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.