I’ve mentioned in previous articles about how the old Emma used to be self-destructive and by this I mean I would purposely make bad choices that I knew would fuck up my life even more but of course that didn’t always stop me.
Self-destruction goes hand in hand with many mental illnesses, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. Self-destructive behaviour is when we cause ourselves unnecessary suffering, pain or harm and instead, we end up living a life that is deprived of happiness, peace and health purely because we don’t think that we deserve it.
I first noticed my self-destructive behaviours when I was around 15 years old but I’d say I became self-destructive not long after my dad’s death, which happened when I was 12 years old, and alcohol was my main way of fucking up my life and it continued to fuck my life up until I was around 22 years old. I turned to alcohol when I was feeling depressed (and when I was experiencing all the symptoms of depression), insecure, grieving, anxious and when I would experience PTSD flashbacks. I have written in more detail about my relationship with alcohol here and here.
I used to love alcohol, absolutely loved it as it helped me come out of my shell, everybody loved drunk Emma (until she began to have a mental breakdown) and it helped ease some of my emotional/mental pain, but it was only temporary relief and alcohol caused me to go around a viscous circle of self-destruction.
The circle had a starting point which I like to call the ‘underlying issue’ and this could be anything from a childhood trauma to feeling an extreme thought/emotion.
Next comes the self-destructive behaviour and one of my behaviours was drinking an excessive amount of alcohol.
Then comes the tipping point which is where it all goes to shit. At this point I was absolutely blind drunk and I realised that everything I thought the alcohol was suppressing, it was actually magnifying and once I realised this, there was no going back.
Then you’ve got the dark hole and this is where I would usually feel the brunt of the hangover, dwell on the regrets of the night before and think/feel negatively about myself. This is where my mental illness/illnesses fed before circling back to the underlying issue.
So for example, I would turn to alcohol when I felt lonely (the loneliness was caused by my depression, which was caused by my dad’s death and that was my underlying issue), the alcohol would supress this feeling of loneliness by either making me more outgoing/social or by temporarily uplifting my mood but, because I got this relief from drinking, I would then drink more and more (self-destructive behaviour) thinking that alcohol was the solution to my loneliness and it would all eventually go away, but of course, it doesn’t work that way. Next I would reach my tipping point and let me tell you, it is not a pretty sight when you get here. This is where the mental breakdowns would happen, it is here where I would have panic attacks, cry floods of tears, throw up either over myself, others, the toilet (or I’d try and aim for the toilet at least) or out of car/taxi windows and so on. I would be screaming out my emotional pain and I would expose some of my darkest thoughts/feelings to friends, family and strangers, this is where all the pain came out for everyone to see. Then came the dark hole which my depression absolutely loved because it was like a mental torture chamber. The dark hole is where you constantly repeat and analyse the night before, it is here where you tell yourself that you’re a fucking idiot, that you are useless, that no one will want you or that you are better off alone. This is where I would mentally torture myself.
I began to drink to suppress my loneliness and alcohol helped me gain some social confidence, but I relied on the alcohol too much which resulted in me getting way more drunk than other people around me, which then of course, the majority of those people shunned me away but those that stuck around would usually get pushed away by me, so…was my feeling of loneliness ever conquered? Fuck no. It only got worse because the alcohol never solved the issue, it only offered me temporary relief and magnified all the horrible shit going on in my head.
Between the ages of 20-22 I then became self-destructive in a way that I didn’t realise till last year, during this time I had ended my previous relationship and I went off the fucking rails. I completely lost the plot, lost near enough all respect for myself and I saw absolutely nothing wrong with it (in some ways there isn’t anything wrong with making the most of your life as long as you’re doing for the right reasons). The break up hit me hard but I wasn’t heartbroken, I felt free and I was happier after the break up but because the relationship was so intense and toxic (from both sides), I looked at myself and saw everything that I thought and/or I was told to be true. I saw someone who no one would love and someone who was so fucked up that she had ended it with the one guy who would only ever understand/respect and/or love her so I went out in search of something. I didn’t really want people to know that I was missing something, I wanted them to think that I was fine and I was just making the most of my single years after a shitty relationship but in reality I was searching for some sort of connection, just something that would prove to me that everything he said and everything my mental illnesses said to me was not true. I didn’t really know what I was searching for and I didn’t even want to be another relationship, I just wanted proof of something.
I think because part of me genuinely was happier after the break up, I felt as though I needed to prove that to him and also prove that everything he thought/said was completely wrong and I was doing fucking great without him (obviously the more you try and prove this the more ‘crazy’ you look so it’s honestly best to just get on with your own thing after a break up). He disliked me going on nights out so I publicly posted more about my nights out, he didn’t approve of any male attention I got so I purposely did things to get more attention and he wasn’t always a huge fan of some of the clothes I wore so I purposely wore clothes that I knew he wouldn’t like. After the break up, I realised how much the relationship impacted me as a whole and I just wanted to get him back for it, but of course, none of this ended in a healthy way. It wasn’t until I was a couple months into therapy when I calmed down, sat back and realised why I had been acting the way that I was.
Alcohol and sex were self-destructive ways of me coping with the emotional and mental pain I was dealing with but I’ve also been self-destructive other ways such as self-harming (which you can read about here) and that was something I used to do as a form of punishment for my actions/choices I had made during the time of my dad’s death. It was a coping mechanism I used to deal with the severe and extreme emotions and thoughts I was experiencing. Then of course I went through a drug phase which when I’m ready, I will go into more detail about in the future. My eating habits used to be self-destructive in ways that I would sometimes over eat on unhealthy crap to try and suppress the emotional pain or I would starve myself as another way of punishment for eating too much, gaining weight, not being able to fit into something that I used to be able to or coping with my depression. I’d also neglect caring for myself, I’d unnecessarily spend way too much money than I had to try and temporarily make myself feel better and I’d self-sabotage myself because I felt as though I didn’t deserve success and I was usually too scared to take the risk anyway as I could always find a reasons as to why it wouldn’t be worth trying and why it wouldn’t ever work out for me.
I still deal with some self-destructive tendencies now but I’m more aware of when I’m acting in self-destructive ways and I can now shut down those destructive behaviours and either use healthier ways of coping with whatever issue it may be or I have the confidence to face the issue head on and get it solved. It’s taken a long time to reach this point but by gradually working on my self-improvement, I have been able to finally get here and enjoy my life in a healthier way.
Self-destructive behaviours are hard to break on your own as they usually stem from a personal underlying issue which can be hard to face, understand and work through on your own. My therapy definitely helped me realise what I was doing and why I was doing it and then after that I was able to create a healthier lifestyle to help fulfil myself rather than destroy it. I would honestly recommend therapy for those who have self-destructive behaviours, but I also wouldn’t pressure them too much for it as their underlying issue could still be too difficult for them to face as well as they might not be ready to face it either. Try and be there for them as much as you can and try to encourage them to make healthier choices but please don’t keep losing your shit at them because that is not going to offer many benefits.
Thank you for reading,
Take care of yourselves,