Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why I Hurt Myself

One of my favourite songs is Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." The first two lines go:

I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel.
I focus on the pain, the only thing that's real.

When your perception of the world changes and becomes dreamlike, you enter a state called "derealization." I derealize when I'm extremely depressed. I feel a strong urge to do something drastic to see if I am still part of the world or just imagining it. Think of it as "pinching yourself to see if you're dreaming."

The next step after derealization is usually a suicide attempt. So returning to reality is critical. The search to find something to jolt myself usually takes the form of...wait for it...banging my head. (So maybe Darth Vader was trying to help me? This is as confusing as Episode VI! See my earlier post here if that doesn't make sense) For others, it takes the form of making shallow cuts on their arms.

Now I've learned some tricks. When I start to experience derealization, I'll do lots of stuff to stimulate my senses. I'll grab a bunch of ice - hold it in my hands, put it on my arms, on the back of my neck...everywhere so that I feel something. I will bite into a lemon, or I will jump up and down. Anything to fire up my nervous system up so that I de-derealize (I don't think that is a word, but I don't care. I'm using it in Scrabble. If someone challenges me, I'll refer them to my blog).

You can see a date when I experienced extreme derealization - check the July graph in my post on mood tracking here. See the lowest point? That was a rough day. I had to do everything possible to "keep it real." (See the language I used there? Totally Eastside Vancouver.)

I think that people hurting themselves are probably not doing it to get attention, or even as a cry for help (although that's what it becomes, regardless of the intent).

Self harm is a desperate try to feel something, anything, to prove that you are real and not living in a dream.

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