Acts of self-violence


I’m editing what looks like the final draft of my dissertation. And in the last few weeks I have sat on my couch cradling my books and my laptop all through the night to the break of dawn. Day after day. I have been missing the quiet my soul knows so well. I have been missing writing on here. Words have seemed heavy and incomplete.

When the first light of dawn cracks open on the horizon and the rest of the world is waking up, I’m witness to a loneliness that is so foreign yet so familiar at the same time. It is stenciled to old memories that come rushing back in a fury of red and gold. There have been moments, in the last weeks where it was just me. And my breath. In and out. In and out. Feeling the rise of my chest and its assured collapse back into me. Breathing in the quiet, in the silence. Waiting. Waiting for my brain to formulate intelligible words to put on the white page. Waiting for sunrise. Waiting for my best friend to wake up. Waiting for the world to become a better place. Waiting for God to act. Waiting for myself.

My sanity and composure have been picked apart these last few weeks. I have let myself down countless times. I thought writing a PhD was about writing. But it is actually about confronting yourself. You come undone. You find yourself on your knees wondering why you thought you could do this. They make you sit in a room with white walls and let you play with your broken parts.  And then you get to put yourself back together again. There is no glamour. There is no prestige. I probably won’t win any awards. But I will walk away being an undisputed expert on at least two things: myself and this unravelling process.

Sometimes when the night is dripping with a thick darkness your mind starts thinking about unusual things. I have been thinking about violence – the kind  that masquerades as personal problems. The kind of violence we participate in sometimes on a daily basis. I’ve started a list:

1. Self hate/self loathing

2. Self doubt

3. Fear of the unknown and the known

4. Comparing yourself to others

5. Addictions – physical and emotional

6. Bitterness

7. Holding grudges

8. Jealousy

9. Envy

10. Emotional imbalance

11. Uncontrollable anger

12. Living up to other people’s one sided expectations

13. Wilful ignorance

14. Gossip

15. Unaddressed stress

16. Grumbling

17. Negativity

18. Cruelty

19. Filthy talk

20. Passive aggression

21. Hopelessness

I will keep adding to this list. And I will get to the bottom of these things – the ones that show up when my guard is down and the ones that full-on live inside of me.

I thought about violence as I hurled harshness at myself for not finishing my chapters on time, for not feeling confident, for not having the words at the tip of my tongue when I needed them. I forgot to eat and I couldn’t remember the feel of my warm blankets against my skin. It became one giant act of self violence.

So here I am. 2.55  in the morning, a cup of hot chocolate on my desk and shaking hands because I just put the last full stop to a section of my work. It is dark. And it is quiet, so quiet I can hear the tap in the bathroom dripping stealthily. I know I should get up and turn it a little tighter. But I am immobilised by this quiet. It invades my body like it is on a mission to save my life. And I need it. I need to be saved. We all need to be saved…from ourselves first and foremost.

In the beautifully haunting words of Marianne Williamson:

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

4 thoughts on “Acts of self-violence

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