Raw and Open: The repetition of unhealthy behaviours

Guest Author: Jody Betty

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

When an unhealthy behaviour is repeated enough, over enough time, it actually changes our normal innate response and sears an unhealthy coping mechanism into our brains instead. An innate reaction is an instant, built-in response. There is no rational mind or thinking behind it. It is purely instinctual and often by the time we recognize it is happening, it already has. This makes controlling it seem like a near impossible task; too daunting and overwhelming to even attempt to change. After all, even if I can get rid of the sear mark, there is always going to be a scar.

Trauma and abandonment are the roots that have grown and strengthened in my mind for years, resulting in a culmination of maladaptive coping techniques that have ended with repetitive, negative behaviours. These are not merely habits than can be unlearned in thirty days, nor are they behaviours you can change overnight, regardless of your will and determination. These beliefs come from the core of your very being, and although they can be replaced with healthier methods of coping, you still need to learn to repress what has become instinctual to you.

The simple solution is to just stop doing that behaviour.

Aside from suicidal and self-harm tendencies, there is one thing seared down to the core of my brain that seems near impossible for me to change…the tendency to push people away. I have a huge issue setting healthy boundaries and can say I have only been successful doing so twice in my life, both times taking me well over twenty years and a lot of hard work, and because of that I tend to avoid close relationships. I let people in enough to take a good look but stop them before they approach anything that involves my emotional vulnerability. This is not only a method of self-protection but also my way of trying to protect those trying to get in. After all, I am sure no one wants to be saddled with me and the heavy onset of emotions that I can’t yet control.

I recognize this pattern of behaviour all the way down to the point of being able to narrow down exactly when it will start. I know the simple solution is to just stop doing that behaviour…just stop pushing people away. Sounds easy enough, but when fear shuts down the rational part of your mind, survival mode kicks in, instincts take over, and sadly my innate reaction is to push you away before you get too close and end up leaving anyway. It feels like my only sense of control. The thought of the amount of fear that accompanies me having to be open and vulnerable is so overwhelming I can feel the emotional and physical pain of it ahead of time.

Some people just can’t accept this part of my illness.

So, I recently repeated this negative behaviour once again, resulting in me hurting someone I considered a friend; the consequence being the loss of the friendship and despite my numerous apologies and attempts to explain the nature of my behaviour, some things simply cannot be undone or repaired. Some people just can’t accept this part of my illness, and so not only do I live with the despairing guilt of both hurting someone, and pushing them away, I also must grieve the loss of the friendship, which for me causes a pain so deep it eats away at the core of my very being. When you allow very few people to get close and one leaves, it can shatter your world. The more that I let them in and then lose them, even though I know it is my fault, the loss makes me want to stay guarded and not let anyone else in again.

So aside from working towards replacing this behaviour with a positive one, the tug-of-war battle continues in my head daily. I question and analyze if the risks now outweigh the benefits, or if the pain of losing someone is worse or better than the pain of solitude. Rationally, I conclude that I cannot continue to isolate and try to survive on my own, whereas emotionally, my survivor self says I have made it this long, what does it matter if it continues in the same manner.

Isolation only causes myself pain.

It is difficult for me to compare levels of sadness when it comes to this issue; a loss causes hurt and pain for someone else, but isolation only causes myself pain, so perhaps that is the road to take until I can make further progress in controlling this behaviour. At least that way, it is only me getting hurt, no one else and maybe one day I won’t do this anymore and it will become safer to let people in. In the meantime, while I learn to cope with this issue, I live with the guilt and pain from the hurt that I have caused to others.

Jody Betty is a guest blogger for SickNotWeak who, in her own words, is a master at the art of survival. She lives with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and is co-afflicted with MDD, Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She has survived three serious suicide attempts and a handful of overdoses which lets her know it isn’t her time. You can read her blog “Raw and Open” posted bi-weekly on Thursdays on SNW.



Great piece Jody. It’s hard when for so long we have had to use different defense mechanisms to survive they become normal reaction for us. For those who have never had trauma or depression will never understand.


I admire your openness and how well you explain the fear of vulnerability.

Donna Hudson

Thanks for being so honest about how letting people get too close to you, doesn’t work in your favor. I’m quite similar in that way, I had a very good friend in the apartment where I live. I trusted her completely, then last June, she stopped speaking to me. She owed me some money, and so I asked her to pay back the money she owed me. She brought the money up to me, and then stopped speaking to me. So, this situation led me into a huge depression. I isolate myself most of the time, and I have no faith in trusting anyone new to come into my life.

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