You can’t tell just by looking at someone what they are dealing with – Danielle Rupp
Dealing with self-harm is a battle and a half. The thoughts are all-consuming, making it a highly draining and stressful experience to be going through. It feels like there’s no escape from it. It feels like it’s the only way to make yourself feel better. When you’re at your worst with self-harm, it begins to feel like a true friend – the only true friend that will never leave you on your own.
We’ve all heard of self-harm and many people with mental health have had to deal with the difficulties and struggles of it (to say the least). But many people who’ve never experienced it personally struggle with understanding why people do it. People who self-harm get called selfish by their family. They get tutted at by nurses as the wounds are being bandaged up. A nurse once said to me:
Why would you do such a thing to yourself? I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do that. If my son did that to himself I’d be so mad at him!
And that proved to me just how misunderstood mental health is – even by trained professionals. There’s a stigma surrounding the illnesses of the mind, the torment that our minds go through on a daily basis. There’s a stigma surrounding self-harm and why we do it, and this is what has prompted me to write about it.
For me self-harm was an escape, and still occasionally is. It’s a way of focusing the pain on something else for a while. It’s a way of turning my emotional pain into a physical pain to temporarily distract my mind – because the emotional pain is much more distressing to deal with. I self-harmed because I felt I needed punishing for all the things I felt guilty for.
Self-harm is misunderstood as being “selfish” because “why would you do that to your family?”. But trust me when I say, we don’t do it to hurt anyone. We do it because we feel we need to hurt ourselves. We feel guilty when we know we’re hurting people, and that’s when we self-harm again which turns it into a nasty cycle. The best thing people could do to support those who self-harm would be to be understanding of it and make us feel as though we don’t need to hurt ourselves. You tell us there’s other ways of dealing with our emotions, but rarely tell us what they are. Instead people make us feel ashamed of ourselves and make us want to do it even more. Self-harmers usually want to make others happy and because of that we lose focus on ourselves, and that’s where people could be more helpful – people could focus on us sometimes so we feel less empty and alone and as though nobody truly cares. Show us that you care and want to help, that is what would help us most.
Dealing with self-harm is difficult, but it can be done and I’ve managed to prove that to myself. Each day without self-harming is a step closer to a more full and happy recovery. Each day without self-harming is one less potential scar on my body.
I’ve managed to almost completely stop self-harming by opening up more, and therapy helped me a lot in breaking the cycle. I’ve got back into my studies which is distracting me (when I have the mental ability to turn up that is) and I’ve found the things that help distract me the most such as watching Netflix, reading, blogging, listening to music and talking to my boyfriend. I’ve become more comfortable in myself and coming out as transgender helped boost my confidence a lot because I’m now fully being myself.
When it comes to breaking the cycle of self-harm, you have to take it one day at a time and don’t rush yourself. You need to find the things that help you feel distracted, content and happy. Opening up to friends and family helps a lot too because it allows you to open up about your emotions and get them out there. Ultimately, you need to know that support is out there – it may take a long time to access it, but the support is there for you and that same support helped me to begin beating this nasty thing that is mental health.
Do you have a mental health story to tell? Get in touch via the contact page and we’ll help you to tell your story. Let’s raise awareness of this thing together.