I’ve sat here staring at this screen for quite a long time. Uncertain about what might be helpful in this “novel” time. I am fortunate – I am in my home, with some of my animal companions, have enough food and warmth, and my greatest possession – the gift of friends. I worry deeply about those of us who are not in such fortunate situations. The people in the psychiatric hospitals, the prisons, nursing homes, group homes – all places that people who live with self-injury are housed, how are you? You who may not feel understood. Who may not be understood.
I have also been bearing witness to the stories of those in the health care facilities, from nurses and respiratory therapists, doctors and janitorial workers, doing their best to serve others while worried about their own futures. And I realized that all these people, in all of these places… there is a common ground between some of them.
The general perception about people who live with Self-Directed Violence (SDV) is that we are severely psychiatrically ill, incompetent, potentially dangerous or, using mainstream language “cray cray.” In the nearly two decades that I published the newsletter The Cutting Edge: A Newsletter for People Living With Self-Inflicted Violence, I had the profound privilege to listen to people from around the world. They told us, the readers, their stories and their pain. We found in each other a safe place to be heard, to be understood. Perhaps that is the most powerful ground of healing, being understood, learning we are not alone. It has been for me.
Over the years some of the people shared more about who they are. I learned so much more about people than I could have imagined. I learned that the common denominator for people living with SDV is trauma. Not gender, nor income or profession, not ability, race, or age. The people who had survived their challenging moments with SDV were both prison inmates and correctional officers, people living behind the walls of psych hospitals as patients and the therapists who work there. I met people who live on death row, on the back wards, and on the street. I met firefighters and veterinarians and accountants and artists and athletes and teachers and doctors and nurses. This group of ours is as diverse as any. Our common ground is one of the ways, SDV, that we find useful to survive as we, hopefully, heal.
And I remembered a poem that I published years ago. Today I thought a long while about the author, Amy.
Excellent and effective
An excellent worker –
The day flows by
smiling and productive
with co-workers –
The night falls
and with it the facade –
Terror, lost time, flashbacks –
Burning off the filth –
Cutting away the painful memories –
Beating the offending parts –
Whatever it takes
to find a moment of
Until tomorrow comes –
And I begin again –
Amy is a nurse, an excellent one. And I wonder how she is, in the midst of this unprecedented health care challenge. I wonder if she knows that she is understood, that no matter whatever form of self-injury she needs, she is not crazy, nor broken. I presume she is a compassionate healer. I hope she has deep compassion for herself. I hope that you have deep compassion for yourselves. As for me? I’m even finding some for me, too. May we all be kind, to ourselves and each other.