Self Harm, Self Injury and Cutting my story is a message of hope

Self Harm at my worst

When I was hospitalized the first time for suicidal ideation I discovered self harm. It was like finding water in the desert. If you self harm you probably know exactly what I mean. Life had always been a mess of hurt, confusion, fear and anger. I was not coping well, I was not coping at all. I thought I was going to go crazy and saw insanity as salvation, lock me up and throw away the key cause otherwise life is going to kill me. This is how I was when I found self harm and it gave me something that is hard to put into words and make others understand. Lets just say that it was a coping skill that might save my life and it was very important to me.

If you are someone who uses self injury to cope with anything and everything you may not believe there is hope for a life without cutting. You may not even want a life without self harm. I didn't, I loved my self harm and had no desire to stop. This did not make me popular with the mental health community! The harder they tried to stop me from harming myself the more committed I was to harming myself.

I think one of my lowest points was in a quiet room or isolation room, if you don't 'get' the quiet room concept (they are often not very quiet at all really). I had somehow managed to get my hands on a lego block and was so determined to self harm that I used its not very sharp corner to cut myself. I have used staples and paper clips to self harm as well as razors when I could get them. It has been ten years since I stopped my self harming and I still have faint scars, can sometimes just make out the one from the lego block.

It may sound to some that I am boasting or something. I do have a reason for speaking so candidly. I had people try to give me hope back in those dark days and it was hard to believe them. They weren't as bad as me, I was incurable. Even the doctors seemed to think I would never get better. How could anyone tell me things would get better when they never had it this bad? I expect some of the people who find this page will think these same thoughts and I want them to know that I like them was not just a bit sad, I was really suffering. If you are unable to believe it is possible to ever feel any different to how you do now you are not alone and it is understandable to feel this way. You cannot just snap your fingers and magically get better, there is hope and it is a long process. No one should expect you to get over it or heal or just stop your self harm coping instantly because that is not possible. You can heal and it takes time so don't be to hard on yourself if it isn't happening fast because it wont happen fast.

If you are a family member or a friend of someone who is suffering and using self harm to cope remember that healing takes time and impatience does more harm then good. If you want to help the best thing you can do is to try not to judge your friend or family member and instead focus on any positives you can. They may love animals, or art and poetry or sports and these things can be built into a strong coping method. Self harm is just one coping skill, many coping skills are need in life and over time enough can be developed and nurtured to allow for self harm to become unnecessary and unneeded. 

The thought process, use it to take control of your emotions

Has anyone ever said to you, they don't make you mad you choose to feel mad? Or some other nonsense like that? I was told that sort of thing lots of times and always thought it was a lot of BS. I guess maybe those people learned something intuitively that I did not, or they were just repeating it cause they thought it sounded good, I don't really know or care. I do understand what they were trying to tell me now and I would like to share it with you as if you can master this you can take control of your feelings and avoid a lot of hurt and anger.

So how do you control your emotions? You need to understand the process that leads to your emotions. When you understand the process you can implement changes that will lead to different emotions. We have probably all figured out that we cannot control the events in our lives, as they say shit happens. We cannot stop having emotional reactions to the events in our lives either but we can shape those reactions. When something happens there is a process that happens in an instant. There is the event that literally just happened and then there is a process that leads to our emotions that is easy to miss, to not realize has happened. This invisible step that is the one thing in our control is this, our thoughts. We experience some event and have a thought about it and this is what leads to our emotions, if we can change that thought we can change the emotion.

When I was in a therapy group to help me over come my self harm we had homework and I never did it, I found it very upsetting and avoided it most of the time. One of the therapists running the group told me off for not doing my homework. My first thought was 'he hates me because I can't do this homework, it's not fair'. Can you see how this thought could lead me to tears and anger? That is how I felt until I suddenly realized that the thought might not be true. I very quickly questioned that thought, did he hate me? Really? If he hates me would he really give a toss if I did the homework or not, would he even care if I turned up at all? It seemed doubtful, it seemed more likely that he did indeed care and wanted to see me succeed. Realizing this I could feel cared for and even loved instead of feeling hated and hurt.

This one skill alone can save you a lot of hurt and anger and so it is the one I wanted to share in this article the most. I do hope to write more articles about the triggers that lead to self harm and how to nurture and develop positive coping skills that can eventually replace the self harm coping skill but for this article I will leave it at this one skill. For now if you just try to focus on identifying the thoughts you have after an event that lead you to your emotions you will have a lot to work on! If you can find a good therapist that you trust and feel comfortable with I would highly advise that you ask them to help and support you in becoming mindful of those thoughts so that you can take control over your emotional responses.

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Comments 28 comments

Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

This is so powerful Kirsten, thumbs up...and so are you on both counts. I look forward to the next chapter.

ralwus 7 years ago

You now have good communication skills, listening is a part of that and I think maybe when you learned that you were able to heal. Johnny Depp also did this and has quite a few scars.

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 7 years ago from London UK Author

Green Lotus and ralwus, Thank you guys for reading this! I really hope that it will help someone so that they can find their way out of the darkness that is depression and self harm. Life can be such a wonderful adventure and its a shame when people miss out on the good stuff. If I can help even one person find a way toward a brighter experience of life then its all worth it. What better reason can be found for ones own personal pain in life then to turn it into a source of healing for others!

lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

I am very impressed that you are willing to share this part of your life, kirstenblog. What a boon this hub is for people still suffering. When I was in my 20's, I did not harm myself, but was in the throes of clinical depression, pure and simple. It's amazing to me that people like us can break through that loneliness and flourish!

karmicfilly profile image

karmicfilly 7 years ago from Franklin, TN

Interesting we both share the same name just spelled differently. Your blog was very well written and informative. My own daughter tried cutting but gratefully did not find the relief she was looking for. It is a very misunderstood coping tool and I am glad you are sharing your insights and that you are now on a better path. Many believe this is a form of control also, that it leads into anorexia. What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe you were trying to control anything? Thanks for enlightening myself and others.

brightforyou profile image

brightforyou 7 years ago from Florida

Honest, helpful, courageous sharing.

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 7 years ago from London UK Author

@ lorlie6 I too sometimes feel totally amazed at how far I have come out of my old depression. I sometimes think it was a different person that went through all that junk. Most of the people who know me these days just don't believe I was ever unhappy cause I am almost always smiling but the faded scars prove it really was me. My theory is this, our capacity for pain and suffering measures our capacity for joy and happiness, the further we can move down the depressed scale is exactly how far down the happiness scale we can move too. Thanks for the read and the comment!

beth811 profile image

beth811 7 years ago from Philippines

When you let your emotions rule, of course, you will be out of your mind. Slashing? Tried that once or twice when I was young... and even until now. Sorry, I'm so frank in here because this article is so interesting. That's what we call emotional instability. But if people around us especially our relatives and friends who will take time to listen (and judged not something else that make us go further to do what we like to do) and support us, then I think this will not happen.

Good hub! Thanks for sharing.

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 7 years ago from London UK Author

@ karmicfilly I am glad that your daughter did not develop the dependence on self harm that I did. My dad and I have talked about what it was like for him when I was at my worst and boy did it tear him up inside. I can only imagine just how painful it must have been for him and it is good that you do not have to endure that. What you say about self harm being linked to control is spot on. It is very common for a person who engages in self harm to feel that their life and emotions are out of control and to feel that they have something they do control is a very powerful coping skill. It is so powerful that a person can be very resistant to giving up self harm and if it becomes a power struggle with family or therapists that association with self harm and power becomes much stronger and fiercer. Engaging in a self harm power struggle is one no one can win, not even the person who is self harming. There are strong connections with self harm and eating disorders as well and they often do come down to the same thing, a need for control. This is not to say that there are not other contributing factors to eating disorders but if its coupled with self harm you have some one desperate to feel in control in every way possible. I did develop an eating disorder but not so much to lose weight, it was a control thing and was much easier to heal from because it was almost solely a control thing. I am glad that you enjoyed reading this and want to say thanks for leaving your comment! All the best.

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 7 years ago from London UK Author

@ brightforyou thank you for your kind comment! I would be honored to think I have managed to help someone with this article :)

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 7 years ago from London UK Author

@beth811 it sure is hard when we are ruled by our emotions! Learning to rule our emotions instead does take time and as such often feels very hard to do. It really is worth the commitment to being mindful of our thoughts since the option is a very unpleasant one indeed :). I wish you all the best and thank you for leaving your comment :)

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 7 years ago

Thank you kirstenblog for real life, truth. Life isn't always a "Cabaret".

hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 7 years ago from Italy

The mainstream school of thought about mental issues as a whole is mainly directed as digging in the dirt considering it as a kind of pimple to be emptied. This has usually two outcomes: the first one is that you go under therapy for years and this is quite good for business, the second one is that usually you never end digging. So if you get helped usually is your merit, not of the therapist. I deeply believe that focusing on positive things works better, like as you said pets or art or whatever. Beside this there are issues, self harm as well as eating dysfunctions which in my opinion can be solved "only" with the help of someone who has undergone the same issue and solved it. These are not things that can be learned in a book. Great hub Kirsten.

MRivera01 profile image

MRivera01 7 years ago

You have a very good way of expressing yourself. I felt connected in some kind of way. I was and occasionaly am a self harmer. You captured the feelings that we feel in order to make people understand how and what we feel.

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 7 years ago from London UK Author

MRivera01 I am glad that you got something from reading this. Having been a self harmer myself I hope that I can help folks by showing the need to validate the pain instead of judging the behavior as being somehow 'bad' as well as showing that the initial pain can heal with the right kinds of help and support and a whole heap of patience. Glad you came and left your comment :)

lambservant profile image

lambservant 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

You hit the nail right on the head when you learned that your thoughts and attitudes affect your emotions. Learning to change and manage your thought life, is the key to recovery. Thanks for your couarae and powerful story.

Austin 6 years ago

My best friend is going through this and I have thought many times she will never get better but your story changed my mind and if you can tell me anything that will help me help her get through this please do.

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 6 years ago from London UK Author

Austin - Thanks for your comment, it must be a difficult situation for you to be in. I can say for myself that my friends made a big difference for me, they were just so positive in my life. My friends in some instances where more like family, they were very supportive during difficult times. They could not take the place of the kind of professional help that taught me how to understand myself and my thoughts. It is more like they were a piece in a bigger puzzle. If you wish you could send your friend this link, I have a few articles on this subject and she may find them helpful. I hope someday you will get to see your friend come out the other side of this.

wychic profile image

wychic 5 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

I can definitely relate to not wanting to stop -- for a long time I hid my own cuts and scars with exacting care, lied to therapists I went to for other reasons, and did everything I could to keep it a secret. I knew that if other people knew, they would try to take it away from me, and it was all I had that helped calm me down. In my mind it was a lot healthier than other things I could do to cope -- and to this day I'll admit, it IS a lot healthier than some things, but there are truly healthy ways to deal with things too that do not include injury. Thank you so much for sharing your story...I hesitated for a long time in sharing mine, but have found that people who do want to seek help often can not find anyone who really understands what they're going through and was able to find a way out.

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 5 years ago from London UK Author

wychic - Thats for reading and sharing! I agree that once a person decides they want help in overcoming their self harm is facing a huge challenge of finding someone that actually can help. I recently met a therapist who had never heard of a 'cutter' holding down a job, staying married or any of that other normal stuff, he was very keen to learn about the therapy I had that worked (DBT). It has been out there and working for over 10 years yet most places don't seem to have heard of it! That is just sad I think.

laura 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing. It must've taken a lot of bravery to post this.

One time I was so "needy" for self-harm, I used paper. Yeah, paper...

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 5 years ago from London UK Author

Thanks for your comment laura, I don't feel so much brave as much as feeling a need to try and help people understand better. My experience is that most people really don't understand self harm at all and risk doing more damage by looking for things to blame and quick solutions. I just hope that this will someday help someone, that would make it all worth it really :)

Sunlight17 profile image

Sunlight17 5 years ago from top secret...

my best friend is into this kinda thing and i don't know what to do. There's no "good" therapist around and i can't trust any older person with this. I've tried to give her solutions that would draw her away from cutting, like giving her a cube of ice to numb the place she'd feel to cut but she'd take the ice and cut anyway. I really don't know what to do now..

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 5 years ago from London UK Author

Sunlight17, it is a hard thing, to care about someone who is harming themselves. It is hard to say but the only thing you can do is what you are doing already. You care for your friend and I bet she doesn't have enough people who care as you do. Have you tried asking her how best to support her, considering it is hard for someone to see a friend hurting so much as to self harm? She may be able to tell you the best way you can be a supportive friend while she learns to deal with whatever it is in her life that has caused the pain.

My best friend in HS decided one day to tell me she self harmed. No one else knew but because she knew I self harmed she felt safe telling me. I asked her what she needed, did she want me to tell someone and try to get her help or did she just want a friend to tell. And did she intend to kill herself? She assured me she wasn't trying to kill herself when she cut and all she wanted was a friend who knew. A few months later she told me she had stopped self harming. Turned out what she needed was a friend. It is smart to simply ask, what do you need? Too often we don't ask that of each other :)

Sunlight17 profile image

Sunlight17 5 years ago from top secret...

for one, we talk about most things, but she thinks that i'm too "clean" or naive because she feels her life is going worse than mine and I think she wants to stop and is looking for an escape route but can't find it. Her other best friend and I made a "Promise Me" bracelet which she'd wear on her wrist and wouldn't think twice about cutting once she saw it but every time she keeps "losing" a letter that was in the bracelet and that's suppose to explain to us why she won't wear it. Do you have any ways in which I could help her find a way to stop?

kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 5 years ago from London UK Author

Sunlight17 - If your friend is ready stop, and wants to, there are a lot of coping tips I would happily share. I do wonder if your friend actually wants to stop? For a long time I didn't want to stop and nothing would have worked. It was only when I wanted to stop was I willing to accept help. All the forced help I was given before had done nothing but make things worse, as I became more and more determined to self harm. In the end she needs to want to stop self harming for herself before she can really make those steps necessary to make changes. I am sorry that I can't give you a solution, just the advice, try to be a good friend to her until one day she can see how much you care. :)

Sunlight17 profile image

Sunlight17 5 years ago from top secret...

Thanks :) this really helped me to decide on what to do and how to go about it, I hope one day she can overcome it like u did :D

amymarie_5 profile image

amymarie_5 4 years ago from Chicago IL

I used to do this to myself. Still have the scars. It was an awful period in my life. Self injury is very misunderstood. It helped me cope. Ive found more positive ways to deal with awful feelings and stress. Thank you for writing this hub. It was very brave to share your story. Voted up, useful and interesting.

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