Another post I have avoided sharing. Partly because it’s a heavy subject and I keep convincing myself now is not the time to share, but when is? And partly because I still absolutely fear the stigma and response associated with the topic. But here goes…because we ain’t ever going to change anything unless we crack open the conversation and break down the stigma.
I am not a doctor I have not studied this subject at any university other than the university of life. I simply hold a desire to break the stigma and start a conversation around those subjects we all shy away from. For todays digestion Self Harm.
I have self harmed. Dam it has taken me decades to admit that! There have been at least three periods in my life when I felt I had no other choice. When I was in my late teens, I left care and returned to live my dad and my world started falling apart again. When I finally escaped my fathers home one night and faced weeks of abusive phone calls and the worry of having left my sister behind, trying desperately to find a way to get her out. And most recently at the start of this year when I was safe and happy in my life but decided I had to face my traumatic past and work through months of therapy to try and free myself from the flash backs, nightmares and horrific sleep. The sudden and difficult onslaught of emotions was hard to navigate.
On all of these occasions I have never harmed myself because I wanted to cause pain. I was saving myself. Those moments briefly grasped in desperate hands offered me a life line. They gave me a single breath whilst I was drowning. They asserted my ability to control the world around me whilst I spun into chaos. They broke the spiral of despair throwing me free from its tightening grasp.
I never cut myself to cause harm I did so to create space, to provide a break, to breath when the air escaped me.
I hate the stigma which comes which self harm, especially the forms people most commonly think of like cutting. There can be so many types of self harm and some are just accepted, whilst others are seen through a lens of pity or disgust, but I won’t get in to that here. Here I want to reframe the action in to the types of harm I recognise from many conversations with others and my own experience. I believe changing the way we think about self harm could help us be more accepting and provide better help. In my experience it is rarely about causing harm it is more often about…
I need to feel relief. I need to feel calmer and comforted by a simple action and known outcome.
I need to not feel. I need to be so distracted by a simple pain that everything else is drowned out.
I need to steady myself. I need to adjust the course I am travelling. I need to slow down my thinking or actions.
Compassion seeking harm
I need to feel loved. I am so empty and feel so alone I need to be seen.
I need to feel something. I am so detached from my world I am desperate to get a grasp on anything. I need something extreme to anchor me.
I feel like an awful person and the fact no one else can see it makes it even worse. I can’t live myself without at least trying to address my wrongs.
The last example is the type of harm which comes closer to the driver of the intent to cause harm. But even this driver is more about punishment than just harm for no reason. Yes eliciting pain is a by product but it is not the cause or the goal. Perhaps by better defining and understanding harming behaviours we can better help those forced to their use.
I am lucky my periods of self harm have been very controlled and short lived only ever lasting a few weeks at most. But I was very aware of my need to limit the use of this dangerous tool. For many it can become addictive and with good reasons. The chemicals released when we do cause harm are a powerful mix and we need to be careful to avoid their easy draw.
What ever your reason for self harming and whatever method you use there is likely an underlying driver, one which you can get help with. And please know you are not alone, or less of a decent person because you have self harmed. You have just been pushed to the point you feel you have no other choice, but trust me you do. In those moments you feel just a tiny bit better use that time to seek help so you you have a different option the next time.
It is really important if you are self harming to seek support. It can be a dangerous path as what ever your driving force, you might find yourself needing more extreme or frequent forms of harm. Speak to someone or look for one of the many avenues of support. Don’t suffer alone.