Remember the Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away? What is the first scene that comes to your mind? For me it is the toothache scene. Ewww, yeah, I can’t watch it, but it is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of that movie. Hanks’ character Chuck Noland has bad tooth and he has been procrastinating going to the dentist. Then his plane crashes and he is stranded, alone on a desert island. As the pain increases, he resorts to ever more creative and chilling ways to deal with the pain, until in the end he knocks the tooth out, knocking himself unconscious at the same time.
If that were real, it seems very possible that his pain was caused by an abscess (infection). I’m not a medical person, but that has been the cause for my worst toothaches. If that were the case, just knocking the tooth out would not resolve the infection or the pain. And to complicate matters, knocking the tooth out very likely left sharp edges which would now cut his tongue, and cheek. If Chuck Noland were a real person, he likely would have understood those things, and he likely would have taken the same actions anyway. Why? Because the pain was so great that it was muddled his thinking.
A bad toothache is something everyone can relate too, and while it may make you uneasy you can understand why Noland did what he did. I would like to compare this to a pain that you are not so familiar with, and the muddled thinking, and desperate actions that can follow. I’m talking about trauma and self-harm. According to the Sidran Institute: Research shows that people with trauma disorders have more serious medical illnesses, substance use, and self-harming behaviors than even people with major depression.
Have you ever heard of people harming themselves and wondered, “Why in the world would someone do that?” I used to wonder the same thing, until one day I got the urge to do it. . .
It was about two years ago, but as clear in my memory as yesterday. I was sitting in church, when an image came to my mind of cutting myself—from elbow to wrist, long and deep.
That was the first step on a confusing journey. I did not know where this urge had come from, only that it was strong. I had so much emotional pain that it felt like cutting was the only way to release it. Like Noland willing to knock out his own tooth, I was blind to reason; all that mattered was the emotional pain and whatever it would take to make it stop.
This post is continued here: Seeing Red Part II
Note: I wrote about this topic once before here: Ashes of Abuse. In that post, I wrote, “Recent events have given me some new insight in to this coping mechanism.” Um yeah, the recent event was that I was struggling with the temptation to do it myself.