Boredom or Bedlam: Are You An Emotional Cutter?

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

CalmStorm

Calm before the storm

When raised with cracked foundations of chaos, it’s easy for us to understand how as adults we feed off drama. Up is down and right is left. We know better, but it doesn’t stop us from running with the proverbial scissors that cut up personal happiness and responsibility, leaving a trail of regret.

For so many of us, chaos is fuel. It’s our oxygen when the poor choices we make ignite anxiety within the walls of fear. We cannot breathe until the risk of losing our breath is born from our own doing. Anything else is boring.

Although each slice is hidden deep inside our psyche, emotional cutting – hurting ourselves to feel – is just as damaging as the physical act itself.*

“Self-harm is a way of expressing and dealing with deep distress and emotional pain. As counterintuitive as it may sound to those on the outside, hurting yourself makes you feel better – Cutting and Self-Harm (www.helpguide.org)

Life is not a straight line for any of us. For adult children of dysfunction, it’s a barbed wire maze of self-sabotage that draws blood with every turn. And the puncture wounds make us feel alive.

It’s hard to understand unless you’re in it. Even more difficult to rationalize when we’re the ones orchestrating our own pain. It’s cool when our loved ones support us, but we know they don’t really get why we continue to be the architect of our own demise. Neither do we.

So how do we turn off the auto-pilot road to self-destruction? For starters, it’s a good idea to get real. I’m not talking about saying the words people want to hear. This is about digging deep. Shred the years of layered bullshit you’ve been telling yourself and speak from deep inside your truth. It’s not fun; it can actually be scary. But everything boils down to the ugly truth: we cannot make it through the painful maze without actually going through it. Feel the pain. Weep. Wail. Then scream into the air (or a pillow, so your neighbors don’t call the cops). Just get it the fuck out.

Since I can remember I’ve been living some version of the truth, which is a colorful way of saying lie. What began as floating in a sea of self-medication [insert your vice here], quickly morphed into believing the bullshit I was telling myself.

I’m fine. 

I can handle it. 

They are the ones with the problem. 

I know what I’m doing. 

I don’t need anyone. 

I’m not lonely. 

Living a lie is exhausting. Yet so many of us do it because we’re afraid of facing the shit that caused us to take comfort in our bullshit in the first place.

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One of my best friends jokes about how we’re so much alike – and should be wrapped in caution tape. And I’m not kidding when I say ‘I’m such a work in progress I should wear orange cones for earrings‘. Humor is nothing if not effective when it comes to getting real.

But get real, we must. Whether it’s telling a friend, teacher, boss, relative or therapist – we need to share our truth.

The healing begins when we stop pretending.

The first person you need to share your dark truth with is the most important person in your world – you. You’re no good to anyone if you’re no good to yourself.  It’s time to stop buying your lies, and start getting real. We are worth it. If you don’t believe this, it’s because believing we have no value is the biggest lie of all. Take back your truth. It all starts with the decision to try.

*I am not an expert in mental health. This blog is a platform to express my own opinions and beliefs based on personal experience. If you or anyone you know is suffering, please reach out to a professional and seek help. You are worth it – even if you don’t feel it right now. 

Christine Macdonald

Emotional Roulette

The warm light piercing my eyes through the window above my bed is a familiar reminder. If I were anyone else, and it was any other day, my dog would already be outside on her wooden porch bench wrapped in her sheepskin blanket, waiting. The sound of my wheels on loose gravel just outside the gate, her cue to greet me; her little tail dancing under cotton candy clouds flirting with the southern California sky. But this is me. Its day six. I’ve yet to get out of bed, let alone make it to the office.

Pulling from the core of my lungs, I struggle to level the guilt within the walls of panic. The audacity of wanting to sleep forever when you could very well drop dead from a brain aneurysm – then realizing you don’t want to cash out this way – is nothing if not funny. Funny, ironic not funny ha-ha. Well, it’ll be hilarious – one day. Tragedy plus time. Isn’t that the comedy rule?

I wonder if normal people – people who don’t fantasize about not waking up – feel about us freaks. Fucking mental illness. Such bullshit.

Instead of hanging with the elements of the January day and kicking back on her bench, my baby Stella (a new three-legged Chihuahua mix I rescued from the pound) lies with me in love. Snuggled together next to the television remote, we’re sheltered from the late morning nuisance above by flannel sheets I quickly pull across our faces.

“How did I get so lucky? I promise I’ll take you for a walk tomorrow.” I whisper, fighting back tears of guilt.

Stella and I shift under the covers as I channel surf and mentally prepare for going back to my normal life soon. Then a buzz from under my pillow. A disturbing text.

A dear friend’s father is thousands of miles away in the Intensive Care Unit and doesn’t have much time left. My mind breaks from its prison of solitude. All I can think about is being there for my friend.

“Come over. I’m begging you.” I text in haste.

No reply.

“Where are you?”

Silence.

My heart was racing. I started to sweat. Where did he go? What can I do for him? What’s happening?

After finally hearing from him, his company wasn’t meant to be and I leveled back into myself.

Time passes and I’m left to marinate in the microscopic residue of familiar emotional patterns. A make-shift quilt of codependency.

Not that I would ever shun helping a loved one – especially someone who lives so close to my heart. But where was that strong woman – the would-be hero of his day, when I needed her the most? Why does she coil under the weight of self-doubt when it comes to her own safety?

For some of us, the hardest thing to do is to walk away from the emotional roulette table. We continually sabotage our safety – treating our own hearts with such carelessness. There’s nothing more intoxicating than a spinning wheel of chaos. So we keep playing. And what we think is shitty luck is really the odds of defeat laughing in our shadow. Of course we always lose. We’re too busy trying to make everyone else happy – never gambling on the one person who should matter most.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, instead of wishing ‘the odds’ would throw us a bone, maybe it’s time to do what so many of many of us need to: find the strength – put us first – change the game.

 

Christine Macdonald

Bring it: my memoir will be published soon.

PSSOMCoverAfter five years of struggling with writing my story, weekly therapy visits to help re-live the hardest scenes, postponing writing because of self-doubt, surviving a brutal review during an intense writing retreat in Guatemala, feeling sorry for myself, trashing the whole project, then starting all over – I’ve come to a new road.

I’m saying “FUCK IT” to the fear – and self-publishing.

I’m in the final stages of re-writes and landed an editor today.

It’s all happening.

2015 is gonna be one helluva year.

Bring. It.

Christine Macdonald