Don’t try this at home

Every now and then I make sure that I go and do something that’s going to result in me getting punched hard on a scar, metaphorically or not. In my head this makes sense at a number of levels. You can’t really tell how healed you are without testing yourself. That could cause you to get caught by surprise and crumble to bits in a situation where doing so is not safe, which I find worrisome. Alternatively, you could find yourself living your life with a THIS SCAR IS HEALED DON’T TOUCH IT attitude, which I find limiting. I’m way too stubborn to let anyone dictate to me what I can and can’t do, even if that person is me.

In all honesty, maybe I just do it because I like getting up again after I got hit hard. It makes me feel all badass and shit. Not everything I do is clever. I’m ok with that.

At the same time, I would never, ever recommend to another soul that they try the same. I try really hard not to advise people because I’m visibly unqualified, but if I did “Hey, why don’t you go and see how badly hurt you have to get to keel over!” would not be the kind of advice I’d give. Yet I do precisely that, repeatedly, and consider it a perfectly good thing for me. Formative, like.

It could be hypocrisy, exceptionalism, or selective braining. Maybe I can only think sensibly when other people are involved. Whatever it is, it gets even better when I look at the next stage of the process.

Getting whacked on a scar can reveal that the damn thing doesn’t hurt in the least. Could be it’s healed properly. Could be it’s gone numb, and that may or may not be a problem, depending on what feeling has been lost. It can also reveal that the underlying injury is still pretty messed up; that the scar tissue was covering up a whole bunch of festering issues. That’s a useful discovery, but not a pleasant one, and can result in a whole bunch of recovery work being both necessary and urgent. More often than not, what I find is that the scar is as healed as it’s gonna get, but it still hurts like a motherfucker. No injury, just pain. Shit happens, traces are left, that’s how it goes, ho hum.

The last sentence in that paragraph is also one I only apply to myself. There’s no way in hell I’d go up to anyone and tell them to ‘just suck it up’ when they’re dealing with the aftermath of a genuine, serious injury. I might think it, if I thought that their recovery was impeded by an excess of self-pity, but I’d be unlikely to say it. It’s not that I’m overly nice; it’s that I don’t get on with people for whom self-pity is a normalised response, so I don’t tend to befriend them. They don’t befriend me either, because they think I’m a flaming asshole, so it’s all good. ‘My’ people, the people who operate like me, only say that they’ve got a bad ouchy if they’ve damn well got a bad ouchy. It’s real and it’s an issue, or they wouldn’t be bringing it up. The sum total of this renders bullying my people through an injury terminally unclever. Unless those people are me, obvs. For me, different rules apply, because.

It all goes up another notch when we get to the next stage: how to deal with the ouchy. It turns out that I have a personal two-tier approach to this. If the ouchy is minor it should not impede function. I must perform as normal, or else I’m a total waste of skin, and words will be said to that effect. If the ouchy is in fact big enough to impede normal function, then I must find the nearest porch and crawl under it. I must stay under said porch until I’ve either gotten better or died. While under the porch, I must avoid all human interaction, particularly with people I care about and who care about me. I may return to my people when and only when I’m absolutely sure that the ouchy I’m carrying has been contained enough that I can perform as normal, enough that it’s not going to impact them in any way.

That’s how I roll. It would be spectacularly ridiculous were I just a random fuckwit, but I’m not. I’m a tried-and-tested fuckwit, a kinda-quasi-expert fuckwit, a fuckwit who wrote a damn book about recovery. And, lo and behold, this is not what I consider best practice in that kind of situation. Rather the opposite, in fact.

If anyone else was spewing this kind of bullshit, I’d tear them a new one. If anyone else was doing this, I’d go under the damn porch, kick them out of there, and then quite possibly continue to kick them until my legs got sore. It may seem like adding injury to injury, but in all honesty, if someone was being that self-damaging, I don’t think I could hurt them worse than they are hurting themselves, anyway.

What I do is terminally unclever, yet it works for me. It has worked for me. I’m still here. What I don’t know, because I’ve never bothered trying, is whether taking a less brutal approach would work better. I know it works better on hooman people, and sometimes I suspect I may belong to that species. It may sound like a simple case of me needing to absorb this and change tack, but there’s a catch.

I know that my approach works for me because I’ve done it plenty of times. More significantly than that, I’ve done it under adrenaline, and it worked. I’ve done it when it was the only option I had, or the most sensible thing to do. I’ve done it when the stakes were high, and I didn’t get horribly mangled. And as Rory says, “The habits implanted under adrenaline or fear of death are really strong. They rarely change.”

I know there are better ways of doing things, but I only know that in my head. Knowledge doesn’t trump habits developed under fire. Those are in my bones.

Usually I move towards most fears, because I’m a coward. I cannot hear a bump in the night and leave it alone, so I pick any available tools appropriate to the purpose and move forth. It turns out that the fear of letting go of something that’s kept you alive is a different kind of animal altogether. It doesn’t matter if that something is not great, or it’s actively damaging. You just don’t wanna let go.

I might be writing this as a cautionary tale for other people affected by similar brainworms. I may just be washing my dirty linen in public – now that I have talked about it, I am obliged to deal with it post-haste. All I know is that this is A Thing for me, and it may be A Thing for other people, and it’s definitely not A Good Thing. But I choose to believe that it’s not an insurmountable problem, either. Identify your monster, and you’ve got a better chance of slaying it; or, at the very least, teach it to sit and stay and not tear your throat out quite so often.

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2 thoughts on “Don’t try this at home

  1. There’s stuff that works great that we can’t recommend. I don’t think it’s hypocrisy or exceptionalism so much as risk management. There are some things you can do that absolutely increase your power as a human being, as long as you survive them. When something has a significant chance of leaving you dead, crippled or psychologically messed-up for life, an also significant chance of making you better physically and/or emotionally _and_ there is a huge element of uncontrollable randomness in what the outcome will be… There’s no ethical way to recommend that to someone else. Anyone want to try T’s cancer treatment? Suicide treats cancer, as long as you avoid the negative side effect of dying. Don’t want to mention this, but the redneck treatment for depression– a balls to the wall fistfight– works really, really well and a significant percentage of the people who used it have lots of missing teeth. Can’t recommend it but…

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