This post will include a discussion about self-harm so if you would find that upsetting or triggering then don’t read further; your own mental health always comes first.
A long journey
Since I was a pre-teen I used self-harm as a way of dealing with a lot of the emotions that came with my mental illness. It was a regular occurrence for me and for many years a daily one. It was a very hard thing to stop doing, as it had become so ingrained in me as the thing I would turn to when things were hard.
It was a very long journey to stop, and there wasn’t just one magical thing that helped me to change things; it took a lot of self-reflection, learning about my own self as well as recognising triggers and the reasons that I was turning to that as a coping mechanism, then learning how to use other methods to cope in place of it: in another blog post in the near future I will go into the ways that I dealt with those feelings and how I was able to stop in more detail.
Self-harm is often misunderstood
Self-harm tends to be so misunderstood and looked down upon by others and that’s something that needs to change. It needs to become less ‘taboo’ to talk about; it isn’t about ‘attention-seeking’ or ‘being dramatic’; it’s a very serious and completely valid part of a lot of people’s journey with mental illness and we as a whole need to learn to be more understanding and less judgemental.
There were many reasons I self-harmed
There isn’t just one specific reason that people self-harm; people can do so for a lot of different and often very personal reasons, everyone is individual in their self-harm experience. For me it wasn’t just one thing, it was many and the reasons varied over the years. It was a way to make my outside reflect what was happening inside; it was a way to show the pain that I was experiencing in a way that I could see visually. It was a way to punish myself for not being able to cope at times. Often I used it as a way to control something even if it was just that one thing that I was in control of when I felt everything else was spinning out of control.
Many times, and certainly more so as I grew older, it was a way of stopping myself from acting on suicidal feelings, an alternative to try and stop my feelings from getting that far. A lot of times when I was younger it was a way for me to ask for help and express my distress, and yes this means I was ‘seeking attention’ and that’s not a bad thing; there’s nothing wrong with trying to find help and reaching out for support in the only way you might know how at the time, and the stigma needs to be taken out of that phrase. Sometimes it was a way for me to feel something when I felt completely numb emotionally and sometimes I didn’t know why I was doing it at all, I just knew that I had to.
Stopping is an ongoing journey
All of these many reasons and so much more made it incredibly hard to stop self-harming, there were a lot of slip-ups along the way but I worked so hard at it and I am so incredibly proud of myself to be able to say I have been completely free of any form of self-harm for four years now. That’s not to say I won’t ever do it again, that I won’t ever slip up, and that’s ok too; mistakes and slip-ups are valid and not something we should feel guilty about, although that’s easier said than done. It’s not an easy thing, my mind automatically goes there anytime I am struggling and it’s something I have to actively fight to this day. I don’t think that will ever change, but as long as I am doing my best, then that’s all I can do.
Self-harm is NOT a sign of weakness
Self-harming isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s not something to be ashamed of and it’s not something you have to keep hidden or bottle up. You can reach out for help, there are others out there who will understand. If you have been through this yourself, I want to say that wherever you are on your self-harm journey, you’re doing amazing! Fighting your own mind every day is a sign of true strength and you are absolutely incredible, don’t let anyone make you feel less than because of your fight; you’re a damn warrior.