As always, I did my best to keep triggering language out of this article as much as possible. However, it does discuss self-harm and cutting, which may be triggering for some people. Please practice self-care through personal responsibility
I truly believe that every accomplishment deserves to be celebrated. Recently, I reached my 2 years without self-harm anniversary, and my 2 year anniversary from inpatient hospitalization is coming up in the next few months.
I use the term self-harm instead of cutter/cutting because there are many ways to engage in self-harm and not all of them involve cutting. Nor do all forms of self-harm leave visible evidence on the skin.
When I was 11 years old, I took an object to my skin for the first time with the intention of self-harm. It was the beginning of a very long journey with self-harm for me. Self-harm became my primary coping mechanism – if not survival mechanism. I could do it anywhere, anytime, with anything. It’s what kept me going.
Self-harm became something of an addiction for me. When I started self-harming, there weren’t scientific studies showing how the “high” of self-harm affects the brain. Your brain gets a similar release and “high” feeling as if you are using a traditional drug or substance. People who knew I did it just thought I was crazy. If they didn’t, it was probably because they did it, too. I lied through my teeth every time I was asked about it and did my best to cover it up as much as I could. Thank goodness, fast forward so many years later, we understand self-harm better than we used to.
None of the hundreds (if not thousands) of times I harmed myself were a suicide attempt or with intentions of suicide. I was not trying to kill myself. It was not for attention. I was just trying to get through the day; I was hurting. I felt like I couldn’t handle what was going on in my life. It is a common myth that all “cutters” are trying to kill themselves, and they just “can’t.” However, that isn’t the case for many people. People who cut themselves are not sick or twisted. They are hurting.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) teaches that cutting can prevent suicide because it gives a little release and helps people feel like they can keep going. It’s an unhealthy and self-destructive coping skill, but it is a coping skill for some (like it was for me). That does NOT make it any safer or less serious. It is still a serious issue, and it doesn’t’ matter how infrequent or superficial the incidences may be. Anyone who self-harms is hurting very much on the inside.
If someone you know has engaged in self-harm, ask them if it was a suicide attempt. Get comfortable saying those words. Some people are just trying to cope and get through the day. Encourage them to get help.
It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to speak up. It’s okay to not be okay.
We are only as sick as our secrets.
As I got older, I tried over and over again to tell myself that I would never do it again. I kept track and counted the days on my calendar. Once, I almost made it a year and a half in late high school, early college time period. Somehow my self-harming habits always found me again. Finally, I just accepted and believed it would always come back and be a part of my life. It became normal for me.
But that’s not the case anymore. I could easily look back into my old journals to see what the exact date was that I did it, but it doesn’t quite matter to me anymore. I’m able to be thankful each day that I get through without self-harm. I’m beyond thankful for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), yoga, and medication. I continue working to find my voice and to express myself. My recovery requires time and attention from me every day. Today, I practice coping skills every day so that I have a coping toolbox when I need it.
There have been so many times in the past that I have said that I would never self-harm again. I would love to say that and know it is definite and true. I just don’t know what the future holds. I would love to know that I’m never going to hurt that bad again. All I do know is that I try to get a little better every day, and I’m thankful for every day free from self-harm and self-destructive habits.
To people who self-harm: You are not crazy. You are not abnormal. There are chemicals in your brain that are giving you these urges and you aren’t alone. Self-harm isn’t anyone’s first choice, and it does not have to last forever. Help and recovery is available.
If you have a question about self-harm, please ask in a comment or on the contact page and I will answer as much as possible personally or in another post.
If you or someone you know is engaging in self-harm, speak up and get help. There are hotlines, counselors, programs, all sorts of help and resources available. No one has to live like this forever.
HOPE – Hold On Pain Ends