I suppose it’s been said a thousand times, but some folks feel like self-torture or self-mutilation (such as cutting) is an act of attention. But as someone who is bipolar and knows several folks who are also bipolar, let me take a few minutes to talk about self-torture.
If you’re wondering how a post like this would have anything to do with writing (since this is my blog for my writing), think about this: we write characters. And characters, if you play your cards right, should be like real people. Fictional, but realistic. Well, for the most part, sometimes we’re just writing comedy or pulpy stuff and being real doesn’t necessarily have to count for the popcorn style of stories.
Self-torture starts within and can stay there, too
In the image for the post, I gave the Oxford definition of self-torture, because from my perspective I think it really gets to the heart of the matter of self-torture. It states that self-torture is “the act of inflicting pain, especially mental pain, on oneself.” In my experience, and from what I know of others’ experiences, all self-torture (even cutting) starts internally, mentally.
Whether you’re tearing yourself down, feeling worthless or a burden on others, and that manifests itself into cutting or attempted suicide. It’s starting within. It starts inside the head and works its way out, or not. In my case, it typically stays in. I self-torture myself internally, and at most sometimes that affects my health. I can have stomach cramps, or possibly even a panic attack, if I keep torturing myself internally over something. I’ve never taken to cutting, thank goodness, and suicidal ideation has only happened once (and once is enough, so I’m hoping that never happens again).
Badgering, the constant nagging
But you see the thing of self-torture isn’t that people want to try to draw attention to themselves, it is typically a result of badgering themselves for one reason or another. Sometimes they are badgering themselves because they feel guilty about something or like a failure, or they could be badgering themselves for things that haven’t happened or did happen but they keep replaying in their minds.
And again, when I say self-torture, I’m not just talking about physical cutting or torture. It can be a simple badgering of the mind. A constant nagging inside, beating yourself up, dunking yourself through the water-boarding of your mind.
Really, self-torture is not an act of attention, but rather an act of aggression against one’s self.
How self-torture, bipolar, and being aware has affected my writing
As a general rule, I think everything in life affects my writing. All the phases of life, all the characters I meet. All the things learned or unlearned. And being diagnosed bipolar, becoming aware, and having that writer and actor’s gift to analyze I began really examining myself. Kind of the old “write what you know” saying.
I can definitely see where in some of my more recent stories, I’ve become more understanding and better at writing introverts. I am actually an extrovert myself, but being bipolar means I have my moments where I have no desire to be around people and can become very antisocial. Is that the same as being introverted? No. But as I’ve analyzed my behavior more, I’ve become more understanding of introverts.
I’ve also started weaving in bits and pieces of myself into characters. I have a short story I’ve been crafting about an introverted UFO hunter, who has a lot of anxiety. This was a story I had started to work on before my diagnosis, but post-diagnosis I was able to start over and make him a much more believable character. And focusing in on his anxieties, which is something I have, it gives me a platform to talk about those things through him.