• Harry Jensen

April 22, 2020

I’m starting to realize that every day is not the day to quit smoking. I switched to the JUUL some time ago, which is like saying, “I used to drink coffee, but now I snort fair trade cocaine.” For anyone who hasn’t found out yet, vapes — salt vaporizers, in particular — are not the way to quick your nicotine habit; they’re a means to kick it up a notch. During a pathologically stressful period of my life, right before I bought my first JUUL, I was down to as little as five cigarettes per week, amounting to about a cigarette a day. For the last six months, I’ve been at a steady pod per day, the equivalent of about 28 cigarettes every day, more than a pack. I’ll spare you the math, but my nicotine uptake is up about 4000 percent. Don’t make the switch, kids.

I woke up at noon today, again — defeat. I thought about jumping out the window in my despair, but it was raining. I sulked on the couch and told Cecilia that I was bad and that I didn’t deserve to eat. I don’t try to be a lot, but I am sometimes.

I tend to be facetious when discussing self-harm, but I do not intend to be derisive. I myself do not think it does serious topics justice to drown them in grimness, and it is how I relate to my own experience.

My very first memory is of me, mid-scream, at the grocery store with my Dad. I was sat in the toddler seat of our grocery cart, and I was slamming my purple, shrieking head into the handle of the cart. I was always hurting myself as a child, and my home was a masochist’s playground. I was constantly smashing my head into our walls and the sides of our dining room table, usually to punish myself for a mistaken multiplication problem or a tricky syllable I couldn’t read. I would scratch myself secretly at the dinner table to release the tension, and in high school I developed into face punching and beard pulling, the most savage of all.

A lot of these behaviors could be linked to my then undiagnosed OCD. Otherwise known as Obsessive-Compulsive Doofusism, this distressing state of being involves obsessive thoughts, and the performance of compulsive actions developed to relieve the obsessions. Whatever name you call it, I have for a long time been beleaguered by compulsions to do damage to myself to alleviate the endless perseverations whirring behind my face.

In a strange way, I have come to think of much of my self-harm as misled acts of self-care. Rivver has recently incorporated Internal Family Systems into our therapy sessions, a theory which operates under the assumption that the mind is constituted by a set of relatively discrete subpersonalities. In this model, we treat the different parts of my self-system as quasi-egos which compel me towards the actions, beliefs, and attitudes that they think are best. But, because my subpersonalities are self-interested, and because they are not distinct from me, they are all trying to take care of me.

It may seem counterintuitive to punch yourself in the face to make you feel better, and maybe it is. I prefer to view it as the thrashings of an old version of my psyche, from when I battered myself in the grocery store to try and say to my father, “something is wrong, and this is all I can do to show you.”

I would rather say that self-harm is a cause for awareness rather than a cause for alarm. Bringing my awareness to my habits, and the awareness of others, have helped me understand rather than condemn these troubling actions. There is forever a fine light to tread between defeatism and self-acceptance, but I’m going to walk it with a JUUL and a sandwich in hand, because every deserves to eat.

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