This author chose a psuedonym that has special significance not only for herself but, as she sees it, for many others like her. In Greek mythology ‘Cassandra’ was cursed by the Gods. Her punishment was never to be believed. Many people who really ought to know better refused to believe Cassandra when she told them that her self harming wasn’t emotional blackmail or an attempt to manipulate their responses. Nor was it a cry for help – it was simply the only way she knew to stop the emotional turmoil she experienced.
Ironically the reactions of nurses and care workers often served to recreate the very distress she’d just dealt with by cutting herself. I think this should be compulsory reading for all mental health workers.
Stuart Sorensen (Editor)
THE MERRY-GO-ROUND BY ‘CASSANDRA’
Imagine you’re watching a merry-go-round. One of the old Victorian ones with brightly painted horses that rise and fall, swaying sedately in lazy, slow, shallow arcs as it turns round and round. All wear gold painted sashes bearing names like ‘Billy’, ‘Dancer’ and ‘Merry Legs’. The horses on my merry-go-round have names like Happy, Peace, Serene and Calm. In the centre there is an organ playing happy carnival music. Now, press fast forward, not just the picture, speed up the music too. Until everything is a spinning blur and the music is beyond your ability to understand.
Now imagine you are standing in the stationary centre of the merry-go-round, but still in real time. You can see everything. The spinning colours, the hectic movement and a brief glimpse of flashing hooves and flying tails. You can feel everything. The rumble under foot from the straining mechanical turntable. The wind generated by the spinning horses. You can hear everything. The noise of the stressed wood and machinery, that will surely split and tear apart if it goes on for too long. The disjointed, super fast organ music.
But even though you can see, hear and feel you can’t make anything out. You can’t pick out or focus on one thing in all that chaos that makes sense. And beyond all that you can see real time, real life, carrying on as if none of this is happening. You can’t shout. Who would hear you when you can’t even hear yourself? You can’t even step out of it. You’re trapped.
What would you do? How would you stop all that movement, all that sound, all that confusion? Standing there in your little dead zone, all your feelings and emotions spinning out of control. Desperate to feel something, anything but the big blank you have right at that moment. What would you do?
I cut myself to make it stop. Not deep. Just deep enough to draw blood. Just deep enough to feel it. Just deep enough to make the merry-go-round slow down. I’ve had the mechanics of self-harm explained to me and I know the brain kicks out endorphins as a result of the pain. That is where the spaced out feeling comes from. I’m not sure I understand the chemistry bit.
All I know is, if the kick has been good enough, the merry-go-round slows down enough that sometimes you can even choose the horse you want to get on.