Are you safe?

Please note that this entry may trigger.

“Are you safe?”

This is the question I’m often asked by a friend who knows the extent of my self-injury.  I often hesitate in answering, not because I don’t want to answer, but because I don’t really know what “safe” means.  When you’re a survivor of abuse, your goalposts surrounding the concept of safety often shift – it could be that “safe” becomes not being physically assaulted, but still experiencing psychological abuse.  This is what most of my marriage was like.  He rarely hit me, so I thought I was “safe”.  This sort of understanding ignores the broader definition of safety as being secure from danger, harm, or evil.  Many survivors wouldn’t know what that sort of security means or feels like.

It was interesting when I was asked this question today, I hadn’t been safe over the weekend and I realised that I didn’t particularly care.  This isn’t because I’m suicidal or tied to a feeling of deserving the self-injury, but because I don’t have any sense of it being negative or being “me”.  Up until last week I was actively trying to work through the self-injury so that I knew what had triggered it and could potentially prevent it in the future.  That’s all changed.  I’m no longer worried about preventing it, because I don’t have any sense of it impacting on me in any way.  I know this is a dissociative event and compartmentalisation, but I can’t move beyond that knowledge into any solid concept of it doing harm.  I know that this is probably tied to the denial that I’m currently experiencing, but I don’t get a sense of needing to move beyond that denial.  This all could also be contributed to ACC still not approving any further sessions with Liz, I’m not sure.  I know that this is a potentially dangerous place to be in, but it also has it’s benefits.  I’m moving back to my high functioning at work, I’m enrolling for another qualification and am getting back to exercising regularly.  This is close to my functioning during the middle years of my relationship with my ex-husband, when I was considered high-functioning and an asset.

I’m not sure of what to make of it all and I get a sense that I don’t want to analyse it.  All I know is that the screaming inside my head has gone.  Everything is back in the boxes behind the wall.  I don’t even get a sense of that having occurring,  I just get a sense that this is what has happened.  It’s both confusing and totally clear at the same time.  When I saw Liz on Monday, I mentioned the denial and she responded that I wasn’t wanting to look at the past.  But I don’t have any sense of the past, I don’t need it or want it.  All I have a sense of, is my life becoming a tickable list of things to do – mow the lawns, check FaceBook, go to bed and read for an hour, etc.

Not quite sure what is happening, or how long it will last.  But it’s an easier life than the one filled with anxiety, flashbacks and suicidal ideation.

Now playing: Brooke Fraser – Lifeline
via FoxyTunes


19 thoughts on “Are you safe?

  1. I have gone through times of high functioning. Sometimes a fugue. For me I have learned that it is more than OK for me to go through these times. What is not OK for me is to start a huge life change that will mean I stop healing. I work on going with the productivity and intellectually knowing that I will once again want to heal.

    We call this creating a hole in time. Getting stuff done so that when I can start to heal I am in the best place I can be to heal.

    Over time the healing and getting stuff done is integrating. The problem is when I do both of them at the same time I do a poor job at both. I can learn.

    I think the term safe is unhelpful. I am safe if no one is hurting me. I go with what is the probability that I will hurt myself. Which is often just a guess.

    • Hi Michael,

      I’m not really sure what is going on and why I’m feeling very “singular” and high-functioning. I know that it is quite possibly dangerous because I don’t get an appropriate sense of what is dangerous and what isn’t, so I can identify with your statement about not making a huge change that could impact on healing.

      It’s interesting what you say about not being able to do healing and work together well. I’m wondering if that is what I’ve experienced up until now and there has been a huge shift to try and sort out one area of my life. I’m not sure.

      Thank you for your comments, they’ve made me think.

      Take care,

  2. I am pleased that you’re moving into a space that is, as you call it, “higher functioning”. In fact, I’m quite jealous! I’d guess that your time off may have done some good. 🙂 I also agree with Michael that this could enable you to get in the best possible space for more healing.

    The SI thing is hard. I’d like to be able to say something helpful, but I’m not sure I can. Please take care.


    • Hi Kerro 🙂

      Well, I’m not sure if the high functioning is such a good thing, but it’s meant that I’m getting way more done at work. I’m also a lot more focused, so it’s good in that way. But I’m not sure how it fits with the SI, I have a feeling that if I keep up the high-functioning then the SI will gain momentum as there is nothing to keep it in check. But I’m not really aware of caring about that. It’s all rather confusing…

      Take care,

  3. When I ask you if you are safe, I should probably be more specific. I use it as a global term to ask to assess whether dangerous self-harm has occurred and what the risks are for self-harm to occur moving forward. It’s basically a check-in. I ask that first all the time, because it’s the most important thing. It’s always the elephant in the room. I want to acknowledge it up front.

    I have to disagree with the prior comments, which is no fault of theirs, but because I don’t think they appreciate the totality of what you are dealing with as far as self-injury (which in many ways for you and me is life-threatening). Self-Injury is such a broad term. When it’s objectively acknowledged as life-threatening (as in dangerous physical assaults), this changes the dynamic. The language we all use on the blogs when we talk about this stuff is so minimizing that it doesn’t at all do justice to what we are really talking about.

    I, too, am in this place of increasing compartmentalizing and not caring. It does have its upsides, with some super high functioning being one. But as each compartment flourishes at what it does best, it means the self-harming compartments also flourish.

    It’s so unbelievably tempting to go back to this way of living. We have done it for so long. In fact, I thought given the healing I’ve done over the past while, that going back to this way would not be possible.

    But healing is not compatible with not being safe and not caring about that. Being safe and making an effort to be safe has to be our number one priority. I know this means that life gets more messy and functioning goes down by some measures. That’s a smaller price to pay than the price we have to pay for the very dangerous self-harm.

    I absolutely don’t have an answer for this state we both seem to find ourselves in. But I don’t think we can continue in this way for the periods of time we were able to in the past. We both know too much now. There’s been too much sharing internally. I cannot imagine that there are not ramifications inside for the self-injury (assaults). It may be just that we’re not aware right now.

    My therapist said yesterday the goal is to have the level of awareness and connection to emotion and experience we had before (and commitment to safety) while at the same time finding a way to be functional. How that can possibly happen is beyond me. I think she’s living a pipe dream on that one.

    But I have to work on this. And so do you.

    Take good care.


    • Hi Paul,

      I usually know what you are meaning when you ask about my safety, but I’ve noticed over the last week or so that the concept has become blurred and more fluid. I think that’s why I’ve been responding that “I’m safe now”, because the present has become all that matters.

      I know that I minimise the self-injury here, but I don’t want everyone to know the true extent of it. It’s something that is private, and I fear that it will affect the way people perceive me – I don’t really want to face that.

      I’m surprised that you are moving back into this space after all the healing work you’ve done. But then you’ve had a total change in the demands on you over the last few weeks, so the shift seems possible.

      Living like this is easier in many ways. It’s easier for those around us and easier for us in that the high-functioning means that we become invisible again, or noticed for the right reasons. When I’m like this, I don’t understand the self-injury as being life-threatening. It’s so distant from my daily functioning and life that it doesn’t seem real.

      I don’t see the need for healing when I’m like this, as there is nothing to heal from. I’m fine. I eased Liz into this by talking about denial on Monday, but she didn’t realise the extent of it.

      I know there must be ramifications for what I am doing, but I don’t see them. Maybe that is what I need to work on. I suppose this will make it easier to talk to Liz about the self-injury, because I really don’t care about it. It’s always easier to talk about something that you don’t perceive as affecting you.

      On a theoretical level, I understand what your therapist is talking about, and it is something that I wish for you. But I don’t see how it is possible.

      Take care,

      • I don’t have DID, as you know, but my therapist also talks about having a level of emotional connection AND being functional. I also can’t see how this is possible, but I long for it. And I hang on to the hope she has given me. It’s all I’ve got sometimes.

        Please take care CG.

    • Paul,

      “I don’t think they appreciate the totality of what you are dealing with as far as self-injury (which in many ways for you and me is life-threatening).”

      I find your statement arrogant.

      I am alive because I am a multiple and I can keep going when the only reason is that there might be a reason to live in the future, without this ability I would be dead.

      • While I appreciate your view Michael, I’d appreciate it if my blog didn’t become about conflict amongst the commenters. I support reasoned debate, but I also need a sense of security about what is contained on my blog. I have a great deal of respect for all of my commenters, so would prefer not to bring conflict into this forum where it could trigger or impact on anyone whom may visit.

        I don’t get a sense that Paul was insulting or denigrating your experience. His comment came purely from his knowledge about the severity of my self-injury, and knowing how it has affected me in the past.

        You, as well as all survivors can attribute various forms of the dissociative coping mechanisms to having survived the abuse. I also need a sense that things will improve to a point of healing; without this hope and goal, many of us would no longer be here. No one is doubting that this is your reality and experience.

        Take care,

      • I am sorry you viewed my remarks as arrogant, Michael. Please see the words surrounding the ones you chose. If compartmentalizing which leads to high functioning also increases the self-harming (of the dangerous risking life kind), then it cannot be okay. I agree with LostShadowChild and Kate.

        This is a potential vortex you find yourself in which cannot be underestimated. There are a lot of drivers which can easily make the situation get completely out of hand. It took me many years to get the self-harm under some sort of control. I do think that if it starts back up with the frequency of the past with all the surrounding coping and denial I was used to, that it could set me back many years (i.e., take me again a long time, perhaps years, to get it under control).

        My comments were only meant to acknowledge the severity of the situation you find yourself in, and provide some validation for you about the life-threatening self-harm based on where I’ve been.

        Safe hugs to you… (((())))) if okay, of course.

  4. “I don’t see the need for healing when I’m like this, as there is nothing to heal from. I’m fine.”

    Reading your post and this above…I’m worried. You already know (theoretical) this is denial, a displace the reality. I know SI for many, many years and I know how life-threatening it could be.
    Please be careful that it doesn’t run completely out of control. I beg you.
    I’m so so sorry that the ACC haven’t approved further sessions 😦 It’s not fair. I hope you still have the chance that they change their mind.
    I have read about the changes at the ACC and I have signed the petition against this cruelty. Please take good care of you. Many safe hugs ((())) if ok

    • Thank you (((LostShadowChild))) What you’ve written makes sense and covers many of my fears regarding where I currently find myself. I’m assuming that I am in denial, but it’s never felt this complete or certain before. Usually when there is denial, there is still a sense of the other dissociative parts, but not this time.

      I’m still now 100% sure about the ACC sessions. Liz is still trying to answer their questions about my progress. I know that some of what I’m currently experiencing could be put down to cutting off everything in case the funding doesn’t come through.

      Take care,

  5. Self harm covers a spectrum of behaviors. When someone mentions they engage in self-harm I am always concerned for their life and their safety, though I don’t feel or think of them differently. I believe that all of us survivors have been stigmitized enough. I’m concerned that you are more in denial. Higher functioning is a good goal, though not at the cost of healing, coping with reality as it is, and doing therapy in a way that leads to higher functioning, safety and healing as worthy goals. I’m sorry you are in the middle of this area of denial. Good and healing thoughts to you.


    • It’s purely my fear and my feelings about the self-injury which make me reluctant to tell anyone. I know I’m projecting my issues; but it’s also about privacy, as my self-injury is not something that I’m proud of or want to share with anyone.

      I agree with your view of what a worthy goal is, I just need to work on a way of getting there.

      Take care,

  6. I’m glad I came back to re-read this post. It just so happens that all week at work, I’ve been this powerhouse of efficiency, Friday especially. Then, Friday evening, I cratered and I hated myself. I hated me so badly that “someone” shredded 3 manuscripts. darn. (my T has the digital copies – whew). But, my point is I didn’t know that the high functioning times can be denial, so this gives me a focal point for my session tomorrow. Thanks!

    • Glad I could help Ivory 🙂
      I’m glad you had copies of the manuscripts… It would be awful to lose all of that work!

      Take care

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