Welcome to part 5 of our series about self-harm. If you missed it, check out last week’s post where we looked at how to help people who self-harm. In today’s post, we’re looking at the element of control, both good and bad, that exists for self-harmers. *Be advised, this post may contain potential triggers.*
If you ask them, a lot of people you talk to will say that they can’t control their self-harming. It’s something they feel driven to do, something they don’t feel they can stop. In that sense, it’s like their self-harming is an addiction that forces them to do it. That’s what most people might think of when they put the words “self-harm” and “control” into the same sentence. There is, however, another aspect of it that people aren’t so familiar with.
Thinking about my journey, I’ve felt that control, that urge. There have been those times when the desire to hurt myself has felt like a strong push to get me to do it. As you’d expect, there are times when I’ve given into it. There have also been times when I’ve fought it. Sometimes I’ve succeeded, other times I’ve failed, as with anything, I guess.
“Just throw the blades away…”
A lot of people who have supported me since this all started have told me to throw the blades away. It seems to be one of the go-to phrases for people supporting those who self-harm. I’ll be honest, I’ve used that phrase too before I went through the experience myself. Still, is it as good an idea as it seems?
So, in principal the idea seems great: remove the blades, therefore remove the temptation, therefore lessen the self-harming itself. Logical, right? It seems like the perfect way of imposing some form of control over the self-harm. After all, introduce a restriction and that automatically provides some form of control. Right?
The other side of the coin is the control that we, as self-harmers, can bring about. For me, knowing that I have a blade in the flat brings in a different sense of control. That knowledge allows me to direct those spirals and try different coping mechanisms such as computer games, music or TV before I end up turning to the blade. Knowing I don’t have a blade there makes me more erratic and the knock-on effect is that I struggle more with using those other coping mechanisms and distraction techniques.
In short: no blade means my spirals are worse because my 100% successful safety net isn’t there. I know, it’s bizarre.
The “no blade” solution
What do you do when you’re spiralling, feeling the urge to self-harm, and you have no blades in the house? Thankfully I’ve never experienced this particular stage, this is from someone I know.
They self-harm the same way I do and their spouse had taken it upon themselves to remove all the blades and sharp objects from the house. As I said before, it really sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately it had the opposite effect. Knowing there were no blades in the house, this person was feeling the desire to self-harm and simply couldn’t control it, smashing a glass and using the shards of glass instead.
There was no blade. No safety net. As ironic as referring to a sharp object as a safety net is, it wasn’t there. This is sadly what happens if we were to remove all the blades. The urge, the “addiction” or whatever that person may be feeling (as not everyone would class it as an addiction) would become overwhelming to the point of disaster.
The lesser of two evils
As much as I don’t like looking at it this way, I feel that this is going to be the best way to look at it. Let’s say for a moment that you have no control over whether or not your partner, friend or family member self-harms (which is true because if they want to do it then they will find a way regardless). Let’s also assume they cut, as that’s the easiest one to explain with.
Tell me: which one would you prefer? The razor blade that is more or less surgical, sharp and straight…or a shard of glass that’s jagged, could leave smaller shards in the wound and might do more damage?
You see, in some twisted sense of the word, allowing them to keep at least one blade gives them that control. They can control how much damage they can do, they can control what coping mechanisms they go through before they get to the self-harming stage and they can attempt to control whether they do get to that stage.
It may not be the control you’re looking for…but it’s control.
In next week’s post, we’ll be looking at some of the alternatives to self-harm and some of the things that you can try and encourage them to use instead of turning to self-harm. They won’t work for everyone but who knows, it might be a useful alternative. In the meantime, check out my post about Pills and Blades or pop over to our Depression Support category for some encouragement! See you next week!
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