In my last blog post, I talked about how I have been free of any form of self-harm for four years now. The path to being able to stop was indeed a long one, it was truly a journey and it took time. There wasn’t just one magic solution or even just one thing that helped me to stop; there were many.
Finding the right therapist
I had been in therapy and various types of counselling for a long time but it wasn’t until I found the right therapist who I felt I could really open up to, who I felt really listened and understood where I was coming from, that I was able to identify the reasons I had started self-harming and the reasons I still did it. Together we worked through those issues and were able to come up with methods to try and change that behaviour. Finding the right person to work through that stuff with was really a key to me feeling able to start controlling those behaviours.
Getting on the right medication
Finding the right combination of medication after a lot of trial and error has allowed me to be more stable with my Bipolar disorder. It has allowed me to be stable for longer, to have a clearer mind, to have shorter and less severe episodes and therefore this has been a big contributor to me stopping self-harming.
Being more aware of my triggers
Through therapy and through being more self-aware and learning from my past experiences, I have been able to figure out what my triggers are. That way I can try to avoid them to minimize my risk. If I am unable to avoid triggers, I am able to be more prepared, more aware in advance that this is something that could be hard for me and to ask for support or prepare my brain to deal with the situation.
Learning to ask for support
For a long time I didn’t open up about my self harm and that compounded the feelings that were causing me to act upon it. I do feel that learning to ask for help from my husband, family or friends when I am getting those urges or am in a bad place which could lead to that behaviour, rather than trying to keep things bottled up, has had a big impact on me feeling more in control.
Learning alternative strategies to deal with my feelings
Through my own research, learning from my own past experiences and trial and error along with some things I learnt during therapy, I was able to put into place other things that I could turn to as a coping method instead of self-harm when I am in that headspace. A lot of that is about distraction, about doing something that makes me feel calmer or changes my mindset, or doing something that allows me to get out those feelings without actively hurting myself.
Having a good crisis team
Previously I have had extremely bad experiences with any form of crisis services and so stopped reaching out to them. Fortunately, I now have a great crisis team that I know I can reach out to anytime if I need them, and that does have a big impact on me feeling more secure that someone is always there for me, that there is always professional help available.
Working on my sense of happiness overall
One of the things that has had the biggest impact on me feeling more in control of my self harming has been working on my life in general, my general sense of happiness. Changing things over time such as getting a job that I enjoy; working on having a good routine; engaging in hobbies that bring me joy; meeting my husband; having my own home; surrounding myself with positive people and leaving negative people behind me; getting my dogs; trying to get healthier and being out in nature more: there are so many things that I altered gradually over time to allow me to feel happier with where I am in life and to accept the things that I’m not able to change. That general sense of happiness outside of my mental illness has definitely had a big impact on my ability to deal with the symptoms of my mental illness more effectively.