The Woman Who’s Mad I Went to College

moody library

Yesterday afternoon I went looking for people to talk to about the radio story I’m working on; one conversation in particular stuck with me. It started off ordinarily enough, with me asking a vendor about her work and her pleasantly sharing information about herself. It wasn’t long though before she got angry and railed against me.

The back and forth she said/I said don’t matter so much as the foundation for her antipathy. This woman, I’ll call her Elise, became aggressive and hostile because she believed the questions I was asking represented my own opinions, which she thought threatened her livelihood. She pegged me for an uppity, uncaring person, out to take all I could for myself and use people however I pleased on the way. She spoke vehemently against my education abroad – her one correct assumption – and exclaimed that I would make millions while she would receive nothing for our exchange. I tried to explain that I was playing devil’s advocate, that I was working basically for free, but she couldn’t hear me.

A wall of tension grew higher the longer we spoke, but still I tried to gently prod her and find out more about her position. I focused on not taking her barbs personally, and deflecting them back at the amorphous ‘them’ where they belonged. Thankfully by the end of our conversation I had eased her concerns and we parted on good terms.

I’ve interviewed all sorts of people, but never before sensed class as such a large obstacle to finding common ground. Our General Election is days away, so I couldn’t help but think about how a more politically based conversation between us might go – not well. I lamented the fact that Elise couldn’t relate to me because of the kind of life and prospects she thought I had. How do politicians do it? I’ve heard it said that appealing to the masses is a skill, but walking away from our conversation I wished I could have some of that magic. What could I have done differently? How could I have helped her feel at ease? I wanted to email my professors and ask them about difficult interviews they’ve done, and whether they had any advice.

Despite a hugely cosmopolitan history, including boatloads of political and religious refugees and 200 years of tourism, most Bahamians are black. There is a racial divide, acknowledged and frequently discussed; exploited, in fact, for political gain. Our class divisions, on the other hand, go by unremarked. Elise was angry at me because she believed my opportunities had twisted my mindset against her flourishing. It didn’t matter that we were both black.

Class seems like a far more ornery thing to fight than race. It emerges from the very systems that run our society. At least with race we can represent scientifically the fact that skin colour is among the shallowest biological signifiers. With class, either you have the money for particular schools or health care, or you don’t. Either you can afford to comfortably fit your family into a home, or you can’t.

The simplest take-away from our conversation is that you shouldn’t make assumptions about strangers and their intentions, but the result of that in this case points to a much larger issue. I don’t think there’s an easy answer; this is the subject many philosophers and economists devote their lives to after all. But I felt a poisonous negativity, a deep dislike and distrust of me based on nothing other than my background, and it was both hurtful and unproductive.

Living With Palms Open

I always had something I could give to somebody else. I’ve been so blessed.

Grammy,  February 2017

Grammy is the OG of generosity in my book. When I was a little girl I saw countless people’s faces light up with thankfulness for a kindness she had done for them, either in that moment or at some time previously. Everyone was always so glad to see her. I watched her buy food, clothes and shoes to give away, and she could never pass up a sale because though she rarely needed anything on offer, she was sure she’d find something useful that someone else would. Her car and her time were open to others as well – we regularly picked up strangers (mostly women) we passed on the road to give them a ride to where they were going.

Now that she’s older she’s less mobile, but she still finds ways to give to others. A few years ago, when I’d regularly take her and my Grandad out on errands and to church and doctor’s appointments, I’d watch her roll up bills and surreptitiously tuck them into clerks’, priests’ and nurses’ pockets.

Grammy isn’t only generous in these smaller everyday ways either. Even more extravagant items, like a computer, a car, or a house are in her giving history. And these are just kindnesses that I know about!

Grammy lives with palms open. Everything she owns flows like a river from her hands to another’s. She grew up poor, and never had a high paying job. She never went to high school and was a government auditor for her entire career. She had to have been thrifty, and prioritise giving to others over having a more comfortable lifestyle, in order to be as generous as she has been. But as she explained in her own words, it never felt like a sacrifice.

That’s the thing that I wonder at. This generosity in my grandmother is like a gift of the Spirit. There is no hemming and hawing, or reassuring herself with the knowledge that she’ll reap greater rewards. In the conversation that I quoted from, she was telling me about the little boy in the house next door when she was newly married and living in England. His family was poor, and he would regularly stretch is arm out over the wall, hoping for a token. Grammy would oblige him with something like biscuits or candy, because, as she said, she always had something to give away.

These sidebar statements are sprinkled through all of Grammy’s conversations – she loves to  exalt the Lord and his blessings on her life, and glorifies him with continual thanksgiving. He always took care of her, she knows she can count on him, which is why she doesn’t think twice about sharing with others. I want to be as generous as my Grammy is, but to be honest it feels like more of a difficulty for me than it is for her. Generosity seems as much a part of her personality as her impish wit and love of food. It’s one of my favourite things about her, and though I may be always striving to be as open-handed as she is, I’m glad to have her as an example of the everlasting contentment that comes from a life of regular giving.

City Soundscape

New York is blue sky through grey steel, grey sky through grey steel, urine-funk, garbage-funk, cigarette smoke-funk, and endless, endless sounds from millions of people living and striving and near-expiring all on top of one another.

Of course out and about there’s the noise of traffic: so many angry, impatient drivers quick to lay on their horns and slow to get up off of them. There are conversations in all kinds of languages, some I’ve never heard before. There are people asking for help, reciting for help, selling for help. Emergency sirens wail and obnoxious people subject us all to the music from their phones and stereos. High heels clip clop. A shuffle-murmur emerges from the friction of bodies rubbing against themselves and against others as they push in and out of the subway and around one another on sidewalks.

Despite living in the outskirts of Manhattan, there’s plenty of noise in my neighbourhood too. I spend the average day in my apartment, and my morning used to be heralded by the little birds who live outside my window. Their cheerful songs made me happy, and they reminded me of the cooing pigeons that soothe me on lazy afternoons at home. Now I hardly hear them. Instead, my alarm is the pounding of a jackhammer, forcing its way deeper and deeper into the earth. Road construction started a few weeks ago, and though I walk by the site regularly, I couldn’t tell you what it is they’re doing. Some days, before the crew gets to work, before the sky has even properly started to lighten, I hear garbage trucks or snow plows creaking and groaning on their rounds.

The construction continues through the morning, 6 days a week. In addition to the jackhammer, I hear drilling, the warning beep of reversing machinery, the clang of metal against metal, rocks and dirt piles being scooped and dumped, men yelling at one another, and the steady rumble of their vehicles. My windows face the street, so to escape the intensity of the noise I work in the living room.

That isn’t an altogether quiet place, however. After the morning construction noises have died down the neighbour on the other side of the kitchen wall, Spanish Evangelist, blasts Christian network television in the afternoon. I recognise the sound of prayers fervently prayed, sickness rebuked, blessings bestowed, and the majesty of God proclaimed, even though it’s entirely in Spanish. Something about the character of this kind of television seems to remain the same, regardless of language. At other times, Spanish Evangelist listens to gospel radio, so loudly I can hear the ads for exercise regimes and insurance agencies in addition to every lyric of Kirk Franklin’s and whoever else.

Evening falls, night comes, and I often feel my ears and cheeks burning from the discomfort of listening to Pleasure Hunter on the other side of my bedroom wall enjoying riotous sex. Really there’s no time of day that I can be assured safety from these sounds. In the broad daylight, I gather up whatever I’m doing and run from my room; in the minutes before sleep, I fumble groggily for earplugs. As glamorous as sex is portrayed in the media, as much as people seem to enjoy watching others having sex on television and in movies, being a silent witness is something entirely different and intensely discomfiting.

My upstairs neighbour Professional likes to walk around in heels for hours at a time, which aside from being confusing – where are you not going? – disturbed my visiting friend from sleeping in the morning. A mysterious outside neighbour has recently picked up the habit of honking their horn for 6 to 10 seconds at a time in the hours between 10pm and 6am. Two nights ago it was so bad, on and off for several minutes, that I heard other neighbours yelling SHUT UP! and the less polite SHUT THE F** UP! in protest. Thank you, I knew I couldn’t be alone. Then there’s the clichéd Partier neighbour below me, whose music drowns out all thought, much less anything I was playing, and makes my legs shake.

My ears have been assaulted by all these unwanted noises lately. It feels like there is always sound, never sanctuary. I guess that’s what the park is for.

A Night in the Village

Last night I went on a magical, meandering, frosty walk through the streets of Greenwich Village. I had a couple of hours to kill, waiting to meet my cousin at the West 4th St station. Initially I thought I’d spend the whole time reading, but it was cold underground and it occurred to me that it would be good to get moving and fun to see the neighbourhood late at night.

And it was late at night. I left the subway at 2am, headed down a familiar route – past a piercing and tattoo parlour, the moderately famous pizzeria where I planned to take my cousin, and the mish mash of bars, small restaurants and other piercing and hookah places on MacDougal. Then I looped back onto 6th Ave, remembered finding an amazing looking bakery on Bleecker and decided to head in that direction.

The temperature was below freezing, and it wasn’t long before I stopped being able to feel my toes. The streets and sidewalks were so much emptier than I was used to seeing them. I stared into store windows, read plaques posted on gates, imagined the lives of the people behind lit curtains. I wondered a few times – is this safe? wise? – but felt comfortable and kept moving, prioritising bright paths and main roads.

I love the tumbling, intimate feel of the Village: the buildings and individual stores so much smaller than in other parts of the city; the many trees and green spaces; the creative, transgressive, atmosphere; the streets narrow and at odd angles to one another, in contrast to the grid in most other parts of Manhattan. Usually I’m miserable when I’m that cold, but my stroll felt like getting better acquainted with a friend, and I revelled in my discoveries.

I read a little about Christopher Park, and finally went over to get a good look at Stonewall, a diminutive, two-storey building for all its infamy. I noticed the Northern Dispensary, an abandoned 19th century clinic, for the first time, and found the fun Paparazzi Dogs statue; though I’d never heard about it before I realised immediately it must be one of those ‘things’ that people go looking to see. I was jolted out of my quiet wandering by a loud accident – two vehicles fighting for space in a single lane, the loser, a taxi, driving over a cement median. “Oh shit!!” said a woman nearby me, the only other pedestrian in the vicinity. The second vehicle, I think a big truck, zoomed on uncaring. The woman and I stood frozen, watching to see what the taxi driver would do, curious about what must have been serious damage to his car’s undercarriage. After getting out and glancing at the road, he hopped back in and took off as though all he’d done was drive a little too fast over a speed bump. Unbelievable. In case I’d forgotten I was in New York City.

I peered through the bars of Jefferson Market Garden and read about the kerfuffle caused by the ‘too dignified’ Jefferson Market Courthouseturned-public-library next door. I saw for the first time one of the medallions placed on 6th Ave’s corners: Canada’s coat of arms hung from a rusty piece of metal on a lamp pole overhead. I smiled at Christmas trees, lit hedges and two men transforming the inside of a restaurant with boughs of white lights. I wished I could take pictures of the wonderful things I saw, but my phone is on the verge of collapse and I didn’t want to risk it dying from an overwhelming ‘use the camera’ command.

What a lovely night, an impromptu adventure, at an hour I would usually be in bed. Who knew that would be a good time to go on a field trip? I walked as slowly as I liked, not worrying about holding anyone up or causing them to trip when I stopped abruptly. I looked up and around, got a little lost, then found myself again. And isn’t that the best way to learn a new place, the best way to enjoy a place you love, the best way to spend the gift of free time.

Overheard in Transit (2)

November 17th

“Ladies and gentleman! I have an announcement to make! Tomorrow, I am getting married (someone starts clapping) to March! My paper clip!!”

This was bizarre. It was around 10.30pm and I was coming home from a wonderful dinner with a friend. The train pulled into the station and as I and other passengers were leaving, this mid 20s woman started shouting. She was able to grab the attention of the entire train car – who doesn’t want to hear about a wedding? – create feelings of goodwill and excitement, and then leave us stranded on an island of confusion and bemusement. Did I really hear paper clip? Why is it called March? At the end of her announcement our collective bewilderment was palpable, but the woman continued chattering away with the person she was travelling with as though nothing had happened. I should note, she was sober (it appeared) and sane. I guess this was just her idea of a fun time.


November 17th
“We didn’t even eat lunch yet, I’m not eating two lollipops!”

I was sharing a train car with a group of students who looked to be around 12 or 13. Everyone – even their teachers – had a lollipop, the hard candy kind with gum or chocolate in the centre. The lollipops caused much happiness and conversation. For example, before this boy’s declaration, some students were jealous of another boy who had somehow managed to get two lollipops. They went running to a teacher to ask for a second one for themselves and were denied. They came back, telling Two Lollipop that he was in big.trouble., but clearly still disappointed not to be in the same boat. A few minutes later, after some  more lollipop-related conversation, Proud One Lollipop made the above exclamation. It was cute, funny and unexpected. Here are all his classmates clamoring for as much candy as possible, and he’s steadfast in his desire to… preserve his appetite for lunch? Not overdo it on the sugar because it’s too early in the day? I can totally relate though. I’ve long held strict ideas about what to eat and when – breakfast for dinner? unacceptable! – I’m only just coming around to that idea. If I were in this class I’d be almost like Proud One Lollipop, the difference being that I would want a second lollipop, I would just save it for later. 😉


November 16th
“I wanna figure out a list of things to do before the end of the world. I wanna be the first nigga from the hood to skydive.”

One black guy to another black guy, and I’m not sure if by “the end of the world” he meant in general or as a result of Trump’s election. In any event, another thing on his list is to rent a really fast car and drive over 200mph.

But back to skydiving – I started paying attention after this comment because I wondered, why does he think he would be the first guy from the hood to skydive? In the history of skydiving? Seems completely implausible to me. What about Lil Wayne, Rae Sremmurd, Fetty Wap… I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that a trap rapper has gone sky diving. Or even someone like Rick Ross or DJ Khaled. Turns out I didn’t need to look that far, because this man’s friend had already been sky diving. When he said that, Bucket List flipped. I can’t remember what he said exactly, but there was arm flailing, wow-ing and other expressions of amazement and enthusiasm haha. What does his surprise say about the kind of expectations he (and other people like him) have for his community? I know that as a society we’re working towards equal opportunity for all, and we like to admire the progress we’ve made in that regard, but this exchange shows us that there’s much work to be done; not just in creating opportunities, but in making pipe dreams seem entirely ordinary.


November 16th
“I have too many addictions.”

Ohh my goodness. I was sitting opposite two old women, who looked to be in their 80s. Both of them were white, and one of them seemed very prim and proper. Her hair was in a cute skim-the-shoulder bob, she was dressed conservatively in a skirt and sweater, and I noticed a wedding band. She could be anyone’s grandmother. The other woman seemed like more of a free spirit. Unlike her friend, her clothes didn’t have any grandma patterning. Her hair was a little wild and tangly, and she was missing a good many teeth. This is the woman who said she had too many addictions.

Already an odd pairing, I was shocked when I heard her declaration. What in the world could Grandma have been suggesting to Not-Your-Grandma?! And what addictions did Not-Your-Grandma have? Do they explain her lamentable lack of teeth? I’d like to think that Grandma said that she should try a sleeping pill, but that has more to do with her appearance than any context clues.

I was also surprised by how cavalier the women were with their conversation. They were speaking on the loud side, with Not-Your-Grandma the louder of the two. I could tell they were discussing personal subjects, and was trying not to listen to their conversation, but there was no missing “I have too many addictions”! I’m not one of those people that are good at discreetly observing the person your friend points out to you, so I doubt that I was at all subtle when I looked up from my book in shock (although I know I tried to be haha). This didn’t bother either of the women at all, and they continued their mysterious conversation. Maybe they’ve lived in New York so long that they’re totally comfortable having private conversations in public. Maybe their age is what made them so bold. Either way, what a thing to hear from octogenarians!

Buying Shoes is Never That Serious

Yesterday I was at a shoe store so that I could return a pair of shoes. I walked in and joined a line that was about 5 customers long. I was a bit surprised to see so many ahead of me, since I assumed I could be in and out in 5 minutes, and then off to meet a friend. The line posed a challenge to that plan, but what was there to do besides settle and wait?

Whine and complain, as I was soon to learn. A few women joined the line right after me, and all of them were upset about its length. One went up to the counter to ask why only two cashiers were serving customers, and the manager explained that she was doing the best she could with all of her trained staff on the three levels of the store.The woman returned to the line in a huff, and a moment or two afterward another of the three left the store. This prompted that first woman to yell toward the counter ‘Someone left the line! You just lost a sale!’ As though that might magic up some more cashiers.

The blonde, middle-aged woman continued to grumble, mumbling about how the manager was doing a poor job and wondering why she was waiting on this line when she could get the same shoes for a comparable price across the street at a similar store.  The third woman, who seemed to be her shopping companion, agreed with her, feeding into the discontent and tension that was growing. The blonde woman decided to yell again, ‘Do you see the line is growing?’ And told her friend she was considering going back to the counter to inform the manager, in case she couldn’t see for herself.

Initially, these women’s outrage fuelled frustration in me. What was mild disappointment quickly turned into agreement with them that it was unbelievable that only a few cashiers were stationed to serve a growing line of customers. After hearing the manager’s explanation, and slowly moving closer to the front of the line, I realised the system was working just fine, and those women were being more than a little impatient. I mean really, they complained from the minute they stepped onto the line, before they had waited for even a moment. The blonde woman in particular was the most obnoxious, talking nonstop; and I could feel her repeatedly looking my way, willing me to chime in. There was no way I would give her that satisfaction! In fact, I was actively wishing she would be quiet, and rest. In my calm waiting, I realised that little time was actually passing, and that although the cashiers seemed to have issues with each customer, this line was a wait like any retail other. If the blonde woman was so bothered, she could have left. No one was holding her there. But I noticed that she didn’t mention any pressing appointments to get to  – she just wanted to be finished for finishing’s sake.

Finally it was my turn to get to the counter. Walking away from from the nagging woman I gave a small sigh of relief. But, since she was right behind me, it was my good fortune to be standing next to her while she lit into her cashier about her experience:

Cashier: Hello, how are you today?
Blonde woman: I’m terrible actually. I had a horrible experience on line. Your manager is really bad. I think I’m going to make a phone call.

Mind you, the manager was maybe two feet away from the cashier, so she definitely heard all these comments. The cashier tried to apologize, but the woman kept at it, grumbling about the poor service. I watched the cashier’s body language change; she angled her body away from the woman, in my direction, and her eyes looked everywhere but in the woman’s face. The cashier ringing me up was upset too, and muttered something under her breath. ‘I’m sorry?’ I asked, before I realised that she wasn’t talking to me.

A few minutes after I went to the counter, my return was complete and I made my way out of the store. And you know what? The whole thing took 11 or 12 minutes. Standing in line and going through the somewhat stalled return process at the counter. I know because I texted my friend as soon as I joined the line, and she texted me when she got to our meeting place, at which time I was all done and ready to leave the store. My feeling that the wait was hardly long was right, but if you heard this woman carrying on you’d think we were standing there for 11 hours.

While I was waiting to be served and after I had left the store, I thought about how she and I handled the situation so differently. I stood calmly, without any emotional distress. I don’t know how I was able to be so easygoing about the situation – I’m not a very patient person and I dislike standing on lines of any sort. Meanwhile, the blonde woman seemed to have her day and her shopping experience ruined by having to endure the injustice of the line.

There is so much to unpack in that. In the grand scheme of all that is going on in the world, of everything that has happened in the last two weeks – especially Hurricane Matthew wreaking havoc across Cuba, Haiti and The Bahamas, and the 100+ children killed in the Syrian civil war – what is it to stand in a well-lit, high ceilinged, air conditioned building to purchase a pair of shoes to add to your collection?

When black people of all ages across the US are exponentially more likely to be shot dead by the police going about their everyday lives than their white counterparts, and then have their killer minimally, if at all, punished, how is it an injustice to have two or three (black) women at a counter to serve you, rather than seven? How can you really allow that to make you spittingly mad? There is something incredibly wrong with that picture.

I wonder, did blonde woman tell family and friends about how the shoe store ruined her day?

Ugh, the more I think about it, the more it makes me sick to my stomach. The woman doesn’t know that it is her incredible privilege that makes her feel so entitled to a particular kind of service, and to speak so rudely to people trying their best to do their jobs in a high pressure situation. If you want to look at it from a racial angle, from a developed versus underdeveloped nation angle, from an economic angle – she has a lot going for her here.

I’m not all mad though. In fact, after I get over my own huff of disgust, I remember how peaceful I felt on the line, and how really I’m just sorry for blonde woman that she couldn’t wait quietly like the rest of us. God has been teaching me a lot about patience in the last year and a half. I’ve been waiting for a few things, all of which have yet to be fulfilled and/or revealed to me. My earnestness for answers has not diminished, but I have learned to be a little less anxious. In those times when fear and worry threaten to overwhelm me, I am a bit better at walking myself away from the edge. I guess those skills have spilled over into other areas of my life. Moreover, because I’ve come to cherish so greatly the truths about God caring for us, knowing our lives intimately, and being altogether good and wise, I have a better perspective on the everyday stresses of life. I feel like I’ve noticed a change for the better in that direction anyway, and it’s a trend I want to continue. Blonde woman doesn’t seem to have that. I’m thankful for a saviour-friend who keeps my mind and heart still through the unpleasant, disruptive moments life always throws our way.

Itching and Addiction

How do I explain what it feels like to be in the middle of an eczema attack? I mean the kind where I’m itching so badly that I can’t do anything but scratch. My mind is focused on stopping the itching, going on the offensive to get it to go away. Or maybe it’s really a defensive move, since truthfully scratching is the surest sign that I’ve been beaten, despite my mind’s conviction that the opposite is the case.

For the past year, I’ve been struggling with a horrible flare up on my hands. It started first on the right, then appeared on the left, and now it’s crept down my right forearm and is spotting on my left forearm too. There’s a patch on my back that’s been around this whole time, and in late winter and springtime the rash showed up on my face and different parts of my legs. Thankfully those are pretty much gone now. But my hands. They are where I have to fight a battle on a daily basis. In the most terrible moments, I move frantically from one hand to the next. As soon as I quiet the itch in one place I become aware of the sensation in another, and another, then it jumps back to that first place. All over the backs of my hands, my fingers, in between my fingers and now even on my palms. The desire for relief is totally consuming, and everything stops but the clawing. I’m paralyzed. Does that sound horrific? That’s fine, it is.

When I say paralyzed, I mean that literally. In the middle of a conversation, on my way to the shower, chopping vegetables or combing my hair, there is no time or activity that is off limits. The scratching goes beyond my hands too, it affects my entire physiology. My breathing becomes shallow, I feel strange sensations deep inside other, seemingly random parts of my body like my leg or arm, far away from where I’m scratching. My stomach becomes embroiled in the episode too, rolling and tightening. I find myself squeezing my abdominal muscles. I don’t know whether that’s my body trying to help itself or if it makes things worse. Though anytime is an importune time for an attack, I’m most vulnerable at bedtime; I get caught in this silent struggle, this manic feeling behaviour, in darkness, silence and solitude, magnifying the psychological challenges of the episode.

I am so grateful that the worst of my rashes is confined to my hands, and even more so that these flare ups have become rare in my life. They’ve also helped me empathize with people who suffer from addiction; the complete tunnel I feel encased in during an attack must be what it’s like for them when they feel a yearning for a fix. I was listening to a podcast about the connection between prescription drugs and illegal drug addiction, and one interviewee, a heroin addict, described his inability to fight his body’s cry for the needle, despite his best attempts to become clean. Not long after that – possibly even the same day – I had one of the attacks I’ve described, and my understanding of the addict’s position clicked in a way it never had before. I don’t know if you can really get it unless you feel it in some form yourself – how your mind is near-powerless to think its way through the tsunami-like impulses from your body, coming in urgent, insistent waves. My experience with eczema has become another warning to stay away from dangerous substances; I can imagine how hard fighting to free myself from dependence on them would be, how awful it would feel to be trapped in my body’s impulses. It makes me want to comfort those who are striving.

The itching that I feel, it’s a form of pain. When those compulsions from deep inside finally cease, a wave of calm rolls through my body. I relax entirely, and usually am shocked by the degree and extent of the tension I was holding. My breathing evens out, it feels pleasant and even sweet. When my mind clears, it’s like a fog has lifted and a siren is silenced. Not only can I return my focus to whatever I was doing before the paralysis, I can entertain other thoughts as well. What luxury! Even after the cessation of less insistent sensations, I am surprised by how much I was distracted by, and consumed with, fighting the itch. It’s not like having a mosquito or sandfly bite, jellyfish sting, or even the chicken pox. I am hopeful that this flare up I’ve been in will heal completely soon, but the lesson I’ve learned this time around will stick with me forever. I can do more than tolerate addicts or agree that there should be social services to help them overcome their illnesses. I feel compassion for their struggle, as I know what it’s like to fight your own body over self-harming behaviour.