First, do no harm

A while back, I read a book called Get Me Out of Here by Rachel Reiland. It is a book about the author’s journey with borderline personality disorder. When I read it, I really resonated with much of the book – the thinking and the desperation and the hopelessness and unworthiness and more. I subsequently found out that Complex PTSD (C-PTSD or complex post-traumatic stress disorder) and BPD have much in common and can go hand-in-hand. (I don’t have BPD, as far as I am aware!)

Last night I re-read an excerpt from the book. I was struck by the similarities in behaviour – the desperate fear of abandonment and how it results in this push-pull on the relationship. I want you but I don’t want to want you. I don’t want to be dependent. I am independent and do not need to rely on any other person. Go away. But please don’t leave me. I am so sorry. Please stay. I know you must think so little of me for how I am, but I beg you, please stay. Please be my soft place to fall, but why are you doing this for me? Why do you let me lean on you in this way? It’s because you think I am weak and can’t do it on my own. Well, I don’t need you. I will show you. Get out of my life. I am so so sorry. Please don’t go. I didn’t mean it. It is relentless.

Then there is the roller coaster of feeling joy and elation, changing to crushed defeat in a matter of minutes. The deep desire to run away from everyone – to hide and not be seen nor have to see. To believe that every little thing you do will drive people that you care about away from you. To have to always show up as your best self, no matter how shitty you really are feeling, because you don’t want people to know how you really and truly suck at being an adult and a parent. The knowing that you are unloveable and the world will show you this in more ways than you can ever dream – over and over. The knowledge that you have a terrible temper but that you are even more unlikeable if you let it show, so you have to curb it all the time. In fact, you never let it show or let it out. Much like your other emotions, unless they have a “positive” connotation associated to them.

I can relate to all these things in her story. And more – the dissociation (the feeling of weightlessness and dizziness and being there but not being there), the crushing feeling of failure and the knowledge that you are not normal. But the thing that particularly struck me yesterday was about self-harming. We all know about the things like cutting, anorexia, drugs, alcoholism and other sorts of self-recrimination of this ilk. What of the small things? The everyday patterns that we use to harm ourselves.

First, do no harm is correctly attributed to Hippocrates, but incorrectly attributed to the Hippocratic Oath. (Did you know that in this day and age the Hippocratic Oath has fallen away to a large degree? Most medical facilities require no oath whatsoever.) The principle should be one that we all live by anyway – applicable to both ourselves and to others. In my world, it is easy for me to practise this on others, but nigh on impossible to do it for myself.

I can see the allure of food deprivation. I have played with it at times. Just to test my resolve. There is the allure of driving too fast when no-one else is on the road in front of you or behind you. The allure of drinking too much. The allure of sex and how you are a somebody, or even just a body, for a short while. When you are unworthy, why look after yourself?

I can see it in the lack of sleep routine. I have a major argument in my head whenever I need to go to sleep. The voice that advocates for not sleeping has a million reasons as to why not and mostly drowns out the voice that says it is time to head for bed. The thing is that the loudest voice is the one that knows that looking after yourself shows that you are of value, when it knows that you are nothing. No-one. Certainly not deserving of love, respect nor kindness. It is the one that knows you cannot be dependent on others because people let you down. They turn on you, they leave you or they hurt you, deeply. It is the voice that reminds you that you should not get ahead of yourself, thinking that you are better than you really are. If you are so amazing, then why are you divorced, why are you in financial straits, why are you losing friends, why are you alone? Who do you think you are to believe that you add anything to other people’s lives? Who do you think that you are to even consider the notion that you might be knowledgeable about topics and situations? Who are you to think you are worthy? You are less than – always have been and always will be. People see you for who you truly are, you worthless burden.

I know that I have a high IQ, but it blessed me with nothing but the ability to see how little I am of service to others; to be aware of how little I know in the great scheme of things; to see how I under-perform and disappoint others. I feel stupid and inept on a daily basis. And now with the real prospect of job-hunting again, for the first time in 14 years, I am terrified. Who would want me working for them? I can’t offer much. I can be the person who makes the coffee and organises the printing and binds your documents for you and can possibly reconcile simple accounts. I can chauffeur you from A to B, as long as you don’t need me to always be on top of the best route to pick – I fail on that front often! I don’t want someone else to view me with contempt and dislike or even pity at my lack of ability or knowledge or skill. I have been that person for most of my life and don’t want to disappoint anyone else. Besides, I can do that judging for myself, by myself. No input required. I am a disappointment to myself on an almost daily basis.

A friend mentioned to me once that lots of small injuries are like death by a thousand paper cuts. Whilst each time we harm ourselves can be just the smallest of things, it can be yet another paper cut, meaning that the tiniest trickle of blood becomes a great exodus from the veins. We need to take care of the paper cuts. (She says glibly, with a sardonic laugh.)

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