Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Skin Deep

My thoughts are all aswarm tonight. Spotify put an old Jimmy Eat World song on my weekly discovery playlist, and I had forgotten how much I loved that band back in the day, and how much this song resonated with me as a teen:

Of course, at the time, "I wanna fall in love tonight," meant literally, I wanted to fall in love with someone. I hadn't experienced real relationship love yet, and I desperately wanted to. Cut me some slack, I was like 13. Now, however, that lyric is more about falling in love with the whole world, not just a specific person. Or, maybe it's about how I should fall more in love with myself. That's corny as fuck, but maybe it's true.

Over the past few weeks, and particularly the past 48 hours, I've fallen in love with Amanda Palmer. I don't know why it took so long for me to really seek her out, but she has finally gotten into my life, and I'm super crazyinlove. I started listening to the audio book of The Art of Asking on Monday on a whim, still emotionally hungover from Sunday and my dramatic, honest blog post. Her voice was instantly soothing during my long, rainy commute to work. I cried several times on that hour-long drive. I felt like she was speaking right to my soul. After work, I drove back down to my favorite local bookstore, and bought the paperback version of the book. When I'm finished with the audiobook, my plan is to physically read the book, and highlight and annotate the fuck out of it. Her opening chapters about art, and needing to create art, and how a lot of people who are artists don't consider themselves artists, struck a deep chord within me. Maybe I am an artist, I thought. Maybe I am a writer. Maybe I should stop being worried and just go for it. Which was the other catalyst behind my decision to write every single day this month. Oh, Amanda. You beautiful soul. Thank you for the creative affirmation; you're helping me through this weird transitional experience I am having.

I have commitment issues. I have abandonment issues. I detest being ignored. I hate when people leave cabinets open, or hang out in doorways in crowded areas. People who chew with their mouth open drive me insane. I think chewing gum is the grossest thing on the planet, along with people who constantly spit. Something about other people's saliva condensed just grosses me the fuck out. I don't like tomatoes or tomato sauce; I'm even wavering off of ketchup at this point in my life. I have panic attacks in grocery stores. Those started a few years ago, the panic attacks. I had milder forms of them throughout my life, but the real, heavy-duty, oh-fuck-I-can't-breathe-nothing-is-okay attacks started when my ex and I were together, so between 4-5 years ago, I think. Has it been that long? It feels like the blink of an eye, and also like a lifetime has passed. They occur randomly and without warning, but often in grocery stores. I think it's because, during undergrad, I had to read White Noise and I wrote a paper about grocery stores representing death. I got an A. Maybe I was onto something.

My last really bad panic attack was a few months ago, driving home from work. It lasted for over twenty minutes, as I could calm myself down enough to keep driving over the mountain pass I was smack in the middle of, the panic simmering calmly, steadily beneath my calm surface. Whenever I could take a second, though, I sobbed. I got into town, drove up towards UCSC campus, found a random parking lot, and called my mom. I tried to tell her through strangled sobs that I was panicking, felt like I was going to die or just lose my mind. She, having been trained as a yoga instructor who also practices regularly (she has a yoga room in her house), calmly talked me down, as she has so many times before. I call her when I'm severely panicking, and she can always relax me off the cliff, back down to reality. I don't call her over the minor ones, though; the grocery stores or mini moments of terror whilst making my insane commute. Those are different. Talking with her on the phone, I got to see a doe and some tiny fawns wandering the hillside of the UCSC campus. It was a beautiful moment with the sun setting, deer wandering, my mom reminding me that I am totally fine, just need to relax and take deep breaths...I felt that cliched connection to the universe and to life itself around me, the opposite of a panic attack. I balanced out. I don't live in fear of the next big panic attack; I assume it will happen at some point when I'm not suspecting it. Although the actual attack is terrifying, the balance and restoration I feel afterward is very relaxing, and I usually sleep very well post-panic. They have also stopped happening quite so frequently, and I will gladly hold out hope that maybe, eventually, they will just stop.

I haven't had the urge to hurt myself in years; but honestly, since writing it up on Sunday, I almost want to. I called up the memories. What would it feel like, now? But I know better. I won't do it. And, let me clarify what I did. I was too chicken to use a razor blade. I contemplated scissors. I'm not afraid of blood, but my pain threshold is fairly low. Plus, those methods leave very noticeable scars. I have almost none, because of my chosen method. I also didn't really want to die, per se. Well, I did when I was about 12, and contemplated all the ways I could go. I didn't actively try anything, but I did call a suicide prevention hotline once. They pretty much laughed at my pain, actually, but I was too afraid of death to attempt anything. I realized my own actual mortality at a young age, probably around 11; I'm quite aware that I will die someday, and it scares the shit out of me. Razors and scissors could cut too deeply, but I wanted the pain. I wanted to hurt myself. So, I scratched myself. Deeply. I just attacked my arms and legs with my own nails. We always had at least one cat I could use as a scapegoat if need be. It was very personal; I was using my own body to inflict pain on myself. I didn't want to die, but I didn't feel like I was worth anything. I had so much inner anguish that I had to let it out somehow. Sometimes, I wouldn't scratch for a while. Then, and I kid you not, I would wake up the next day and found that I had clawed my arms in my sleep. I would wake up with scratches on my body that I didn't remember scratching. Just writing this is making me itch, forcing me to (lightly) scratch my skin or rub the area until the feeling goes away. But I'm not drawing blood right now. I'm not making myself feel intense, self-inflicted pain.

Do you think less of me, now? Is my self-harming less impressive now that you know I didn't have a stash of razors under my pillowcase? Since I don't have (many) scars to show you the abuse I inflicted upon myself? Because I was a coward? Because sometimes when I itch, there's a tiny part of me that just wants to keep going until that area is raw and bloody? How I remember crying in the shower, tearing at myself, feeling so inadequate...I couldn't even use a goddamn sharp object on myself. What a fucking wimp.

But, that time is over. I can only remind myself that, hey, it's been almost 10 years since you stopped doing that to yourself. Be fucking proud. Congratulations, Nicole, you don't do that anymore. And it's okay that you did. We are all human; we all make mistakes. Just don't do it again. Learn and grow and accept and make a mistake then learn and grow and accept, and so on. So it goes.

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