Self harm, I think, can be done mentally, with no outward signs.
We have all discussed the troubles associated with negative thinking, and allowing the inner critic to put us down and steal our shame. But today I want to look at another form of mental self harm – Imagery.
I have suffered with suicidal ideations for way too many years. I can be having a great day, and pow, there goes a fleeting thought wishing myself dead. I can usually shake it off and keep going, I’ve gotten quite used to these bothersome thoughts and know they need dismissing immediately.
About a month ago, I went a bit further than suicidal ideation. I got stuck in some of those thoughts, they became intrusive, powerful, and uncontrollable. It was frightening. It was horrible. But even more horrible was the imagery, the waking nightmares, the gruesome daydreams I conjured for myself.
I spoke to my therapist about these images, and told her that thankfully they are no longer intrusive, but that I can still recall them easily, and that they now can flash into my consciousness like those ‘I want to die’ thoughts. These are much more disturbing to me, they have more power and take me a little longer to shake off, since I am seeing myself die horrible deaths.
So I starting thinking more about these images and why I may have created them in the first place. I think I may have been doing the mental equivalent of cutting, inflicting self harm. I did not pick up a knife, but many of my imagined scenes had me slowly and deliberately cutting myself, watching myself bleed. I f I could not stop the mental scene, I would watch myself die, and often watch my children find me this way.
I think my brain found my biggest weakness and has been using it against me. Huh? Are you still with me? I know this sounds a bit bonkers, but I think it makes sense in the context that PTSD controls my emotions and visual memories at times – why couldn’t it create new ones for me? And now I have to relive these invented traumatic scenes. I have never been carved up and mutilated, so why can I imagine it so vividly? AND – when I was down so low, why did these images have a soothing effect? Yes, that’s when I thought of cutting, and the calm I have heard others describe around that activity. And then of course of the shame cycle, the ever present shame cycle.
Is it possible that my abuse damaged brain had to up the ante on me, since I have been doing so well plugging on through the flashbacks and depression, and overall so much stronger and healthier these days? Did I find a new way to hurt myself? I can’t truly consider suicide, every time I do, the thought of leaving and hurting my children brings me back out of the dangerous ‘make a plan’ zone and back to the ‘let’s play with the idea of it’ zone. So my brain invented the most painful images it could, my children not just suffering with my loss, but having to see my gruesome bloody body and know that I did it to myself.
I want to get these images out of my head, but alas, just as I can’t erase my childhood memories, I can’t erase these new ones. I almost thought about drawing them, but was afraid that would give them more power. I know I can’t simply ignore them, they must be processed and allowed to fade.
Sigh. Why, when life is otherwise good, would I traumatize myself like this? Well, I hated myself for a few weeks there, that’s why. I remember hating myself like I was an evil putrid stain. Something foul and disgusting that no one could bear to even acknowledge exists, let alone look at or live with. And so I found a new way to hurt myself.
Sometimes I hate being creative.
I tried searching for anything about mental cutting and found this forum where people discuss experiencing nearly the same feelings from imagining they were cutting. So many hurting people in this world, and so much strength as well.
I did not find anything yet close to my own experience though, since I have never cut myself in real life. I attempted suicide twice, and neither of the times were a bloody method.