Self-harm is essentially defined as a person’s mission to inflict deliberate injury to one’s own body. Self-harm for me might be a mixture of poor choices, perfectionism, and the need to get shit done. For example, I recently scheduled a dentist appointment for 7AM. In my mind, I decided that if I scheduled it early, the appointment would not interfere with my work schedule. However, waking up, rushing across town to have a stranger stick their fingers in my mouth is not how I prefer to start my day.
While in the dentist chair, I pondered this decision of mine and was perplexed, because I decided long ago, I would never schedule a gynecological appointment first thing in the morning. I wondered why I did not lump dental appointments in the same category. It’s just too early to feel this type of encroachment. I always feel cheap when the gynecologist hands me that little washcloth, tells me to clean up after her handy work and walks out the door. The ending of every gynecological appointment feels like an awkward breakup, where both parties are disgusted with one another. I’ve decided that I need a true-life rule to live by and from here on out, I will not start or end my day with any strangers’ hands in any orifice of mine. I’m just too fragile.
I do understand there is no good time to have either of these types of appointments for most people. How could anybody in their right mind like someone else flossing their teeth? During my appointment there was so much struggle to pull the floss from between my teeth that I thought my hygienist was going to put her foot on my chest for leverage. Finishing with flossing has the same effect as the gynecologist handing me a washrag at the end of the visit. Both leave me feeling a little sad, violated, and judged for my life choices. I always leave these appointments feeling unsettled.
Looking back on this appointment and the notion of self-harm, I don’t feel that I deliberately used the dental appointment to soothe any inner self-loathing. I think this visit fell in the category of just needing to get shit done. However, I can’t help to dive deeper and examine aspects of my self-harming nature that might be rooted in some form of emotional torment instead of convenience and bad decisions. I doubt I will unpack all of this here today, but I am open to explore how in most of my interactions throughout my day I always want an agreed upon safe word before I commit to engage.
Although the choosing of a safe word has always perplexed me. I feel I need to be thoughtful and selective if I am going to commit to such a thing. My dilemma with safe word selection is not complicated, but I may be overthinking it. A friend of mine disclosed that he uses the name of a delicious breakfast food as his safe word. He heard it being used in a movie and claimed it as his own. I need to know if he ever orders blueberry pancakes when dining out and if the sight of them incites memories that make him blush at the breakfast table.
In my simple mind, I wonder when he decided that saying “ouch” was no longer sufficient. I’m also curious if he has ever had trouble spouting this phrase out in his time of need. Multiple syllables and intense pain seem like a possible barrier to me. With so many questions unanswered, I don’t believe I will be able to make any progress selecting my own word or phrase to be used when my limits are tested. For now, what if I just tap out instead?