Fighting the Urge

A Little Context

I’ve done this for you before, given you a little snippet of what’s actually going on inside my head. Last night  was tough for me because while balancing care for partner with BPD (who was crashing) I was also fighting the urge of my own demon. But it’s important I share this with you in the same way I do the good stuff where I hope I inspire or motivate others. To show how a person with depression copes on the good days and the bad ones.

Stop my brain, I want to get off.

It’s just after 3am. I’m still awake. Again. I really don’t know why this keeps happening. I know insomnia is a symptom of depression, but I really thought I was doing better than this. But no, I back to fighting the urge to self harm, back with the dark thoughts, back to sobbing in the dark with what feels like a gnawing, aching hole in my chest. It really, really sucks.
So why am I back here? I’m well on the path to recovery if you look at the big picture. I shouldn’t be back fighting the urge to harm myself. I’ve already scratched myself, but thankfully not too badly. And in this frame of mind, why am I writing this?
I’ll be honest. It’s giving me something to focus on. My hands are busy because I’m typing. Weirdly it’s helping pull me out of it a little, because it’s oddly like talking to someone. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see me sleeping tonight. I feel truly awful. But that persistent, nagging urge has quieted. It’s taken a lot to get to this point. I’ve watched about 3 hours of That 70’s Show on Netflix, I’ve tried meditating, reading, playing a game. Believe me the thoughts are still there, but I’m fighting the urge off with everything I have at my disposal.
It Might Seem Simple to you, Fighting the Urge. It’s Not.
Now to some people it would be really simple. When it comes to this subject they think it’s a case of you just don’t do it. I really wish it worked that way. You see, the dark whisper in my ear reminding me how useless I am has been screaming tonight. A relentless torrent of abuse, over and over. Crushing me. Reminding me of how utterly worthless I am. The draw of pain to silence that voice is seductive. I can punish myself for all of my failings. After all, the darkest part of me believes I deserve it.
But I’m fighting the urge. At this point I’m not even truly clear on why. Everything else is saying to me that it’s what I deserve. Logic doesn’t really come into this. All I know is that if I succumb, I will feel worse. I will feel like a failure. I have to fight this. All I want  is to get better. No matter what the bitch in my head is saying, I have a family that loves me, a partner that loves me. I’m going to keep holding on to that tonight.
It’s time I try to attempt sleep again, so I’ll sign off now. Wish me luck!

Episode 29 – Depression the Emptiness

Emptiness…Emptiness and the Void

*Trigger Warning – This episode deals with self-harm.*

A lot of people would associate depression with sadness.  For me, that isn’t the case.  Depression tends to lean more towards the emptiness.  A numbness.  A Harrowing Void that I can’t shake, no matter how hard I try.  That’s what depression typically means for me, but there’s more to it.  Why not join me and find out?

Useful Links:

The Harrowing Void
I Am Cut
Episode 7 – Self-Harm

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Become a Patron - Depression, the EmptinessDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

A Tweet, A Trigger and A Minefield

*This post contains images of self-harm, which may trigger people.*

A Trigger

Triggers are something that I hear a lot about, both on and off the internet.  Therapists will ask if we know what triggers our depression or anxiety, we will then be told to look at identifying our triggers so we can look at coping with them.  Is this sounding familiar?  Theoretically, if you can identify a trigger, you can start employing your coping mechanisms to ensure that you get through whatever situation it is that might set you off.

Recently on Twitter, I advertised our Understanding Self-Harm page to promote awareness for self-harm.  It contained the image below:

Understanding Self-Harm scars.

What do you think?  Do you think the image is particularly triggering?  Or is it more that the image is a bit shocking and uncomfortable to look at?  Here are some of the responses I’ve had to it:


Do you agree with these?  What do you think?

Talking Triggers

First off, I feel I need to say that I do believe in mental health triggers.  Honestly, I do.  There are things I know that can set me off on a depressive spiral or a panic attack, no matter what I try to do.  Admittedly, I’m not very good at identifying those triggers, nor am I particularly good at avoiding them or dealing with them, but I know they are there.

My question, however, is this: at what point do triggers hamper mental health progress?

One thing that society teaches us on a regular basis is to keep our mental health struggles hidden.  Have depression?  Smile.  Have anxiety?  Breathe.  We are taught, very much like Elsa in Frozen (yes, I have a 3-year-old who loves Frozen) to keep it in: don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be.  If we avoid talking about subjects containing potential triggers or avoid using images like the one above because they “may trigger someone”, how are we doing ourselves any good?  I’ve been told the image above has shocked people into reading the content because they find it disturbing enough that they want to know more.  Would you not say that’s a good thing?

It’s raised awareness for self-harm.  It’s raised mental health awareness.  Someone else has walked away with an understanding of a struggle that plagues a lot of us.

I’d say that’s a good thing.

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My Experiences

Two comments – one of which has since been removed because the user decided to block me – went along these lines:

I feel, at this point, I need to direct people to reading my journey, particularly posts like Pills and Blades, that discuss my own personal struggle with self-harm.  I have loads of scars covering my legs, even now after I’ve been “clean” for a few months.  It’s something that I’ve battled with relentlessly.  Below are just a couple of instances of when that happened.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sharing these lightly.  I’ve made sure that my scars are hidden so that people won’t see them and start judging me or commenting, etc.  Sharing them with you all is something I’m doing to continue raising that awareness and take the first step in my stand.

I believe that this subject needs to be talked about.  I believe people need to see these images so that they might understand just how serious mental health is.  Outside, in public, we put on smiles, we fake feeling as though we’re part of the community and we try and appear normal.  Behind closed doors, however, we end up turning to coping mechanisms like the one in the pictures above.  It’s something that’s not talked about, something that we avoid showing others, but we do it.

And people need to realise this.

People need to see the damage we do.

Shying away from it is not going to work anymore.

We need to be more vocal about this!

A Minefield

Realistically, what can I do regarding the images that will potentially trigger others?  It’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place.  On one hand you have the people who need to see the image, who need to be shocked into reading and become aware.  On the other hand, you have all those who would claim to be triggered by the image (whether that’s genuinely triggered or, as so many people will do, jumping on the bandwagon to have a moan).  In the middle, you have me and the people like me who are all trying to raise the awareness.

As far as triggers go, though, it’s a minefield.  Everyone is different, everyone has different triggers.  Asking anyone to find something that won’t trigger anybody is virtually impossible.  So why should we hide what we feel, why should we avoid any potentially triggering images when there is no image that exists that might not trigger someone?

We need to stand up.  We need to take ownership.  This is real, this is happening.  People struggle with this on a daily basis.  To make a change, we need to shock people and we need to make them uncomfortable, because people will never change if they are comfortable.

Ultimately, I’m not going to apologise for these images.  People need to see this.  Realistically, the minefield is such that I won’t be able to find images that won’t offend someone, somewhere, so I will use the images I feel best fit what I’m trying to accomplish.  What I will say is that understanding of self-harm needs to be raised.  We need to do this.  We need to take that stand.  So stand with me.  Help me fight this stigma.

I hope you understand.

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I Am Cut

*This post come with potential trigger warnings.*

Cut

I wanted to tell you a little bit about what self-harming is like.  To do that, I wanted to write about when it’s happened to me.  What happens when I pick up that blade, what happens when I get the urge.  So, I’ve gone onto my old blog and pulled a post that I wrote not long after it had happened. Here we go…

Blood and a Blade

There’s blood.  So much blood.  It’s fairly late on Sunday evening and I’m sitting in the bathroom looking at the crimson liquid running down my leg.  Amazing what a razor blade can do to the fragile body I’m trapped in.  Only three cuts but there is quite a bit of blood.  Strangely it doesn’t bother me though.  Is that a bad thing?

How did I get here?  Right now my mind is whirling trying to remember as I write this for you.  My day wasn’t a bad day, if anything it was a fairly decent day.  By decent, I mean nothing too bad happened.  Does that make a difference?  For reasons that I still don’t know, however, my mood dropped like a stone.  Overwhelming, it swept me up and washed me away in a torrent of despair and crushing darkness and a single thought pounded over and over in my head: you’re not worth anything.  Just get it over with.  End it.  Finish it.

In that moment, as overwhelmed as I was, I felt as if I had two choices: either end it once and for all or take it out on myself.  I’m not worth it so why should I care?  Ending it all wasn’t an option, as there are reasons for me to live, so in my state at that point I only had one option, one way out of the crushing darkness and back into some state of decent emotional level: self-harm.

Slowly I pick up the blade.  Almost absently, as though I’m not really telling myself what to do, I put the blade to my skin and slowly, ever so slowly, I drag it.  Blood wells up immediately, as though the thoughts and the darkness is being carried out of me in that crimson stream.  Quickly, without thinking, I add another.  And another.

Hand shaking slightly, I put the blade down. Three cuts was all it took to shake me out of those thoughts.  Numb, I watched the blood for a moment, feeling my chest loosen, my heart stop thumping as hard as it had been and my mind to slowly quieten.  Then, as I watch the blood trickle across my knee, the realisation of what I’ve done suddenly sinks in.

Horrified, I drop the blade, which hits the floor with a clatter.  Grabbing some toilet paper, I press it against the wounds and sit there, shaking. One thing I’d always said is that I’d never get to this stage and suddenly I’m there, swept up like a bit of driftwood in a current.  In my shamed and slightly panicked state I nearly pick the blade up again to release those thoughts but instead I push myself up and hobble to the living room. Barely able to make myself work properly, I grab my phone and punch in the first name I can think of,  It rings…and rings…and rings…and suddenly my friend is there asking if I’m alright.  For a long moment words failed me.  At least it seemed like a long moment to me.  I remember uttering the words “I’ve done something stupid” and then, like a dam bursting, the words come tumbling out.

I have no idea how long I sat there, shaking on the living room floor, talking to my friend.  All the while she tells me it’s ok, it will be ok and all the while I want to scream that it isn’t ok.  But I can’t.  All I can do is repeat that I don’t know what I’ve done.  I answer questions, I comply with instructions as she talks me through stopping the bleeding but over and over in my mind is the thought “what have I done…?”  I can’t explain it properly because I don’t understand it.  I just know it’s happened.

Wednesday evening it happened again, once more for no discernible reason.  At last count, I have sixteen cuts on my leg.  Sixteen reminders that I failed to stop myself.  Sixteen reminders that I fought myself and lost.  Sixteen symbols that I feel worthless.  Some would say it’s a cry for help, which maybe it is.  Others would say it’s an attempt to get attention…but I don’t want that.  I want to stop but deep down I know it helped.  Even if it was only temporary, it stopped everything.  I think, like stubbing one’s toe on a door would temporarily let you forget about a headache you have, this allowed me to temporarily subdue the thoughts in my head.  It shouldn’t have helped…but it did.

And I hate myself for it…because I said I never would…

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When the Scars Fade

*Potential Trigger Warning: in this post we talk about self-harm scars, so be advised there might be a potential trigger in this post.*

Scars

Wanna know how I got these scars?  Who am I kidding, you already know how I got them.  What matters to me right now, though, is that they’re here.  That’s what I want to talk to you about.  My scars.

It's hard to hide your story when it's written all over your body.Scars can be both physical or emotional.  We all know what physical scars look like.  I have two near the bottom of my stomach from where I had hernias as a baby.  Other people have other scars, it’s just part of the fragility of our bodies.  Traumatic events can leave memories, anxieties and fears on your mind that can be thought of like scars.  Again, just part of our fragility.

As you might expect, I now have plenty of marks and half-healed wounds from my struggle.  In Pills and Blades, I told you about my self-harming journey.  My depression, as with a number of other people, has manifested itself in this way.  It’s a way of giving me several types of release but it also leaves behind a physical mark, almost like a badge of my struggle.  You can check out more about self-harm in our series About Self-Harm.  For now, though, let’s focus on those scars.

A Comfort and An Antagonist

It’s odd, isn’t it, how you can think of those physical marks as both comforting yet antagonistic at the same time.  It’s something that might not make sense to a lot of people.  You cut yourself, the cut starts to heal, the cut then starts to leave a mark…and you take comfort in that.  Why?  It’s not a good thing, really.  Self-destruction is never perceived as good.  So where is the comfort?

In Pills and Blades I list three reasons why I self-harm:

  1. Self-hatred
  2. A way of feeling
  3. A distraction technique

In a nutshell, that’s what it comes down to.  So if it’s a reminder of my self-hatred, if it’s a way of feeling and a distraction technique, why would I be finding comfort from it?

My scars are fading and I feel lost without them.

The simple truth, as I mention later on in our series About Self-Harm, is that they provide me with some form of evidence that I’m struggling.  Call it a badge of achievement, in perhaps a rather twisted sense of the concept.  It’s a marker that tells me my struggle is real, that it’s not all imagined in my head and that I genuinely have a problem.  For that reason, they are a comfort for me.

At the same time they are antagonistic.  They are a reminder of the battles that I’ve lost with my head.  Scars like these carry with them guilt and shame as well.  You cover them up so people won’t see, so the stigma won’t be attached to you.  If you talk about them, it’s only with a few people, people you trust.  You see…sometimes the scars are our biggest enemy as well as our best friend.

Especially when they fade…

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When They Fade

In my mind, there is nothing worse than when the scars start to fade.  Those physical reminders that your struggle is real, those comforting marks of evidence are beginning to disappear.  Suddenly the struggle is back inside your head with no outward sign that things are not OK.  You find you have to begin convincing yourself all over again that your struggle is real.

The scars start to fade and the urge to bring them back becomes stronger and stronger.

When my scars start to fade, my urge to bring them back starts to grow.  It’s a vicious cycle of cut, scar, scars fade, miss them so cut again.  You’re trapped in that never-ending circle, unable to get yourself out.  You look down at your scars and find the overwhelming urge to reopen every single one of them, to watch the blood run down your arm, leg, stomach or wherever you cut.

Then comes the guilt.

Guilt

The guilt is the hardest part.  You’re getting there, your medication is working.  The fact that your scars are fading suggests that you haven’t cut in a while.  Surely that means you’re doing well, right?  So why would you want to reopen them?  Won’t that put you back several steps?

Sadly, it will.  Everyone is happy that you’re making progress, everyone is pleased that you’re not cutting at the moment and so the guilt overwhelms you.  As you pick that blade up again, you feel that colossal weight of shame but at the same time you feel the release as you renew those scars on your skin.  Silver turns white to red and you feel as though you have your evidence again.

For a moment you’re at peace.

Then it starts all over again.

Just because the scars started to fade…

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About Self-Harm – the Question

What Have You Learnt About Self-Harm? [Discussion]

The past six weeks have given us an opportunity to look into that uncomfortable topic of self-harm.

If you’ve not had a chance to read the series, do take a look as Alex cracks the topic of self-harm wide open, providing insights into why people do it and what effect it has.  He also discusses different ways to support them through it.

Today, I’m interested in hearing your stories.  Do you know someone who self-harms?  Are you someone who self-harms?  If so, what do you/they get out of it, how does it affect them?

Have you self-harmed previously, if so have you stopped?  What sort of things have helped you stop?  Did you go back?

So let’s get talking.  What sort of challenges do you face with self-harm and what has helped you or made it worse?  Let’s hear about it!

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About Self-Harm – Part 6 – Alternatives

Welcome to part 6 of our series about self-harm.  In last week’s post, we looked at control.  Today, we’re going to look at alternatives to self-harming.  Perhaps you can use these for friends or family members going through self-harming.  *Be advised, this post may contain potential triggers.*

What alternatives are there?

Many alternatives exist for self-harming.  Whether these will work or not depends on the person, as some work better for others and some don’t work at all.  Here are some of the techniques though.

  • Rub an ice cube on your skin instead of cutting it.  I’ve not yet tried this one, though the mental health nurse I see recommended gripping ice.  It produces the burn feeling that can inflict the pain without the damage.
  • Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it gently against your skin.  This one seems more for anxiety than depression but it has been known to work.
  • Draw on the skin with a soft-tipped red pen in the place you might usually cut.  The idea is it gives you the visual of the red lines on your skin, almost as if you had cut it.
  • Go for a walk or run, ride a bike, dance like crazy or get some exercise. Exercise stimulates the brain to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural antidepressants.  Doctors recommend exercise as a natural treatment for depression.
  • Rip up some paper. Tearing something other than your skin could prove effective.
  • Write out your hurt, anger or pain using a pen and paper.  Getting your thoughts out of your head can be extremely beneficial.  It’s another form of releasing them and does less damage than cutting.
  • Scribble on paper using a red pen.  It combines the last two techniques.
  • Skip the cutting and go straight to bandaging.  It might trick your brain into thinking you’ve cut and removing the bandage should buy you enough time to delay the thought and shake it off.
No “one size fits all”  

These are a few of the techniques you could try as alternatives to self-harming. They might work for you or the person you’re trying to support but please bear in mind that they might not.  There is, unfortunately, no “one size fits all” approach.  With people being so unique, mental health conditions are also so diverse.  No singular treatment will work.

For me, I’ve tried the elastic band for my anxiety and it’s helped somewhat.  As for the others, writing is usually quite effective for me (as you might have gathered by my blogging about it).  It gets the thoughts out of my head for a while, which helps lessen the desire to self-harm.

They are only alternatives

I should stress at this point that these are only alternatives to self-harming, they are not cures.  They are a variety of techniques that may or may not have an effect.  Speaking from my own experience, there are days when I can use all the alternatives I like but they simply don’t give me that same experience that the actual self-harm does.  Sometimes it’s almost necessary for me to self-harm, as nothing else seems to work.  So please be aware when encouraging someone to switch to an alternative that it may not work all the time, even if it’s successful on occasion.

Next Week

Next week brings this series to a close, so please come back to hear my final thoughts on self-harming.  Also check out my journey, if you haven’t already!

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The Harrowing Void

The Void

I woke up like this.  I can’t even begin to explain it but I know that I definitely woke up like this.  And I feel the need to tell you about it.  I need to tell you about it because not many people are aware that this is how depression can affect people.  So this is an ad-hoc post, not one that’s been pre-written, pre-planned and neatly scheduled in as business per usual. No, this is the account of the harrowing void, the tale that is buried in me, burning in me today.

As I said: I woke up like this.  I don’t know why because I slept reasonably well for me.  Even my insomnia couldn’t keep me awake for long.  More than that, I dreamt for the first time in what feels like forever.  A bizarre, convoluted and completely random dream with a mix of random people, admittedly, but a dream nonetheless.  So it wasn’t sleep that precipitated this.  So what did?  Moreover, what even is this that I refer to?

It’s the void.

How am I feeling today?  The answer: empty.  There is nothing inside.  No emotions, no thoughts, no feelings, just nothingness.  A harrowing void that is sucking everything out of me.  Enthusiasm, motivation, emotion, energy, excitement, everything…gone.  Wiped out.  Almost as though someone has detonated some black hole inside my head.  But it’s more than that.  Much more than that.

I’m empty inside.

Not just my head.  No, my mind is empty but it’s more.  I feel as though there’s a cavity in my chest.  Not the usual chest cavity, as you don’t tend to notice that, but an emptiness almost like a hole in my heart.  I know there should be feelings or emotions there but there are none.  No joy or sorrow, no fear or anxiety, absolutely nothing.

I’m empty.

Driven Impulses

Occasional small thoughts skim the surface of my mind as I sit here, numb and empty.  For the most part, they are trying to figure out why I’m like this, although as of yet that’s proving to be a futile attempt.  Some of the thoughts skittering across the void are driving me towards self-harm. Somehow, they reason, that will make things better.

I know it won’t.

But they tell me it will.

I know that harming myself will hurt both me and others in the process. People will be sad that I’ve turned back to that once more but where I am at the moment, that seems like the only surefire release for the emptiness. After all, pain is a guaranteed way of feeling something, is it not?  Yes, I’ll feel guilt afterwards, the lingering pain of the cuts and the shame of having fallen again, but it would still guarantee I feel.  More than that, it might even snap me out of this numb funk that I’m in.

A part of me wants to give in.  I’ve still got scars and they bring me that comfort of knowing my mental illness is real but that’s not why I’d want to do it this time.  No, there is a much more harrowing reason of why I’d want to give into those nagging thoughts this time.

Even the guilt and shame I’d feel afterwards would be better than the void.

That’s right, even those negative feelings would be better than feeling nothing.

A Harrowing Void

Do you see why it’s harrowing?  Do you see why some people will turn to physical harm in order to shake the feeling?  It’s clawing at me, eating me alive from the inside out.  Nothing I can think of seems good enough to save me from this.  Computer games, films, TV programmes, simply lying in bed (which I’ve already done plenty of this morning – thanks to lethargy!) and playing music, none of these seem like they are going to lift me.  Even seeing some of my favourite people don’t seem to be making me feel anything.  The only possibility seems to be the blade.  The blade.

I am empty.

I am a shell.

The void is eating me alive.

And I can’t shake it.

I can’t shake it.

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About Self-Harm – Part 5 – Control

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.*

ControlIt's hard to hide your story when it's written all over your body...

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?

Not quite.

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.

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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.

Next Week

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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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

About Self-Harm – Part 4 – How To Help

Welcome to part 4 of our series about self-harm.  Last week I debunked the attention-seeking myth by explaining how people could do it for attention but the majority don’t.  Today we’re going to look at how you can help someone who self-harms.  *Be advised, this post may contain potential triggers.*

How to Help

I’m sure this is the question that is in your thoughts, especially if you know someone who self-harms.  How can you help them?  What can you do? Well, I have a few facts for you but also a few suggestions as to how you can truly help them. Stick with me, as I think you’ll be quite surprised with some of the things I suggest.

So what can we do?  Well there are a few simple things that anyone can do to support someone.  Here they are:

  • Be supportive: it goes without saying but if they know you are supportive of them, they will take far more comfort from that than if you berate them for doing it.
  • Try to be understanding: this links in directly with the last one; try and understand what they are going through and why they do it.  This is a good opportunity for you to put some of the things we talked about in our Talking Things Through series into play!
  • Don’t express extreme worry: this is a difficult one as they are hurting themselves and that is concerning but please try not to express worry.  If anything, it’ll make them feel worse for something that could be completely out of their control.  Again, a good opportunity for using things from out Talking Things Through post about sensitivity and mindfulness.

If you follow these steps, you’re well on your way to establishing yourself as someone they can turn to when they’re in trouble.  If my journey is anything to go by, establishing yourself in such a way is a good way of setting yourself up as an alternative to self-harming.  I’ve turned to one of my most understanding friends far more times than I can count when I’ve known I’m starting down that road again. More often than not, she’s helped me through it.

What do you need to know?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you need to bear in mind when dealing with someone who self-harms but there are a couple of things that Cheryl and I discussed that we thought would be useful for you to remember.  Here they are:

  • It’s not your fault: if you try and support them and stop them doing it and they do it anyway, don’t think you’ve failed.  If they want to do it, they will do it, regardless of how good you are at helping.  I’ve been there. I’ve had some of the best help ever and I’ve still gone and done it anyway. It depends on where they’re at in their own journey at that point.
  • Be non-judgemental: expressing disappointment or having a go at them will be the quickest way to drive them straight back to the blade.  Being non-judgemental and calm is the best approach you can possibly take.
  • Remember: you’re not an expert: this is more for those of you with no experience of it.  Find out why they do it, find out what helps them avoid it and go from there.  Build that rapport so you can support them better.  If they feel like they’re being taken seriously, they will open up and trust you with it.

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What not to do

Regarding self-harm, aside from those couple of points I’ve mentioned about not having a go, not being judgemental, etc, there is only really one thing that I need to mention.  This is the one that might surprise you.

Do not remove all sharp objects from accessibility.

That’s right, don’t remove them.  

I can almost hear you asking why, so let me explain. Doubtless you’re doing it with the best will in the world.  After all, removing sharp objects can remove temptation, which should lessen the act.  Despite that thought, it’ll actually cause more harm than help.  By removing the sharp objects, not only are you removing their ability to self-harm, you are removing their control over it and possibly removing some of the safety aspect too.

Control

I shall explain control in more detail next week, as I feel it is too long to go into in this post, but suffice it to say that sometimes knowing that the blade or other instrument is there can greatly increase the control against not doing it.  As I said, though, more on that next week!

Removing Sharp Objects

Removing sharp objects doesn’t sound like it would go against safety aspects but let me give you an example.  Someone I know removed all the sharp objects from the house so her husband couldn’t self-harm.  Without any blades or anything to turn to, he went somewhat out of control and smashed a glass instead and used that.

Think about it, which is better: a surgical razor blade that makes a clean cut or a shard of glass that leaves a jagged cut with the potential for getting glass in the wound?

You may be trying to help and we all understand and appreciate that.  We really do. However, please do not remove the sharp objects from the house.  It can have disastrous and dangerous consequences. As difficult as it is, let them keep at least one blade around. If they use it, they use it.  If they’re determined enough to self-harm, they will find a way no matter what steps you put into place.

I hope this gives you some insight into what you can do to help them.

Next Week

As I mentioned earlier, next week we will be looking at control.  It may sound like an odd thing, thinking of self-harm as control, but all shall be made clear next week.  In the meantime, check out our Talking Things Through series if you haven’t already or go Inside My Head to see a little more about my journey.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.