I lay awake for hours last night, trying to quiet my mind. Listening to the cat purring; feeling the weight of my blanket and the softness of my pillow; concentrating on my breath. But the thoughts kept coming. Finally as I started to drift, that damn hypnagogic jerk woke me up to start the process again.
I was thinking about a fall I had two days ago: getting into the shower the non-slip mat ironically slipped and I fell hard on my ribs onto the edge of the bath. For a moment I was scared, thinking I’d broken something, but my main thought was, if I have to go to hospital I need to wash my hair first! So, after a moment of lying on the edge of the tub I pulled myself up and went about my shower routine, and the pain happily passed. No broken bones, but maybe some bruising.
Last night I felt my side to check for tenderness, but it too had passed. Even so, I winced in anticipation of pain, and felt the ghost of pain in my memory. It made me a little scared of it happening again.
This led to a realisation for me: fearing the return of pain is a form of pain in itself. There was no real pain left, but the memory created an almost physical sensation of pain again. And I knew that if it did happen again, in my mind this fear would be reinforced, like, “see! It happened again! Your were right to fear it!” This in turn would make the fear stronger for the next time it happened, eventually leading to a life lived in fear and aversion behaviour.
And emotional pain is exactly the same. So many times I’ve been told to not worry about something until it happens, but until my realisation last night, the importance of that advice never hit home.
I feel like this could be a huge step toward recovery, to break the habit of fearing that past hurts will recur. And to stop acting in ways that are designed to prevent being hurt again, which often ironically lead to being hurt again (this is typical behaviour in borderlines).
The illness is ironic and vindicive; the behaviours designed to protect us are what usually end up hurting us. Usually we are just trying to get more of what we need, and when we can’t get enough we act in ways that push it away entirely. It’s like we’re so hungry, but we’re only offered a small portion of food, not enough to satiate us, so we choose to starve instead.
We need to learn to be grateful for whatever amount we are given, rather than lament the small amount we have (and it may only be small in our minds).
It’s been necessary to come to these realisations myself, to understand the importance to and where they fit in my recovery.