Growing up, I had one bathroom and shared it with five siblings and two parents. I also shared a bedroom with one of my sisters. This left little room for what my mind asked for, self-harm. I attempted it in small fashions. I knew if I was caught, it wouldn’t be good. And at that age, I didn’t want to get caught. On some level, I suppose I wanted to be caught but not out right. So, my mind started to work with and against me. You see, self-sabotage is a broad term and self-harm falls under that term. Self-harm wasn’t something I was capable of between the lack of privacy I was given and my intolerance to harm myself physically.
I’m not sure how many people are familiar with the term but I will give you the clinical definition for it, according to Psychology Today:
“Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting. These acts may seem helpful in the moment, but they ultimately undermine us, especially when we engage in them repeatedly.”
Now, I don’t self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. I am, however, known for procrastination and comfort eating and other less-common behaviors. These are things like not taking my medication, avoiding what is causing a problem in my life until I’m forced to face it, using my illnesses against me, and more. I like to say I’m qualified in the field of self-sabotage, the only field I am qualified in currently. It's like I'm the Titanic but I'm also the Iceberg that the ship is headed for each time.
This puts many of us in a predicament because our worst enemies become ourselves. We won’t even realize that we are actually sabotaging what we want more than anything whether that is a relationship, a healthy lifestyle, or a career. For me, my latest act was school, and coming to terms with this was and is actually very hard. Not many people know of how difficult this is.A lot of the time for myself, I self-sabotage because I don't feel deserving of what is given to me, or I feel like I am useful somewhere else. As of recently, my biggest self-sabotage was letting myself leave a college that I had worked so hard to get into. It was a specific, limited opening program that I got into for creative writers which catered to individuals who wanted to eventually publish their writing. I got accepted into this program and was insanely excited because over the course of since I was eight years old, writing had been my way to escape life. I believe that it has kept me going and not fully attempting a suicide. It was my dream.
However, my mom ended up getting severely ill after I got accepted and due to this, my mind started to work against me. Procrastination and using my illnesses against myself were the heavy hitters here. Not finding a proper therapist where I attended college that fit my needs and could specifically help me was one of my down falls. I went to school four hours away without a therapist when I was previously accustomed to going to a therapist once a week! Then my social anxiety kicked in. I believed that no one liked me, I couldn't make friends, and I wasn't likeable. I told myself all of this and had many breakdowns over it. Finally came the day when I walked back to my dorm room on the first day of classes. I called my mom on skype and begged her to come get me because I couldn't do it. I was having anxiety attacks and felt an episode coming on. I was an unknowing accomplice to destroying my own goal of graduating.
I got home and went into a full depression. I hid from the world until I finally realized that it had gotten me again. But, I had played my own part in the play. Getting my mom's health scare was reason enough to let my mind work against me for something I thought I didn't deserve, which is essentially the end point of all self-sabotage. We do it usually because we think we don't deserve what we are given or aren't worthy of it. I kept saying to myself, "How could I leave my mom at home, with that risk, when she was there for all my risks and illneses”? I was constantly reminded of all of those nights she had stayed over in a hospital for me, or of the time she came to the mental ward of a hospital at 9 AM and 7 PM every day to make sure that I was okay while accepting every single phone call from me. Finally, every therapy session she sat through until I was able to handle it on my own. She deserved my help now and I was going to provide her with it. I told myself that a lot of people are successful without a four year college behind them.
Sometimes, I didn't even have these thoughts! They would just lay there and remind me. They would poke at me even when I was having a good day until I let them turn to "Oh god, no one is sitting with me because I'm not likeable." Coming home and sitting in bed almost 24/7, it made me realize that I am deserving of a future and career and a four-year college even with the school debt I had collected perhaps, somewhere a bit closer.
Sometimes it may seem like we need that self-sabotage in our lives because yes, it keeps us safe and in control of what's going on whether that's with ourselves or another person we care about. However, it is at the total expense of making any progress in a goal you are looking towards. That could be a relationship going the distance, a career, a job, or simply a walk. All it takes to make you realize that everything will be okay and that you are still safe and in control is reflection on what caused the previous sabotages, honesty of what your greatest sabotages are, and courage to battle them alone or with someone by your side clinically or personally.
Read the rest of Michele's blogs here.