Vent (TW: self-harm)

TRIGGER WARNING: self-harm, mental health

I’m having a very strange time right now, and I thought what is this blog for if not for me to get these things out? The people from my life who know who I am and perhaps read this blog are people who are closer and know more detail about my issues, and so it’s not loads of acquaintances reading detail I “shouldn’t” be sharing.

A few weeks ago I relapsed relatively minorly with cutting. It was just a few, and it came after I was really down about my life, and was talking to my mum and sister. I haven’t been out of the house for ages for myself, my room was an absolute dump, I’m not organized, I have no further ideas with career, I put off booking a trip with my sister… Generally, I’m just tired and annoyed at myself. This talk wasn’t so serious, but I was lying down saying how pissed I was and that I hate my life right now. I thought I was going to cry, which is big: I’m so used to keeping emotions inside that I pretty much never cry for myself now. I often have incidents where I know I’m sobbing inside, but outwardly I’m rather stoic. I’ll cry at movies, news stories, and things like that, but even I’m desperately unhappy, it’s hard for me to actually shed a tear for myself. The last time I got very close was after I was cracking up in the hospital; I was in for a few days for surgery but then had to go back in for a week or so after the wound got infected and reopened. I’d only gotten home for two days or so, and it was in a different city so my sister couldn’t be there all the time; I usually cope fine alone, and last year I was in hospital 100 miles away for a few days and coped fine with no visitors, but after it was approaching two weeks this time I was just cracking up; I had no internet, and I wanted to learn things. I found I could only read so many books and write so much of my novel before I needed other things that I usually do.

Anyway, the wounds weren’t too bad, they gave me a bit of release. I felt better and hopeful again about life and was proud of myself that I hadn’t gone further with the cutting. I did it again a few days later in the shower; this was worse, but still relatively minor, and I soon had the courage to tell my sister I’d done it, which greatly lifts the burden of having to make sure no one in the house sees it. So far, so good. I talked things through with a friend who’s recently been to Hell and back, and we were both feeling hopeful. I still had the urges (each episode is very rarely only one “session” for me), but I still felt pretty good again about life, and although I haven’t been out for non-medical reasons, I did write about 1000 words for my novel which ashamedly is the most I’ve done in a long time! (I usually freak out when I’m getting to the end of them, and then it takes me ages to get through it!)

Then yesterday was very odd. I swear I got up at something to 6pm, and I even Tweeted not long after that saying how I was annoyed at the fact. My sister was working, and I am positive she called me when I was already up and online, and she too says I was very alert and she thought I was up. But she swears she called me at something to 4, before her shift, and her phone confirms it. I was absolutely positive I had not taken a phone call while in bed – but my online activity shows I was up about 6 as I thought, not before. So apparently there is about a two-hour period where I can’t account for myself. What the Hell was I doing? There’s a chance I did take the call in bed, but my sister can often tell by my voice whether I’m up or not (even if I’m still in bed but awake), and I’m sure I was up, because I was going to ask Mum about something just after it, but my parents weren’t in.

The brain fog I suffer with lupus can mean that I forget things that happened the same day, but this is just weird. And I’ve just gone downstairs and harmed again. My main method is cutting (or picking skin and nails); sometimes I do burn, but very minor ones, e.g. dripping hot oil on my hands when I’m cooking fries. Today I threw a small cup of boiling water over my arm, which is an escalation for me; I’ve never done that before. I did cut too, and they’re not too bad, but I have a considerably wide gash in my elbow that I have put a dressing on; I’m also not one for treating my wounds much, I usually just mop up, let them dry out, and leave them, which is what I’ve done with the rest of my arm that isn’t the elbow gash.

I don’t know. I just feel like I’m cracking up. The thing is, though, I feel fine now! I’m sitting here quite fine, writing this post, but I know it’s probably that detachment I get with harming, and also the release. Self-harm is such an enigma. I wonder if I should pursue psychotherapy again; my psychologist and I were going round in circles, but I wonder if another therapist’s input would help. Not that I can even think what they can do for me. I was doing acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and in the sessions, everything made perfect sense to me. I agreed with the steps I should take, and identified my values. Yet when the urge takes me, I dissociate; logic goes out of the window. More often than not, my harming is unrelated to what’s going on in my life, so it’s not as though I can combat the issue that’s causing it. I often think it would be easier for me if I did have an identifiable trigger – that way, both I and my family could be more watchful. I mentioned psychiatry to the psychologist, because of this dissociation and the fact that behavioral changes didn’t help; on fluoxetine, I find that I can postpone the episodes of harming more, deal with the urges more logically, but there is a threshold beyond which I know it’s inevitable and nothing can talk me out of it. We couldn’t identify what that threshold was. I also think I held back a bit with her. I don’t know. I don’t necessarily think I have a psychiatric disorder; I’m diagnosed with chronic depression, but my harming also doesn’t necessarily coincide with the episodes of depression. Usually in an episode of depression, I will harm, but I often harm outwith them too.

Uggh, I’m just rambling here, which was actually the point, I guess. I’ll tell my sister what I did when she comes home. I just wonder about going to the doctor again with this AND the autism worries; they’re definitely going to think I’m a hypochondriac in spite of my diagnoses. I don’t really have people I can talk to face-to-face about any of this stuff except my sister, who does her best but of course doesn’t quite get it. I have no friends in my city, really, more acquaintances I volunteer with; although I’m really close to one of the managers in a store I volunteer in, I have no way to contact her except in the store, and I’m not really leaving my house for non-medical reasons. Anyway, I can hardly walk in, and just lay that on her. I don’t know. I’m hoping things level out soon. It’s just scary not knowing what’s going on in this head of mine!

Autism

Do I genuinely have a form of high-functioning autism? Do I have a “right” to term myself autistic without an official diagnosis? These are some of the questions that take over my mind every now and then. My GP and psychologist agree that it’s likely, my sister concurs, and it would a lot of my life make sense. However, going to the doctor with questions about it while suffering from the extensive list of physical conditions that lupus has given me, along with mental health issues, means that many doctors must be thinking “This guy is an utter hypochondriac, a WebMD/Dr. Google-self-diagnoser!” I don’t know if I can accurately say I haven an autism disorder without more medical input, but whenever I pursue it, doctors say to me “Oh, you’re socializing fine, you’re talking to me right now” as though that’s it. I’m an anatomist, and was the one who worked out that my physical health issues were a connective tissue disorder – doctors still thought it was long shot until I begged for tests and here we are! – and I think that when I do display knowledge beyond Average Joe, they think I’ve been Googling and got the wrong idea rather than having some clinical knowledge. I’m not saying I know more than the doctors, but as anyone with a chronic disease will know, being fobbed off by them is frequent, and after being fobbed off for the six or seven years it took me to get the lupus diagnosis (as I say, with my own input; had I not suggested connective tissue disease myself, I don’t know how long it would have taken), I’ve learned that my instincts are worth something.

I’ll write another post about all the things that I believe contribute to the idea of a form of high-functioning autism, otherwise we’d be here all day! But again I’m just thinking I’m stuck. People say to me “what is your motivation in seeking a diagnosis?” I don’t have any extra needs, really, and God knows I have enough diagnoses for one person, but I seek the validation. If I don’t have it, and it’s just my idiosyncrasies, fair enough, but I need to know. If I do have it, probably nothing will change, but I will know, and will feel better being able to say to people that I’m not just an awkward socializer and that I’m not actually being rude. The thing is, socializing isn’t as bad for me as for others, and so anyone I mention it to says without fail “I’d never think you had something like that; you speak so well!” I manage well one-on-one, and for this reason, people then think I have no social issues whatsoever.

I don’t know. Am I just reading too much into things? Yet I know that many autistic people have self-diagnosed, and that it’s difficult to get an official diagnosis especially as an adult. There is a drop-in here in my city for people diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, but I haven’t worked up the courage to go yet. Will I be welcome without a formal diagnosis? I don’t know why a diagnosis is so important to me, but I just don’t feel right saying to people I have a disorder without knowing for sure; self-diagnosers can be wrong and often are! I don’t know. Hopefully I can pluck up the courage to go to the drop-in for advice. Whether the answer is yes or no, I just feel I need the validation either way.