Today I was having a conversation with someone about children and mental health difficulties. In the conversation it came up that they wondered if self harm was an attention seeking activity. It’s possible I misunderstood what they mean’t, or didn’t quite process what they were saying correctly, so this post isn’t an attack on what was said. It got me thinking about the reasons behind why someone may self harm though. I lay down in the sun on a grassy hill feeling the sun on my face and thinking what a difference it was to just a few months ago when I felt so overwhelmed I injured myself on purpose.
For me personally, what triggered it was being completely overwhelmed by emotions. There was so much fear and anxiety I didn’t know how to process it or how to ask for the right type of help. Looking back now, I should have been able to stand up for myself and say what I needed, but in the moment I couldn’t see the solution or what I needed to do to get there. I had feelings of complete self loathing due to my mood being very low, I thought I deserved to be hurt. I also felt disassociated from myself, when I looked in the mirror it didn’t look like me, I didn’t know who ‘me’ was any more. It’s a strange feeling to not recognise yourself. By hurting myself, I could feel something, it gave me a buzz of adrenaline in the moment. By giving in to the tirade of negative thoughts and voices things would stay still for a while. I felt complete shame afterwards about what I had done, I hid it from everyone around me. Luckily it was winter so I could wear long sleeves. Now it is getting warmer I have no choice but to show my scars and I feel embarrassed.
Self help books and therapists are very keen on the idea of using an alternative, pinging an elastic band, punching a pillow, using ice or a pen, but in the moment, for me, it wouldn’t have the same effect. They don’t offer the same level of adrenaline or feeling when you are in a state of numbness. The key for me was getting to the root cause of why I felt so overwhelmed and trying to tackle that problem. A big proportion of the issue was work related and I wrote a list of what I was finding difficult, I went to someone I trusted in work and we went through that list addressing each issue one by one. I’d love to say that was the magic answer, and everything is fantastic now, but it’s a slow process of repair. Telling someone to stop hurting themselves isn’t necessarily a helpful thing to do, offering a listening ear and giving them a chance to talk without passing judgement is a step in the right direction.
As I sat in the sunshine listening to the birds today it was such a relief that my mind was able to rest, and enjoy the moment. It’s very easy to think you will never return to you when you are in a pit of despair and confusion, I may go back to a place where I want to hurt myself in the future, but I’m hopeful I will be in a better position to ask for help.