It is hard, in the moment of crisis or the midst of a meltdown, to remember that this will pass. The immediate emotions, be they panic, fear, frustration, anger, rejection (is that an emotion?) are all consuming and it is difficult to see anything beyond them.
I remember when I was in group therapy, if I was panicking about something people would tell me to ‘breathe…. breathe’. And I used to feel angry as well as panicky because I thought it was such a ridiculous thing to say. I am bloody breathing. I’d be dead if I wasn’t breathing, how is telling me to breathe supposed to help?
One of the strategies I used to use to avoid self-harming was to draw or write how I was feeling and what I really would like to do to myself. As a rule, this was a reliable method in diverting me from hitting the self-destruct button – if I could remember to do it in time. By the time I had finished drawing or writing the worst of the urges had usually passed, and then I was able to remind myself that the urgency of my emotions ‘would pass’.
During this most recent struggle, I have indeed thought about self-harming as a means to coping with the intense distress that seemed so permanent and unrelenting. But I have managed to resist the urges, mainly thanks to all the work I have put into learning to be kind to myself. I have cried a lot, sworn a lot, done an awful lot of fist-clenching and I have ‘breathed’! The kind of therapeutic deep breathing that helps bring down the panic a notch or two, the kind of breathing that affords me a split second during which I am inspired to draw or write my destructive impulses.
I didn’t even realise I was ‘breathing’ until the urge to hurt myself had passed. What I was trying to do was be kind to myself, not hurt myself, and stay safe – and blow me down with a feather if I didn’t have to ‘breathe’ to get there!
‘Eight things to remember when going through a tough time’. And the ninth thing is… breathe.