I imagine that comfort and care toward oneself are difficult for people in general. I imagine that for people who have a dissociative disorder, these things are especially hard. People who have dissociative disorders, generally speaking, have been mistreated and at the very least have had repetitive traumatic events happen to them, most likely in childhood. More than likely they were emotionally or physically neglected, and in many cases physically and/or sexually abused. Trauma, neglect, and abuse especially if chronic can really affect someone at a core level. It sends a message that says you are not deserving of good and wonderful things. It’s really hard for me to believe that I am deserving of good and wonderful things. I have to remind myself of these sorts of things on a regular basis. It does not come naturally. I often feel trapped in the hold of my own self deprivation.
Basic needs, such as food and sleep and clothing, are things that I have to work really hard at allowing myself to have an adequate supply of. It’s really easy for me to forget a meal, and then wonder why I don’t feel well. It’s easy for me to endure hours of an excruciating migraine before my partner suggests taking pain medication. I simply don’t think of it. It’s easy for me to force myself to stay awake all night and then have to get through the following day on little to no sleep. It’s easy for me to go years without buying a single item of clothing for myself. An example – my partner bought me bras and underwear this past Christmas since every single pair of mine were literally falling apart.
Let’s talk about comfort. I can’t stand it when people comfort me. I know it probably sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s the way it’s always been for me. The absolute worst is when someone tries to hug me when I cry. Why would anyone in the world think this is comforting? I realize that most of the world, that most people, are able to comfort each other and be comforted. It’s a natural instinct, or at least I am told. It’s not natural for me. When I see someone crying, I don’t know how to respond. I have to coach myself through it. [Brandic], say something nice. [Brandic], say something supportive. [Brandic], ask them if they want a hug. Which, quite honestly, is the last thing I would normally think to do. But people seem to like that. My partner often cries harder if I go to hug her when she’s crying. It allows her to feel loved and nurtured and therefore just let go and cry. Not me. If by the rare chance I am actually found crying in front of someone else, which I try to absolutely avoid at all costs, the last thing I want is someone offering to hug me. My partner should know this by now; and yet, it seems, every single time I cry she asks if she can give me a hug. Really? When have I ever wanted a hug when I’m upset? Never, that’s when.
I tend to push down and ignore pain. I think there’s a part of me that believes that pain should be my natural state of existence, so when I’m experiencing physical pain, it actually feels accurate. A pretty skewed view of things, huh? This is why I have had chronic back pain for the past three years. Let me explain. If I had listened to my body when it started showing signs of wear and fatigue – specifically my back – I wouldn’t have injured it in the first place. I pushed myself until my back was weak and vulnerable. And I kept on pushing. I was cycling almost every day. To and from work. 30 to 70 mile bike rides on the weekends. Non-stop bike riding. Back pain be damned. Even when the pain came, and continued to get worse, I kept on riding. Ignore the pain. Push on. When I stopped riding, and sitting at a desk exacerbated the pain, I kept on sitting. I kept working at my desk job, and the pain continued to escalate. I didn’t think to take a week or two off of work to rest and recuperate and heal. Rather, I ignored the pain and pushed it aside. I ended up doing so much damage that I couldn’t work for almost a year. I was on heavy pain meds. I could barely walk. I needed to have several epidurals and multiple injections to numb the pain. This didn’t just “happen.” I did it to myself.
Even now, I could be free from back pain. There was a period of several weeks where I was stretching and really taking care of my back, and my back pain was virtually nonexistent. However, I was not able to maintain that. I still force myself to sit for hours on end until the pain becomes excruciating. I climb into bed without doing my stretches, knowing that by failing to do them, I will have a horrible night sleep, and be woken up repeatedly by the back pain. The stretches only take ten minutes. How hard can that be? Trust me: hard.
Even as I sit on my couch writing this, my back pain is growing. I think, maybe I should lie down (I am on a laptop after all) or switch positions, or get up and stretch for a minute. Nope. Not going to do it. Why? I have not a clue. Maybe I enjoy torturing myself? Maybe I don’t feel I deserve to be without pain? Maybe the pain is strangely reassuring?
Who knows. What I do know is, nurturing myself and caring for myself takes a lot of work. It doesn’t come easily to me. And some days, it feels damn near impossible.
However hard this self-care battle is, I am going to keep fighting it. Even though it goes against every cell in my body, I know that I deserve to be treated with kindness and nurturing. Now, let’s just tell my brain that…
Oh that reminds me, I need to make myself some dinner! Doh!