Even though I had never done it before, I felt certain that self-harm i.e. cutting would ease the pain. Still there was a part of my mind that said, “No, don’t do this.” So I went to the Internet to research. I found a forum for people that struggle with self-harm (there are various forms of it).
There was a post titled, “If you are thinking about cutting, but haven’t started: please read”, or something to that effect. The writer made a very compelling argument, about why not to do it. The one that weighed most heavily on my mind was “it’s very addictive”. Once you start it is very hard to stop. That was sobering.
The post also said that if you do it, you end up wearing long sleeve shirts all year round to hide the scars, and sometimes you cut to deep (on accident) and have to go to the ER. She said the ER doctors and nurses are NOT kind to people who self-harm. They are disgusted by it and make no attempt to hide their disgust, which increases your shame. To be honest, I would have cut as deeply as possible as a way of crying out, “I’m hurting and please help!” And to think that cry might have been met with disgust saddens me.
SIDEBAR: This is not a reflection on all doctors. I have had two fabulous primary care doctors (one is my current doctor), and they have always been amazingly kind, gentle and supportive to me. One of my favorite bloggers is an ER doctor and I trust he would be kind as well.
The website also offered suggestions for people trying to stop the addiction of self-harm. I found them very helpful.
Holding Ice…I didn’t actually use this one, but I share it here because it might help someone else. I asked my therapist, how could holding ice be helpful since ice is not always available? He said it can be hard sometimes to be in the kitchen so close to the knives (too much temptation), and holding ice is painful so it helps. Since my memories have come closer to the surface, I find the kitchen absolutely intolerable. I don’t cook anymore, but if that would help you. . .
Rubber bands…I used rubber band popping for a while. I would wear a nice thick rubber band on my wrist. Then, in true addiction fashion, I started wearing two rubber bands because what if one broke? I couldn't be without one.
Red marker. . .I thought this one was odd when I first read about it. I asked my therapist, how would drawing on yourself with a marker help? He explained people generally use red and that red line appearing on your arm simulates blood. That still seemed strange to me until I tried it. Wow, it was powerful. I did it a lot. I found that red sharpie made the most realistic looking red color. I hope I am not making you too uncomfortable by sharing this, just remember Chuck Noland and his toothache. When the pain is great, you do whatever it takes to relieve it. Whatever it takes. . .
Using the marker was soothing in a way I simply cannot explain or describe. It didn’t completely relieve the urge to cut, but it helped make it more manageable. So much so in fact, that writing about it makes me want to do it. Too bad it is short sleeve season as I write this. I need to finish this post… Where’s my red marker? (So not kidding)
Finally, I share all this so that those of you that struggle with the same things will know that you are not alone. I hope that you will talk to someone. Therapy helps. It may seem to make things harder at first (believe me I know!), but if you stick with it, it helps. A good friend of mine shared this quote with me, “When nothing changes, nothing changes.”
P.S. I need to add here: I am doing a lot better these days. I rarely have urges to self-harm any more, I have learned more healthy coping strategies. I realized after I wrote this (which was actually about two weeks ago) that the reason I was thinking about self-harm again, both in wanting to write these posts, and wanting to go buy a new red sharpie...was because of a memory that I am dealing with. I'm working on the memory now in therapy, it is a many-session-memory. And that has resolved the self-harm urges again. So please don't worry! The fact that I am able to talk about this means I am doing better.
Photo attribution: http://mycornerthroughmylens.blogspot.com/ The picture in this post was used by permission from my friend, Cathy. Her blog is wonderful. Beautiful words and pictures. I hope you will pay her a visit.