*This post shouldn’t be triggering, but if you are currently struggling with self harm, please make sure you are safe before reading.
I am hesitant to post this. Please be keep in mind that I am speaking from my own experience of this subject – I in no way intend to speak for anyone else. I’m aware that it may be controversial. Feel free to comment with disagreements, but please remember to always be kind.
Self harm is definitely not a healthy coping strategy, but it’s not illegal, doesn’t hurt anyone else, and it saved my life.
We all have ways of coping. Some are healthy, some aren’t. Some people exercise, some meditate, some people talk to friends and family. But other people (especially, but not limited to, those experiencing mental health issues), turn to drugs (both legal and illegal), alcohol, violence, restricting or purging food, and also to self harm.
Everybody’s experience of self harm is different. People cut, hit or burn themselves. Some people take smaller overdoses (something which can be really dangerous, and definitely not to be recommended!). I harmed myself in other ways, but cutting myself is what helped me the most. When I deliberately cut myself, it didn’t actually hurt. To be honest, it felt good. I often wished I didn’t know how good it felt, because that’s what made it so difficult to stop. It was a release. When I was overwhelmed, cutting focused my mind. Quietened everything down. Sometimes it was like taking a deep breath after holding it until your lungs feel like they’re going to burst. And sometimes it was like a small sigh of relief. To this day, it’s the only thing that I know is guaranteed to make me feel better instantly.
I don’t know when I started self harming. I can’t remember. As a child, overwhelming feelings very often led to me hurting myself in some small way. It made me feel better, more in control. When I was a teen, this escalated as I became more depressed, and by the time I was 18 I was cutting myself almost every night.
For me, when I was younger, I self harmed the way I did a lot of things – impulsively. However, as the years have passed, my relationship with hurting myself has changed. Self harm is something I can choose to do, or not. (And this is something that MH professionals seem to be unable to grasp. Levels and severity of self harm are not directly proportional to mental pain.)
So, I have ‘chosen’ not to self harm anymore. I’m aware that I’m very lucky that I am able to choose – the nature of their illness means that some people are simply unable to do this (this, by the way, does not mean that they’re not trying hard enough, or that they’re more ‘mental’ than me, or…anything really. How and why people self harm is a hugely personal thing.).
I’m often asked: do I regret self harming? I mean, I have lots of scars on my body as a reminder, and still have to be careful how I dress in order to cover them in certain situations. The answer, though, is no. I don’t regret it. You see, self harm saved my life. I cannot overstate this point – it saved my life. At a time when I was really suffering mentally, and was hugely impulsive, I know for certain that self harm prevented me from making a serious attempt on my life. And for that, I’m grateful to it.