The way is love

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The risks that come with abuse

In one chapter of Jenny Lawson’s second book, Furiously Happy, she writes about her propensity to self-harm, what is called non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-V used by mental health professionals.

There are distinctions in the DSM-V, but she seems to fit into the NSSI one. I don’t think she’s tried to kill herself, at least I haven’t read that in her books so far.

I looked it up because I was talking with a friend of mine and was saying, “I don’t know what that feels like to want to hurt myself on purpose. Jenny says it reduces her stress. I’m not sure I know what that feels like.”

But, in retrospect, I may.

I’m not sure what I did from childhood on into adulthood would qualify in the DSM-V as NSSI, but you never know.

For example,

• I rode my bike alone around my neighbourhood from the age of five (yes, it was the 70s, but still, I was a little girl!)
• I played in the park quite far away from my house (that I’d gotten to on my bike) alone often
• I went on the subway alone starting at the age of 11 into downtown Toronto, Bloor Street Station, walked from Yonge and Bloor down to the Eaton Centre and back to Bloor Station alone often (This was not a nice part of Toronto with many questionable stores and bars. I did this for years. Alone.)
• I used to jaywalk across very busy streets in Toronto and enjoy the look of fear on the drivers’ faces
• I used to stand very close to the very edge of the subway platform as the train was coming in (I saw the look of horror on the drivers’ faces and enjoyed it.)
• I used to ride my bike on very busy streets in Montreal without paying too much attention to the traffic (it’s a miracle I didn’t get hit! Some drivers used to slow down and castigate me out of their car windows. I ignored them.)

As Jenny says we all have our own personal brand of crazy, and we’re all wonderful because of it, but when I look back on what I did I think I wanted to take those physical risks because I was angry.

And taking those risks made me feel in control because often I didn’t feel I was at all.

And at home, I wasn’t.

My behaviours may not have been considered clinically rooted in self-harm, but in my opinion they weren’t healthy. They were based on rebelliousness and lack of respect for my personal safety, not personality traits that are actually mine, but encouraged more from my home life of often being treated abusively and with disdain and neglect.

What better way to prove I was alive and someone that made an impact than to take risks and feel the freeing sense of rebellion that came with them.

The actions toned down after I became a mother because I knew how important I was to my son’s life. I wanted to be alive and in one piece for him, he relied on me so much.

So the behaviour turned inward and different. It happened when I was alone, when my son was at his father’s house and I was desperately missing him and lost. I had no husband and no son on those nights. I didn’t know who I was.

So I went out and drank, often. I met men who hated women the way I hated myself. And I met my ex husband at a bar drowning my sorrows. And he certainly abused me and treated me with disdain very similar to what I experienced as a girl at home.

The self-harm continued in adult form. I found a man who treated me the way I was used to being treated, and that brought out that rebellious behaviour I knew so well. The anger, the risk taking.

But it all became too much. Something inside of me started to rebel, but in a healthy way.

My brain shut down, and I woke up.

And my breakdown gave me the push I needed to stop the abusive behaviour.

To stop being drawn into the pattern that hurt me so much, and perpetuated the self-harming cycle.

I wanted my sanity, and I fought for it rather than against abusive people.

And I don’t do those things to myself anymore.

And I don’t have any abusive relationships in my life anymore. Those are over for me.

I am learning to put myself and my mental and physical health first, and it’s taken almost half my life.

But I’ve finally done it.

And because of that, I know you can do it too.

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