So I had a blip.
Such an innocent word when your arm looks like you systematically fell into a rose bush.
The thing is, blips happen. Mental health isn’t a straightforward road. No illness is a straightforward road. It’s quite rare that you can follow an illness moving from symptoms -> manifestation -> medication -> cured. Usually there are some complications on the way and nobody blames the poor sod who got ill in the first place.
Why should I blame myself then?
I know I’ve made progress. At my worst I used to cut every day. Now it happens extremely rarely, when I’m too upset for anything else to work. It’s never over just one thing in my case: it builds up and builds up until something tips the scales in its favour. One stroke of a butterfly’s wing.
What I tend to do afterwards is to call someone who isn’t upset to hear what I’ve done. That tends to be my care-coordinator. I need someone to take this matter-of-fact and not make it into a bigger deal than it is.
It might sound funny saying that, because of course slicing yourself like a really clumsy chef is a big deal. But it needs to be put into a perspective. To someone with no professional or personal experience of mental illness, self-harm is bizarre behaviour. It makes zero sense.
Anyone with either kind of experience will know that self-harm is a coping mechanism that has served a purpose at least at some point in your life. Otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it. The only reason why I started doing it was because I tried it and it worked. It could’ve been anything.
I find his routine questions grounding. What did you use? Where? Do you need medical attention? What do you think led to this?
The routine attitude towards it comforts me. I’ve found this throughout the time I’ve been involved with mental health services. It’s so easy to get tricked by the illness into this pit where you’re the worst human being who ever lived for slipping back into your old behaviour. Depression is a very self-centred illness.
There is none of that when I speak to my care-coordinator. There is no sorrow, no upset or disappointment, just dealing with the matter at hand. It’s not the end of the world. It’s happened and we’re now dealing with it. It’s good that I called. Everything is OK.
This is why I’d like to call after similar down to earth attitude when you find yourself having had a blip. Without belittling the seriousness of the situation or the fact that there are of course healthier ways of dealing with your emotions, it should be approached with a rational hat on instead of the emotional one.
- Blips happen.
- It’s not the end of the world.
- A setback doesn’t undo all the good progress you’ve made.
- Take the necessary steps to make sure you’re not in any danger medically speaking: clean up, bandage up and if you need medical assistance, call up.
- The most important thing: Speak up. Tell someone who is trained to deal with these sort of things. Call Samaritans for example. Being able to vocalise the situation to someone else helps to put it into a perspective and stops it from growing too big inside your head. That’s something that definitely happens with me if I don’t watch out.
- It’s human. You wouldn’t be doing it if it hadn’t helped at some point in your life. Doesn’t mean it’s healthy but it means it’s human to return to that good ol’ done and tested. At the time it makes sense. So don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Be kind to yourself.