Sometimes they come to us, those little answers, those tiny ideas that help us find ways to move forward. Today I had one, a small one, an answer to a question that’s plagued me for almost 2 decades.
Why do I hurt myself? Why do I self-harm?
In high school, I talked candidly about my harm with a friend. He asked why I did it. I told him it was because it was a way to feel, but that answer never really felt completely right.
In the work and counselling I’ve done since, I’ve been asked again and again why I harm, why I used to harm, why I stopped. I’ve never had an answer. Everything that I’ve read talks about it being a mental thing, that you’re in so much pain mentally that you want to feel it physically, or that you’re so dissociated mentally that causing pain brings you back. None of those answers made sense to me.
Last night I mentioned a numbness. I said that when I get urges to harm, I’m working through a numbness.
Today, I connected, I got an answer.
I don’t know if the root is mental or physical, but I get into a state of physical numbness. It’s like there’s an extra layer between me and the rest of the world. The ground feels farther from my feet. The keyboard feels further from my fingertips. The cat feels farther from my face. The longer I sit, doing nothing, in this state, the more I feel the need to feel. Challenging hikes help, with lots of scrambling over rocks, bumping knees, scraping fingers. Meditating in the ocean, or really, just putting my body in the freezing water for as long as I can stand it helps. Getting a new tattoo is always good when I feel like this. Sex is 50/50, but acts of BDSM with a partner (with or without the sex component) definitely help. And so does self harm.
I messaged a friend today, the friend I spoke to the night I cut myself, and I told him my revelation. I told him that it’s a physical need to feel through the numbness (whatever the source of the numbness is). I said I just needed to find a healthier way to fill the need when I couldn’t do something like climb rocks for 3 hours or soak myself in near freezing water for an hour. He came over this evening with an answer. He gave me his micro needle therapy roller thing (it looks like a little roller brush, except instead of bristles, there’s needles). It works. It has that same needed sensation that I seek without the causing physical damage component.
I’ll be okay, really, I will. Things will get better and I’ll slowly piece together the answers of my brain.