Compassion Destroyed

| By Paul | | Comments (17)

I have hurt myself, sometimes quite seriously, many times. It is difficult to rank serious self-harm and suicidal events because one must take into account both the physical and psychological damage. But while there is a good deal of subjectivity involved, there is no question that what I did to myself last week ranks up there as among the most serious in my lifetime.

Physical damage is what most use to rank such events because it is quantifiable. Like many others, I have taken dozens of overdoses over the years. Two of them were objectively different from all the rest. They were the ones which were especially calculated. They involved taking many times the lethal dose. And they were preceded by taking sedatives so that I would not be able to change my mind and go to anyone for help afterwards. Those were obviously serious physically and I was lucky to have survived them many years ago.

Hurting myself in the present often involves recreating past abuse. This has gone on for years, is often an instinctive response, and is something I am ashamed of. It has been damaging because I have perpetuated the abuse done to me and has led to all sorts of problems. What makes it difficult is that most of the problems are psychological and comparatively easier to hide.

As I have healed, the more I appreciate the extent of the psychological damage of this kind of self harm. To put it into some context, long ago when my psyche was much more separated, these self harm events were more isolated. While it undoubtedly caused psychological damage, hurt aspects of me had little or no understanding of where their distress was coming from.

Without question, increased awareness and internal communication—whatever level one dissociates—are necessary components to healing and tools to help keep us safe. But there are no guarantees of safety. When safety is breached, the increased awareness leads to a totally different perspective of the effects of self abuse.

What happened last week was arguably, for me by my own scale, the most serious event of its kind ever by many measures. To call it self harm or self abuse is not even adequate. Self harm was the terminology I used a decade ago. Self abuse is the terminology I began using a few years ago. What happened last week was a psychological suicide attempt. I think it is important for me to be as precise as possible and not cloak what happened with more sanitized terminology.

A couple days ago, I did an analysis of both the events and feelings which has led me to label what happened in such a unambiguous way. While a lot of the actual events are lost or in flashes, I have enough information to know that what happened was in a totally different class from past events. I also have hard data, which was able to give me a perspective that is much clearer than any similar event before.

But the saddest piece comes not from the actual harmful events. Not from what was done to my body or done to my psyche.

The plan from the night before was to be admitted to the hospital, where I am now. I had become too unstable, too fragmented, and too much at risk. I told my therapist I needed some time to tie up some loose ends at work and do some last minute preparations.I was supposed to be in hospital admissions by 6 pm. That was the agreement I made.

It turned out that I was not grounded enough to be trusted with such an agreement or such an amount of time on my own.

I know there was internal conflict about getting hurt that day. That conflict usually is what keeps me safe. But there was very little sense of reality and no sense of ground. And, so, "safety" and "getting hurt" existed as their own isolated parallel threads. That dynamic of polar opposites existing simultaneously increased the safety risk manyfold.

At one point, I was at a tibetan arts store to get my wife, who is into yoga, a Christmas gift. Amidst all the confusion and fragmentation, at 1:45 pm I wrote these words in my journal: "Healing. Went to the tibetan store for a present. Big shift now towards safety. But confusion and conflict too." That nearly led to a change of course to not get hurt. But it was not enough.

At the store, I also searched for a gift for my therapist, my "healing guide". I thoroughly explored the shop and what I found for her was a compassion stone. It is a small stone from India with the "Om mani padme hum" mantra on compassion in Tibetan script . This is sad because it is proof that there were enormous coexisting efforts to be safe and also to be hurt.

While it certainly feels like my "gift" to my therapist is tainted, I hope we can take from this something positive.

This stone, then, obviously has critical significance. It perhaps should sit in my therapist's office, or be accessible to us. We should use it as a reminder of how the desperate effort to be safe and compassionate was destroyed—within minutes.

For me, that stone will probably be my most important icon in the world. It is something tangible from that horrible day. It will mean more to me than the medical records I have from the major overdoses. More than poems I have written from long ago about sad events and abuse. More than any art work I have made. Even more than records I have from the Catholic Church.

That stone represents the fact that I made a choice. That stone embodied all of my hope. It embodied all of my compassion. And I, and I alone, made the choice to destroy all of that.

I will never forget that.

And now I have to pick up the pieces and recreate what I have destroyed.



I'm sorry for your pain. I understand. I understand completely the psychological suicide attempt. Physical self injury is nothing in comparison to the brutality of psychological self injury.

Mostly, our bodies heal fairly quickly from our attacks on our physical selves. And I seem to be able to accept that I've done what I did.

However, what I've done to myself psychologically -the injuries I purposefully and willfully perpetrated against my emotional and psychological self- I don't understand. I don't know how or where I found that level of self hatred existing within me.

Strange, isn't it? The idea of literally destroying my body and ending my life seem less brutal than the attacks I've waged on my psyche. And it isn't just because death is death -an end, while emotional suffering continues. There's just something more horrific in intentionally violating our minds versus our bodies.

Again, I am truly sorry for your pain. I wish you well. Please take care.


tb0316 said:

Oh Paul!

My heart just broke for you. Is it ok to say that I don't know what to say?

The last few sentences of your post seem heavy with self-judgment and I don't feel that way about any of this. You deserve compassion no matter what actions you took because those actions came from a place of pain that you did not cause.

I don't want to make things worse for you so I'm really nervous to say more than that. I'm glad you're in the hospital though because it's safe. I don't know what else to say. Maybe someone with better words can do more.

Heidi Banerjee said:

Paul do you think you can pull yourself out of this devastating situation?
I hope you can because there is a lot you have to say to others.
Love to you and your family... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

castorgirl said:

I'm so sorry you were hurt.

Please take this opportunity to gather your resources, work through the underlying issues, and leave in a stronger place.

Sending positive thoughts your way,

Evan said:

Hi Paul,

I hope you are feeling more grounded now and getting the support you need.

That stone is a remarkable icon.

wantstorun said:


I feel any words of compassion or empathy will come across as cliche, but I truly do wish peace to you.

I find the stone interesting in other ways besides the mantra that was on it and that it was intended as a gift for your T. My T has used rocks/stones for various purposes during my healing journey, and rocks are very precious to us now for a variety of reasons. I felt that the stone might have shown some significance in that I wonder if you were trying to stay grounded, and that is what drew you to the stone. Not only is a stone from the ground, but the weight of them can sometimes be a reminder to stay grounded, as well.

I'll be thinking of you.


Ellen said:

Compassion can go missing for a time but it can't be destroyed. I believe you will find your compassion for yourself again.

Sending healing wishes to you.

Kerro said:

I'm also really sorry to hear your hurt, and to see you in such pain. Like others I hope you can take this time to regain strength to continue on your journey. Please take gentle care.

Paul said:

Thank you everyone for your very kind and thoughtful comments. They all mean a lot to me. I have another view on this, a much different perspective, and I will share that soon.

Ivory said:

So sorry for the pain you are suffering with. You have the chance now to build something different than it was - sometimes, that is better. In any case, the work involved is always a challenge. My best to you and wishes for a peaceful holiday.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ivory:

Ivory, Sorry it took me so long to write back. Thank you for your kind thoughts. Yes, you are so right.

Laura said:

I am so, so sorry to hear that the events leading to your hospitalization involved such devastation. I'm not sure what to say that could possibly help you, but I hope that you can soon feel some sense of peace - or at least comfort - for even a little while.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Laura:

Laura, Thank you so much. Things have become better. I hope you are doing well yourself.

Coach2 said:

I am grateful that you posted that we may also offer support and wish for staying the course into safety and self awareness.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Coach2:

Hi Coach. Thank you for that very kind wish. There is a path out.

OneSurvivor said:

Paul, my heart goes out to you. I am glad that you are alive and working through all of this. I know it is incredibly hard, but I hope that you can also see that you ARE growing through this. You WILL make it out the other end.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to OneSurvivor:

Thank you OneSurvivor for your confidence. I have since found it in myself.

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This page contains a single entry published on December 21, 2011 3:00 AM.

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