Today way rough, I’m still sitting here feeling quite wrecked and trying to settle my thoughts. After a 5-week break from therapy and an even longer one from self-harm I already arrived at my therapist’s feeling extremely distressed. It started getting really hard yesterday – if you spend a whole afternoon with skills, exercise, relaxation techniques and distraction and nothing helps you calm down at all, you drop things because you are shaking so hard and everything you can think is answered by “Well then cut yourself!” it is just utterly exhausting. Yesterday morning I already felt upset, angry, unconcentrated, cynical. Then I had a great appointment, it went so extremely well that afterwards I had no other option than falling. I only managed to spend the afternoon in a non-destructive way because I knew I’d see my therapist today. Anyway…
Due to this we started by talking about emergency skills – what have I tried, what has helped, what can I do the next few days. Keeping in mind that I’m new to this I guess I did pretty well…I will write a post about this topic soon.
Then we spoke about what the triggers for this huge pressure are right now and as nothing big has happened we quickly explored to topic that I think is the most common trigger for my self-harm: Fear. Because if basically everything is fine (like right now) that’s exactly the moment I can’t enjoy the peace. I’m constantly vigilant as someone could be angry with me without my being aware of it. Or someone could be about to leave me. Or I could have made a mistake without noticing. Or or OR! I despise myself for being unable to enjoy the good times. Also for the fact that I get angry more easily when everything’s okay and that this is followed by fear as someone could leave me due to my anger. This perpetual fear breathing down my neck is what makes me think about cutting all the time because I can’t handle it otherwise. The fact that we arrived at this conclusion within half an hour is incredible for me – everything my therapist draws onto her flip chart, the questions she asks…it all solves things that would take me months to figure out within minutes.
Anyway my therapist used this realization to explain Schema therapy in detail (as I couldn’t properly do this in my own words, you can find an overview here). The questionaire I filled in before christmas and the conversation we had today matched well and I can relate to all the results. What is so hard for me to stomach right now is just how easily the triggers from back then can be boiled down to an essence. When I was a teenager I was aware that things went wrong in my family but I always used to think that we were so extraordinary, our problems so special, my thoughts so odd that there couldn’t possibly be any vocabulary for any of it. And then I sit there today and all the belief systems that haunt me in the dark hours are there in colourful little circles on a poster. My task for the following week is to just observe what pattern it matches when the fear (or anger or whatever) comes so that we can work on it in the future.
The poster also showed all my coping styles and making a list of them was a good summary: First of all there is a lot of overcompensation which is basically me trying to keep control using perfectionism, planning ahead and compulsions a lot. Then there is avoidance, a permanent vigilance as appearances can always be deceitful and someone could suddenly decide to hurt me. This also includes that I didn’t want closeness with anyone until I fell in love with my partner in order to be invulerable as well as the ever-present rationalizing when it comes to things that could trigger emotions inside me. And last but not least there’s also a fair amount of surrender as I try to please as many people as possible and always need reassurance that what I do is okay from people I love. That I tend to be cynical due to all this goes without saying.
Of course I know all these things about myself but getting an overview from someone who has only seen me a few times so far is something completely different. What is a huge relief for me is that Schema therapy matches my idea of therapy so well because: As important as emergency skills are I wouldn’t feel that sole skills training would be enough. My therapist agrees that I need the skills to bridge the time but that we need to work on the actual triggers. As I said her manner of speaking and listening makes me feel very comfortable.
This was quite a lot; the last few minutes of the session as well as the way home are lost somewhere in the mist. I’m only getting back a little right now and feel as if I had run a marathon today. Therefore: Have a quiet weekend!