Self-injury & Me

gabriel conroy

Gabriel Conroy [pseudonym] is an ex-graduate student. He is happily married with no children and has about a million nieces and nephews. The views expressed by Gabriel are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of his spouse or employer.

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16 Responses

  1. This is beautiful, Gabriel. Thank you for sharing it with us.Report

  2. Thanks for sharing this. Wishing you the best!Report

  3. Stillwater says:

    I’m sorry to hear all this Gabriel. It makes me sad that you do this stuff to yourself. What makes me even sadder is your attempts to normalize it, apologize for being judgy about it, leaning into it as an identity. Saying that, I understand the tension between internal experiences and outside evaluation and the difficulty in reconciling the two. I just wish you’d actually *read* the relevant literature rather than skim it, try to internalize the issues being discussed rather than dismiss them as useless.

    By the way, when I say this stuff my approach isn’t evidence based best-practices DSM bullshit, but instead the natural world. Animals, and humans left to their own devices, don’t self-harm. Maybe there’s something to learn from that. 🙂Report

    • Thanks for the comment. It’s one I need to keep in mind. Even though my first impression is to read it as “judgy,” I do admit that in a sense I am normalizing it. There are many times in my OP where I say or imply that “it’s a decision people can and do make,” perhaps on par with when faced with stress, to cope by either taking walks or doing crosswords.

      I think it’s important for me to normalize it so as to minimize the sense of isolation that others feel, or used to feel. (It’s quite possible that self-injurers now don’t feel quite as isolated as I did, so maybe it’s not as justifiable a decision on my part.) I also think it’s important for me to refrain from judging others who have made choices very similar to mine. That’s not a veiled criticism of you for bringing up your own (gently worded) criticism. it’s just that I’m not one to condemn.

      I will say that I don’t dismiss the literature as useless so much as I find it difficult to read. But yes, if I engaged it more, I might very well come to different conclusions, and better-informed ones at that.

      I agree with you about “DSM bull—.” I have very complicated views (mostly negative) about the DSM-V’s new foray into considering self-injury as a syndrome (or condition, or whatever.) I understand that the DSM-V doesn’t officially do so, but is making the first steps toward doing so.

      I’m afraid, though, I have to disagree with the rest of your last paragraph. I’m not so sure that animals and humans don’t self-harm. I’m much more unsure that they are ever “left to their own devices,” especially humans, who are so much more social and can’t, really, be left to their own devices in any meaningful way. I also differ from the assumption, which I find implicit in your last paragraph, that what is “natural” is therefore better.

      I’m not writing this long comment to call you to task, but more to explain how and why I agree with it and where you and I probably part company on this issue. (Finally, if you choose to respond, I promise to read and consider your comment, although I might not answer in turn.)

      ETA: I hasten to add that I skipped over something about normalizing that I probably should have mentioned. If you meant to say that by normalizing self-injury, I may induce other people to do it, I have to acknowledge that that’s a real danger. I don’t mean to be flippant about that danger.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to gabriel conroy says:

        If you meant to say that by normalizing self-injury, I may induce other people to do it, I have to acknowledge that that’s a real danger. I don’t mean to be flippant about that danger.

        Never even occurred to me. I was concerned about you, Gabriel. But the fact that you’re aware that it’s a danger to others makes me wonder about the emotional honesty of everything above the ETA in your comment.Report

  4. Pinky says:

    Everybody has a breaking point. The point may be different, and each of us breaks differently, but it’s absolutely certain that everyone can reach the point where they break. In a lot of cases, what happens is a gauge breaks.

    I think of it like a pilot. You’re flying to Hawaii, and you happen to notice that there’s a lot more ground visible than you’d expect, and it’s increasingly snowy. But you check your gauges, and they’re telling you that you’re heading in the right direction, so you keep going. Maybe something will convince you to get on the radio – I don’t know, maybe you notice that you’re running low on fuel, or something tells you that no one else is flying in this direction.

    It’s not easy to call someone else for help.

    They’ll check your location, and freak out, telling you that you’re completely off track. If you listen to them, and change direction, you’ll feel sick, because all the readings are telling you to go back to your old setting. It’s horrific. And finally when you look out the windshield and see that things are getting better, you’re tempted to go back to following the gauges. Here’s the thing. They’re broken. For some people, some of their gauges are broken to the point that they can never trust them again. I know people living perfectly ordinary lives, and every day their brains are telling them to go have sex with a stranger or wash down a handful of pills with a bottle of booze. Maybe 20 years from now, that part will finally shut up. Maybe it never will. But they can never, ever completely relax and trust their instinct on whatever their thing is.

    I don’t know exactly where you are on this. And I don’t remember if you’re one of the commenters who would be indifferent or offended if I said I will keep you in my prayers; but I will.Report

  5. North says:

    This is wrenching Garbiel, I would never have guessed in a million years. Thank you for sharing it.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    This is a good post. I don’t know what to say. This must have been hard to write but thanks for writing it.Report

  7. veronica d says:

    [tw: real life]

    I recall one particularly bad night. I was with one of my gfs. She was freaking out, not for any reason. She was just having a bad brains episode. It was bad. She was coming apart. So finally she said, honey, can you get me a razor? Something clean.

    I got her a razor blade from the cabinet, a clean one. I got her some rubbing alcohol and antibiotic cream. She went into the bathroom for a while. After she came out, she was fine, calm, relaxed, okay.

    I guess that’s “enabling.” Whatever. She was an adult. I’d rather she do things like that safely. What else could I do? Kick her out? Leave her to suffer? Nag her? Judge her?

    A few weeks later she checked into inpatient care.

    We broke up some time after that, for unrelated reasons. She still struggles. Life hasn’t been good to her. Her brain is messed up.

    I really liked her. I wish we had stayed friends after the breakup, but we didn’t. Long story. It’s no one’s fault.

    I dated a different girl who, after one particularly bad fight, sent me pictures of her self-harm wounds. She blamed me. I broke up with her eventually. Honestly, I should have broke up with her then.

    There are different types of people in the world. First girl never blamed others. Second girl was manipulative af. It was a pattern.

    I recently helped a close friend detox from suboxone. She did it at my apartment, because she hated inpatient, and she could more easily get benzos outside than inside. That was rough. She claims that suboxone detox was waaaay harder than detox off heroine or fentanyl. I believe her. It takes forever — weeks of physical hell, months of emotional hell.

    I hope she can stay off of opiates. Her sister died from a fentanyl overdose. She was nineteen.


    I hate mental illness — which is quite different from hating mentally ill people. I hate addiction. The fact is, I’ve loved mentally ill people and addicts. I love some mentally ill people right now. I hate what it does to them. I hate it so much. It’s terrible.Report