Living life on the borderline

Things I learnt from self harm – Part 1

Posted on: March 17, 2012

I thought I’d put together some ramblings about things that I learnt over the course of several years of injuring myself, mainly from cutting. This doesn’t sound like any experience you could learn from, especially when I’m only 18 and therefore not necessarily old enough to have “learnt” anything! However, on reflection, and after going through what feels like thousands of distraction lists on the internet to kick this thing in the ass for good… I think I’ve actually got some good understanding from it. I hope it doesn’t sound too preachy and it’s just my experience but hey. Why not.

Lesson one: Self harm is…. invalidating.

Sounds obvious but it definitely wasn’t to me. I felt/feel/etc. as though being able to injure myself as a way of processing my feelings was very validating. I could “see” my pain. I could “take care of” my pain. I was being nice to myself. I was helping myself feel better.

Not really.

Being told that you have made yourself look a mess by A+E staff when you are getting stitched up is not validating. Having stitches put in without anaesthetic because “self harmers would like it too much” is not validating.  Causing yourself painful scarring is not taking care of yourself. Trying not to get infections, buying first aid supplies, rehearsing your “story” for the triage nurse…. it doesn’t deal with the actual problem. Having to hide wounds, bandages, scars, feeling ashamed to wear shorts or swimwear does not improve bad feelings about yourself. It doesn’t take care of the pain, it just gives you something else to think about for a while but it comes back. And like many addictions, you start off small, maybe “recreationally”. Before you know it, you’re down a road that can be really hard to come back out of.

That’s not to say that self harm hasn’t played a strange role in keeping me safe sometimes. The alternative to releasing those pent-up feelings would have likely resulted in a suicide attempt, and it was very helpful to have professionals that encouraged me to limit my self-injury, rather than ban it completely. But after 5 or so years of hurting myself, I’m not really any further forward. I have a lot of scars that hurt and a lot of horrible memories of being in hospital. It makes me sad to think about. I’m nowhere near recovery as yet and there are times I’ve hurt myself when dissociated and not really in control of what I’m doing. On a conscious level, though, I feel like I’m starting to figure out things I can do that make me feel a bit better without resorting to harming. Self harming didn’t really give me an immediate fix and neither do distractions. Maybe the “trauma” or whatever is just something I will have to deal with at some level for a long time yet. It’s very painful and upsetting but there is a certain freedom in trying to accept how you feel and realising there is no magic quick fix, whether it comes from a blade or from a DVD.

It’s crappy and it’s fine for it to be crappy, cos crappy things happened. And maybe I will go through all those freakin’ distractions and end up slipping up anyway but that’s okay because I’m human. And I tried. I’m not a failure if I slip up, sometimes the distractions just don’t work. But learning about them is a process, like learning to cope with uncomfortable feelings.

It’s a process, rather than a cure. Maybe I needed to get to the states of self harm I’ve been in to go through that process? Who knows.

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1 Response to "Things I learnt from self harm – Part 1"

Self harm comes in lots of forms. I used to use promiscuous sex, now I gamble like a maniac. I will keep trying to the last crumpled up $5 bill in my pocket that i promised myself i’d save.
I never understood “cutting” until I read your post. Blood grosses me out. But, gambling is the same- you make up stories to cover losses, you sell precious things, you hide from people who want to help. Then you sit back and assess the damage. I get it. I also get the need for some sort of release. The suicidal ideation is always there and the escape, even for a little while is sweet. It’s about being able to visualize your pain- fear- anger. I get it. Thank you. Don’t ever think because you are 18 you have no knowledge to share.

I am a 42 year old female with BPD. Back in the 80’s when I was diagnosed they told us it gets better as you get older- really? I see now they finally acknowledge the link to PTSD. YAY!

Keep fighting girl!

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About the blogger.

I'm an 18 year old girl/woman/person of the female gender who blogs about growing up, living with mental health problems and her experience with the NHS mental health services, both CAMHS and CMHTs. Expect plenty of teenage angst and general craziness. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

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