**CAUTION: TRIGGER WARNING**
I don’t mean to inundate my blog with posts about mental illness since I initially set out to use this blog to describe my journey through college as a non-traditional student. However, since mental illness is something I’m struggling with now as I’m going through college, I feel it pertinent to share. I feel the need to be an advocate for people like me – the ones who appear “normal” and who don’t present “classic” depression symptoms (you know, the stereotype of people who only want to stay in bed all day because they’re depressed). Also, the blog is titled “Hitting Reset”, and my going through therapy and trying to understand myself and my struggles is part of hitting reset. I’ve never been more aware of my life and more mindful than I am now! It truly is like hitting reset…
Anyway, a couple of days ago, I confessed here that I had self harmed by cutting myself two different times. It was an act that scared me because it signalled that 1) I was regressing and that my depression is changing forms and 2) My life must have gotten a lot more stressful because I’ve been triggered and have acted aggressively towards myself. I have been thinking very hard about why I did what I did. I have wondered over and over why I cut myself. When I did it, I didn’t actually feel any kind of emotions whatsoever. But in the aftermath of it, I am left confused, disoriented and lost.
Yesterday, after math class (which I realized is one of my triggers because my instructor goes so fast and is often very misleading with his information because he wants to test whether students have read ahead or not), I started getting really negative. I went to the math assistance center for help because I was confused with what I was being taught. I was freaking out because I realized that having classes only two days a week meant that I had little time to do all the assignments I need to do. I have been having great trouble concentrating and have been forgetting assignments (things that I just don’t do!). That concerned me greatly because I have the pressure of the 4.0 GPA looming over me. People I work with tell me that I should stop worrying and that employers don’t look at people’s GPAs anyway. Yeah, try telling my anxiety that. Just stop worrying. I realized then that despite people’s well intentions, “stop worrying” is also another trigger.
With all that in mind and my mind going on overdrive, a thought came to my head. “I have my Xacto knife with me! It’s very very sharp. I wonder how it would feel like if I cut myself with that?” Thinking about cutting myself instantly made me feel like I was back in control of my spinning-out-of-control day. Here was something I could do to help myself. Sure, it would hurt but by cutting myself, I can at least manifest my emotional and psychological pain which aren’t tangible into a physical pain that is! I wanted to do it.
I wanted so badly to do it. At the same time, there was another voice in my head (not literally since I’m not schizophrenic) that was extremely terrified at this strong urgent need to harm myself. The other voice in my head took control of my hand and with it, dialed the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office. I couldn’t get through the two times I tried. I gave up and contemplated when I should cut myself and where I should do it. Minutes later, the CAPS administrative assistant called me back. I asked if I could see my therapist on an urgent/on-call basis and she told me that he was available to talk until 1pm. It was 11.30am my class was about to start. I knew I wouldn’t make it in time but I resolved to go anyway.
I left class at 1.30pm and through the rain, I walked to CAPS. Along the way, I chided myself for even going because I felt weak and pathetic. I felt as though I have lost control of my life. I’m an adult! Why am I feeling the way I do? Why do I feel like I need to cut myself to feel in control? I am just wasting people’s time. They have more important cases to deal with. Besides, I wasn’t really going to cut myself. Maybe I’m just attention seeking…
All those thoughts and more crossed my mind as I walked. I wanted to turn back and I would’ve had that other voice not urged me on with, “Well you’ve walked this far. Let’s keep going…”
When I finally got to CAPS, I got a free session with the on-call psychologist because my regular therapist was off-call and had his own regular clients to see after 1pm. I was disappointed that I couldn’t see my own therapist and at that point, wanted to walk out again. I decided to say, “Yes, I’ll talk to someone else…”. The anxiety I was feeling was painful. By the time the psychologist came out to greet me, I was ready to bolt again. I’m glad he was kind and welcoming though.
He definitely has a different style than my regular therapist. He was a lot more vocal while my regular therapist would talk a lot less but ask more difficult questions. The on-call psychologist gave more suggestions and his interpretation of what I was telling him which was actually a nice change because here was someone giving me the answers. By the end of the session, he gave me some helpful coping skills and told me to come back again should I feel the desire to cut again. He assesed my threat level to be at “Moderate to Severe” and told me that I shouldn’t wait until it’s “Severe to Very Severe” before acting to minimize my risks. He strongly advised me to relinquish my cutting instruments to someone I could trust. I told him I would ask my instructor to do so. He also told me that I was to be commended for coming in to see him despite having spoken to my regular therapist less than 24 hours before that. I was told that I was at least proactively seeking help.
To be honest, by the end of the session, though I felt like my visit had been helpful in preventing me from doing something dangerous to myself, I also felt like a fraud. Like I didn’t deserve to be there and to take up the psychologist’s time. I felt like I should’ve just dealt with the problem by myself. And that’s the thing… The anxiety and depression lie to me. They tell me that I can handle things myself. That I’m ok. That I’m making a big deal out or nothing. I believe it. It’s hard for me not to. Even right now, as I’m typing this up I’m thinking that I’ve overreacted. It’s such a complicated feeling. It’s so exhausting.
Anyway… Today, I was supposed to go to a trade show to network and establish my presence as a new interior designer in training. I volunteered to help set up but wasn’t given any information as to what I was expected to do. I had been hounding the organizers for information but found none. I woke up at 6.45am and did not want to attend the show. So here I am, writing a blog post instead of getting ready for it. My husband assures me that I shouldn’t feel bad about not going, that I’m only a freshman and I still have 3 more years and plenty of other trade shows I could attend. He also told me that in light of what happened yesterday that I need to take the day off. I still feel bad but that’s why I’m writing this. I felt that I needed to express this in order to make sense of the internal struggle and turmoil that I’m going through.
I’m also trying to be honest with myself and I’m hoping that by penning this down, I can convince myself that I am not in fact overreacting and that I do in fact, need help.
It is National Suicide Prevention Day today. Maybe this post will help someone else who is struggling a similar way. There is help available and really, we only need to reach out and help will be provided. I hope I can stop overthinking things and stop the cycle of self defeating thoughts.
For now, my husband told me to look at this picture every time I feel like cutting again. Of course, you’ll have to note that this guy is super funny and does silly things to try and make me laugh. It helps though. Seeing this photo reminds me that someone does love me and that I don’t have to hurt myself to feel.