Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why harm thy self?

"What is it about banging your hand against the wall that relieves you," she asked?
"I don't know," I said. "I don't really understand it myself."

What I do understand is the shame and humiliation I feel admitting such a practice. It doesn't happen often. It's actually quite rare. But when my depression symptoms drag me into the darkest depths, this shameful compulsion sometimes greets me there. Despite the fact that many who know me read this blog, and despite my deep shame and humiliation, I am finally writing about it here. It's only taken 4 years. But perhaps some of you struggle too. Maybe letting the cat out of the bag will lessen the power of the thoughts for both of us and lead us down the healthier path. Perhaps...

I can't sleep. I was supposed to leave the hospital after my ECT treatment today, but again the treatment team felt I was rushing out the door too soon. They didn't like the fact that I was returning home alone late in the afternoon. I reluctantly agreed to stay for just one more day. And I struggled today, as I had yesterday, with harmful thoughts. The compulsion was there and hard to resist. It's embarrassing, and shameful, and  difficult to admit. Easier, it is, just to bang away and stop the feelings--whatever the feelings--dead in their tracks. There is relief in the pain. I can't stand admitting that.

"What is it about banging you hand against the wall that relieves you," she asked?
"I don't know," I said. But I guess I do understand it. The very real physical pain stops the very surreal mental anguish. It's easy. It's immediate. It's unhealthy. But it works.

Writing it here, admitting my shame to you, is my way, I guess, of reinforcing the healthy coping alternatives I have in my tool chest. Maybe I'm not alone. Maybe you're not alone. But from now on, I am committed to reaching for the alternative tools when I am distressed--tools which won't leave me ashamed and humiliated.


-Chris said...


There's no need to feel shame or humiliation; we all have ways of dealing with pressures that are equally unhealthy. You're not alone in dealing with things like this. The biggest thing that stymies us is when we feel that "no one else feels like this"... and it's a lie. It is an absolute lie, and it's so important to realize that now.

You are NOT alone in your struggles: you are NOT alone: not by a long shot...

Kitty said...

I have some idea of what you're feeling. I still have the scars from when I used to hurt myself. You're very brave for speaking about such a personal and difficult topic. I hope it helps you as much as it will invariably help others.

Mohican said...

Nothin wrong with banging your head. Google images for "bang head here" and you will see just how widespread it is. Cutting or burning yourself would be a different matter. Sometimes I dig my fingernails into my hand, works every time.

Just don't go this far: banging keyboard avatar

Anonymous said...

Nothing to be ashamed of! You are fighting to feel better and get well. We all have healthy and unhealthy ways of trying to feel better. Hang in there and lean on your support system - and know thoughts continue to be with you.


"Lil Ol' Me" said...

Tough stuff for sure.

I've been there done that.

When my PCP called today and asked "__ how are you doing?" I said "it is all I can do not to bank my head up against the wall. Because maybe...just maybe in that moment it will take away from the other pain that is going on".

Dear lord do I get it.


Sending you love and hugs. One day at a time. Sometimes not even hour or one minute.

I will be praying for peace and comfort to come your way.

jim said...

Don't ever feel ashamed or embarrased. You are just trying to change what you feel. I had a brief period of cutting myself as a 45 year old male. I know how easily doing so changed my feelings and relieved anxiety. I was able to stop and you will too, with time. But don't stigmatize yourself. Keep writing and growing. We are all in same boat at times.

Tina said...

I admire and appreciate your honesty. I just found your blog and wanted to say that I can relate to so much of what you write about. And you write about it so beautifully.

I look forward to reading more. Take care, and as one commenter said above, remember that you are not alone.

Borderline Lil said...

Thanks for sharing this Etta. I bang my hand against walls or chairs too, well I used to before DBT. You're right, that the physical pain makes the emotional pain subside. I hope you feel better soon xx

Anonymous said...

(you don't have to post - your decision - but I am writing to YOU - Etta).....

Etta - Nothing to be ashamed of. You can not control the impulses and thoughts that enter your mind - no human can.

Speaking the truth is helpful - and the beginning of healing (you know this from AA) - I remember when I finally admitted I cut my own arm on purpose. I did not think I could utter the words - so I simply showed the results. I felt a weight was lifted when someone else knew. And the practice soon stopped. (merely my experience)

This was decades before such things were discussed.

I discovered this practice from a patient in a group session...sometimes we learn to hurt ourselves (and others) more horrific ways by seeking information on it.

I encourage you to seek ONLY information to help you deal with the reality of your situation -
fill your head with HEALING information....

You are courageous Etta - no matter what you currently think - you are courageous. Perfect? no. Human? yes. and courageous.

(PS) - I hate to break your bubble - NONE of us has ever had a TOTALLY COMPLETELY original thought ~ So NOPE you are NOT alone! : )

(Rather deep - but ponder it!)

I send you prayers of peace - calm - comfort - and strength. And rememder you are NEVER alone ~ God is ALWAYS there (whether we feel him or not!)


Daniel said...

I do the same thing. I used to punch things, boxes, walls, but that hurts too much. The head is harder and since it's all in my head, feels appropriate. I used to do it a lot but haven't for awhile, until lately. Anyway, I'm just now starting to write about my depression. I'd appreciate it others checked it out.

Andrea said...

This is my first post here so may have it totally wrong so I can only speak for how it is for me... It totally shuts down any emotional anguish, FEAR, thats my big one, rejection anything ive found too intense to experience.... I found I self medicatied with alcohol to reduce anything that was too intense... for a long time for me it was one or the other... but by the same token men with my conditions will go hit the biggest guy in a pub...

Anonymous said...

Dont feel shame or guilt- you are battling something of great proportion and you should give yourself credit- take yourself for a pedicure, go eat the most expensive dessert, we all do stupid things, but we are also capable of doing beautiful things to ourselves