Who’s driving the bus?

*mild trigger warning re self-harm*

I don’t know what people are talking about when they say they need to “get in touch with themselves”. Who is the “self” they’re seeking to contact? They must be far more cohesive than I; I have a multitude of selves and all of them want to drive the bus.

I love that metaphor – I’ve mentioned it before. My counsellor gave it to me. It’s a way of checking my thinking. Who’s actually thinking the thoughts that are bouncing around inside my head? Is it the me I’m trying to become, the me I’m trying to develop, the me that seeks recovery? Or is it someone else?

It’s important to know who’s in charge. This is not a dissociative disorder thing. This is how I look at myself, as made up of different bits and pieces that all have a voice and an agenda. My different neuroses and thinking patterns encourage me to act in different, not always healthy ways.

Knowing who’s driving the bus helps me decide what’s motivating a particular impulse or behaviour. That can help me decide if I should carry on in the direction we’re headed or look for a driver who has a different planned destination.

For instance.

I have an open sore on my face. It’s the first in about three weeks. I should really start tracking non-cutting days. I do it with purging and it’s surprisingly helpful. It doesn’t take long before not wanting to break the streak become an aspect of your recovery thought processes:

You’ve gone three months without throwing up. You feel bad, I get it, but being full won’t kill you. Feeling uncomfortable won’t kill you. Throwing up might. You can live with uncomfortable. It’ll be okay. It’ll pass.

Because I’m not keeping track of the cutting, I didn’t have a streak of success foremost in my mind. So, no similar conversation happened when I started in on my face last weekend. It always starts small. I notice the tiniest imperfection, the smallest white spot. I become obsessed. It’s all I can think about.

Just one little prick with the tip of the scissors. It’ll drain and it’ll be perfect. I’ll be perfect and then I’ll be okay. Everything will be fine once I’m perfect.    

Okay, one prick didn’t do the trick. Now it’s white and red. I should stop. Except, I can see something. Perhaps tweezers. If I could just get the pieces inside my skin out, then everything will be okay.

It’s bleeding. Where are the bandages? Where’s the polysporin?

It hurts under the bandage. I should leave it. I should check. Maybe it’s better.

It’s not better. The edges are too bumpy. I just need to smooth the edges down. The cuticle cutter should do the trick. Dammit. More blood. I think it’s infected. I should pull out the infection. If I can just get all the infection out, it’ll be better, it’ll be perfect, and I’ll be perfect. I won’t feel this weight, this pressure.

The bandage is too small. I need the bigger bandages. I wonder if I should put benzyl peroxide on it instead? Dry it out or keep it moist? Maybe an ice pack.

I think my chin is swollen. The wound feels hot. There’s pus coming out of it now. I should’ve left it. I should’ve never started. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

My legs feel fat. I should exercise.

It’s anxiety. That’s who’s driving the bus right now. She’s actually been in charge much of this past week. I forget sometimes when I’m in a behavioural pattern to stop and look around. To think about who’s doing the thinking. Self-reflection’s a new challenge, it’s not yet instinctive, so sometimes it takes me a while to clue into the fact that I – the me I want to be driving – am no longer in charge.

Four days. Four days before I looked up from the things I was doing and the ways I was acting and realized I was no longer modelling the behaviour I’m trying to acquire as my regular operating system.

Only four days.

One of my selves is trying to trash-talk that accomplishment. Four days. That’s pathetic. I can’t believe you didn’t notice. I can’t believe you started cutting again. I suspect that self is not the “wants to be enlightened and living in recovery” me. It sounds more like Perfectionist Patty, a name I came up with only this second but which seems utterly apt.

Because four days is awesome. Not too long ago, it’d have been months ‘til I pulled out of a cycle like that and stabilized my behaviour. Not too long ago, I’d have been back in hospital on IV meds. This is a good change. But it reminds me of how many me’s there are on the bus. It’s why it’s a bus and not a Volkswagen Beetle, I suppose.

I wish it was a motorcycle. I wish it was just me. I wish I was one of those people who had a single self to get in touch with. I’m not. But I’m getting good at recognizing the different wanna-be drivers and working hard at making sure they stay seated behind the yellow line.

Who’s driving your bus?

3 thoughts on “Who’s driving the bus?

  1. This is a great post!

    I understand how frustrating it can be to stop thinking and behavior patterns and try to redirect in a healthier direction. I’ve never heard of the ‘bus’ analogy but I love it! I know when I get in my pity party mood and everything seems to be going wrong I only make myself think more negative thoughts. A lot of times it takes an outside positive influence for me to see the error in my thinking and to pull myself out of the funk.

    I think that’s why a lot of recovery models push daily reflections and meetings, so that if we aren’t able to see that we’re stuck in a negative pattern, others can and help us to redirect our behavior.

    Personally, I believe empowerment is a great and effective alternative in recovery. If we empower ourselves and others to be the best version of ourselves and work together to promote that “brand”, then we can all become healthier together. Obviously, there’s more to it than that, and I understand that everyone has a way that works best for them. A healthy recovery has many, many pieces, but keeping a positive direction and healthy thinking and behaviors are definitely at the top!

    Keep up the good work! I think you have a great grasp on what you need to do to keep yourself moving in a forward, positive direction.

    Thanks for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it and to offer up such a wonderful response. You have some great ideas here to think about. I hope you have a wonderful day.


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