To people who have never self-harmed, cutting makes just about the same amount of sense as killing yourself. However there are as many reasons as there are those who engage in it.
I don’t have a long-stretching background in self-harming. I started doing it as I was getting really ill in order to both ground myself and to force myself more ‘awake’ as I was severely sleep-deprived at that point. All in all I’ve been self-harming for about a year.
One thing people who’ve never self-harmed might not know is that it’s a difficult habit to kick. It’s a coping mechanism and can be surprisingly addictive. Because it helped at one point of your life, when you were really, really down, it’s easy to return to it at a point of adversity.
Everyone who does it knows that it doesn’t help in the long run. It’s not a healthy way of dealing with my feelings but for a while it did help. As my health has improved I’ve been seeking better coping mechanisms and I’ve gone on long periods of time not doing it.
People who have no personal or professional experience of mental illness may not understand this but mental illness is exactly the same as a physical one in a sense that you can have exactly the same kind of challenges: the medication doesn’t work, causes side-effects or you have a setback.
I had a setback yesterday.
The reason why I’m telling this is because it happens at times. Recovery isn’t a straightforward road. Of course I wasn’t so nonchalant about it when it happened. I was so angry and upset with myself. It’s not like I don’t know better. It’s not like I don’t know that this isn’t a healthy way of dealing with my emotions but I still did it.
I was so angry and disappointed with myself. I had done so well not doing it. I called my care-coordinator in tears and he helped me to get out of that head space. He helped me to put it into a perspective: it was a good thing that I had called him. In the past I would’ve just done it in secret. I can’t help but laugh. I’m getting the proverbial A* for telling others about my self-harming. What is my life?
Of course he’s right. Even though I feel that my personal bar has been set at record low in terms of achievements, I know that I’ve been doing well and I should be kind to myself. As kind as I’d tell anyone else in the same situation to be. It happens. So what do you do? You dust yourself (or in this case, bandage your arm) and move on.
Why am I telling about this? Not for attention and certainly not for pity. I’m telling about this to people who don’t understand it so that they may gain new insight and to others who struggle with self-harm and may be too ashamed to talk about it. They know this as well as I do that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
I, or anyone else, wouldn’t be doing this if it hadn’t worked at some point. It got me through some tough times and even though I’m now trying to find new mechanisms that are less harmful I shouldn’t make myself feel even worse by guilt-tripping myself for it. When you’re dealing with an illness you can only do the best you can and keep on fighting.
Today I’ve been having a quiet day of ice cream and watching Freaky Eaters. Yesterday was tough but it’s over now. I made it through. And tomorrow’s another new day.