Self harm is the topic of this video; though not graphically as to avoid triggering.
Self harm is the topic of this video; though not graphically as to avoid triggering.
The “want” to stop cutting that walked me into my therapist’s office was gone. I no longer had the conviction needed to help me win this fight to stop cutting, so I just stop caring. I started cutting again after months of not when I got deeply depressed a couple months ago. After I slid into old maladaptive habits, I felt hopeless that I could ever really change. What was the point? And that’s the thing, to stop cutting, the person has to want to stop. My last therapy session helped bring me back and I want to share the change that took place.
I explained to my therapist how I was struggling to feel emotions. I was once such an empathic person and now, even in the direct presence of someone’s intense pain, I felt nothing. Times when I was aware I should be feeling something, there was nothing. Completely numb, not even a hint of anything. Even cutting did not give me the same relief it once did. Not all the time, but it was becoming more frequent and it was bothering me because although I do not like feeling stressed or depressed, I missed feeling passion and zest. My therapist said:
“If you numb yourself out to pain, you also numb yourself out to passion. It is no coincidence that since you have started cutting again and with more frequency that you are starting to feel numb. If you keep cutting, you can expect to feel less and less”.
I cried because I started to see the desire I had lost. I wanted to feel. I think I could not keep it going before because my reasons for quitting were dependent on external factors. This time, I was quitting for me. As much as I do not enjoy feeling certain things, I want to enjoy life and feel passion for it. I want to feel and I want to stop self harm.
I cried in therapy today discussing how I wished I didn’t still get the urge to cut. I wanted it to be a distant part of my past, like the days when my OCD was at its worst. He asked if my OCD was gone and I said it was mostly, but not entirely. He told me:
“It will always be a part of you.”
I feel like for the first time I can accept who I am now, but my history of OCD and self harm and all that…that’s a different story. I wish I could extract it from my life like it never happened. My therapist said
“How could you cut off a limb and not expect that to still affect you in some way?”
His point being that my past is not some attacker that I managed to destroy and walk away from, but rather its a set of experiences that lead me to who I am now, a person I am happy to be. And, wether I like it or not, the OCD is always going to be a part of me.
I have managed to employ strategies that are very helpful in keeping me from cutting. One thing I do is write a word (“Strength”) on my arm. It helps me to feel like I’m marking my body in some way and the word is a mantra for me when I start to feel wilted. I am so glad I have been doing so well not cutting, but I am upset the urge keeps bugging me. My therapist addressed this too, saying how practicing self harm for so many years, how could I expect everything to change overnight and isn’t the self anger what provoked my self harm anyways?
I am continuing to practice abstaining from harming myself and this week, the new thing I am working at is accepting my past as well as accepting that the urge to cut is going to be around for a while and me getting angry at myself for that is not going to help. One day at a time.
My therapist asked me why I cut myself. What did I get out of it? I came up with 4 reasons.
My therapist told me that the first one I listed, self punishment, was the odd one on my list. This was so because I could find healthy alternatives to achieve 2, 3 and 4, but not 1.
“If you had a daughter would you slash her legs, throw her in a closet and tell her to shut-up?”
O my god!! Of course I wouldn’t! He then asked why I felt ok doing that to myself.
I tried to look back to my past and think of what started it all, this idea that I needed to punish myself. I felt so bad for all my shameful obsessions. My brain tried to find a reason why the thought looped. I hated my brain. I hated myself. Part of me felt I must have done something to deserve OCD. I felt broken and so full of hate, that I wanted to hurt myself.
I haven’t cut myself in over a month and a half, so what sparked this conversation in therapy today was my fear about the future and what if I start cutting again. I’m terrified of that. I explained how I felt like I had been doing ok because there hasn’t been too much I couldn’t handle in my life lately. He pointed out that perhaps I was attracting less drama because I was showing myself more love. This actually made a lot of sense to me. I have not cut because I have started to love myself and I am showing myself more love because I am not cutting. I believe that I cannot have a healthy lifestyle with successful relationships and a career while practicing self harm, at least I could not find a way to have both in the past.
I wore shorts in public today for the first time in a year. I have been wanting to do that for so long. It’s this type of thing that reminds me that things are improving. I am learning to show myself compassion.
I am still afraid of the future, but each time I get the urge to cut and decide not to, it gets easier and easier. I am incorporating things I have learned in therapy to cope with these situations in ways that are not self-destructive. I am happier than I have been in a long time.
It is not easy, nor is it free.
I do not believe there is a finish line one crosses to move from being an unhealthy person to a healthy one. It is a never stagnate scale in which our daily choices bring us closer to one side or the other. For much of my life, I felt like to get rid of my OCD and things about myself I didn’t like, I needed to punish myself and dismantle my emotions. I hid from the world because I didn’t believe I could handle it, but all the while, there was a spark in me that kept me fighting. I will never stop trying to move toward a place of good health. I believe to do this, I must honor myself, instead of punishing myself. Expressing my emotions, especially the unpleasant ones, takes some practice, but it’s getting much easier. Some days are not as easy, and I have learned that this is normal and to be expected. I do not like these days, but I feel like they are getting less common and I am indeed reminded that most days I am very lucky.
Besides battling OCD, stopping myself from self harm is the hardest thing I have experienced. Some nights, I simple cannot trust any thought that comes into my head and I am reminded of how OCD robbed my intuition from me. Therapy has taught me to recognize the cognitive distortions when they arise which has helped me tremendously, and just like I fought OCD, I will continue to fight the urge to hurt myself. I feel like my intuition is healing.
My chiropractor today asked me what motivates me to getup in the morning. I had no desire to have a real conversation with him about it, so I said “work”. I thought it was a funny answer. Throughout the day I thought about this question and I think it’s actually a good one to ask yourself.
That spark that keeps me fighting is more real to me now than ever and as the denial fades, so does the confusion. I am following my heart and thus honoring my spirit. I feel that although it will take time to work through my self-destructive habits, I have to focus on the the light which guides me ahead. Long term goals highly motivate me to treat myself with compassion. I want to go back to school to pursue naturopathic medicine, I want to travel, I want to nurture my relationships, and I want to surpass my supposed limitations. Additionally, short term goals, like daily decisions move me in the direction of good health.
One day at a time.
I have never considered myself to have an “addictive personality”; whatever that means. For most of my life, I could take or leave alcohol, cigarettes and food, but more recently things have looked very different to me. I wasn’t using the classic poisons to escape my emotions, but rather self-destructive habits like starving, cutting or casual sex to get out of my conscious. I have also noticed that when I drink alcohol, a story of regret usually follows. I do not know if this means I would be better off avoiding my vices or just dealing with it for the time being. After all, cutting out alcohol, sugar, sex, smoking weed and self-harm sound like a lot. Logically, I know that I need healthy ways to cope with my emotions, but I feel addicted to my tendencies and am intimidated by the work ahead of me. I anticipate being alone for quite a while.
One step at a time I guess.
I have always felt the need to punish myself. Even as a child in a non-practising religious family, I felt compelled to confess my sins. Not knowing what I actually wanted was reassurance for my shamefully obsessive thoughts, I wanted justice and forgiveness for thinking the worst things ever to be thought.
It started out with food. I would deny myself. I would use the ache of hunger to take my mind out of the mental loops. Even if I knew I had not done anything terrible, I still wanted to make things “right’. I felt guilty all the time, even hearing a story on the news about something a thousand miles away. I started piercing, over and over again. Letting the piercing site heal and then doing it again. I started to enjoy the pain.
Then I cut myself. Drunk, on the floor with a blunt kitchen knife on my wrists. I had no intention of suicide, it was just a place. I wanted the scar. I couldn’t stop and then my legs looked a mess.
I wear pants almost all the time now as I wait for the scars to heal; the scars I wanted as a way of proving that I had atoned. It was not until something clicked with the help of a councilor that I realized that pain did not mean healing. It blew my mind. Pain did not mean healing and it was then that I did not want my scars anymore. For the first time, I felt that I had hurt myself and that it was wrong. I felt bad that way I would feel if someone else had hurt me.
I cant even fathom cutting myself again, until those days when I am depressed; then I feel the desire come back a little, but not even close to enough to go through with it. I can’t accept that anymore. It’s almost like I am two people at times.
I am now learning to respect myself and it is so challenging in some ways. I just want to be normal.