart of the matter.

I think, part of the problem is that for such a long time, I didn’t consider my life to be real.  Feh.  That’s not the right way to put it.  It’s more like, I didn’t think my life had any value.  I could end it at any time, and it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference.  Please realize that this is how I feel when I’m depressed, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.  Anyway, if my life didn’t have any value, then it didn’t much matter what I did to myself, did it?   The only parts of my body off-limits to my self-abuse were my tats.  I never did anything to them because I treasure them so highly.  The other parts of my body and my mind, however, were all fair game.

I am writing about my self-abuse because it’s actually part of my small, small world.  For whatever reason, hurting myself is a part of my life, for better or for worse.  It’s something I do, almost reflexively.  It often takes more energy for me not to hurt myself than it does for me to, say, burn myself with a cigarette.  It’s comforting to listen to a song like Hurt 20 times in a row, even if it breaks open my pain and spreads it throughout my body.

Huh.  I just thought of something.  Abusing myself is like self-medicating for me.  There is something comforting (not just comfortable) in the rituals I have established around each self-abusive behavior.  For example, when I binge and purge, afterwards, I make a cup of tea with honey in it so I can sooth my throat.  When I listen to a particular song over and over again, I go into a kind of trance, and I don’t have to think about anything.

I think it gets back to the belief that I don’t deserve to be kind to myself.  It’s the same reason when someone calls me out on a blog or in real life, I automatically think, “He’s right.  I am such an idiot/worthless/a whore, etc.”  It’s why instead of just shrugging it off (if it’s not a valid criticism), I feel shame and the urge to retreat into my safe little world.

As I said to a friend, I have always been fortunate to have friends who love me.  Unfortunately, I have not always believed I am worthy of such love.   Indeed, I would say most of the time I do not believe I am worthy of such love.  Therefore, when I start slipping into depression, it’s far-too-easy for me to forget that I do, indeed, have people in my life who love me deeply.

So.  How does this all relate to change?

I have reached a point where I cannot continue to live in my doll-house world that I created so many years ago.  Not only is it stifling, it really isn’t as safe as I made it out to be.  That was the delusion I sold myself when I first started building my little world.  I would be safe in it, away from all the terrible, cruel things that happened in the real world.

I wasn’t safe, though–I was dead.  I was dead inside, and I was dead in the sense that I wasn’t really living.  I often called myself the walking dead (or the walking wounded, depending on my mood), and it was more true than I had realized at the time.  In pruning my world into a tiny topiary that would fit in the palm of my hand, I had cut out all the oxygen from my world, making it impossible to breathe.

Now, I have to change.  I can’t stay frozen in time any longer because it no longer feels so comfortable to stay in my little world.  The problem is, I don’t know how to change.  I don’t know how to let go of the fears that plague my mind pretty much all the damn time without resorting to self-abuse.  I don’t know how not to get overwhelmed by the terrors that float around inside my brain.  I do know from experience that I cannot wait for my mind to change before I change my behavior (because it just won’t happen), but I am at a loss as to how to change my behavior in a productive and meaningful world.

I know it’s a bit uncomfortable to hear, but when I get in the grips of my self-abusive behavior, it’s really damn difficult for me to stop said behavior.  For example, I am sick right now.  I’m hoping it’s just bronchitis because I know how to deal with that (I get it frequently), but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s not just bronchitis because I am fucking FREEZING, and that just doesn’t happen to me.

Anyway, I have been doing my workouts pretty faithfully, even though I have a hunch that my habit of going from no workout to full workout in a week is something that contributes to my broken immune system.   So, today, I am freezing; I sound like a foghorn; I’m sucking up my own nasal drippings when I’m not swallowing them; I ache (and not in a good way); I’m bone-tired.  Still.  I had to do my workout.  I thought, “I’ll just do ten minutes and see how I feel.”  That’s the ‘healthy’ recommendation, by the way.  “Try to workout for ten minutes and then stop if you’re not feeling up to it.”  That along with, “If the sickness is above the throat, then it’s ok to workout.  If it’s below, then it’s not.”  Yes, I know all the ‘healthy’ behaviors associated with working out.  Do I follow them?  That is another story.

So, I put on Antiques Roadshow, an Ozomatli CD, and I began to dance.  By the way, I am such a bitch, but I love it when an item on the Roadshow turns out to be a fake.  And, I also love it when the appraiser gives a price for an item (say, $15,000 for an old table), and then tacks on, “If Jefferson had spit on the table as your family said he did, it would be worth $150,000!”  OK, the appraiser didn’t say spit, but he might as well have.  Anyway, I was sucking wind after fifteen minutes, but I kept going.  Why?  Because.   Like I said, once I get going, it’s hard for me to stop.  The voice in my head tells me that I have to do it (the whole hour) or else.  It never specifies the ‘or else’, but it has no need since I am pretty well-trained to respond to ‘or else’.

ETA: My server went down just as I finished writing this entry earlier this morning (damn you, alex!), so I am writing more as I have had a few more thoughts on the subject.

Back to actual substantial, physical change.  It’s difficult because I have spent most of my life actively resisting change.  Change, to me, is scary because by its very nature, it’s uncontrollable and unpredictable (yes, yes, I know that my way of controlling my life is really a false sense of control, but it’s MY delusion, all right?).  Plus, it’s a lot of work, and as we all know, I am kinda work-averse.  And risk-averse.  And uncomfortable-feeling-averse.   In addition, I start thinking of a change I need to make (say, buy my own house), and then I start thinking of all the steps I have to make on the way to effect that change, and I start freaking the fuck out.  It’s my stupid mechanism for dealing with change:  Make it seem so huge, I am frozen into inertia.

Intellectually, I know that change is comprised of small steps.  Or rather, I know that it’s easier to deal with change when one breaks down a massive change into its smaller components.  I can even do that in a reasonable manner.  Then, I start freaking out.  My therapist and I are talking about a prescription for Xanax or Valium which I can take sparingly (as the latter is highly addictive) when a panic flurry hits.  I don’t have panic attacks exactly, but something similar to them.

As for the self-abuse, I had another uncomfortable thought.  I find self-abuse to be soothing.  With all the tense feelings roiling up inside, I actually feel relief when I burn or cut or throw up.  And, as I said about playing certain songs over and over, I go into a trance that stops the repetitive thoughts dead in their tracks.  When the blood flows or the burn wells up, a sense of calm floods over me.  All is right in my world again.  It’s because I stopped the obsessive thoughts through the use of pain.  I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

Hurting myself feels good.  The thought of being nice to myself freaks me the fuck off.  It feels like a threat to me, and I have no idea why.  Well, I have some idea why, but nothing very convincing.  I don’t know how to flip that switch inside my head so that doing nice things for myself feels good and the thought of hurting myself freaks me out.  It saddens me that my brain works this way, but it’s where I am at right now.

8 Responses to Damn It, I Already Used that Title

  1. When the blood flows or the burn wells up, a sense of calm floods over me. All is right in my world again. It’s because I stopped the obsessive thoughts through the use of pain. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

    But doesn’t hurting yourself just reinforce the idea that you don’t deserve to feel good? Do the voices stop because you’ve given them what they want — you’ve hurt yourself more effectively, and more lastingly, than they can?

    I don’t know how you can change, Minna. I wish I did. But I still believe (ahem) that hurting yourself isn’t the way. I hope you can talk about how to flip that switch with your therapist.

    I haven’t asked for a while if you ever managed to get Portal working. Video games are one way you can obsess over a world different than your own, and in which you really do have control over what happens. Portal might be a little too short for extended therapy, but maybe a role-playing game like Neverwinter Nights, a classic that I’m replaying, or a Final Fantasy title? Or even, though it might be risky, a survival horror title — deal with someone else’s dark visions — and fictitious ones at that — for a change. I don’t know how you feel about games, but your obsessive tendencies could be an asset. No, they won’t make your problems go away, but they could maybe provide the focus you referred to in your post without doing any actual harm?

  2. PS I forgot to add that, as The Ten Year Old found out the other day, beating a game provides a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, so there’s that too.

  3. Gregory, I don’t know how to answer your question because I–I don’t know. Most likely, I would guess that hurting myself reinforces my belief that I don’t deserve to feel good. In an odd sort of way, though, the pain does feel good. That is what’s so twisted about it.

    The voices stop because the pain jolts the record off the track, much like a skip. It’s just a way of interrupting the cycle. I don’t know if there is a more effective way of doing it because I stumbled on the pain thing and never looked beyond that.

    Games: I did get Portal to work. It’s too frenetic for me, though. I don’t work well under that kind of pressure, and my mind has a hard time grasping the logics of how to create the portals. I do play HOG, which can tamp down on my thinking a bit, but not nearly enough.

    I would like to try a RPG. What could you suggest that has a strong female character who is not just a man with boobs? And, I wouldn’t mind trying one that has a survivor horror title. I like other people’s dark visions a lot better than my own.

    Beating a game doesn’t really give me a sense of accomplishment, but maybe I just need to try more difficult games.

    As for the switch in my head, yeah. I would like to figure out a way to rewire that particular switch. Every time I think I am about to make a breakthrough, I fall back into old habits and patterns. It’s discouraging.

    P.S. I saw what you did there re: my theme song. Clever.

  4. Sorry to take so long on the game recommendations. I’ve been pondering your criteria, and it’s been difficult because I’m not longer up on the latest titles. But here goes.

    RPGs: I’m a big fan of the Final Fantasy series, of course, and they’re generally long enough as to allow for some serious obsession. Also, they make some effort to get the player involved with the characters. The main protagonist is often male, but Final Fantasy X-2 uses a female protagonist.

    Survival horror: I love the Silent Hill series, and the third installment also has a female protagonist, although I haven’t finished (indeed, have barely started) playing it. Lately I’ve been playing a wonderfully creepy game called Dead Space. And it’s a first person shooter, but I’ve also been loving the zombie-shooting action of Left4Dead (for which one of the protagonists is female, but really, they’re not fully developed characters in the RPG sense).

    I was recently reminded of the farm simulation series Harvest Moon. They’re pretty cute, too.

    And I don’t play World of Warcraft, but of course many people obsess over it.

    Hope that helps.

  5. I forgot to mention, in terms of RPGs, BioWare’s excellent titles in that category, particularly Neverwinter Nights (for a more fantasy setting) and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Those do offer a number of role-playing options — your character can be good or evil as you choose your actions in the game, and other characters react to you accordingly. Also, your character is very customizable. Plus, you can probably pick those up cheap (I scored KOTOR for five bucks from Steam over the holidays).

  6. Gregory, I like FF. I’ve never played it, but my last ex did. I have another friend who has Neverwinter Nights and would be willing to play with me. She liked it quite a bit.

    Dead Space. First-person shooter, eh? I must confess that I have a secret liking (not-so-secret any more) for first-person shooter games, much to my chagrin. I have heard of the Silent Hill series, too. I will browse through them all and see what catches my eyes. Thanks for the recommendations.

  7. Dead Space is actually an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective. It has a neat game mechanic in that there’s no heads-up display; all the indicators like health and ammo are on the character’s space suit. It’s *really* creepy; I’m enjoying it.

    By the same token, I’m still fond of the first two Resident Evil games.

    Left4Dead is a first-person shooter, and it creates a great atmosphere of tension. It also offers a variety of settings, from urban to a devastated airport to rural (figthing off a horde of infected in the middle of a corn field is no easy task).

    I’m glad I could help.

  8. Gregory, I like creepy. It’s a way to get out of my own head. I prefer first-shooter to third-shooter, but I will still check out all the games you recommended. If you think of any others, go ahead and put them here. Thanks!