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Solstice
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So I'm back. Been away from this site for a while, because I thought what I was reading here was just too triggering, too many reminders of the negativity in my own life. I got a new therapist, one who specializes in SI. I've been diligently going to therapy, going to group, doing the homework. And I'm just getting worse. I've been blowing up, melting down, self-harming regularly. I realized over the weekend for the first time that I think my SI is doing real lasting harm. If it hasn't yet, it will if I keep going. And I'm going to lose everything I have if I keep going. But I can't seem to stop. I'm scared.

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Hello, Solsiste, welcome back :)!

You may be with us without reading other's threads - when they're triggering to you, it's certainly better to avoid them.

It's good that you're so diligent :)! I'm sorry it didn't bring the results yet :( ... It's probably important to find out where the problem is. You might use some of these questions while thinking it out:

- How do you feel about the therapies? What do you like about them and what not? What would you change if it was possible (in the way people - group members, therapists, ...) relate to you, talk to you, ...?

- What precisely is telling you that "it's getting worse"?

- What did you expect from therapy?

You say:

I realized over the weekend for the first time that I think my SI is doing real lasting harm. If it hasn't yet, it will if I keep going. And I'm going to lose everything I have if I keep going.

I see this as very important. It seems that till this realization, you wasn't motivated enough, you didn't admit your problems were "serious enough", ... May it be that this was the main obstacle in your therapeutical efforts? Maybe now, when you have relalized this, you'll be doing differently in therapy. Because admitting the seriousness of one's problem is one of the key steps. And you've done it already! :) I know it's scary! It has to be: Now you already know that "it's serious"; something you knew only unconsciously before. The next step could be turing this fear into motivation. I see that you're feeling not strong enough to stop the SI and to heal, but believe me; you CAN do it! It will take time, but with your new motivation and your therapies as help and support, it has to succeed ;)..

Good luck and take care!

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Thanks for your response, LaLa. The questions you raise about my current therapy are good ones. I guess my strongest feeling about it is that I don't feel like my therapist takes my problems as seriously as I would like her to. It's almost as if she does not believe that I'm as much of a mess as I tell her I am -- which is not surprising. I am very good at putting on a show of being "normal" and well-adjusted. And when I tell her that I'm self-harming and scared to death, she asks a few questions about whether I am getting enough sleep and otherwise taking care of myself, and then just tells me to "keep noticing" what's going on with me...maybe that is the answer, but I guess I was looking for something more substantive.

I believe I am getting worse because I am blowing up and self-harming over smaller and smaller issues, and doing worse and worse damage to myself. I am hopeful, as you suggest, that this will motivate me to make real change, but I'm more afraid that I might not be able to pull myself out of the downward spiral I am in.

I have a therapy session later today, and I'll talk to her about the thoughts I had as I read and tried to answer your questions. Again, thanks for your kindness.

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"And I'm going to lose everything I have if I keep going. But I can't seem to stop."

Is it okay to ask what it is that you stand to lose (even if you only answer to yourself)?

Because, quite often, not being able to stop something is tied up with not wanting to stop, on some level.

I know that when I was fantasizing about death, I didn't manage to stop until I realized why I was doing it, and stopped the root cause, instead.

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Hi Solstice. It is very good to hear from you. I'm sorry you are feeling scared and distressed. :(

I guess my strongest feeling about it is that I don't feel like my therapist takes my problems as seriously as I would like her to. It's almost as if she does not believe that I'm as much of a mess as I tell her I am -- which is not surprising.

Have you expressed this to her? I hope your session went well.

Do relaxation techniques help at all when you feel the urge to S/I?

I also wanted to say hi and offer my support.

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Thanks for your answers, S. :)

I guess my strongest feeling about it is that I don't feel like my therapist takes my problems as seriously as I would like her to.

I used to have this feeling sometimes in my therapy, too, but probably in different ways and contexts. However, I can tell you something about my experience with this: I realized that a therapist, in certain cases (maybe even most of them?), shouldn’t show much concerns and shouldn’t react to the problems as if they were very serious, because that would reinforce the feeling of the patient that (s)he’s “in a big trouble” – it may feel better to see that the therapist can see the problems a manageable and isn’t “scared” by them. (There were also some problems which my therapist considered trivial and even unimportant and this helped me to look at them from another perspective. But this obviously is not the case of your problems with SI and fears etc., I know.) Moreover, showing strong compassion would be also often counterproductive because the compassion feels very good and so the patient wouldn’t be motivated to get better – that would mean losing the compassion and the kind expressions of care.

However, I think it’s very important for her to know how much you suffer and what problems do you struggle with. And from what you wrote, I can’t tell if this is the case. Maybe she knows and you only suppose that she’s fooled by your mask of “being well-adjusted”. But this is something to discuss with her; don’t leave it just on uncertain impressions.

It's almost as if she does not believe that I'm as much of a mess as I tell her I am -- which is not surprising. I am very good at putting on a show of being "normal" and well-adjusted.

This is a frequent problem: People try to appear that we’re OK even if it’s in a situation where it’s counterproductive (i.e. in therapy). For me, the therapist acting like if he accepted the fact that I might be OK was a stimulation to show him finally that I’m not. I’ve never done any SI, but in the situations when I felt this need – to show him that I suffer even that it’s invisible – I often imagined myself cutting my hand, even in front of his “office” – as if that injury would be a real proof for him. (But I’ve never done it – I was just talking about it with him.) I hope you won’t do such extreme things.

Here, I see these questions as the most important: What are the positive aspects of your “putting on a show of being "normal" and well-adjusted”? As you do it, it has to have a reason, it has to bring you something positive. What is it? And what to you imagine as an alternative? What bad could happen if you changed; if you disclosed everything?

And when I tell her that I'm self-harming and scared to death, she asks a few questions about whether I am getting enough sleep and otherwise taking care of myself, and then just tells me to "keep noticing" what's going on with me...maybe that is the answer, but I guess I was looking for something more substantive.

To be honest, I don’t like these reactions of her, either :(. But I can’t know if it means that she’s “not good enough”. Maybe it’s a relevant strategy. In any case, it would be good to talk about this with her. It’s a place where you can be open and honest and can (“should”) say all your concerns and point on every problems you see in the therapeutic process.

I’m curious how your yesterday’s session was...

May I ask you about the reasons of your SI? Does it bring you relief from the mental suffering – is it a coping mechanism? Or you punish yourself this way?

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Thanks, all, for your responses and questions. I'll try to take them in order...

Mark: What I'm referring to losing are my relationships (the few I have), my job, and my health. And I know (or at least I believe I know) the root causes of my actions -- extreme fear, anger, and massive self-loathing. I've got tons of insight into myself. But that doesn't seem to hep me to stop.

Lana: Thanks...your support means a lot to me. :)

IJ: At the suggestion of my therapist, I regularly practice relaxation techniques throughout each day. The hope is that I could use them when I'm triggered and want to SI...but the problem is that the time from trigger to blow up is too quick. I don't even think to try to relax, let alone manage to do it.

LaLa: Yesterday's session was...not satisfying. I tried, really tried, to drop the mask, to really show my therapist what's going on with me and to honestly disclose my feelings and the ways I harm myself. I was again left with the feeling that she just didn't "get it," but I don't know. She asked me to do self-compassion mediations each day. Which I will do, diligently -- but I'm scared that's not enough.

You asked about the reasons I self harm. It's really both things that you mentioned. Sometimes the pain inside me gets so big that the only way I can find to control it is to hurt the outside of me. It can be calming, or at least numbing. And sometimes I do it because I feel like such a horrible person that I just want to damage myself.

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Sorry to hear you’re having such trouble. I had problems for years – therapy did little good, it was like aspirin and a bandaid for a deep, deep wound that (of course) I had automatic responses to protect and cover up.

Eventually I did melt down and it has been horrible – I have lost “everything”, but only “sort of”. The “me” that was in that picture wasn’t really me. Still, I wish mental health professionals could come up with a better way to do things than to let us fall apart completely. I thought I would never get myself and a life together again. I suspect some people never do.

Finally I got a therapist who specialized in dissociative disorders. She had a Ph.D. and two years of post-doc training in an inpatient facility that specialized in people who were very seriously ill. I was functional, but barely. Anyway, she was able to help – to tolerate unpleasant aspects of me and (therefore) helped me to do it, too.

I’m still working on (?) allowing a cohesive sense of who I am to come “out” or develop.

The self-loathing, the melting down – those are symptoms I can identify with and they CAN BE symptoms of deep, deep difficulty within.

It’s easy for me to say now, but I’d run, not walk, to a therapist who is trained, and is willing, to go “there” in the horrible places with you. Where you’ll find such a person – there’s a real, societal difficulty there. Based on a friend’s recommendation, I went for a consultation with one of the best experts in my local area. I was terrified – I didn’t think that I was that “ill”, that I deserved an appointment with the very best. She couldn’t take me on herself, but she did refer me to someone who could actually help.

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It took me a while to respond to your post, DD, because it tapped into some of my deepest fears these days -- that I will have to fall apart completely before I get any real help, and that I won't be able to get myself or a life together again after that happens. I'm so glad to hear that you are putting the pieces back together. But I worry: what if I can't?? And as to finding the right therapist...I've been to several over the past few years. All highly recommended, all highly trained. This most recent one is supposed to be the best in this city for my issues...maybe it's not her. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I want something I simply can't have.

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Solstice, I wrote a reply but then was afraid that it wasn't very helpful and might trigger other fears for you -- despite my best wishes for you. But I felt responsible and therefore guilty, if my first response might have hurt you.

For me, feeling the depths of my distress were/are essential to overcoming them.

Edited by devil's daughter
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Your first response didn't hurt me -- all it did was remind me of what I am afraid will happen, and I would have reminded myself soon enough. :rolleyes: Anyway, please don't hold back, and please don't feel either responsible or guilty for my feelings. I'm posting here in hopes of learning and moving forward through sharing with others. And I do appreciate you sharing.

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OK -- I'm definitely wanting to learn, too. -_-

What helped me recently was my therapist pushing through some defenses, I think. Eliciting some anger, maybe .. or maybe just being self-focused for a bit and withholding empathy? Or maybe it all just happened, IDK. But it worked -- horrible, horrible, horrible, unbearable, unbelievable invaded my consciousness. I didn't try to push it out, of course, because consciously I "wanted" it to happen because, from what I have read and understand intellectually, it has to. But I couldn't make it be conscious. It had to do it on its own. In the midst of it all, days and days of misery. Much better now.

Maybe that's what your therapist is doing? Fear of falling apart is just that -- fear. And the fear keeps the mask in place (maybe?). And so she has been offering what suggestions she has to help you in the process, maybe? Unfortunately, there's no anesthesia -- in fact that's what I had to get rid of. The defenses which blocked my pain.

But social support along the way can be very soothing. Maybe like having a horrible raging fever from a virus which just has to run its course? Liquids and a soft bed can do wonders. And -- you're reaching out, so that's good. Good, as in -- new stuff to do when keeping the mask in place is ceasing to work.

Just my 2 cents. I want us all to be well -- now, tomorrow, as soon as possible.

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some of my deepest fears these days -- that I will have to fall apart completely before I get any real help, and that I won't be able to get myself or a life together again after that happens

I'm sure you don't have to fall apart! But, of course, I can't say if it will happen :(.

maybe it's not her. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I want something I simply can't have.

Every relationship depends on both people involved. So don't blame yourself this way. Saying this is like giving up. And that's not what you want, is it? ;)

I was again left with the feeling that she just didn't "get it,"

It would be right to tell her so. She might ask you then, for instance, how you imagine her reaction in case you'd have the feeling "she's got it". What would be your answer?

I wonder what are you talking about in therapy. Did you disclose her already "eveything" that was in your mind? I mean about your childhood, your relationships, ... Or are you focusing on the present? On the current frequent feelings? ...

Is she giving you also good questions, not only suggestions about meditaiton and coping? Does she show you the will to uncover "everything" hidden in the depths of your mind? And do you already have a feeling that you know what's there and you just can't express it, can't talk about it, or you don't know what might be so very important, traumatising in your past?

May I ask you also: How do you imagine "help", when you really try to think it out? How would you try help yourself if you were her? I know you may say you don't have the training and knowledge. But you have other important things: Mainly, you know yourself and you can feel your needs. So, according to your needs; what would you like her to do, to say, to ask? (For me, it used to be important: to find out what I wanted so that I could go for it.)

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But I worry: what if I can't??

Maybe it helps to take one step at a time? Thinking too far ahead may be overwhelming right now.

I think the key in therapy may be to find a therapist who you can work comfortably with. A good working, professional relationship with the therapist may mean much more than a therapist's qualifications.

Maybe I want something I simply can't have.

Maybe it takes more time?

At the suggestion of my therapist, I regularly practice relaxation techniques throughout each day. The hope is that I could use them when I'm triggered and want to SI...but the problem is that the time from trigger to blow up is too quick. I don't even think to try to relax, let alone manage to do it.

This can be a place to work with. Learning new coping skills can take some time and you may have to change the plan some too if it is not working for you.

Take gentle care, Solstice. I hope you feel better.

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You asked about the reasons I self harm. It's really both things that you mentioned. Sometimes the pain inside me gets so big that the only way I can find to control it is to hurt the outside of me. It can be calming, or at least numbing.

Did you try crying as a coping method? It has always worked for me. Tears are maybe a bit analogical to blood - it flows away from you, ... There are also some stress hormones in the tears and crying let them out of your body which is beneficial. More importantly, crying (even only 10-15 minutes!) is very exhausting and it can make you numb (or feeling even better!) in the end.

If you don't manage just to start to cry when you need to vent / to cope with strong emotions, you could find somehting to help you to induce the tears. For me, it used to be music - one special singer (I can't share; it's not in a language you might understand and the lyrics are the most important there). When I started to listen to it, I started to cry in few minutes...

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DD: You bring up some good points. Maybe my therapist is just trying to push past my defenses by making me angry -- that would explain a lot of our interactions, and perhaps why I feel that she just doesn't "care." And maybe my dissatisfaction is that I am looking for the social support you mention to come from her. That's not really her job. However, my problem is that I don't have much (any) social support elsewhere. Just people who I've hurt so often that they don't care to support me anymore.

LaLa: I do plan to tell my therapist next week that I feel like she's just not "getting it." As to how I'd imagine her reaction if she did "get it?" Well, I picture something like the couple of times I had to go to the emergency room, with a real emergency. The doctors were calm, but there was obvious urgency in their behavior, because they understood that they needed to move fast or I'd be in real trouble. I just don't see that from her, but I feel as though this is no less an emergency.

You ask about what we discuss in therapy. I've brought up my relationships, my history, and the traumas that set my issues in motion, and we've talked about them to some degree, but she mostly focuses on my current state, or the recent past -- times when my emotions got the best of me. She doesn't seem interested in uncovering "everyting" in the depths of my mind, but that's how I imagine the help I'd like to receive. I imagine her delving into the reasons I can't cope, like my past trauma and bad relationships and poor self-image, and helping me to come to terms with those things so I can cope better.

Crying used to work as a coping method. I'd start to cry when I was hurting and eventually wear myself out. But it stopped working. I still cry when I'm hurt, but now it's not enough to soothe the pain.

IJ: Maybe it is just a matter of time, as you suggest. I've always been a goal-oriented, impatient person, so that's a bit challenging for me to accept. :(

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The doctors were calm, but there was obvious urgency in their behavior, because they understood that they needed to move fast or I'd be in real trouble. I just don't see that from her, but I feel as though this is no less an emergency.

Yes, I see... But this may be individual: We have diverse ways of behaving in emergency situations. Maybe this is her way and you don't like it. It might be a problem, but you might also "get used to it" - if other things will be fine, than this will become less important. We'll see...

It's good that you plan to talk about the fact that "she seems not geting it" with her next time. I hope it will be useful...

She doesn't seem interested in uncovering "everyting" in the depths of my mind, but that's how I imagine the help I'd like to receive. I imagine her delving into the reasons I can't cope, like my past trauma and bad relationships and poor self-image, and helping me to come to terms with those things so I can cope better.

She may seem not interested, but it's up to you to bring the topics you'd like to discuss. Then you might be nicely surprised by her reaction, who knows?

(In my case, my therapist even didn't know about some of my issues for the first months of my therapy, so he couldn't ask me about them - I needed to became prepared and motivated to tell him that "there's much more than he can see now".)

I'm sorry crying doesn't work anymore... :( I still believe you'll find a better way...

Take care!

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Maybe I could share here two short excerpts from the book Every day get's a little closer. In the afterword, Yalom wrote (Ginny is the patient about whose therapy is the book):

Archeological excavation, the search for the whence, the primordial cause—intriguing issues, but not synonymous with the therapeutic process. Not irrelevant either though. The intellectual chase often serves to maintain the therapist’s interest and enthusiasm; it combines with the patient’s dependency to form a therapeutic epoxy locking patient and therapist together long enough for the major instigator of change—the therapeutic relationship—to grind into movement. I enjoy digging also, but, if I can, I try to hold my curiosity in abeyance and to focus on the many-layered forces, conscious and unconscious, which, in the immediate present, shaped Ginny’s thoughts, feelings and behavior.
…and patient and therapist must linger there until the arrival of the energy-supplying core of the change process: Will. We make our puny attempts to hasten the development of Will.

:)

"P.S.:" What kind of therapy is your current therapist specialized in? (It sounds to me like CBT, which doesn't seem to me as the best type for your wish to "go deeper into your mind", but I also know that the type of therapy is not the key factor - every type works in case the therapist and the patient "match together"...) Have you tried other types?

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Solstice, when I first went to therapy, I was very focused on the reasons, too. I thought everything would be fixed when the root causes were identified; like I would have a sudden "aha", and then would know exactly what to do differently.

<very dry voice> Sadly, this did not happen. ;-)

And as I get older, the causes make less and less of a difference to me. Past is past; justice is something we imagine rather than something we can generally enforce. Blame is certainly pointless (not that you're seeking that.)

So, what's left? I decided that I'm less of a mystery than a choice, I guess? That doesn't mean that you shouldn't explore yourself in therapy, but that it works just as well to explore the present as the past.

As for urgency, perhaps you guys have already dealt with that: it's no good for it to come from the therapist, because the work that needs to be done isn't really the therapist's. Emergency room doctors get quietly efficient because that's how they do their jobs; therapists remain neutral because that's how their job gets done.

So, when you say that your therapist is just "not getting it", is it really yourself that you're saying that to? You're harming yourself worse each time, beginning to get scared, thinking it's about time to put a stop to it ... are you "getting it"? Your feelings are trying to tell you something; are you listening?

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LaLa: That sounds like an interesting book -- I may have to take a look at it (books are almost like a drug for me. :rolleyes: Or at least a passion). The type of therapy I'm in now is a combination of dialectical behavior therapy and CBT. Supposedly the best type of therapy for someone like me, with some of the borderline personality disorder traits and self-harm issues. I've tried a number of other types of therapy -- from plain old CBT and old-fashioned psychoanalysis on the "vanilla" end of the spectrum to inner child work and dream analysis on the "stranger" end. And I've spent some time taking anti-depressants and anxiety meds. All to little or no effect...

Mark: Truth be told, I think I am still looking for that "a ha" moment -- so that I can still believe maybe I don't have a choice in all this, and maybe I can blame someone. Rationally, though, I know better. I also know my feelings are telling me something. They are telling me I've gone too long without an effective, healthy way of coping, and that I need to choose a new path. The problem is that despite that realization, I do not choose that new path. I just keep plodding down the same old path that I know can result in everything I don't want.

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My most recent “aha” moment came when I fully realized and felt the horror of a childhood trauma at the hands of medical people. The medical people probably genuinely thought they were doing something that was best for me and my mother did as they told her.

Is there a “blame” that really belongs “out there” which you haven’t allowed yourself to feel yet? My child blames the hospital and my mother. That’s her reality. Not the reality my adult understands. But hers, and a valid point of view. She had the job of saving her own life even back then -- we all do, no matter how little we are.

Fully realizing all that horror allows me now, only several weeks later, to tolerate similar feelings in my current life. That allows me more information, and energy, for other choices.

But in order to fully realize that horror, I have had to have social support beyond that offered by the therapeutic relationship. Now you have us, maybe that will be enough to help you over the hump?

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I don't know...it almost seems like I'm dwelling too much in the past and the bad things that happened to me when I was much younger. It took me years to recognize that my mother was, in addition to being physically abusive on a minor scale, also emotionally abusive on a major scale. Took me even more years to recognize that by letting it all happen and being an absentee dad, my father was in his own way abusive. But it seems as though, since I've recognized those things, I've only gotten "worse." Now that I've allowed myself to recognize those things, I can't deal with them, or anything much else, at all.

Maybe working through it here, with the support of kind people like you, will help. But there's an awfully big part of me that just thinks I need to quit crying about it already, buck up, and move on.

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But there's an awfully big part of me that just thinks I need to quit crying about it already, buck up, and move on.

Are you able to do that? Quit therapy, buck up and move on? If so, then why not? If not, then here's a quote from Rebecca Tendler in DISSOCIATION, Vol. VIII, No. 1, 1995:

Narcissistic injury is a major component of the sequelae of child abuse. The disregard of the child’s basic needs disturbs the development of self-esteem and the ability to function effectively. . .

[Narcissistic injuries] contradict our deeply held notions that we are lovable and competent. These injuries affect the functioning of the self, which has the task of supporting a person's efforts to achieve personal goals.

How and where do you get your sense of being lovable and competent today?

(I'm not kind, by the way. Just ask my daughter who is currently not communicating with me. I have self-esteem, though, today because . . . it's hard to explain. But I want EVERYBODY to have it. The world will be a better place if/when we do.)

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I get my sense of being competent from my job, where I know I am smart and tough and good at what I do. Outside of my job, though, I see myself as not competent -- just scared and weak and confused, because that's how I act. And I have no sense of being loveable...because the people in my life don't love me, and I don't love myself, and I look at how I act and I don't see a loveable person there. Clearly, my therapist is trying to teach me to "love" myself through the self-compassion work she has me doing, but I would have little compassion for someone who acts like I do, so it's a tough sell.

(As to being kind, fair enough. I'll take courage and self-esteem and working to make the world a better place over kindness any day of the week.)

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