Trigger Warning: Self-Injury/Self-Harm
I missed the memo that March 1st was Self-Injury Awareness Day, a day to provide education and eliminate the stigma around self-harm/self-injury, so forgive me for being late. As many as 2 million people engage in self-harming behavior. Sometimes it’s to deal with emotions, to feel something when you’re feeling numb, to stop feeling if you’re overwhelmed, as a means to control something in your life, not everyone does it for the same reason.
I self-harmed over the course of five years, with one year of that being very frequent. I was in my early 20s and I had no idea how to handle my emotions. They were SO strong. I was very explode-y. Self-harming was like an instant way to release that pressure of feeling so many emotions so powerfully and I felt addicted to that release.
I wasn’t doing it for attention. I was doing it because I had no other coping skills. There are three things that primarily helped me quit.
I truly wanted to stop.
When I had the urge to SI I would tend to that area of my body instead. I would clean that area, rub ointment or lotion on my skin, slowly massaging it in. And then sometimes I’d bandage it even though there wasn’t anything to bandage or I’d write a loving message on myself with a marker. It was such a soothing and loving act and it really helped me show love to my body at a time when I wanted to fall into self-destruction
I learned about DBT and focused on emotion regulation and ways to do that that were healthy. My explode-y out-of-control emotions were not “just the way I am” but a lack of tools/resources that I could learn.
If it’s something that you struggle with, keep at it. You’re re-wiring your entire brain to react differently to stress/emotional overload/ and that’s not an overnight process.
Have you ever struggled with self-harm? What’s some advice that you’d give someone else?
*Everyone is different and this is based on my own personal experience.
*Please reach out for help if you’re in danger of harming yourself. You can text 741741 to speak to a crisis counselor.
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Thank you for writing about your struggle and for sharing all these wonderful ideas. DBT changed my life. I thought this behavior was behind me and then the pandemic! Lots of isolation plus the stress of a court case. My therapist suggested I put together a self-care box. I got a school box and I keep it on my desk (where I feel most stressed). It keeps my hands busy in healthy ways and it extinguished the behavior. Now I keep it for maintenance and self-care. My box has a Tangle, fun bandaids, Dover temporary tattoos (about $1.50), Dum Dum lollipops, a lavender oil roll on (Aura Cacia Chill Pill, the rose oil one is nice, too), a rose quartz heart to hold, A mini Crazy Aaron’s color changing hyper putty, and a knit hacky-sack I use as a squeeze ball. I also have a peppermint lip balm from (Whole Foods, $2) in their that I put on my wrists or backs of my hands. I read the smell of peppermint can help alleviate depression and anxiety. I also found a coconut oil swivel stick – it looks like a big chap stick. I love that. It is great on dry knuckles and cuticles.I think smell is an important component, as well as tactile. I also have a mini photo album I made into a self-care booklet.. It has one idea per page (I used 4 x 6 index cards) of things I know that help plus some important phone numbers. It has been so helpful for me. When I need it, I just keep flipping the pages until I find something that works that day (a grounding exercise, going outside and touching 10 trees, some positive self talk phrases, etc.). I know I’m going to find so many more self-care ideas on your wonderful blog and website and for sure, I’m adding bubble wrap! Thank you for these fantastic resources.