I have no idea who is reading these words, yet I am presuming that you have had some challenges lately. A global pandemic, cultural transformation, economic challenges, many of us are living in stressful times. I’ve been away from this site in part because of them and in part because of personal, individual challenges. I’ve had some intense days, ya know? I think you do. I have been busy with decisions, actions and emotions. Taking my beautiful dog through his last days. Needing to move two of my horses rather urgently and creatively and courageously asking for help, taking out a loan, and partnering to build them a new and peaceful home (and learning some carpentry). Being a witness to overwhelming fears of one friend, and the inconsolable grief of another. Preparing to attend the memorial of a young man who was greatly loved and died suddenly before witnessing the birth of his first child. Intense times.
I have been frightened, joyful, outraged, grateful, despairing, joyful, grieving so deeply I sit and rock myself. I have asked for help, gone silent, had some sleepless nights and some shaking fears and shaking courageous choices as well. I have turned to comfort foods and watched videos in the middle of the night. I’ve felt unable to focus on work and overworked on other days. My home is a mess and my pants are too tight. And I’ve had some of my unfinished past rise up and present itself for healing. I took on some of that work and postponed the rest. But the chunk I’ve worked on has freed me.
Sounds like life, right? Mine, perhaps yours in these nonboring times? One thing I have not done is cut, burn or beat myself. If it were not for getting back to writing here I might not even have recognized that. Someone recently asked me to define what a “self-injurer in recovery” looks like. I replied that I don’t make those definitions for others. I can only speak for myself. That was not the reply they were expecting, nor desiring. I knew I was supposed to say that I had stopped the personal “destruction.” Yet that is not how I see this.
I have not needed to turn to Self-Directed Violence (SDV) to cope lately. That is all. Am I recovered? I don’t know. I don’t care. I used the tools I had, and the ones I needed, to get through moments of hell, times that felt insurvivable except that I found ways to survive. For decades that included SDV. And now for decades it has not. Does that make me recovered? Not to me. It makes me less likely to be shunned or psychiatrically incarcerated I suppose. I am now more broke, chunkier, sore than I was 6 months ago. I am also stronger and wiser and more compassionate and hopeful. Life stuff.
My stronger, wiser, more compassionate and hopeful self. If I had to use some sort of definition to describe healing (I don’t care for the word “recovery”) I would use the previous sentence. And it wouldn’t matter to me if I was still cutting. Just because my ways of coping are now more typical and societally acceptable they are what they are. And my previous ways of coping are… what they are. Perhaps the most powerful recent lesson for me is that judging how we cope can keep us muddled down. As long as we are not dead yet we can heal. We can decide to define the term for ourselves. There is great power in that. Or so I’ve realized in these weeks that I’ve been away. We are stronger than we think we are. We can pursue peace, freedom, justice, health, joy… how do you define healing? Or if you like the word “recovery” how do you define that? Is it useful to you to judge your emotions, your actions? Why are you still here? What matters to you? Does living with SDV hold you back, keep you going, both?
These are transformational times, globally and locally. Are they personally? I’ve been in the thick of challenges lately. They have been well met. And that is not because I haven’t “lived with SDV.” Who knows, someday I may decide I need the knife again to get by for some reason. That would not be a failure. To me. What do you say, about you???