I was a self-harmer for half my life. I started when I was around ten or eleven, and didn’t stop until a few months before I turned twenty. When I was younger, I would think that I would never get better from self-harm and couldn’t even picture a life without it. Now I am recovered from it, and never plan on acting on those urges again.
Self-harm is dangerously addictive. Eventually the severity and the frequency of self-harm increases as the person continues to engage in it. Similar to any other addiction, when a person hurts himself, there is a chemical and mental reward in the brain. That is the same chemical reward a person can feel from drinking or gambling. Hence, a person can be addicted to cutting by repeatedly wanting to get that reward. A few of the reasons people self-harm is because of chronic frustration, wanting to feel real, wanting to be numb, to calm down, and to cope with depression. Much like how other addictions start.
Self-harm was addictive for me. It started from doing it occasionally, to doing it every day. It tainted my life. At the time it seemed like the only solution, but after hitting rock bottom a few times I decided to try to change my entire life. I want to spare others the pain I went through, and not let anyone bare as many scars as I do. I promised myself that I will use what I went through to help others. And until I get my college degree and become a therapist, this blog will have to suffice.
Here are some tips to help a person recovery:
- Remove Self-Harm Tools
Whatever you use to hurt yourself, get rid of it. If you use your nails hurt yourself, trim them short enough where you can’t break the skin when scratching.This step can be hard because after awhile, the tools develop some meaning and can be almost be comforting. The truth is is that the longer you keep the tools around, the longer it can be to stop. The tools aren’t special in any way, nor do they have any special meaning. If you use them to hurt yourself, then throw them away or give them to a trusted friend.
- Get Support
Telling others that you self-harm can be scary. There is a lot of stigmas and misunderstandings around self-harm that it can make anyone want to hide it. But isn’t it such a secret too heavy to carry by yourself? At least if you are honest, it is one less thing to hide. There is nothing wrong with bearing your heart on your sleeve. Self-harm is nothing to be ashamed of, and you are just as special as you were before you began self-harming.
Self-harm is hard to recover from without any emotional support from others. There are numerous benefits to tell someone. Tell a friend, family member, or counselor about the behavior. It can be as simple as “I am a self-harmer and need help.” You do not owe anyone an explanation of why you hurt yourself. Sharing the details is solely up to you. If you worry you will have trouble expressing your feelings and behavior on the spot, it might be easier to write a letter. Writing the letter can validate you, and also it gives you time to think about what you want to say. If you are still too scared, ask yourself “What do I have to lose?” The other person could misunderstand you or get upset, but you don’t have to let it affect you. Perhaps it means that person cannot be the support you need, and you now know to look elsewhere.
- Identify Triggers
What triggers you to hurt yourself? Is it being around certain people? Certain thoughts? Is it a chronic stressor, such as school or work? Or is it all of the above? No matter what the trigger is, you have the power to work on it. Brainstorm solutions to each trigger, and weigh the pros and cons.
Unfortunately, certain thoughts can be hard to change. I struggled the most with this issue. What really helped me is journaling about my thoughts when I felt like myself. I would write about the anger I felt about my past, how stressed I was to be perfect, about my low self-esteem. Getting it all the pain out onto the page made the intense urge for me to self-harm lessen. And after I wrote about my feelings, I would finish with a hopeful paragraph about how someday, I will recover.
- Develop Coping Skills
I have this huge coffee mug that says “Treat Yo’ Self.” That’s kind of what you have to do to cope. Coping skills can be a soothing activity, using creative outlets, or using physical stimulation like exercise or cold showers. Using a variety of coping skills everyday can lessen the urges to self-harm overall.
I do a lot of skills in my life that are basically habits. Five times a week I exercise at the gym. I enjoy a large cup of coffee with whipped cream and chocolate syrup in the morning as I browse social media when I wake up. In the afternoon I write in my journal, do some art, or write a poem or story. Doing all of these things prevents the urges to self-harm. It’s taking care of yourself.
There are some skills you have to do for the moment you are about to hurt yourself. Squeezing ice cubes, cold showers, punching pillows, and ripping up papers can relieve the overwhelming feeling.