Today is self harm awareness day.
I haven’t always been open about my personal and current struggles with self-harm; I hate that it is such a taboo subject and people are afraid of seeking help and support for their struggles.
I happen to find the subject difficult to talk about because unless you have an understanding of it, people will be very unlikely to understand your reasons for doing it. I find that most Parents will be angry with their Children when they first discover signs of self harm, but when they’ve learned about it some more they certainly do become more understanding and patient.
You have to remember it from both sides, though. Whilst we use self harming as a coping mechanism, our loved ones feel helpless and distressed about the problem as there’s nothing they can really do in order to make it better.
There’s so much stigma attached to self harming, people just make assumptions that you’re mental or crazy. People never understand unless they’ve experienced it for themselves or have educated themselves on the issue. IE – Therapists, support workers, GP’s (and more professionals)
Before I began struggling with self harm, I didn’t quite understand why people did it but I never viewed it as a form of attention seeking. I just couldn’t figure out why people would hurt themselves in order to feel better – but since struggling with it myself, I’ve now become aware of the reasons why myself, and other people, self harm. Prior to many people’s beliefs, I’d like to add that anybody can struggle with self harming. Whether you’re male, female, old or young. Many people associate self harming with Gothic people and it’s just another stereotype that’s been made.
Many people fail to recognise that self-harm isn’t a form of attention seeking, it’s a coping mechanism. I use self harm regularly in order to cope with the illnesses I am plagued with, alongside the thoughts and voices I have and I know quite a few people who have/are struggling with the same. When people self harm, they do not do it as a way of hurting those around them. It isn’t like that, though it can definitely be frustrating for loved ones to witness.
Also, there are quite a few methods of self harm people use – it isn’t always a matter of running a blade down your arm. People will do whatever they can to hurt themselves in the spur of the moment whilst feeling low because it’ll help to relieve the mental pain and torture.
My lovely support worker reassured me that this is my coping mechanism for now, but this doesn’t mean it’ll always be this way. Over time, with the correct support, I’ll learn better coping mechanisms and will learn that I don’t deserve to hurt myself anymore. But when you start self harming, you can’t just stop immediately or if somebody tells you to do so. It takes time and practice.
There are positive coping mechanisms and negative, though it doesn’t make you a bad person if you use ‘unhealthier’ means of coping, you’re struggling and you’re entitled to help and support just like everybody else.
I totally understand that everybody will react differently to different coping mechanisms and what works for others may not work as well for somebody else. But this is okay. A huge part of learning new coping mechanisms is learning what works best for you personally.
- Spending time with animals. Whether they are your own pets, your friends pets or perhaps you could become involved with voluntary work. Animals are incredible and are very theraputic, they also bring out the compassionate, caring and loving sides in us as people.
- Spending time with friends or family. Our friends and family love us unconditionally and will go to lengths in order to ensure we’re happy, especially whilst we’re going through a dark patch. You could arrange a day out together, or even begin planning a holiday. Do something you enjoy and something that will assist in switching your mind off from the negativity.
- Doing something artistic. Art is amazing and allows us to express ourselves, also art therapy is very popular nowadays. Colouring, drawing, painting, knitting and craft work (such as making bracelets) are all useful and are good at distracting.
- Exercising. But only if you’re allowed to (Ie – not if you’re underweight) Exercise releases endorphins which are a ‘feel good’ chemical. So aswell as keeping you fit and healthy, exercise can also improve your mood majorly. You don’t have to be an Olympic Athelite to enjoy exercise, expecially as so much is available. Including: running, walking, climbing, dancing, swimming, badminton, tennis, trampolining, yoga and so on.
- Listening to music. I find that listening to music helps me to feel good sometimes, depending on the day. I enjoy finding new music to listen to, catchy music which is easy to sing along to. I wouldn’t recommend listening to sad songs whilst you’re feeling low, as they will only make you feel worse. Putting Disney soundtracks on full blast is one of my personal favourites! Gotta love Disney, right?!
- Watching something on tv. I really enjoy watching films, especially Disney films because they help me to focus on something and enable me to feel good and distracted. Documentaries are also amazing, I’ve recently found a new love for them (especially animal documentaries!) I know lots of people who enjoy relaxing whilst watching series on Netflix, it’s whatever works best for you.
- Self care. This is very important as it’s crucial that we take care of ourselves, this also allows us to feel good, energised and pampered. Self care can be anything you enjoy – ranging from painting your nails and applying a face mask, to going out shopping, taking a long bath or reading a good book. Sitting down, relaxing and unwinding is a necessity in life, especially if you’re not feeling the best.
- Playing a game. Games are awesome distractions which can be played alone, with friends or with family. Board games are a classic, as they encourage you to communicate and to work as a team. I really like trivial pursuit as I love building on my knowledge and learning new things; monopoly, frustration, card games, jigsaws, dominos, snakes and ladders are all fab too. Electronic games are a favourite of many people, including x-boxs, playstations, nintendo ds and wii. There are also a wide range of computer/laptop games on the market for you to buy – including The Sims which uses concentration which is a necessity when distracting yourself.
- Writing. Writing is a great distraction and coping strategy because it gives us the opportunity to focus on other things, as opposed to the things we may be going through. This can include keeping a thought diary, writing your own book or starting up your very own blog! This also allows us to express our thoughts and feelings in a form of written communication.
These are just a few, of many, coping strategies that can be used in order to prevent you from self harming. Though, I know it is easier said than done and colouring doesn’t always give us the same relief as hurting ourselves does.
I recommend trying new coping mechanisms and discovering which works best for you, personally. You never know how helpful they could be unless you give them a go!
Thankfully, there are lots of support services available to access for people struggling with self harm or thoughts of self harming.
Mind – The Mental Health Charity: http://www.mind.org.uk / 0300 123 3393 or you can also text 86463
The Samaritans: http://www.samaritans.org / 116 123 (UK) 116 123 (Republic of Ireland)
Self Harm UK: http://www.selfharm.co.uk / they have a search tool which allows you to find your nearest support when you’re in a crisis
You can also make an appointment with your GP or go to A&E for support.
A note to remember:
“I know you are hurting, but you are beautiful and you are worth so much more than harming yourself”