Disclaimer: This blog post does contain references to self-harm and a video related to self-harm, which some readers may find triggering. If this is something that could trigger you, please click off and I will see you in my next post on Friday!
Hello angels! As the 1st March is Self Harm Awareness Day, I have decided to share my story of how I stopped self harming. I am choosing to talk about this in the hope that I can educate those who do not self harm and also offer a means of support to the people that have. Personally, I am 2 years and 6 months clean from self harm, and sadly I didn’t receive professional support with stopping. This means that I did have to teach myself to stop, and I had no choice but to help myself if I wanted to get better. If any of you are struggling with self harm, I really hope that this post is something you can return to in the future for help and support!
What is Self Harm?
Self harm or self mutilation: when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body.
More than a third of 16-25 year olds in Britain have self-harmed, according to a new survey made by Self Harm UK, The Mix and Young Minds, which you can find here. The rates of self-harm are increasing rapidly and individuals are quite literally becoming addicted to hurting themselves. When a person self harms, their body releases endorphins to support itself in dealing with the pain. These endorphins provide a calm feeling and for a moment, the emotional pain isn’t there anymore. The release felt by individuals is extremely short-lived and can be followed by guilt, sadness and frustration. Consequently, this leads to further self harming behaviours and demonstrates the ongoing cycle of destruction that people become trapped in.
There are multiple reasons why somebody may choose to harm themselves, for example:
To punish themselves
To gain control over their feelings
To feel something.
It is extremely common for individuals to hide their self harm from others, due to feelings of shame and fear of judgement. The stigma built up around mental health illnesses is so upsetting, although I am hopeful that one day it will be gone. If you are reading this and you have self harm scars, I want you to know that they really are nothing to feel ashamed of. They are reminders of the battles against yourself which you won, and that takes so much strength.
How to stop self harming
Confide in somebody that you trust
When I was relapsing into self harm, I recognised that to break out of my destructive cycle I needed to receive professional help. Looking back on this time, I wasn’t able to get help for myself because I was too unwell. So, when I confided in my Mum I was able to take a step towards recovery and keeping myself safe.
There are lots of ways that you can tell somebody that you are self harming. If you can’t face telling them in person you could write a letter, record a video message, send a text message or ask somebody else to tell this person for you. After telling somebody, prepare yourself for the following reaction, which could range from feelings of guilt, anger, sadness and confusion. Please know that their negative feelings are not aimed towards you. They are towards the act of self injury on somebody that they love and the pain which you have been through, to want to harm yourself.
Get rid of the tools that you use to self harm
This was one of the hardest steps for me in becoming clean from self harm, as it eventually completely removes all possibility of you hurting yourself. Simply, if you have nothing to hurt yourself with, then you can’t hurt yourself. I understand that for a lot of you, these tools are your comfort blanket, and taking them all away at once would be extremely overwhelming and difficult. That’s why I suggest doing this over a large period of time. For instance, after one week you’ll dispose of a tool. Subsequently, after another week you’ll dispose of another tool and so on…
This method makes the transition easier to adjust to, and it also proves to yourself that you don’t need them or rely on them as a coping mechanism. This is genuinely something to be celebrating! Taking steps towards getting rid of your tools is a massive step in your recovery and you should feel so pleased with yourself! I’m so proud of you angel!
I also found that writing down the personal reasons for getting rid of your tools is something which can help you to rationalise your thoughts when any urges return, and cause you to question your decision and progress. You could even leave yourself little messages around your bedroom, which motivate you to keep going and fighting! Below is a template which you can use to write your own personal reasons for getting rid of your tools.
‘I’ve made the decision to gradually dispose of my self harm tools. So, I am writing this note to remind you, (future self), why you should continue to dispose of every tool which you own, and of the reasons behind this decision.
I am deserving of happiness
I want to be a role model for other young people
The release is only temporary
I want to get better
I want to regain control.’
Recognise your triggers
A trigger is something which gives you an urge to harm yourself. Pinpointing what it is that triggers you to self harm means that you can take steps towards removing this trigger from your day-to-day life, or lessening the chances that you will be exposed to this trigger. This means that you are able to prepare yourself in advance and will be more likely to cope and overcome the trigger, compared to if you were thrown into a traumatising situation unexpectedly. Some examples of triggers could be a piece of music, a specific time of year, a place and social media. In my previous post titled ‘Social Media, Please Stop Condoning Suicide and Self Harm’ I discussed the harmful effects of pro-communities on social media. You can find that post here.
I have found that a good way to identify your triggers is by writing them down in a safe place. When you feel an urge to hurt yourself, reach towards this and do your best to document the following:
Where were you when this happened?
Who were you with?
What did you hear/see/touch/smell/taste?
How did you cope with the urge?
How long did the urge last?
Patterns should start to form in your log of things that trigger your self harm urges. Identifying these sequences means that you can find healthy ways to cope with any urges. For example, if a predominant urge is being in busy and crowded places, you can equip yourself with valuable support systems (such as headphones, breathing techniques and ice packs) and slowly ease yourself into that anxiety-provoking situation over time.
Find your coping mechanisms
Being able to reach towards things that you know have the potential to help you is just so reassuring and positive! If you don’t already have some coping mechanisms readily available to you, I highly suggest putting some in place.
Each of the distractions listed below are ones that I use myself, to challenge negative thoughts. I can’t promise that they will work for you as everybody is different! However, I would love for you to leave your own distractions in the comments section below! You may come across a new one that you hadn’t heard of before, or help somebody in need right now.
- Holding onto ice:
The intense feeling of coldness helps to bring me back from a panic attack and into the present moment. But make sure to not hold it for long periods of time as it can hurt your hands!
- Feeling your pulse:
At times where anxiety gets the better of us, it is common to experience symptoms like trembling, excessive sweating, shortness of breath and a fast heartbeat. I have found it really useful in the past to find my pulse and hold my fingers there. This is because the strong feeling reminds you that you are alive. Your body is fighting to keep you alive, and it deserves to be loved and taken care of.
- Write words in the sand and let them be washed away:
There is something so freeing about watching your worries and negative thoughts wash away! If you don’t like near the sea, you could write your worries down on some paper and then rip them up! It represents the same action of any negativity being removed from your mind.
- Self soothing:
Being kind to yourself when you feel this low is so incredibly important! I have written a post explaining how you can make a Self Soothe Box, which you can find here.
- Eat or drink something sour:
I’ve found that drinking a really cold Lemon San Pellegrino is enough to distract me. The sharp taste brings me back to the present, and it stops me from thinking about any urges.
- Drawing or painting on yourself:
The video which I have included below is a BBC Story, highlighting how a girl named Amelia uses art to fight her self harm urges. Amelia has a Instagram page dedicated to all of her paintings which you can find here.
Take care of yourself
Lastly, I cannot stress enough the importance of being kind to yourself; even on the days when you don’t feel deserving of any kindness. I understand that mental illness can make it difficult to find the energy for this, but pushing yourself to do some of these small things can really change how you’re feeling for the better!
Getting a good amount of rest
Eating and staying hydrated
Taking your medication everyday
Having a shower
Getting some fresh air
Becoming clean from self harm hasn’t been easy, although with everyday that passes I have more faith in my ability to not let my urges win. Thank you for reading angels! I hope that today, on Self Harm Awareness Day, you feel inspired to be mindful of how you treat those around you. Everybody is fighting a battle which you know nothing about, please be kind.
See you on Friday for a new post!
Love Casey x
Below are links to websites that can support you if you are suffering from a mental illness.
116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call)
0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday)