I’m sure this it quite common for writers/bloggers; but I can draw inspiration for blog posts from the random of things. This post comes from a ‘challenge’ doing its rounds on Facebook. Every day for seven days, you’re meant to post a black and white photo. It can’t be of a person and you can’t explain it in the photo description/wall post. You also have to nominate someone on day one (you’ll have been nominated yourself from someone else, obviously!) to keep the challenge rolling.

Obviously, you’ve seen the title to this post I’m sure there’s no need to point it out, but the ‘black and white’ aspect of the challenge inspired me to write about black and white thinking.

It’s often experienced by a person (though not a ‘symptom’) diagnosed with a Personality Disorder; but that’s not to say others without any mental illness can experience the same thought process at least in one point in their life. Sometimes black and white thinking can be developed as a reaction to a life event, other times; it is a part of someone’s character.

Personally, I began to experience this kind of ‘all or nothing’ thought process when I was around 15. It was after the person who abused me had promised that the third time was the last time (haven’t promised the same for the previous two times). So on the fourth, I think there was part of me who just thought ‘this is it now’; and it was almost as though I accepted that being abused was now my life a part of my life.

I began self-harming (through scratching at my arm until it bled) initially with the mindset/intention/motivation that only I was allowed to hurt my body. It wasn’t for anyone else to touch, or cause harm to. I think that as well, for many reasons, I ultimately couldn’t stop the abuse, but I knew that I could stop hurting myself whenever I wanted to.

And there was my first black and white thought: I’m either in pain, or I’m not. There could be no middle ground in me perhaps being in pain but coping with it, or – on the other hand – not being in pain but still struggling mentally. At the time, I wanted to be in pain.

As a result, my next thought was: I’m either in control, or I’m not. I couldn’t be ‘in control’ if I wasn’t in pain because it’d mean someone/something was stopping me from hurting myself (e.g. being in restraint, or sectioned). And at the time, I was desperate for some any sense of control.

And either someone was helping/allowing me to have this, or someone was stopping me. Believe it or not, but there were some professionals back then (2009-2012) who knew that if I was left in control then I’d hurt myself; and they allowed me to go ahead and do that.

I think that, in many ways, recovery was the reason I finally developed a better insight into things and was no longer blind sighted by making a ‘yes-or-no’, ‘right-or-wrong’, ‘black-or-white’ decision on everything. I learnt about grey areas. I learnt that grey areas were ‘ok.’ They weren’t dangerous.

The biggest contributor has probably been when I first self-harmed during the time I classed myself as being ‘in recovery.’ I had to find a way to cope with what I had done and the idea that it could mean I’d had a relapse and might need another hospitalisation wasn’t an option. My new, healthy mind could see that deciding what had happened was ‘bad’ wouldn’t help me cope with it any easier and I had to use that knowledge; and my need to be comforted, to form a new ‘take’ on the situation…
Something a bit darker than white, and a bit lighter than black!
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